Let’s Talk About...Contests!

I’m surprised there isn’t a general thread about contests already?

Almost everyone in the community will know about creator contests, I hope, that supply us with a prompt, and a deadline. Recently…Some prompts have been clearer than others. Cough K&T cough. Contests are a big thing in the Instagram community with authors promoting and recommending entries they’ve read, but also big on the forums. With that in mind, let’s talk about contests.

Have you entered a contest? If so, which?
Have you ever won a contest?
What do you think the point of contests are?
Do you think there should be more guidance on contest rules, and/or how to win a contest?
Do you think there is a trend or formula for how to win a contest?
Which contest has been your favourite/most interesting?
What prompts would you like to see in the future?
Do you think the standard for contest entries has increased?
Do you think authors who have won multiple contest should take a step back and let others enter?
Any contest entries you’ve read that you think should’ve won? Not necessarily because you liked the entry, but because you genuinely believed it should’ve won.

There’s a lot of questions so don’t feel pressured to answer them all.

In relation to which prompt you would like to see, if there’s enough interest in certain themes/plots I’ll build a poll for it.

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Yes. I entered Star Power, H&V, Spotlight on Love, Missed Connections and Clue

:no_mouth:

In part, I think Episode wants to inspire people to keep creating new content on their platform. Contests do generate a lot of new stories in a short period and most people tend to be a lot more supportive during these times too (I know a lot of people buy passes during contest periods so they can read more entries).

Ummm… Well, I think back to the time I submitted a ticket with a question about the contest and I didn’t get a response until the week after the results were announced and so I feel inclined to say that if anything, I think certain rules need to be a bit more clear. In general though, I did prefer having more mystery around how contests work. I know that’s an unpopular opinion, but I guess I just see how the Episode Explains article made everyone think if you don’t get 100 reads in a certain amount of time, then Episode isn’t even going to consider you… Which can be super discouraging for authors. And that’s something I never experienced with the first 3 contests I entered because I was blissfully unaware of the system :relieved:

Every time I think I know it, I am proven wrong. I was always told two things you needed to do in order to better your chances was to write short episodes and to not publish a forth episode until the results are out… But I’ve seen quite a few winning stories that have had 5 episodes by the time the shelf was out, or ones that have had 15 minute long episodes. So I don’t think there’s any one way to win a contest.

Star Power. I wish I could have a do-over because that prompt was so good and I know how to direct better now :sob:

Ones like Star Power. I liked the added challenge of including a particular character type into the plot.

Absolutely! Everyone seems to level up for contests now. It’s intimidating for sure :weary:

Nah

Lost in Hope was truly robbed during the Star Power contest. It was featured a few months later on a shelf though. Welcome to the Amazon Forest was one I thought for sure deserved to win the Fantastical contest, but happy to say that one was featured within the last year too. I thought Heavenbound was genuinely going to win MC but I’m surprised after over a year, it still hasn’t been featured.

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Have you entered a contest? If so, which?
Yes, I’ve entered 5.
Mysterious
Haunted
Spotlight
Thriller
Missed Connections (collab with Mavis)

Have you ever won a contest?
Yup :slight_smile: I’ve won 4. (I didn’t win Haunted.)

What do you think the point of contests are?

  • To give people a goal to work towards- that was why I entered my first one, anyway. Sometimes it’s nice to have a goal to focus on and a challenge to work towards.
  • Also, it gives authors the opportunity to get exposure- even if you don’t win you could still potentially have your story read and put on a later shelf (my Haunted entry has been featured).
  • To discover community talent and to just have a bit of fun.

Do you think there should be more guidance on contest rules, and/or how to win a contest?
I think the Episode Explains post was a bit overdue, but I feel like it explains most.
I always self-grade my stories against the rubric. I honestly think a lot of people need to pay more attention to this, so maybe the rubric should be highlighted more? Because I often see contest entries with no choices (for example) which really hurts your score.

Do you think there is a trend or formula for how to win a contest?
As above, I really think authors should read the rubric. A lot of people miss out on easy points by not including choices!
My tips for contests would be this:

  • Follow the theme but don’t be afraid to think outside the box- I think unique entries stand out and have a good chance of winning (however, they still need to appeal to readers because of retention).
  • Choices are important- you can get an easy 4/4 by adding choices that matter
  • If your spelling and grammar aren’t the best, get a proof reader so you don’t lose too many marks there.
  • I don’t recommend super long episodes for contests because retention is important. I quit a story for a contest once because the first episode took me over 30 minutes.
  • In general, I think stories with CC do better for retention, but it’s possible to win without it.

