Let's Talk About... The Way To Win A Contest

I agree. I’m extra super careful with contest entries. There were scenes that I would have loved to add blood to but I didn’t because I didn’t want to get disqualified (but for reference- the entry that won and got a chance to fix the mistakes, got suspended due to having blood, a weapon and the body all together. Apparently you’re allowed 2/3 so that was an easy fix).

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I’ve said a lot of things about contests, but I think I’ve never publicly said this?

I think the rating at the end of episode 3 should be considered when judging entries. I know Episode judges stories with a rubric score but… no shade but, I’d take community’s words over Episode’s.

It’s not possible when entries only have three episodes though as the reader is caught in a loop at the end of episode 3 and never gets to rate the story.

I wish they could do something about it. I think you vote it when you pass on episode 4?

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So I’m going to answer your initial question. I’m obviously no expert lol (I’ve won some, I’ve lost some) but this is just my thoughts/what I’ve noticed/my opinion:

How to Win a Contest

  • Work the rubric score: There are four “sections” in the grading rubric-story, choices, visuals and dialogue and presumably, they’re all equally rated. This means that even if you don’t score so well on one section, you can still get a very good average score. Plot is probably the “hardest” and most subjective to score in. Choices is the easiest. There is NO reason why someone can’t get a 4.0 (or at least a 3.0) for this section. It’s an easy section. If you don’t have choices in your contest entry, already you’re probably falling behind. Likewise, directing and dialogue are sections which you can control your score in. Not the best director? Get someone to help you. You’ll get a 3.0 just for having clean directing. English isn’t your first language or grammar isn’t your strong spot? Get a proof reader.
  • The length: I believe featured authors have said that Episode like their episodes to be between 900-1200 lines? While I personally think that’s a bit short, I think it’s important that you make sure your episodes aren’t too long. Readers may get bored or may just run out of time to finish reading and never get around to continuing. This could hurt your retention.
  • The first episode is SO important: You need the reader to continue reading. If your first episode is just character introductions, very slow or just customisation, people may not continue reading. Liz also once said that the first episode of every entry is read. I’m not sure if this is still true, but if Episode does read your story, if they aren’t interested in Episode 1 then I doubt they’ll continue. I don’t think I’ve personally ever read a contest winner where I’ve been bored in the first episode (I haven’t read all the winners though). Even if the story isn’t one I wouldn’t have chosen as a winner, I’ve always been able to read the entire first episode. I can’t say that about every entry.
  • Give the reader a reason to continue: You want your readers to continue reading your story straight away otherwise they may forget about it (which could hurt your retention). A good cliffhanger helps!
  • Think outside the box: True, the most “unique” entries don’t always win, but the most “cliche” ones don’t either. I do personally think that Episode looks for entries that think outside the box when they’re selecting the winners. At the very least, it helps set your entry apart.
  • Stick to the theme!: I believe it’s been said that a lot of good stories don’t win because they missed the theme. Some of the themes are vague or very open (like College Days) but some are more specific (e.g Mysterious which HAD to have the mystery solved by the end).

Those are just my thoughts. I obviously don’t work for Episode :joy: but I’m bored and trapped inside the house because of Hurricane Willa, so I thought I’d write an essay.


This is actually really helpful. I didn’t add any choices in my first contest entry lol (Although thriller one had one of those choices were it would lead to another choice thingy.)

Im starting to think that directing is important, but it really depends on the theme? Idk if that makes sense but if there was ever a sci-fi contest, I’d expect winners to be really good.

One thing I noticed as well, the theme and the genre must be logical. I personally, would not read a College Days entry where students have super powers. I want them to focus on College, not hiding from the government. And I also would not read a thriller entry with comedy as a subgenre. I probably seem too picky now but I think most people also decide on the first 5 minutes of episode one + description.

Good luck on the hurricane. :grimacing: Im glad those things dont even exist as a word here

I just remembered the author of I married a prince and Back and Forth said that short episodes bring more retention. (Its what episode said to her)

So I guess anything above 1000 is fine? :thinking:

For my first contest entry ever, I “graded” myself against the rubric lol and I still sort of do that. Episode has given us a judging criteria and although it’s a bit vague, it’s still a good guide.
I agree with you with the directing- certain genres don’t really ask for “WOW” directing. Anything paranormal (for example) has so many possibilities! I really struggled to come up with creative directing ideas for my Thriller story.

I can see people missing out on College Days because of not placing enough emphasis on the college component. The rules state that the story needs to focus on the first year of college. Remember the Dream Job contest? There were a lot of entries that didn’t seem to focus on the job at all and that could be a big factor as to why they didn’t win.

Yeah, I’m pretty sure she said it as did a couple other authors. Mine are significantly longer than that lol, but I try to make sure I’m comfortably under 20 minutes (I try to average 15 or slightly less). I’ve read contest entries where it took me over 30 minutes to read each episode. A lot of readers don’t have the patience (or time) for that.

