All about competitions.

As mentioned in my introduction to Marian in Part 1, Marian McGuinness has won, placed and shortlisted in many writing competitions and awards and received several prestigious mentorships. In today’s post the focus is on entering competitions – what’s the secret to her success?

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Marian, your website has a long list of your competition successes – you clearly see entering comps as a priority – why? What do writers get out of it?

There are so many factors here. One is discipline. With competitions there are rules: word count, theme, part or full story, genre, age readership etc. I like the challenge. I like to see how I can work a story into the parameters and still keep it original. The second thing is, that as a writer yet unpublished in book form, I see entering and ‘occasionally’ winning or being placed, as part of my rite of passage, of earning my writing stripes, and that hopefully one day a publisher will see from this that I am determined and dedicated to my craft of storytelling. I’m in for the long haul. I also like to see who wins these competitions – sometimes you are able to read their entries, and this always sheds more light on what judges like.

I assume other writers see entering competitions in a similar light. Perhaps some see it as a waste of good writing time.

Sounds like some good reasons to enter! What are your top tips for entering competitions? Do you enter the same works in more than one comp? Do you re-work manuscripts to fit certain criteria?

Top tips? I’m not sure that I have any other than I’m selective in what I enter. There are lots of competitions if you start looking around, but if I’m going to put blood, sweat and tears into my work, I like to have some kind of outcome to get my name ‘out there’. Also, follow the rules, you don’t want to be sent to the trash bin before you’ve been read. I don’t enter the same works in more than one competition (if they’re on at the same time), but I do rework previous manuscripts, sometimes taking a scene and working it into a short story of its own merit.

So what’s your secret? How do you keep getting the attention of the judges?

Gosh … I’d love to have a crystal ball and know all the secrets. What I try and do is something that both Libby Gleeson and Terry Dowling said in their masterclasses: (Paraphrased) drop the character into the action and have them running. Obviously this is metaphorical, but I try and begin with some form of action. I also love using setting as char acter, the more unusual, the better.marian 2 edwina

That’s interesting about using the setting as a character – I can see some overlap with the travel writing here! A good example is Marian’s fabulous piece about Florence’s Pharmacy Santa Maria Novella, published recently in The Australian – it is well worth a look here.

To find out about current competitions, check out our comps page and/or sign up to an industry newsletter/writer’s centre.

To read Marian’s children’s stories in The School Magazine, visit here.

Marian’s website:

Debra’s website:

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