If your CV has a sprinkling of competition success, and I mean any listing, then it shows that you mean business. You can write, are confident and stoic enough to keep on trying. Writing has no clearly defined career path. Qualifications don't necessarily lead to success and a bestseller has often been rejected several times before it is picked up. Go HERE for some cheering rejections.
So what happens when you've checked your story for the final time, said a little prayer, and clicked Send?
Ping...ping...ping! My inbox is very busy, especially as the closing date approaches. There's a lot of admin involved in running a competition. I file the story and the Paypal receipt with author contact details in separate Dropbox files, under the title of the story. Margaret and Sophie can only access the file with the stories. We each read with a Yes, No, Maybe, system. It is rare to find the three of us in complete agreement but if we are, then that story may well win.
We discuss topic, quality of writing, whether we are pulled into the story's world (yes, even in 250 words), characterisation, voice and in particular, whether we were emotionally engaged and taken somewhere new by the end.
Many stories were rejected because of mistakes and poor execution. This is such a shame when we can see the idea is good. Also, it's important to know that we don't reject stories on any sort of whim or because it's in a genre that isn't our favourite or we find the subject matter not to our taste.
If your story hasn't been listed, don't give up. Go back, look at it again and try to see it with a reader's eye. A reader who has no idea about anything to do with your story except what is on the page.
It is a huge privilege to be involved in the running and judging of competitions and we take them very seriously. I have learnt a great deal from reading entries although if our entries are anything to go by, writers are preoccupied by death, illness, revenge and loss. Comedy is in very short supply, but we hope to receive more humorous stories in the future. We are delighted that Sunday Times best-selling novelist Trisha Ashley, who writes humorous fiction, is sponsoring her own special award for a humorous story in the Exeter Story Prize.
Entries for the Exeter Novel Prize are beginning to arrive in earnest. We don't start the big read until they're all in. This means every story is in with the same amount of reading time and therefore the same chance. To be honest, I've very glad that Broo Doherty from DHH literary agency is going to be reading the long list and presenting the trophy. I'd want them all to win.
Good luck everyone!