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I guess we could say the perfect entry is a story where it has; an unique plot, (or a different perspective on a cliche) choices that have impact on relationships/endings, clean directing with no mistakes and one or two “WOW!” directing scenes for overall 3 episodes, at least 10 minutes without CC, little to no grammar mistakes and diversity(?)

This really doesnt seem that hard tbh, more people need to see this thread. Everyone can learn new things after all.

If I join College Days, its YOUR fault Elise!

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Yes and an actual first episode (I’ve read quite a few contest entries that only have CC in episode one or have CC and then like one tiny scene that gives you no reason to read on).
I honestly think the lack of choices has impacted a lot of really good stories. It’s such an easy thing to include (it doesn’t even need to impact the ending- just impacting the dialogue is enough to get a 3.0), yet I’ve read contest entries without a single choice in episode one (and sometimes maybe even just one or two non-impactful choices throughout the entire thing).

Hahhahaha I still think you should enter with Pregnant by the Bad Boy Gangster Teacher Who Stole My Bra!!!

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Do you think an individual’s first story (which is also a contest entry) can win a contest?
It could, but it might be very hard. A lot of first stories aren’t good, no offense and it takes time to learn how to direct.

Do you think known authors have a massive amount of advantage in the contests?

I do honestly. Maybe not in all cases, but if an author has a mass following of all their stories then of course their reads are going to be high and mostly likely their reader retention.

Are partners actually helpful or are they just a waste of time?
This is kind of tough. it depends. I am working with a partner for my next story and its kind of hard because of schedules don’t really align, so we don’t get too much time to work on the story together and I don’t want to make decisions without her
How important are “multiple endings” on contest entries? (Both for must-be-completed entries and three-episodes-only entries)
I definitely thinks multiple endings help. You are graded on choices in contests, so if you have multiple endings your choices matter.

Do you think Episode actually reviews every single contest entry?
Probably not.

Ever thought someone else on the shelf -or not on the shelf- deserved the best directing?
Not really.

What do you count as “best directing”?
I think directing that is really creative and not basic. People that thought outside the box when it came to directing and pulled it off.

Opinions on winners not continuing their stories/updating them rarely?
I would love it if people could continue or regularly update stories but sometimes its just not possible.

How many times (in a row) should a person join contests?
As many times as they want. I was burned out after finishing my thriller entry, so if a person can just keep going, I wish them all the best.

Should contestants who broke the guidelines be informed and given another chance?

Should there be two shelves for winners? (One for known authors one for smaller authors)
No, that is way too complicated. I think they should just put more winners on the shelf. I was pretty disappointed that there was only 6 winners for thriller, I was hoping for at least 9.


I also expected 9, I didn’t say anything on the announcement thread so it wouldn’t be considered rude but honestly, Thriller was the most exciting contest of the year and they gave us so little.

Maybe a few dialogue choices would help but I highly recommend making multiple endings on short stories for replayability.(?) more replays equals more retention after all :sunglasses:

I’m thinking of a story that’s really… interesting :joy: Would people enjoy dating Lucifer? :eyes:

I expected 9 as well. I understand only six for contests with smaller entry numbers (such as DD and Spotlight), but there were a LOT of Thriller entries and a lot of really good stories.

For short stories I honestly kind of expect multiple endings. But if you didn’t, and just had choices that impact certain scenes or make the reader feel involved, you’d still get a good score on the rubric.

Hahaha are there not already “romance” stories on the app about dating the devil? :joy::smiling_imp: If not, yes they would because he’s the ultimate bad boy :rofl:

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Most episode featured stories have endings that are different by love interests, so… maybe they would be fine with it :thinking:

I don’t want to scare the 12 year olds buttttttttt…
I give up…
I’ll join if I get an unique story name :grimacing:

Bumping this as its been over 2 weeks.

The algorithm of contests still bother me, I’m not planning on joining the new one called College Days, (if you are, good luck) but its still unfair how a huge of part of stories aren’t even graded.

See here:

While I do get the part that it would be hard to grade all of them, it still is not impossible. Many people on the forums have already told that they read over 30 of entries just in the span of 2 weeks. How is a team of insert number not able to do this?

Also, I would like to say that not everyone is associated with social media outside of the forums. Thus, they CANNOT promote themselves outside of the forums. In fact, because of the old version of forums, I wasn’t even able to ask directing questions! There was no guide for new users on the old forums! (or I didn’t see)

I think its a huge mistake adding retention to contests, we are in a competition for our writing skills, directing, branching etc. Not for our popularity.

They’re not talking about contest entries. They’re talking about all the thousands of stories in the app.

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Retention has nothing to do with popularity. It is a good measure of how well the writer can HOOK the reader so that the reader finishes the story.


How do you know it? Did they specify it in the post?

EDIT: They did. And contest entries are also in it. Lol