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Competitions Entry Enquiry - Word Count


Totally new to Talkback and Writers Online, so apologises if this point has been already been answered somewhere, but I'm a budding (hopefully soon to be blooming) writer, and I'm looking to enter a competion for the first time.

It is the Dark Tales competition, and the Word Count states 1,500 - 1,700 word limit.

Is this limit the maximum amount of words - i.e. any script shouldn't exceed approx' 1500 to 1700 words, or must you write exactly between 1500 and 1700 words?

Thus, if I had a script of 1350 words, would this suffice, or would I need at add a few hundred to comply?

Apologises for the seemingly silly question, but I couldn't find any answers on the site, and hoped someone who is a bit more informed on entering competitions will be able to cast some light on someone who is fumbling about in the dark, and can't even find the match!

Also, any other tips or advice anyone can provide on entering competitions would be much appreciated.

Many thanks in advance.


  • It could be 1,500 words, or anything up to and even 1,700 words exactly.

    If it's under the minimum most competitions would not let it progress because you've failed to follow the rules- you've also wasted your entry fee.

    Padding shows up, instead look for anything you could expand within the existing text.

    The best piece of advice is read the rules and make sure you follow them, then before you submit it, check again and ensure you've not missed any.
  • Yes, it must be 1500 words minimum, 1700 words maximum.
  • Excellent! Many thanks for the advice. I don't want to waste the money, but more importantly the opportunity, simply having the entry thrown out by being a couple of words short. Something which doesn't usually trouble me! However, this piece for the competition was aimed at being very short and punchy, but with a hint of dark humour.

    As you point out Carol, I don't want to pad it out, but I can possibly be a bit more descriptive on some points and improve the tension slightly.

    Very clever of the organisers to get you to write within the tight criteria, but I suppose at the end of the day the winning entry will go into Writing Mag' and so they know exactly the space they have available.

    I will get cracking over the weekend and see what rises! :*

    Many thanks and I look forward to reading (and possibly commenting) on future points on the forum.
  • Good luck!
  • Good luck.
  • Quick update - I'm now within the target range.

    1350 words have become 1670. Better dialogue, pace and tension. Bit more scene description and a touch more dark humour. Now to hone it down and polish it.

    The target of between 1500 and 1700 words is actually good and gets you to work on better developing the script and focus on what is important.

    Many thanks for your comments. Once entered I'll let you know.

  • Sounds like it's going well.  :)
  • Good luck, BoxingHare (I love the editing process).
  • Has anyone got any Mister Sheen or Pledge? My can is empty. I'm still polishing! - Other brands are available.

    1653 words now.

    Is it just me, or does anyone else have the same issue. It must be a common trait.

    You write, read, then edit, finally assured the now finished script is better than perfect.

    The following day, just to check, you then re-read, becoming amazed you could have thought the last script was perfect, when obviously it wasn't.

    You edit, re-read, then genuinely assure yourself it could get no better.

    Until the next day.

    Then you re-read, noticing all the glaring errors or parts missing, wondering who actually wrote the previous work. Was it sleep deprivation or had they drunk too much wine?

    Further editing and re-working will obviously resolve these issues and create the perfectly finished final script.

    And it does. After a final read, it is better than anyone else could ever produce. Wonderful in fact.

    Until the next day!

    A bit more polishing, and hopefully I'll be there. A strict deadline also helps!

  • I used to think this was only me, although after talking to a very many aspiring writers (and a couple of very established authors), I can tell you that almost everyone does this. Some people are fortunate enough to know when to stop 'polishing' and some people are lucky enough to have editors do it for them. Mostly, I use a combination of my own judgment and feedback from a few carefully selected friends who have promised to give me honesty, and for the other 10% of the time, I just don't care, and I go ahead and polish, tweak and adjust. Whatever works for you. Good luck, I look forward to reading it (in about 6 months!! They're apparently very slow)
  • CuppaJoe, usually the winning entry appears in the magazine 3-4 months after the closing date.

  • Merely said in jest. 
  • 1635 bright and shiny words, all finished and formally submitted.

