Updated: Sep 17, 2022
When you enter a contest, what kind of question runs through your head? What do judges look for—What can I do to make my story stick out from the rest?
With only 14 days left in our first-ever launch contest. In this article, let's sit down with the Editor-in-Chief to find out insights and tips that will make your ordinary fiction the 1st place winner in contests.
What about Credibility?
That is an excellent question. Well, Mika is our Editor in Chief and the founder of The Playful Porpoise. Take a quick look at Mika Nitu's bio and get to know some of the other staff editors that'll be reading your submissions in our launch contest.
Now to the Good Part...
I asked 5 topics during the interview: Reviewing and grading submissions, common mistakes, literary devices under-used/overused, and a tip for all the writers out there looking to enter.
Mika gave amazing, in-depth answers. So much so that I whipped out a notepad and began note-taking myself! I hope you all do the same; now let's dive into the interview!
What Do You Look for When You Review—Grade A Contestant’s Work?
"Whether it is a poem, art, or a fictional story? When judging and reviewing written works, I’m looking to see a variety of different things. First of all, as is very much expected, intrigue and originality are very important..."
Very well put! The Editor in Chief then states that a unique opening engages the readers, gluing them to the pages; complementing the writer. No matter how well-written a piece may be, or how thoughtfully put together it is. If it's boring in the beginning, there's a chance the reader won't get to those wonderful parts of the story.
"Next, I pay close attention to the pacing and structure of the work; if these things seem off, it can cause the entire work to seem awkward. I also take note of the various literary devices the writer uses, and how well they make use of them. For poetry in specific, I’ll take into consideration basic elements such as meter, rhyme, and poetic devices, as well as a poem’s flow and overall themes."
Have an engaging opening; hook your readers early and fast.
Be original in your work and spark the reader's imagination
Be diverse in your use of literacy devices, and always remember the fundamentals are the bread and butter.
What Are Common Mistakes You See in Writer’s Work?
"A mistake I often spot is the incorrect use of POV. For example, the tense may be inconsistent, which can be difficult for writers to catch. Also, in first-person works, writers often use language that can break the immersion. This refers specifically to stating actions like looking, seeing, and acting from the narrator’s perspective when such language is awkward and not necessary. Other common mistakes I see very often are grammatical or regarding format, both of which are simple to fix. However, it always leaves a good impression when a piece is free of errors and neatly formatted."
One way I fix the incorrect use of POV is by reading the story out loud. Whether this is by having the computer read it out or I physically read it to my dog (He gives wonderful advice). Another way is as I write, I like to close my eyes and picture the scene in my head. Look around and feel the environment around you as the MC. Have a voice recorder around—describe the scene, let the story unfold, and engage in dialogue with your contagonist or your supporting characters. Yes, you may feel awkward and if you are out in public, you will look like a weirdo BUT this helped me a lot to eliminate this natural mistake.
I'm glad Mika brought up grammatical errors and formatting. I have read a lot of good potential poems, stories, and even essays that were limited because of their formatting or punctuation errors. This can disrupt the natural flow of the prose, which makes it hard to read and sometimes makes the overall message unclear.
Check for grammatical and punctuation errors in your work.
Check over your words to see if there's any inconsistency or any shift that breaks the fluidity.
It's meant to be seen in the eyes of your MC, then you should write from your MC's perspective.
Are There Elements/or Topics That Don’t Stand Out to You Because They Have Been Overused in Writing
I feel a lot of writers should listen to this specifically. Mika stated that cliches are, of course: cliches. But we can turn even those into something beautiful and semi-original. "...Cliche does not necessarily mean trite. What matters most is how the writer handles them." Take note of that, every idea, every trope, and every statement has been used before us. We are 10,000 years too late, but that doesn't matter! What matters is how you take that and twist it, or how you create another perspective on it that no one saw before; that's what makes your piece authentic.
"I will say, however, that in my experience reading others’ works for publications, poetry surrounding nature is very common...not a bad thing at all, but it can lead to many works seeming repetitious and bland, raising the bar for what makes a strong impact on readers." The founder is tired of y'all writing about trees! Sorry, got a little carried away there...Seeing the same message or theme can be pretty exhausting, but from what we said earlier, we can easily fix this by making flips, twists, and rotations on the theme.
Take the cliche and make it a "bling-ché" by putting your gems and rubies on it!
Any Elements You Like to See That Are Underused in Most Work?
"I don’t see many fantasy or science fiction works. While all genres are equally important, it would be interesting to see more short-form fiction and poetry with outlandish premises and/or characters. I understand that it can be difficult to establish a unique setting in a limited word count, but I’ve seen it done effectively many times!"
Well, what are you waiting for?! Give me an ogre/robocop action-drama story to read, you must!
Go wild—beyond the norm. A contest (even, life itself) is about taking risks and owning them; daring to defy the enclosed imaginary walls.
If There’s One Tip You Can Give to Potential Contestants, What Would It Be?
"Honestly, write whatever YOU would want to read. I can instantly tell when the writer is interested and emotionally invested in their work, and when they aren’t. Writing without passion can come out empty and uninspired, and no one wants that."
I love this because this is legitimate! Pour your heart and your soul into your product: be it art, writing fiction, or even blogs! You can tell when there are no emotions in one's work. Ladies and gentlemen, your piece should drive you exactly how you want your readers to be driven. Make you close your eyes beyond shut and scream the word "oof" aloud at cringe moments. Or even make you replay thoughts about life through the deep sentimental hours. After all, you are your first audience/reader.
Put your fiery spirit of passion into your piece.
First off, thank you Mika for giving me the honor of sitting down with—squeezing the knowledge needed for our viewers! Now, back to you all. I hope y'all embraced and soaked up everything that is given here. Until next time!
Which response from the founder captivated you the most, and why? Did this help snatch away the "contest jitters"? Give us your thoughts in the comment section below!
Oh Boy, Another Challenge?!
Ah, sounds like you would like one-
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Feeling confident? Submit your beautiful literature to The Playful Porpoise Launch Contest! Click the button down below!