Artists, writers can follow these steps to Scholastic award success

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards are an opportunity for young students who are pursuing careers in art and literature to receive recognition, and it’s very easy to submit  work.

With over 320,000 submissions, the writing and art has to be top notch quality. Cedar Falls has had several winners in the writing category, and here’re some of their tips for success:

Tip 1: Quality over quantity. When submitting to the awards, it can be tempting to write a bunch of stories and submit them all in hopes your chances will be increased, but the strategy is less effective than you may assume. With so many submissions a year, the ones that stand out will be the most successful, and a single great piece is better than 100 mediocre ones.

Tip 2: Read a lot. Whether it be a full length novel or a couple poems, reading other people’s work and trying to improve from it is an extremely effective strategy. Emulating the styles of others and deciding what works for you is very helpful in discovering one’s own style. “Gosh, I read and write every day,” said Zöe Charlery, a winner from last year. Many compare writing to a sport, and you have to constantly work your mental muscles to get better.

Tip 3: Explore the avenues of peer review. One of the biggest problems in writing is that you already know your characters. While you may think of your characters in one way, the reader may get a completely different impression, and it’s important that you know how others interpret your work. English teachers work especially well. “Everyone needs a good English teacher,” Charlery said.

Tip 4: Give as much information as possible as quickly as possible. Again, with a 3,000 word limit, you have very little time to say what you need to. Though sometimes very effective, exposition and backstory must be limited, if included at all, because the focus is on the story that’s being told, not what happened before.

Tip 5: Start as close to the end as possible. This may sound strange at first, but often times a good short story will start in the middle of what the author originally intended, sending the reader into the action without including parts that are actually unnecessary. This also helps to more clearly focus on the main idea.

Bonus Tip: All of these rules are made to be broken.

Though many of the tips on this list may help you, everyone writes differently, and it’s the fresh spins and new takes on ideas that are the innovative award winning pieces. For example, some of the dialogue in Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” doesn’t advance the characters or plot, but it instils a sense of fraternity between the two men and makes the twist at the end much sweeter. Whether it be a humor piece or a horror novel, write in a way that makes you happy, and it will surely reflect in your writing. The deadline for submissions is Dec. 15.

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