I’m a longtime fan of the Ink and Insights’ writing competition and it has little to do with being a judge. That’s part of it, but not the main draw for me. As a writer myself, I see what it brings to the writing competition landscape, and find many others hard to compare.
A writing competition shouldn’t just be about if you have an agent/publisher at the end of it. This is a huge element of course, and one that can make a writer’s mouth water. I myself flung my hat into the ring multiple times over the years.
Let’s consider if you don’t get agent/publisher interest from a writing competition. What does that mean for your story? Will you get feedback? Know how to better develop it? Get a sense of if you’re pushing the right genre, age category, etc? Probably not.
I have entered writing competitions and had the “pleasure” of being in the toss-up lane. You know what I mean – when a mentor/judge/etc, is deciding whether to choose your work or not, so asks to see more. This sometimes meant I received basic feedback and other times, none at all. I’ve also experienced being asked by numerous agents and publishers for full manuscripts or partials, received high praise, but in the end, it didn’t result in a signing.
Many writers can relate to this kind of thing. You leave a competition with little more than you started (as it relates to critiques, further understanding of your story, voice, etc).
Ink and Insights has an entirely different approach. While this competition might not yet be as popular as some others, it brings so much to the writing table, and is quite hard to ignore. Here are just some of the perks:
– All the Feedback
Writers not only get feedback from judges on their first 10, 000 words, each writer receives this feedback from four (4) different judges. This means that even though all creative pursuits are met with subjective audiences, you can be assured you will have a proper critique system in place. Also, if there are any discrepancies with judging, a fifth judge is called in to settle the score. How awesome is that?
– Blind Judging
Judges have NO clue who the writers are when we receive submissions. Blind judging has its benefits as there’s no way for us to go look you up on social, or have any kind of bias before we begin reading. Our focus is on your words – end.
– Summarise This
Along with your 10, 000 words, we also read the summary of your stories. This lets us get a sense of where you’re planning to go with it. This can help because though we don’t judge based on your summary, knowing your intentions allows us to clearly see if you’re headed there in a way that is best suited for your story.
– Badass Scoresheet
We use two (2) detailed scoresheets for our judging process. They are for Master or Amateur submissions. These scoresheets are split into sections associated with substantive editing and for the Masters’, proofreading/grammar is included. Our numerical scores let you see where we think more work is needed and of course, where you did great. Our scoresheet comments, give even more editorial insight. We don’t sit on these scoresheets either – you get to keep your scoresheet :).
– Agents and Faves
As in many other writing competitions there’s an Agent Round and each writer has a shot at this. Each judge also has a list of Favourite submissions which sometimes have nothing to do with scores. It’s about stories that really speak to a judge. I like that even if your scores weren’t the highest and the story may need lots of work, you could potentially still end up on a judge’s Favourite list ^_^.
– A Culture of Diversity
Ink and Insights’ judges are from all over the world, with all kinds of backgrounds, cultures, and outlooks. We have the pleasure of working with stories that are much the same. It makes for a melting pot of new experiences and understanding through writers’ words, and of course the judges we work with.
On a personal note, one of the reasons I’m such a huge fan of Ink and Insights, is because it’s a constant. I’ve been a judge since 2018 and moved countries twice before settling since then. No matter what was going on, this competition has been a part of my life for the last few years.
It’s allowed me to further develop my craft, to read wonderful stories I might not have without it, connect with and help other writers be the best they can be. It helped me remember there are other ways to succeed in this business outside of the usual paths. It’s also helped me hone ways to professionally give help to writers with things like world-building/creature creation, editorial critiques, and so on.
Without bias, I can truly say that Ink and Insights is one of the best writer competitions out there. Taking what’s learnt from this competition, you will become a better writer, your story will improve, and you’ll walk away feeling way more confident about your craft, voice, and abilities.
The next Pages Unforgotten post is in August. Until then try more posts on my Blog.
This is my fourth year as an Ink & Insights’ judge and throughout its duration, I’ll share a connected post once a month. Learn about the Ink and Insights’ writing competition