Writing contests are a great way to get some attention for your novel and there’s a fun one going on now. The Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition is looking for:

Original ideas, a fresh voice and a story that children will love! To enter, you must have written a completed full-length novel suitable for children aged somewhere between 7 and 18 years.

This competition has a great first prize –  a worldwide publishing contract with Chicken House with a royalty advance of £10,000, plus representation from a top children’s literary agent. Sweet!

(Our friends over at KidLit411 have a monthly roundup of contests, so be sure and check them out for more.)

Contests are particularly interesting to me this week as I just finished participating in round one of Pitch Wars, where I looked at approximately 40 queries/first chapters and chose one to mentor. It was very educational and I wanted to share a few tips I learned through the process.

1. Follow the rules! If the contest asks for a query and first chapter, send the query and first chapter, ONLY. This is your first impression and you don’t want to frustrate the judges immediately.

2. Make your query standout. The judges are going to be reading query after query after query. Take it from me, their eyes will start to cross and your story about a talking newt that finds a magical unicorn that turns him into a vampire unless he can SAVE THE WORLD is going to look like every other story about talking newts, so refine it until it’s awesome.

3. There’s nothing new under the sun, or is there? I saw a whole lot of stories with the same basic premise, so just go ahead and assume you’re not the first person to think of a book about talking clocks told in alternating POV’s and show how your story is different than all of those others.

4.  Do your best and forget the rest. Contests are subjective and what one person likes, another person won’t. Take the feeback that you get, learn from it, and move on. The bookstores are FULL of books written by authors that didn’t win a contest. No matter what happens, just keep writing.

I’d wish you luck, but you don’t need it. Luck is great, but good writing will always win in the end.