When I wrote a blog entry a couple months ago about writing contests, I’d given little thought to winning an award. As it turned out, I won an honorable mention in the Writer’s Digest 80th annual competition for my story For God So Loved. I knew I’d poured my heart and soul into that story, but with a magazine like Writer’s Digest that receives thousands of entries, chances of winning anything are very slim. So, this award has brought me some satisfaction as well as encouragement. It showed me that as a writer I can achieve anything if I work at it hard enough.

The same goes for other writing achievements, such as querying markets. Some time ago, I sent a query to an educational online publication and the editor accepted it on spec. I took the plunge, submitted the article, she accepted it and offered me a contract for more topics, which I agreed to work on. My articles were all accepted with a few minor tweaks. All my queries/proposals have not met with such instant success, but that didn’t stop me from trying. In order to succeed as a writer, you would have to rely on more than just talent.

The following may help you achieve your writing (and other) goals:

1. Be prepared to take risks. If you fail, try again. Winston Churchill said, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” You may enter many contests, and pay a lot of entry fees, without ever winning, but don’t lose your enthusiasm. The first writing contest I entered was in college. I didn’t win, but my short story was published in the college magazine.

2. Be persistent. As above.

3. Always give your best. Edit your manuscript carefully before submitting. Editors are turned off by typos and grammatical errors. If you can pay to have your work edited, do so, or, enlist the help of your critique group. Another pair of eyes can be as valuable as … another pair of eyes.

4. Follow the guidelines. A good piece can end up in the slush pile simply because the writer didn’t take the time to follow the rules. Do not send in a piece with 5005 words if the guidelines call for 5000. Do not submit sci-fi if they say they are not interested in it. You will not get them to change their minds.

5. Research the market thoroughly. This is not just to learn what kind of material they are looking for, but also to avoid falling prey to the many scams out there. If you are unsure of a market, check it out on some of the more reputable sites, such as Preditors and Editors, Writer Beware and Publishers Weekly.

What successes have you had lately? What tips for writing success can you pass on to me and my readers. Please share them in the comment box below.

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