A fair dollop of luck is involved in winning a writing competition but - in the words of Dizzy Gillespie - it's funny how the harder you work the luckier you get...
- Make sure you're in with a chance by actually entering rather than simply dreaming about entering.
- Make sure it's polished. It's a waste of time and effort to send anything that is less than your best work. Join a writers group, go to an adult education class or cultivate the friendship of other writers and share your work.
- Do NOT ask someone you love for an opinion. They say it's wonderful and you'll think to yourself: what do they know. They say they weren't so sure about the second page and you'll think to yourself: what do they know.
- Make sure you follow all the rules to the letter - don't kid yourself that it doesn't matter. The organisers of popular competitions will be actively looking for a reason to exclude entries in order to come up with a reasonable long list. The judges won't even get to read your brilliant story if you have submitted it single spaced on white paper when the rules clearly say double spaced on pink.
- Make sure you give yourself plenty of time. Fool yourself and put the deadline in your diary a week earlier than it is in reality. Make it two weeks early if you are entering by snail mail.
- Make sure you're strong enough to take rejection. Poet and novelist Tobias Hill says he followed the example of the hyrda of Greek legend when he entered writing competitions at the beginning of his writing career. Every time he didn't get to the short list he sent off two more competition entries.
And finally...spend as little time as possible waiting to hear. Work on something else (I must admit I find that very hard) and follow this sensible advice from the Australian Writers Resource (http://www.austwriters.com/AWRfiles/competitions.htm)
Stories and poetry that has been placed first (or any placing) in another competition will often not qualify. Does that mean you can send one entry simultaneously to more than one competition?... a commonly accepted view that you can BUT if your entry is placed in one competition then the onus is on you to inform the other competition organisers if that entry no longer meets their entry requirements.