Enter Our Short Story Contest for Beginners

First prize: $100 or a free tutored writing course valued at $200, plus miscellaneous. Second prize: $50, plus miscellaneous. Third prize: a free tutoring session with CEO, Deborah Owen, and miscellaneous, plus honorable mentions. Your chances will never be better than this! A small contest especially for beginners. CWI is a nonprofit charity. Join the contest and help support cancer patients at the same time. Please FOLLOW the guidelines. See For contesting tips, see Ms. Deb's blog


The Benefits of Writing Contests
Victoria Pakizer, Volunteer Staff

Writing contests require preparation, which can range from writing classes to research, to on-the-job experience. Contests will provide you with guidelines, a deadline, directions, and benefits whether you win or lose. 

The deadline will push you to work on your story as soon as possible and provide motivation to edit. Writing contests give word counts and often designate certain genres. The word count will tell you whether they are looking for something as short as flash fiction or as long as a novella.

Simply entering the contest will offer many benefits. Writing under pressure is excellent practice. Entering a contest is a great way to work on your craft. 

Another advantage to a writing contest is learning through research.  Research the contest, research the material you’re writing on, and research good dialogue and the meaning of writing jargon. For example, if a writing contest asks that the submitted work be accompanied by a CV (Curriculum Vitae), you may need to research that. You will learn that a CV is like a resume, but shorter. 

Winning a writing contest will give you credibility as a writer. In the future, you will be able to state your victory on your site, blog, query letter, resume, etc. Even if you don’t win, you’ll profit from the experience. Sometimes, judges offer feedback or an explanation on why an entry doesn’t win.  

Rejection is part of life, and in the publishing industry, it’s automatic. Not winning a writing contest is not nearly as painful as receiving a personal rejection letter from a literary agent. 

If you want to be successful at anything, you must learn how to do it. No skill is exempt, including writing. If you’re serious about writing, you have to practice. What better place to start than a writing contest? Have fun! We’re having a beginner’s short story contest right now and it ends August 31. Check it out at  

About the author: Victoria Pakizer  has worked as an editor, journalist, and writing tutor, and is currently working towards a Bachelor’s degree in English at Washington State University. She is an avid reader and writer and has won multiple creative writing awards. You can follow her at: or find toripakizer24 on Twitter.




How to Format a Short Story

by  Pat Decker Nipper

Formatting Tips

Formatting a story means designing how it looks in print. Determine the layout of your manuscript by setting parameters. Look at examples of written material. Are the letters large enough to read comfortably? Are the lines far enough apart? How are the new paragraphs formatted?

Professional formatting will make your work shine. If you follow these standards, your manuscript will be ready to submit, whether in hard copy (paper) or online. Although the following is a commonly accepted standard for formatting, individual publications occasionally vary, so be sure to check their guidelines.  

The 2010 Writer’s Market has illustrations of formatting and includes good advice. They say to use white 8  1/2 x 11 paper, and “ artsy fonts.” They also suggest you use a laser or an ink-jet printer.

Below are the common formatting standards, as developed over years of creating documents.

1. Leave one inch of space on all four margins of the paper—top, bottom, and both sides. 

2. Left justify your pages. That means every line should align on the left. The right margin is not justified, or in other words, it remains “ragged.” 

3. Indent five spaces at the beginning of a new paragraph.

4. Choose an easy-to-read font. For PC users, try Times New Roman or Verdana. Macintosh users might like Palatino.

5. Set the font size at 12 point for easy readability.

6. Stay away from italics, except where needed to be grammatically correct.

7. Avoid bold, except in headings and areas where you want to emphasize text. 

8. Double-space if you’re printing on paper. Single space if you’re submitting electronically, and in such case, double space between paragraphs.

9. In dialogue, each new speaker starts a new line.

10. Add your personal information in the upper left corner of the page. The title can carry over to the additional pages, along with a page number. 

11. Center the title of the story and your name under it on the first page. Some publications want you to start the first page about one-third of the way down. Check their style and follow their example. 

12. Avoid hyphenation at the ends of lines.

These are general rules. Always follow the formatting guidelines. For extra information, check The Chicago Manual of Style. You can even find it online. Another good one is The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. There are many more style guides on the Internet.                                 


Join the Volunteer Staff at Creative Writing Institute

As a 501(c)3 nonprofit charity that sponsors cancer patients in writing courses, we depend heavily on volunteer staff to write blogs, articles, help with social media, the newsletter, cartoons, etc. We have jobs that take as little as 10 minutes a day and require no training or writing talent. Just write to

"Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go." William Feather
Many thanks to cartoonist, Luana Spinetti, volunteer staff.

What Judges Look for in a Short Story Contest
   How to Win
a Short Story Contest
by CEO, Deborah Owen

What do judges look for when they read a short story entry? I helped judge a contest last year and I can tell you. 

* The number one thing is that the submissions follow ALL of the guidelines!

* Judges like a catchy title that lures the reader

* Catch their eye with a snappy first sentence that opens in the middle of an action scene

* Your story must hold interest from beginning to end. No sagging middle.

* Use high action verbs

* Judges love an unpredictable ending that resolves all the loose ends

* There are no new stories. Only old stories told with new angles. In other words – originality.

* Be creative in the way you phrase your sentences. (By the way, third person, past tense stores are the most popular these days.)

* Avoid verbiage (wordiness). Avoid 'dead words,' (such as really, just, even, some. most, often, even, more, seldom – words that are not definitive)/ Avoid too many prepositional phrases per sentence, (no more than three, and no more than two in consecutive order).

* Style – the way in which you express yourself. Call upon every experience you know or have imagined. Call on your knowledge of other people's experiences as well, but mix facts with fiction so the real person is unrecognizable.  

* Technique is how you structure your story. Does it use flashbacks? Is it fast or slow paced? Balance the narration with the dialogue. Do the characters feel like real people? 

* Does the reader feel satisfied with the ending? This is important.

* When you edit, have a writer friend (not a family member) read it. Follow their suggestions. 

* The easiest way to find your own mistakes is to read the story aloud.

 Let's end where we began – FOLLOW the GUIDELINES. Do all of these things, and I guarantee you’ll have a good chance of winning. Good luck! Read about our contest at

The Writer's Toolbox

Up-to-date Information on Awesome Writing Tools

Evernote at allows you to take photos and notes that are backed up online. It integrates neatly with computers, phones, and mobile devices, allowing you to search for keywords, tags or handwritten text inside stored images.  

Comodo Cloud is another online storage system for your files. It offers 5 GB of free storage, with similar drag and drop features as other systems. 

Amazon Cloud Drive at  promotes themselves as the personal hard drive in the cloud. They offer 5 GB free space to upload files, specifically music and images. 5 GB equates to around 1000 songs. 

Scrivener at  is a little different to the top applications in that is is a wordprocessing program designed specifically for writers. This system allows the writer to manage documents, notes, key concepts, research information, images, videos, and .pdfs for future reference. 

A key feature includes a virtual corkboard where files and notes can be pinned, giving the writer a snapshot of the work in progress. It allows the writer to have a big picture view of their work. Priced at $40, it is a worthy investment for any potential novelist. 

These applications will eliminate the panic of losing a USB, giving the writer flexibility on their work space and time frame.


Get a Private Tutor at CWI

We don't use school terms at CWI. Every student receives a private tutor, so you can sign up today and start your class tonight. We have never had an unsatisfied student. Treat yourself to a writing course at
Stepping out to write an article or a story means taking risks. It's worth the risk. Jump in. Take a chance. Learn. Grow.
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If you have the desire to write, the chances are good that you have the talent for it. You just need to develop that talent.