Top Tips for Entering Young Writers’ Competitions

Before you enter a competition, check these tips out.


You’re ready to get writing but before you do, consider our top tips to give yourself the best chance of success. Whether you’re entering the Kingsmead Young Writers’ Competition or another competition, this should be your starting point.

  1. STICK TO THE WORD COUNT Be aware of how many words you have to tell your story. You can get disqualified for going over the word count and you don’t want to end up rushing an ending because you ran out of word count.
  2. PLOT YOUR STORY Brainstorm ideas.  Choose your heroes/main characters. Be spontaneous and write down anything that comes to your mind.  Think of a basic beginning, middle and end. Then start to flesh out your plot. For more on plotting read this. 
  3. ASTONISH US How innovative and captivating can you be? Tell us a story we haven’t heard before. Sometimes we received well-written but boring reads.  Why should we care about your story? Make us laugh, make us think, entertain us or quietly move us. Either way, make us sit up and take notice of your style, your ability to craft words, your understanding of character and setting.
  4. SHOW, DON’T TELL  Let us learn more about your characters by showing us rather than telling us.  Don’t say:  Tumi couldn’t keep still because he was so excited he was getting a new puppy. Say: Tumi jumped up and down impatiently, checking the door every few minutes to see if Daddy was home.  We now feel how excited Tumi is and we wonder why he wants to see his Daddy. It makes us guess and then when he comes home with a new puppy we understand.  Set up a mystery, or an undefinable thing that leaves the reader wondering and thinking long after the story has ended.
  5. EDIT YOUR STORY Cut out words and story lines that clutter the story. Add in details that bring it alive. Don’t overload it with big words trying to sound clever.  Use simple words when they work best. A good story uses words that are clear, fluent and persuasive. Use a big word only when it conveys what you want to say appropriately.  Limit the number of adjectives you use.  Avoid cliches like “her eyes shone brightly, he grinned from ear to ear, they knew their days were numbered,” etc.
  6. WAIT A BIT You’ve written a story and you think it’s pretty good or needs more work? Put it aside for a few days. Come back to it with fresh eyes. Rewrite if needs be. Do spell check and proofread it for any errors. Make your last changes, give it a day to breathe and look at it again. Then get ready to send it in. You don’t want to over-edit it either!
  7. FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS Before you hit send – make sure you have checked all the rules and directions. Use the font and font size requested.  Don’t format your document with pictures or different font sizes.  Give your story a title in the document and save the word document with your full name and age group, otherwise it could get lost in the system.
  8. KEEP WRITING No matter who wins, if you want to be a writer you have to keep writing and improving your skills.  If you’re not successful this time, you’ll be joining so many authors who had to wait for their chance to be published.  Just think of JK Rowling, whose best-selling Harry Potter books were rejected 12 times before a publisher agreed to buy them!


Read, read, read.  Get ideas, see how stories are structured, see what has already been written about and think of a way you can make your story different.

Need more tips? We have plenty – check these blogs out. 

If you want more information on the Kingsmead Young Writers’ Competition, read here. 




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"I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in"


Robert Louis Stevenson

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