Chance vs Skill

Does it often frustrate you when looking for an interesting competition that most require a 25 words or less answer to a question of some other task to complete as a requirement to enter? I used to feel that way but now I see these as a creative challenge and a bit of fun. The more challenging they are the less I think about not winning, like the Amaysim competitions I have been entering lately.

One of the main reasons that competitions require a task to enter, rather than just a random draw (like Lotto or a raffle) is that there are very tight legal requirements and permits to apply for to set up one if the winners are to be chosen by chance alone. Random draw competitions attract large numbers of entries as very little effort needs to be made and often the prize (usually only one, but not always) is very appealing. Have you ever seen the queues in newsagencies when the Lotto prize on offer that week is in the high millions? Although Lotto, Lucky Lottery tickets and Scratchies cost a few dollars or more, most random draw competitions are free, therefore the number of entries, if well promoted can be huge.

On the other hand competitions that require a little effort and perhaps a little skill attract proportionally less entries and even though it may at first seem a bit daunting to have a go, you actually have a better chance of winning something if you do. It just depends on how unique, engaging and creative you entry is and how much effort you have put into it.

Once I got the hang of creating 25 words or less answers, I began to see that it wasn’t as difficult as I first believed. Of course most of them don’t win prizes, but some do. Those I keep a record of my best and recycle them (with a few changes) for other competitions. The winning ones depend entirely on what the judges are looking for and what appeals to one might be quite different from what appeals to another.

It really is worth honing your writing skills. Consider aspects of writing like use of strong emotive words, some reference to the sponsor or their products, perhaps with a little rhyme. What is definitely required is the ability to ‘write tight’ and you need to develop a unique writing style that catches the judges’ attention. A friend of mine found http://www.wikihow.com/Win-a-25-Words-or-Less-Competition – with some excellent advice through WikiHow that might be worth checking out. An earlier post – How to Win a 25 Words or Less Competition is worth re-reading too.

Writing tight is a skill that can prove lucrative in other ways too. I have won prizes by writing ‘letters to the editor’ in magazines and Sunday papers commenting on articles written in earlier issues. Quite good prizes at that with a better chance of winning than with many competitions, I must admit. There are also writing opportunities and competitions for micro-fiction (that is stories written in less than 200 words, sometimes as little as 25 words or 140 characters). They can be quite entertaining to read too.

Some competitions are presented as games which do not require writing skills but will still require a little effort to enter. One extreme example of this is the Stock Market Game run by the Australian Stock Exchange. I have just registered. It will be a hard one to win but the main aim of the game which gives you $50,000 of virtual money to trade shares in three months is to learn about share trading not to necessarily win the $3,000 prize at the end.

The other skill worth developing is photography. Competitions requiring the uploading of a photo are becoming increasingly popular. In fact of the four prizes I won in January, three were for photographs. It is very easy to take photos in this digital age but it may take a little extra effort to make them especially appealing. I use Photoshop to crop and enhance contrast or colours but there are many other applications that can do the same available today. I guess I am a bit behind the times. I will take a more detailed look at photo competitions in the future but for now – just keep on snapping!

After working for thirty years as a journalist/historian, Jenny started writing sci-fi for children and adults and occasionally illustrating them (when she was not spending time with her grandkids). Most have been published in The School Magazine, anthologies and online. She has also been contributing to a wide variety of magazines such as Antiques and Collectables for Pleasure and Profit, Australiana and Nurture. Now essentially retired Jenny has taken up a challenge of entering and (hopefully winning) competitions. Jenny will track her journey through this challenge here at www.competitions.com.au.

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