Entries for the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition close on 1st June.
If you’re struggling with your entry, help is here! 2018 Gold Award-winner Charity, 19, from Kenya shares her top tips for making your essay the best it can be:
There are four topics to choose from. What’s the best way to decide which one to write about?
Choose the topic that you understand best. One which falls closest to home, that you have sufficient information on. Research can also be done to get information on the questions and feel comfortable with them.
Do you have any tips to help you think around the topic you choose?
Firstly, research. Get as much knowledge as you can from books, the internet, people and other sources. Then own the situation given in the question; think of how you as a person could be affected by the topic in question (such as corruption, child labour e.t.c). Make it personal and outline what you would feel about it. Share your emotions as these move readers.
Friends can also be a source of motivation – you can motivate each other to enter the competition. This adds fun to the process. I entered at the same time as a couple of my friends.
Presentation is important – how can you ensure your writing is well presented?
My trick for this is simplicity. Someone once said that simplicity is elegance and this is true even in the presentation of written work. Avoid mixing fonts and putting words in bold in the body of your entry. Only use bold for the title and the characters (if you are writing a script). The choice of font is also very important. Choose one that is easily read.
Also, space out your work. The distinction between points should be clearly defined. Usage of paragraphs can assist in this. Spacing ensures that your work is decluttered and appealing to the eye.
However, with all this being said, remember that follow instructions is crucial. If a specified presentation format is given, follow that. You donʼt want your entry to end up disqualified.
How can teachers, librarians or even friends help?
They can help by supporting you. This includes providing you with the resources necessary for the submission of the entry (such as an internet connection for electronic entries, or the materials required for mailing). They can also serve as a sounding board; present your ideas to them and together you can decide on what to improve on and what remains unchanged. Friends can also be a source of motivation – you can motivate each other to enter the competition. This adds fun to the process. I entered at the same time as a couple of my friends.
Reading books makes people learn from writers who have been successful in their writing and publication.
How do you think reading books can help?
Reading books makes people learn from writers who have been successful in their writing and publication. One can learn numerous writing styles from different authors. How they construct sentences, how they portray characters, what type of formats they use, how they capture their reading audiences and many more. They can then adapt some of these in their writing.
Reading books also helps one grow individually. This is especially from reading self-help books and motivational ones. Their approach to situations in life change and they see things from other perspectives. This grows a writer as they are able to diversify their writing.
Do entrants have to submit an essay; can you write a poem or script instead?
Not at all! There is a pool of choices to decide from. One can write an essay or a script, a poem, a story just the one they feel most confident in, as long as they keep writing in accordance to the topic chosen. The works of past winners can outline this perfectly.
I recently read a tweet that says,”creativity is a muscle that should be exercised daily, to get results.” Exercise that writing muscle.
What tips do you have for someone wanting to improve their writing skills generally?
They should ensure that they write as much as they can. Daily if possible. This will improve on their skills, way of thinking, usage of language and projection of ideas. I recently read a tweet that says,”creativity is a muscle that should be exercised daily, to get results.” Exercise that writing muscle. They should also strive to read as much as they can and do this diversely. Choose books from a wide scope of varieties and challenge themselves with something new- learn from already established writers.
What’s your top tip for making sure your entry is as brilliant as it can possibly be?
This is easy; write from the heart. Understand your entry utterly and completely. Ask yourself, fictional or non-fictional, can you defend the works of your mind in front of a group of people? Would you be touched by your writing if you were the reader in case? Is your work compelling? If yes, you are good to go, if no, improvements can be done.
If you are over 18 years old, there is the Short Story Competition by the Commonwealth too, so the journey continues.
Is there anything other writing advice you would like to share?
It is okay to be displeased with your work, what is not okay is doing nothing about it. Have the drive to strive to better yourself and your works in all ways. Also, itʼs imperative to understand that your best work could not be the very best from another personʼs point of view, and that is fine. Just as you have best reads and other not-so-good reads. Itʼs like the saying goes, “one manʼs meat is another manʼs poison.” So believe in yourself first. Seek approval from yourself first. One last thing, if you are over 18 years old, there is the Short Story Competition by the Commonwealth too, so the journey continues. All the best in your writing, change the world!
Entries for the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition close on 1st June. Find out more about the competition and how to enter using the links below.