I often get the question on Twitter, “What makes a good entry in the Gotham Writers Stories Everywhere contest?” Before I answer that, let’s start with what the contest is. For those of you that are unaware, Gotham Writers has a monthly Twitter contest called “Stories Everywhere.” Every month, we give you a theme and ask you to write a 25-word-or-less story on that theme. The winner receives a free Gotham class of their choosing, as well as being posted on our winner’s page.
But that’s as far as the guidelines go, hence the question of what exactly we’re looking for. After all, 25 words is not a lot of space. Here are some musts to start:
- Make sure it’s no more than 25 words. We count.
- Make sure you include the Twitter hashtag #GWStoriesEverywhere or we won’t see it. You don’t have to tweet at us and you don’t have to include the theme for that month in your tweet.
- Proofread. A misspelled word or comma splice is enough to cause an otherwise worthy entry to be passed over.
Now, let’s get into the tips and tricks of building a good entry:
- Do not include the theme in your entry. For instance, if the theme is “This pie I had,” don’t start your story with “This pie I had was so good that it…” and so on. It often leads to automatically being looked over. We want the theme to resonate within the story without you having to remind us that it does.
- Make sure that your entry is actually a story. Using the pie theme, if your entry is, “This pie I had was so good that I enjoyed it,” you aren’t going to win. That’s not a story, it’s a statement. However, if your entry talks about the first pie you ever had at your grandmother’s house and how every time you catch a whiff of blueberries baking, you’re transported to the seat in her dining room with the photos of you as a child on the wall… that’s pretty good. Now just make that into a cohesive story that stays under the word limit and you’ve got a great chance.
- It doesn’t have to sound fancy. We don’t need big words to be impressed by your storytelling capabilities. Use smart, sensible words that tell the story but don’t draw attention to your excessive vocabulary.
- That said, make sure it sounds good. Sometimes the best stories have a lyrical component. Through use of such tools as alliteration (so long as it isn’t forced), you can help your story rise above the pack by simply making it a pleasant-sounding story. Words are instruments to be wielded by you, the writer. Don’t just toss them on the page. Give them some melody and rhythm.
- A sense of humor always helps. Being able to get a smile from the judges to pair with the depth of your story is never going to hurt your odds.
- Lastly, it really does pay to look at the winning entries and see what made them so special. You can do that here.
And that’s it. Happy entering!
Director of Conferences & Contests