Thursday, 12 May 2016

The Boring Bit About Entering Competitions

As Competitions Manager, I'm starting with a blatant plug for the ACW Today’s Good Samaritans competition.  All you need to do is to write one thousand words – fiction or non-fiction – about someone putting the Christian ethos into practical action.  This comp, which ACW is running in association with Street Pastors, is open to all.  There is an entry fee, but there are prizes, Amazon Gift Vouchers (or book tokens, if you prefer) for writers of the stories awarded first, second and third place.  Also, you could see your story, and your bye-line, in a future edition of Christian Writer magazine (subject to the editor’s approval).  For more information, open Christian Writer Spring 2016 at page 4 (if you are an ACW member) or visit  The submission deadline is Sunday, 31 July 2016.

Look carefully at the boring bit - the How to Enter bit.  Although for some comps, you’re required to submit in the body of an email, or into a website submission box, where no formatting is possible, for most there’s a boring bit, sometimes called submission/entry guidelines, about formatting, cover sheets, etc etc.  Unfortunately, bad presentation, and lack of attention to guidelines, detracts from a story; good presentation nobody notices, which means judges can get on with reading it.  Comp managers often set specific rules, about fonts, spacing and the like, but, in general terms, a well-presented story looks like this:

Well-presented short story.
Microsoft Word users, if you’re unsure how to do any of this formatting, click on File > Help.  Other word processing application users, look up paragraph formatting for your application on Google.  Word users, when indenting paragraphs, click on Paragraph > Indentation > First Line.  Don’t use the spacebar, as this tends to cause wonky left margins, like this:

Typescript with wonky margins, due to erratic use of spacebar.

Judges (including ours) will mark you down for poor spelling and grammar.  Check yours carefully, using the computer spellchecker and proofreading.  Reading aloud will help you identify omitted words and clunky grammar. 

ACW comps – and many others – require your personal details appear on a cover sheet – see below - and that nothing on your typescript identifies you as the author.
Cover Sheet for a Short Story.
Cover sheet for a short story
Your cover sheet must be on separate documents.  You cannot put your personal information on the first page (or the last page) of the same file as your story typescript.  Check titles on your typescript.  Check headers and footers.

In ACW (and other comps), you are asked to submit work in .doc or docx format.  Word-users, your work will be saved in .docx automatically, so don’t adjust anything.  Other word processing application users, click on File – Save As to see if .doc or docx are available; otherwise contact the competition manager (me) for ACW comps, or given contacts for other comps.  It’s frustrating to receive an entry that doesn’t load.

This guidance is written with ACW comps in mind.  When entering any comp, read the guidelines carefully and follow them to the letter.  I’m a helpful bod.  If you get presentation slightly wrong for an ACW comp, I’ll ask you to correct it, but not all comp managers are as nice as me.


  1. This is very helpful. Sue

  2. Thank you. I hope everyone who enters the current comp has read this post.