Which contest has been your favourite/most interesting?
I’m not sure. My favourite to enter personally was Mysterious. It was my second story on Episode and before that I thought I was a romance/drama writer (lol) and that I’d suck at mystery. Turned out, that’s one of the genres I’m better at, so I enjoyed this contest because I got to try something new and it was a fun challenge.
To read, maybe H&V? Or Thriller. I read the majority of thriller entries, but I found the actual contest a bit broad.

What prompts would you like to see in the future?
I actually prefer prompts that are a little more specific (e.g I found “Thriller” too broad) but not as specific as Dirty Dancing lol. I would like a prompt that isn’t genre specific.

Do you think the standard for contest entries has increased?
YES! The directing these days is insane compared to a couple of years ago and I really think people go all out for contests. I know I personally cut a few corners for my regular stories but spend more time on a contest entry.

Do you think authors who have won multiple contest should take a step back and let others enter?
Define multiple. 2? 3? 4?
What if someone hasn’t won or entered a contest for over a year? (For example, I’ve won a few, but the last one I won/entered was MC last year. Would I be able to enter again now? Or am I excluded forever?)
What if they’ve won 2 as a collab?
etc, etc, etc
In general, my answer is no. I don’t think it’s fair to exclude people.
I don’t think many people enter and win multiple contests in a row because it’s so draining, so I don’t think that’s an issue.

Any contest entries you’ve read that you think should’ve won?
Yup! Every contest, there’s at least 2-3 entries that I’ve read that I’m surprised didn’t make it.

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Yes, the Missed Connections one.

No.

I think they are a nice way of surpassing one self in term of being an author and directing wise as well. It’s kind of a «let me show you what I can do» moment. It’s not always the case of course!
They are also an opportunity for “smaller” authors to gain more attention than they would normally get if they were to released their story outside of the said contest.

I don’t think there really are rules on how to win a contest per se. I also think that if you read the judging rubrics, it is pretty clear what they are looking for in stories/winners. But I do think that maybe there should be a little more explanation on what it takes to even qualify for winning. For example, the 100 reads rule is pretty harsh and I don’t think it’s exactly clear how many days you really have to reach it.

I don’t think so. I’ve seen people try to predict winners in the past and they were wrong.

I really loved the Thriller one. I don’t think I’ve ever read as many entries as I have for a contest than for this one.

It’s not really a prompt but I’d love to see them come up with a new contest that has a limited number of episodes required (aka short stories).

I definitely think so. They have even created new categories for the winners. But the standard has increased because the quality of contest entries keeps on increasing as well.

No. Some people thrive in these types of challenges. Let them be.

Yes, I’ve read a few. But I’ve also noticed that if the story is really good, it will get the recognition it deserves eventually.

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Have you entered a contest? If so, which?

  • Adventurous
  • Magicka

Have you ever won a contest?

No, don’t care though.

What do you think the point of contests are?

Is to help authors being promoted, and noticed. I know there are other things to add to that but I don’t know what to think of at the moment.

Do you think there should be more guidance on contest rules, and/or how to win a contest?

Yes, we need more guides/tutorials, it really is still kind of confusing when you are reading the information when there is an announcement of a contest, and you’re lost like crazy, and still need more help to understand. So, it’s good that the community is here to help others who have not entered a contest before, know what to do and what not to do, and give more advice and help.

Do you think there is a trend or formula for how to win a contest?

Tbh, all I am hearing is gaining a lot of reads or higher to win the contest, make sure you’re directing is on point like give it a “wow” factor to grab more attention. Think outside the box, have good overlays for your story, plot, etc, choices, make sure your story follows and fit the theme, etc.

Which contest has been your favourite/most interesting?

Magicka, so far.

What prompts would you like to see in the future?

Mystery, Horror, & Sci-Fi

Do you think the standard for contest entries has increased?

Yes, they are really doing an incredible job on their directing, just absolutely amazing!!! Big improvement.

Do you think authors who have won multiple contest should take a step back and let others enter?

I mean, I don’t mind, but i don’t care. Let them be and do what they want.

Any contest entries you’ve read that you think should’ve won?

Yes, I’ve read a couple, and it shows that authors are putting good effort in their story.But, tbh, it is going to be hard to even imagine what the winner shelf is going to look like/bring to the table.

