We have a page dedicated to the writing competitions for unpublished authors such as ourselves and probably you, who are reading this. But I wanted to take a little time and say a few words about one in particular which, for an unpublished author trying to improve, is a goldmine. A treasure trove. The Holy Grail.

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Ink and Insights runs their competition every year in 3 categories – Apprentice, Master and Non-fiction

Ink and Insights is ‘a writing contest geared toward strengthening the skills of independent writers by focusing on critique and feedback from industry professionals. Each entry is assigned four judges who specialize in the genre of the manuscript. They read, score, and comment on specific aspects of the manuscript. (Characters, dialogue, style, pace, tension, etc. for novels.) Once all four judges have finished, the four scoresheets with feedback are returned to the writer with a numerical score.

So, how does it work and why is it so good for someone looking to improve their craft. Well, as it says above, they have editors from the publishing industry reading your entry and giving the most extensive feedback I’ve ever received, in fact the only feedback, from a writing competition.

What’s the catch?
Well, none apparently. The cost is reasonable, $40, and you only have to wait around 2 months for your feedback to be returned and your place in the competition confirmed. (This is dependent on when you enter, obviously.)

What does the feedback entail?
This is harder to summarise succinctly, but essentially the feedback comes in categories for each aspect of writing; miscellaneous (title, hook and memorability), writing quality (description and setting, emotion, show vs tell, style, context and background), characters (point of view, character strength, character interactions), plotting and story (organisation and transitions, goal and stakes, main opposition, plotting, logic/believability and clarity, consistency and timeline), proofreading.

You also receive a numerical score for each heading, based on a scale which has descriptors next to each score to show the author how the score has been applied. Then, you receive a total score based on all of these components. From 4 judges. Each of which also gives a good written comment on each heading and an overall comment as well.

Not bad for $40, huh?

Is the feedback any good?

My experience is that most of it is. Some judges (editors) are harsher than others and others look at the manuscript in a different way. Some hate it, some love it (one of my manuscripts received 173/190 from one judge and 67/190 from another). But, overall, in the last 3 years of entering, I’ve received feedback which has allowed one manuscript to become polished enough to receive full manuscript requests from thirty or so agents, though ultimately none of them chose to represent it, dystopia out of vogue it seems.

So, when the competition opens next year, will you continue to work on your novel on your own, without clear guidance on how to improve, or will you enter Ink and Insights and give yourself a ton of feedback and a chance to see how strong your story really is? For $40, why not? What could you possibly lose?

P.S. Fellow Scribbler Lorna Riley is a top 3 finalist this year for her novel Madam Bucket.