I'm currently in the process of judging the Essay/Article category of The New Writer magazine's Poetry & Prose Competition 2007.
What astounds me is the level of rule breaking. The rules clearly state:
All work should be double-spaced - 10 entrants decided this rule didn't apply to them - one of whom had submitted more than one entry. Unfortunately, because they broke that rule, in fairness to the other candidates, I couldn't judge their entries, I HAD to disqualify them.
All work should be paperclipped - another 9 entrants felt that stapling would be better. Well they were wrong. I HAD to disqualify their entries.
There should be no identifying marks on the entry - working on the principle that your name helps to identify who you are and is therefore an identifying mark, I HAD 5 additional entries to disqualify. Is this harsh? Well how else am I supposed to judge a competition with impartiality if an entrant's name appears on the entry?
With writing competitions the rules are there for a reason. If you break the rules YOU WILL BE DISQUALIFIED. Why not save the postage and just give the entry fee to the next beggar you pass in the street?
How much time and effort those entrants put into their submissions, I don't know, but it was all wasted because they didn't put enough effort into reading and adhering to the rules.
And the same goes for publication too. If a magazine states that no unsolicited manuscripts will be considered, don't even waste your time in sending one. It smacks of amateurish unprofessionalism. Do what they ask and send a query letter first.
I'm now in the final shortlisting stage of the judging process, so while I mull things over in my mind, I've cast an eye over the disqualified entries. There are two there that showed promise. Had they read the rules and followed them to the letter, their entries could now have been in the final shortlist. But they're not because they broke the rules.
Congratulations to all those entrants who did follow the rules. Your chances of success are therefore much, much greater.