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Have you entered a contest? No.
What prompts would you like to see in the future? I’m sorry if I sound crazy, but I would like to see a contest about MCs who are Satanists.
Any contest entries you’ve read that you think should’ve won? I personally think The Game should’ve won the thriller contest. But it probably didn’t win because it’s a psychological thriller :unamused:

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All of my stories so far are for contests, yes. Specifically Missed Connections, Another World and Magicka.

laughs hysterically no

Definitely a way to develop your writing and coding, a chance for Episode to find new writers if possible too

I think the Episode Explained articles work decently, though I think Episode can promote them better. Also, they could be a bit more clear on which typos authors can fix after the deadline, but that’s more of a me thing :sweat_smile:

Generally, it’s when entries have plenty of meaningful choices. To my belief, that’s what factors in a winning story, even though I know other stuff is at play (like correct grammar, proper pacing, adherence to the prompt, etc).
Otherwise, Episode in the past has shelved stories which use the prompt creatively.

Within the ones I’m familiar with/have participated in? The most favourite I participated in has to be Missed Connections, since I had a completely different take of the prompt than others.
Otherwise, I was fascinated with the Star Power contest. I’m not sure I read many entries of it but I like the uniqueness with Episode giving a specific character archetype.

See what I said about Star Power’s character prompts. I would definitely want to see something similar to that, like a holiday-themed contest that gives a list of cliches authors have to emulate or parody.

I mean, shush yeah.

A bitter little part of me says yes, but if they’re good, they’re good.

Sparrow’s Catch a Falling Star for K&T :cold_sweat: Otherwise no, I don’t know many underrated entries can vouch for

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Everything but K&T.

I’d love to see horror, thriller, and fantasy sub-genres! Also a specific prompt that isn’t romance would be interesting, like Clue and Star Power.

No way. I’m more concerned about those who got too much plus point as they already have a massive audience (popular authors)

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Have you entered a contest? If so, which?
Yes, College Days and Heroes and Villains.

Have you ever won a contest?
No.

What do you think the point of contests are?
I think it’s really nice that authors can challenge themselves with writing in a specific genre, or coming up with an idea for a specific prompt. It’s also a great opportunity for smaller authors to get noticed. What I don’t like is how competitive they get sometimes when they see that their stories don’t get as much recognition as some other stories. I see this more like as a chance to support each other, since at the end of the day, they select more winners.

Do you think there should be more guidance on contest rules, and/or how to win a contest?
Yes, that would be nice. Episode must have gathered a lot of data during the past years, and while I know we probably won’t have a general formula for winning, they should know what things were common in the stories that get high reader retention for example.

Do you think there is a trend or formula for how to win a contest?
Haha, I just said there isn’t :sweat_smile: But I have some theories… Like, I’m pretty sure that regardless the theme, you should put in romance. The directing takes a big part in this: you definitely won’t win any contest with basic directing. If you are not a popular author, you actually have to promote your story, because reads do count, and no one will ever make me believe that it’s not harder to have a good retention with 200 reads than it is with 20K. Also, the more interactive you story is, the better.

Which contest has been your favourite/most interesting?
The themes I liked the most were H&V and Adventurous, but suprisingly those were not the ones that I have most of my favourite entries from. I think that would be the contests with fantasy prompts, so Fantastical and the current one, Magicka.

What prompts would you like to see in the future?
I would love to see a sci-fi theme, because many authors are so great at directing and they are very creative too, so I really think they could come up with amazing and interesting entries. Also, something family related would be nice too, because I don’t see a lot of stories in which family plays an important part. I remember that there was a contest for Mother’s Day, but it was years ago.

Do you think the standard for contest entries has increased?
Yes, especially directing-wise. As I said above, I don’t think you have a chance to win a contest if your directing is just average.

Do you think authors who have won multiple contest should take a step back and let others enter?
The thing is… I kind of do. But it’s really up to them, so this is rather what I’d do if I were in the same position.

Any contest entries you’ve read that you think should’ve won?
Oh God, so many! It would take me a while to come up with a complete list, and no one would read it anyway, so I’ll just share some entries from the most recent contest, K&T:

  • Folk Devils by M. Jordan
  • What Doesn’t Kill Us by Eysenck
  • Oh My Paws by JiangShi
  • The White Lie by Jesse W (though it was featured recently on another shelf)

And I had other favourites too, these are only the ones I actually thought would win, haha

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Aw, me too, though I have a sneaking suspicion this would create a couple lots of pregnancy stories :sweat_smile:
But stories with Moms/Dads/Guardians as MCs would be awesome

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Hahaha, oh my God :see_no_evil: I guess if Episode ever does this, I wouldn’t mind if the requirements would be more specific

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Nop. Thought about entering the upcoming contest but I’m gonna refrain

herk

I don’t have much different to say than everyone else. But I do think contests can help motivate people who have been struggling to write, whether they’re just starting out or are burnt out writing their current stories. The contests can generate a lot of creativity and make room for many different kinds of stories that can otherwise be difficult to find. They can also help writers feel more connected to the community at large or to parts of the community to which they’ve been less exposed.

