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Honing Your Teen Fiction Skills: For Aspiring Novelists, by SM Johnston

If you’re serious about writing then it’s a good idea for you to start sniffing around the internet and see what competitions are available. There are so many about at the moment and they all have the potential to add to your writing career.

Short Story Competitions:

These not only give you great writing practise, but they will also add credentials to your resume if you’re successful. Subscribe to the newsletter from the various state writers centres as they will include links to any competitions they’re aware of. The Australian Literature Review is a great website to follow to find out about short story competitions. I was runner up in the 2011 YA themed competition with Karma and was a finalist in the 2011 Troubled Family Relationship themed competition with Broken Butterfly Wings. When you query agents and publishers, placing in competitions like this will show them you’re serious about your writing and that you’ve got talent. A site specifically for teen writers, aptly named Teens Can Write Too, will soon be holding a short story writing competition exclusively for teenagers.

Pitch Competitions:

There are lots of pitch competitions hosted by blogs that allow writers to bypass the traditional querying process and try to catch the eye of an agent or editor online. There are lots of blogs that host regular pitch competitions including:

Critique Competitions:

Many blogs also provide partial manuscript critique competitions as well as query contests. Some great advice I’ve seen is that one of the best ways to improve your writing is to get feedback from a publishing industry professional. But that can be very hard to achieve for somebody who might be just starting writing. Critique competitions range from first page to first three chapters.

Just like you should be getting a critique partner to read your manuscript and offer advice, you should workshop your query letter as well. There are regular blog posts with query critiques, and it may include a critique from an agent. If your query intrigues them you just might score a manuscript request before you even send an official query out.  If you have a query that hasn’t gotten requests then you probably need to revise it and query critic contests are the best place to get fresh eyes.

WriteOnCon has lots of critique competitions, but these are only available for a limited time once a year. If you are on twitter, keep an eye out for these types of competitions. It’s a good idea to follow people who regularly tweet about these contests so you can get notifications through your Twitter stream.

Publishing Contests:

Publishers are getting in on the action too. Penguin works with Amazon on the

Amazon Breakout Novel, which attracts huge numbers of entries each year.

While not strictly a contest, Angry Robots’ YA imprint, Strange Chemistry, opens up to unagented submissions once a year and other publishers are starting to do the same.

Lots of people still find their way to publication through traditional methods, but publishing contests are becoming a trend that could be good jump on if you’re serious about your writing.


SM Johnston author site:


SM Johnston bio page

Writing the Breakout Novel: Winning Advice from a Top Agent and His Best-selling ClientLooking for JJSeconds Away: A Mickey Bolitar Novel (Mickey Bolitar Novel)The Raven QueenAngel DustHold Me Closer, NecromancerPhantoms in the Snow

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