1- *Unless it's edited, perfected, and the best you can offer, don't hand in something half done and not up to your standards.
2- *Research the contest. Make sure no warnings are out there before you fork over any entry fees.
3- *Check and see what rights they are asking you for and if you agree with them. Unless they pay you a nice sum for ALL RIGHTS, I wouldn't hand over my stuff.
4- *Define your entry to suit the best genre category if the contest offers several. Submitting a juvenile mystery to an adult mystery judge may eliminate you if there's a children's judge waiting for your manuscript to come to them.
5- *Please follow the guidelines. Such an easy task yet many believe their "great" story will more than make up for not following some of the guidelines. Wrong! It may never be read if you went over the allotted word count, if you formatted the way they asked you NOT to, or if you send an attachment where they stated NO ATTACHMENTS WILL BE OPENED.
6- *If they request a payment entry make sure to include it with your submission. And follow tip #2.
7- *Before your tongue approaches the seal to close the envelope, go over your manuscript just one more time. Make sure all the guidelines were followed. Check and see if the word count is within their limits. And make sure you have the right mailing address. How sad if it ends up anywhere but its projected destination. Oh, please make sure to check again for any typos.
Make sure to check out the rest of my articles: http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-32774-Montreal-Writing-Examiner
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For now I'd like to wish you a Happy New Year.