I mean, given the general confusion about how some aspects work, I guess so. At the very least, heavier promotion of the rubric / guideline would probably help. But at the end of the day, most processes on Episode aren’t super transparent so :man_shrugging:

I assume so but but whenever I think I understand, I realise I’m actually just dumb and don’t get it. I’m not sure how consistent it is tbh, though of course some aspects seem clearer than others. Writing too short or too long episodes isn’t going to get you very far, whereas thoughtful, impactful choices do seem to make a difference. I’d say directing, too, but I don’t think it has to be extra fancy. Probably depends on the prompt though. I’d expect folks are looking for a higher level of impressive directing in the Magicka contest than the K&T contest, just based on the genre.

Well, I think recency bias comes into play here, but I really enjoyed the Magicka contest. Helps that fantasy is my favorite genre. However, Clue was another one of my favorites. I liked a lot of H&V entries as well.

Well. I was going to say “mature” / older MCs as in like ~35 but now that I say it I would honestly love some truly old like 60+ MCs. Such a prompt could be great for the comedy genre, or any genre I reckon. Umm I’d love to see some prompts centered on friendship, but like…not friends to lovers. I actually do love that trope but I’d love to see prompts about friends / family that don’t have focus on romance. Also, maybe some specific sci-fi tropes, especially since sci-fi isn’t its own genre so there’s a lot of leeway to explore. Maybe like time travel (or cyberpunk I love cyberpunk I can’t help it).

Overall, yeah. At least with the Magicka entries I was pretty blown away with how incredible so many of them were. I’m honestly not sure what the winners will be. BUT we’ll see if I still hold this opinion once entries for the Q Slur contest come out :upside_down_face::upside_down_face::upside_down_face::upside_down_face::upside_down_face::upside_down_face::upside_down_face::upside_down_face::upside_down_face:

Meh. Some people really do their best work (regardless of whether or not the entry wins) as part of contests and ill take all the amazing work I can find. I also don’t think most people are entering consecutive contests regularly, so I feel like there’s still a lot of variety in the works that get offered.

I mean, yeah. There are a lot that I think were incredible but wasn’t expecting to win based on the guidelines / rubric. But there are a few I genuinely thought would win because they DID seem to meet the criteria and were also well written and directed. I’d agree I thought CAFS and Folk Devils would win in the K&T contest, but I can’t say the ones that did win shouldn’t have because I didn’t read most of them. But I do think even when contest entries don’t win they have a higher chance of being featured on a shelf in the future, so I guess that’s cool.

Edit: Current of Love also should have won K&T based on the guidelines tbh

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I’ll come back to the questions you’ve presented later, but this has been on my mind and bugging me: I think the “high retention needed” aspect of review for winners really f*cks over anyone who isn’t a big author.

If you have thousands of followers, then yeah, of course you’re going to be in the highest retention for entries. A smaller entry could be a great candidate for winning in literally every other aspect, but if that author were to hypothetically have 200 reads and 20 people don’t read to the end, they’re at a significant disadvantage to someone who has 2,000 reads and 20 people who don’t finish.

And it just steams me that I have to watch harmful entries win over and over again over smaller ones that put actual care into what themes they’re presenting.

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I will never understand why people don’t accept this. It’s simple math

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Bump!

Bumping :smile:

I entered the AW contest with a story that I archived real soon because it’s a mess. I also entered the K&T contest.

I was lucky enough to win K&T.

For me, I liked the challenge I got from having to stick to a prompt. It also inspired me to work harder.

I think more information on how winners are picked would be nice.

I think there are some similarities amongst contest winners but I’m not really sure if I’ve noticed a lot of “trends or formulas.”

I really enjoyed writing my story for k&t but I also really like the AW contest prompt.

Sci-fi, a drama themed prompt, time traveling, historical fiction… Just to name a few.

I haven’t read enough on the app to properly answer this so I’ll pass. :grin:

No, I don’t.

I can’t think of any off the top of my head but I do know there’s been stories I haven’t read that I’ve seen get hyped up so much that when I don’t see them on the shelf it’s kind of surprising to me. :joy:

I don’t really know how to enter a contest :sweat_smile:

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Hey, thank you!:heart::blush: