The annual short story competition run by one of the writers’ circles I go to has just closed, and once again I’m staggered by the number of entrants who failed to read the rules. I just don’t understand it.

I deal with the administration of some of the entries before they are passed on to the judges, and part of that admin work involves checking that entrants have met all of the competition’s rules.

The two most commonly broken rules were:

Rule 1: Entries must not exceed 1200 words.

So why were we sent stories that were longer than 2500 words (some were nearly 4,000 words)? These entries were DISQUALIFIED. They had to be, in fairness to those entrants who had read and followed the rules.

Rule 16: Entries should not have the author’s name, or any other identifying marks, on the typescript.

Our judges read the stories ‘blind’ which means they do not know who has written them. This ensures each entry is judged on its merit, and not influenced by who wrote it. So when we say that entries should not have the author’s name on it, we mean it. Some entrants began their typescript with the title, followed by their name underneath. Some put their name and address at the end of their typescript. (And yes, even just an address is an identifying mark too.)

Again, in fairness to the entrants who had read and followed the rules, those who broke Rule 16 were DISQUALIFIED.

You might ask: Well, why can’t you just delete that information before you pass it onto the judge?And my answer is twofold: a) it’s not my bloody job to, and b) many other entrants were quite capable of doing this for themselves.

So please, the next time you enter a competition, read the effing rules and ABIDE BY THEM! There’s a reason competitions have rules. They’re not there just to make entrants’ lives difficult. Honestly!

And the sad fact is, I read the disqualified entries, and some of them are very good. But the judges won’t know that because they’ve not been passed on to the judging process. That’s what disqualification means.

The only person who loses out by not reading and adhering to the rules is the entrant.

And to those of you who did enter, and did abide by the rules, I would like to say: thank you for entering and …

Good luck!

Don’t Be A (Disqualified) Dork!
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7 thoughts on “Don’t Be A (Disqualified) Dork!

  • July 16, 2018 at 10:11 AM

    Not my bloody job! Read the effing rules. Oh, how I agree with you, having been in this position myself many times. Now calm down, Simon – until next year.

  • July 16, 2018 at 1:28 PM

    Right to disqualify, totally agree. But I’m sitting here wondering how many people would have lost the plot by rule 16. How many rules were there? BTW I’m 100% sure I didn’t enter this one, but have fallen foul of another comp which was so waffly in it’s enthusiastic description I failed to spot the ‘pay’ button in amongst all the noise…

    • July 16, 2018 at 2:03 PM

      Yes, you raise an important point about getting the right balance of rules. I, personally, don’t think ours are overwhelming, especially as over 95% of entrants managed to adhere to them. But you’re right in that it’s in competition organisers’ interest too, that rules should be clear. However, the two rules I highlighted in my blog post are two of the most commonest rules in a writing competition: word count and no identifying marks.

  • July 16, 2018 at 5:42 PM

    Thank you, Simon, I have never entered a competition. But I sure understand about people not following the rules.

  • July 16, 2018 at 6:14 PM

    Actually, this doesn’t surprise me, Simon. I see it in the classes I teach – not regarding writing competitions, as such – but in people’s rush to get things done and finished. They don’t take care over their work, they don’t re-read what they’ve written, or do second (or third, or fourth!) drafts. They just want to do it and say ‘right, that’s it: on to the next thing!’ You can’t be ‘slapdash’ when it comes to entering competitions. You have to check and recheck that you’ve done exactly what’s required. It’s such a shame, as you say, for those entries that were otherwise good and who knows, might have been placed? (and the writers will probably never know that their work was disqualified…)

  • July 19, 2018 at 3:10 PM

    Yes, I recognise a few mentioned there Simon.

    I’d add sending poetry to a short story competition as clearly the rules and competition title were ignored.


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