Or, in this case, the rules....
This past week has seen me on the other end of the writing game. Usually, I'm one of those sending out short stories, anxiously awaiting to hear from an editor or contest judge about how I've done. This week was my turn to play judge. More than that, I was the only "real writer" -- not my words, but the words of some of my judges -- to read the entries. In its own way, judging these stories was as difficult as waiting to hear how one of my stories has done.
To start, I have to say I'm thrilled with the response we had this year. Ours is a little library, one of a number located between Dallas and Fort Worth. So we never expect to have a lot of entries. This year, however, we quadrupled the number of entries over last year. That's a big feather in the cap of everyone who helped organize the contest.
But, with the increased number of entries came the increased need to apply the rules of the contest across the board. Hence the title -- and most particularly the subtitle -- of this post. You can follow your muse down the yellow brick road, but you have to follow the rules as well. Don't count on the beauty of your prose to blind the judges to the fact your entry is too long -- or too short, your margins don't meet the requirement or -- and this is a very BIG one -- you submitted it in font so tiny the judges need a magnifying glass to read it.
I guess my point is that I hadn't realized just how badly I wanted some of the writers who submitted to follow our very simple rules. We had some good stories that simply could not be passed into the final round of judging because they had failed to read the guidelines. Even worse, there were several stories where it really seemed like the authors didn't include all their pages. In the middle of a scene, the story just stopped. Never again am I going to assume I know the guidelines or that I've included everything I'm supposed to. It's a checklist for me from now on.
So, for those of you who have submitted to contests before -- or to editors or agents -- what is the strangest thing you've seen in their guidelines? Conversely, what piece of advice would you have for those who are trying to successfully submit their short stories to either a contest or an editor?
**(Image is, of course, from The Wizard of Oz.)