When entering competitions, you always have to keep in mind: You are writing for an audience. Depending on the audience’s likes and dislikes, you may or may not hit the mark. Unless the competition you’re entering requires a specific genre, you are left with what you know about the judges.
For instance, I’m hoping to enter a competition hosted by Elle magazine this month. What do I know about Elle? It’s aimed at upscale ladies. It’s about fashion and make-up. The way I see it, the readers are people who care what other people think of them.
So, with that in mind, I can rule out science fiction and fantasy because of their strong association with “nerds” and other outcasts; even dark fantasy (your typical vampire/werewolf/witches fiction, like Ann Rice and Bram Stoker) won’t fly here; I can rule out western, action and horror because these are typically more masculine genres (and considered barbaric by the more refined ladies); and I can also definitely rule out war stories.
Next up, since this competition has a word limit of 1500 words, I have to stick to stories that won’t involve much explaining of the setting (once again, thoroughly ruling out fantasy and science fiction).
All of this boils down to me sitting with the most popular genres: romance, comedy and mystery (or, like my mother calls it, “whodunnits”). That might illuminate to you why the stories I have posted so far are of the non-fantasy, non-science fiction persuasion.
Now, if I were writing for a fantasy and science fiction competition, this whole consideration flips on its head. My readers expect to read about a world they know nothing about. They expect magic. They are enchanted by the differentness of the world they are reading about. The plot can actually be much simpler, because you have to give more information about the setting.
But, before I go off on a tangent about the differences in genres and approaches to them as a writer (I will definitely post about this at some point), let me get back to the reason for this preamble:
GOOD NEWS, EVERYONE!
I got the good news this morning that I got second place in a competition I entered last month. It appears that it was close and I almost won. Go check out A Gift of Love (the story by me – Natalie Myburgh) on the AllAboutWriting site.
(In case this didn’t come across: The image of the rose is for my flash fiction entry linked above.)