    First time ever for a competition, and although I won't be holding my breath waiting anything from 2 to 6 months for the £200 cheque to arrive and then opening a bottle of Lambrini to celebrate, (in my dreams - the Lambrini - let alone winning £200!) I must admit it has been good fun.

    The script was an idea I've had for two years, but was too short and random to ever be a novel, and so seemed ideal for such a venture when the idea came to me after reading an issue of Writing Mag. I've never before considered entering a comptetion. At least the script / idea has now seen the light of day, which is good. Who knows!

    I'll keep my eyes peeled for more opportunities, but being a rather dark writer, most of the competitions seem out of my scope. I don't do Cute, Fluffy and Romantic! >:)

    Many thanks to all for your comments and if anything exciting should happen, be sure I'll be whooping with joy and this would be the first place I'd announce any good news. However, I think for now I'll keep my feet on the ground, expect nothing and simply learn from what has been an enjoyable experience.

    The discipline of the tight word count was good, as was only deciding to enter with a few days left. Perhaps anyone else in my position - who's never thought of entering a competition - should give it a go and find a vent for one of your ideas which may otherwise lay forever hidden.

    I'll be crossing various body parts, but hope they don't drop off from lack of circulation! :)

  • Good luck!
  • All the best with it.
  • Good luck with it, Boxing Hare. You know the best antidote for keeping yourself occupied while you wait is to write and enter more short story competitions so that you're not hanging and hoping on just the one. :)
  • Many thanks for your comments, but I'll hardly be waiting for the result of this entry. It was my first competition entry, simply as I've never had the time to spend on producing a short story as I'm usually too busy trying to run my own business, whilst also working on my main scripts. I almost felt 'guilty' spending time on another short venture, when I feel I should be focussing upon my main scripts, as well as my 'paying' work. I have far too many ideas I long to get out of my head and onto paper, but like most, it takes so long to produce anything good.

    Although un-published, I'm now working on my third full novel, and do have a question I would be interested in hearing some thoughts on from other members on the Forum. See below! ;)

    I've produced one full novel as a 'tester' to see if I could do it, and although I completed the novel in full, and originally thought it was good, after re-reading it a year on, I realised it definately needs re-working. I'm now re-writing this first novel as and when I can fit it in.

    The second novel is a much better script, fully finished and polished to perfection. I've sent it out to a number of Agents. One was very interested and requested a full script. They read it in full and replied that they enjoyed the story and praised it well, however, as the novel is very dark and has a lot of graphic aspects, specifically regarding brutal murders and sex, the Agents felt they could not take it on, as it would be very hard to place with an established publisher, who are less likely to take the risk with what could be a controversial novel. They've requested to see my third novel when complete and polished, hence why I'm now working on this, and hence why I shouldn't have been entering the competition - in my own mind! o:)

    Thus, I have a dilemma. Do I self-publish or leave the contraversial script to die in a cupboard? - Maybe this should be another posting, although I know there is already a Thread on such a subject.

    The third novel I am working on is again one I've worked on in various forms for an age (over ten years) and is my next area of focus, as it is a good book, and although again dark, it is nowhere as 'bad' as the full script recently completed, which is 'Too Hot' to handle. I tend to write strong, murder mysteries, with brutal scenes. >:)

    In addition to these novels, I have full drafts of two other full scripts which need full re-working, when I get the time! Thus, I have too many novels to produce and not enough time.

    Hence I am far from relaxed and waiting, but have the issue of trying to earn a living, undertake all of the things a normal life throws at you as challenges, yet also try and write as much as I can. Hence why taking some time out of my life and entering the competition was something of a luxury, but very enjoyable.

    Thus, back to my point. Do I Self-Publish my controversial book or not? :/

    I've noticed that Self-Publishers are not too well regarded, but if you have a genuinely good script, and it is seen to be too extreme for most main-stream publishers, do you self-publish or not? It didn't hurt E.L. James!

  • Of course you should self-publish if you think it is well-written, and as long as you won't be out of pocket; there's no guarantee that you will make money!

    If you target the right readers, I'm sure there are plenty who enjoy gritty stories.
  • You might want to be a bit wary of self publishing this novel when you are trying to place a novel in the same genre with publishers. Having an 'extreme' one already out there may colour their view of your next one, which you say is less extreme.

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