How to Write Great Competition Articles

This article is aimed at helping you with the large community challenges, which are month-long events. However, this information can be applied to all challenges and articles.   Will it ensure a win? No. But it may help you improve your article writing.
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^And for that cool spoiler button: [spoiler]Content|Button Name[/spoiler]
  WorldAnvil competitions are a great way to participate in the community, get eyes on your world, and be inspired with prompts you may not have previously considered.   But you might find yourself wondering how do I make a great competition article?  

Content

Hook Your Audience

A strong opening line, a quote, a bit of prose or poetry, custom headers, visual appeal, a great cover image - there are many ways to draw a reader into your article and make them want to keep reading.  

Explain, but not too much

We don't need a whole chapter devoted to describing the Salinas Valley. And besides, the community challenges have word limits.   What can you summarize or display in bullet form, a table, or even a chart/graphic? Can a picture take place of a character description? Would a section work better as its own article?
See what I did with that tooltip there? This is an excellent way to add information that might otherwise disrupt the flow of your content. Tooltips are especially useful for defining in-world terms and other things that don't have their own articles.  
[tooltip:explanation here]word/phrase[/tooltip]
  At the same time, don't assume I know anything about your world. These challenges are an excellent way to introduce new people to not only your writing, but your world at large.   Tying other aspects of your world into your article is a great way to make it rich and relevant. This can be done in many ways:  
  • Linking to other articles
  • Using in-world phrases
  • Using tooltips and/or filling out the Excerpt section of every article (Design tab) so that when you link to it, that excerpt appears on hover
  • Using quotes to describe how people in your world feel about something
  • And remember, people are not monolithic. I try to present conflicting opinions wherever possible

  • How to make a bullet list
    Bullet lists are so easy! And are perfect for articles.
  • Level 1
  • Level 2
  • Level 3
  • Level 4
  • dash, space, TEXT
    dash, dash, space, TEXT
    dash, dash, dash, space, TEXT
    dash, dash, dash, dash, space, TEXT
     

    How does the template work?

    For the big community challenges, you have to use the template specified in the challenge.   This does NOT mean you have to fill every in every field. In fact, please don't. Fill in what's applicable, what you want to fill in, or don't fill in any of them. It is perfectly acceptable to write all of your content in the vignette, the footer, and/or the sidebar yourself, using custom headers.   Some people fill in a few of the prompts; some fill in none. Neither method is incorrect.  

    I want to participate, but the prompt doesn't fit my world

    Bend the prompt to your will! Subvert it. Interpret it loosely.   Seriously, if the prompt doesn't fit, then try another approach to the challenge. My favorite articles are the ones that are unexpected.   Could it perhaps work as a children's story, a myth, or a rumor in your world? Are there parts of the prompt you can address by saying something like, "No one really knows because she never stays in one place long enough for people to get to know her"?  

    Formatting

    Format!

    Content is crucial, but formatting makes it readable
      Formatting is so important. Really. It is entirely unreasonable to expect your reader to read a wall of text. Some people literally cannot, and I personally will not.   At minimum, you should strive for short paragraphs with line breaks in between.
    Blank space improves readability!  

    Columns

    Even better is if you can add columns and visual elements.   Rows and columns do wonders in breaking up the content even more, and they reduce the distance the eye has to travel across the screen. The idea is to create easily-digestible segments of information as to not overwhelm or exhaust the reader.   My personal trick to columns is to alternate them with wider segments of text and to try to get them to line up as closely as possible.
    Guide to BBCode Formatting
    Generic article | Oct 2, 2020

    How to format awesome articles

    (You can add blocks like this by clicking Copy Article Block at the bottom of an article and pasting it into your editor)
      BBCode for Columns
    Columns are accomplished using:  
    [row][col]Content[/col]
    [col]Content[/col][/row]
      Various elements can be added into columns to improve variety and control size - images, maps, quotes, lists, etc.   Consider using subheaders along with your columns to divide out content. Ex:   Accomplished using:
    [row][col3][h3]First Header[/h3]Content[/col3]
    [col3][h3]Second Header[/h3]Content[/col3]
    [col3][h3]Third Header[/h3]Content[/col3][/row]
      Tip: If your page gets wonky, it's usually because of a missing [/row] or [/col] or a missing bracket somewhere. Be sure to close all BBCode including [/i], [/in], [/b], etc.   Tip 2: You can also format spoilers! Just avoid using the pipe (straight line above the enter key)
     
     

    Headers and Subheaders

    Make use of headers and subheaders to avoid sections becoming too long. Just as overly long paragraphs are exhausting, so too are overly long sections.   Headers and subheaders can be used in most areas of the article: the main body, the footer, a template response section, the sidebar, author notes, and more. I personally use [h2][/h2] and [h3][/h3] the most, which can be typed, added by clicking on the H2 or H3 button above the textbox in the editor, or even added using ctrl+2 or ctrl+3 (Windows).   [hr] is another neat trick for breaking up content.

    Do I have to be a subscriber to make competition-worthy articles?

    No! You can do quite a lot of amazing things with a free account. Pictures, maps, spoilers, columns, tables, blocklinks, embedding songs and videos... there are so many elements you can add to your article. And these elements aren't just tricks. They are amazing tools to add depth and richness to your world.  
    A picture is worth a thousand words
    — Henrik Ibsen / Frederick Barnard
    [quote]Content|Author[/quote]   Quotes are a great way to add flavor and describe how your in-world people feel about something
    Chart demonstrating 43% of Salaris approves of war, 39% disapprove, and 18% remain undecided
    You can even use another program to create graphs, infographics, and other visual methods to quickly summarize info. Just upload as an image.
      Looking at all the amazing articles out there, it is easy to feel like you have to have fancy themes and a degree in CSS, but you really do not. All of the BBCode presented in this article is available to free users as well.  

    Other Aspects

    I'm still not sure how to improve my article

    Whether you're unsure about content or format or something else, just ask!  
  • Ask for feedback:
  • Other competitors - WorldAnvil's Discord is a super friendly place and the #challenge-discussion channel is the perfect place to ask for feedback (just don't spam)
  • Family, friends, strangers
  • Call to action in your comments section (Section tab > Footer Section > Fill out Comment Feedback Placeholder)
  • Offer a feedback swap - this is a great way to get more detailed feedback from someone, as they know they'll receive feedback in turn
  • Incorporate feedback, where appropriate

  • Please note that you are not obligated to incorporate all feedback. The work is still yours, and therefore it's still your decision and responsibility. However, if someone asks you a question in the comment section, this is feedback that something in your article might be confusing or under-explained and presents an opportunity to improve your article.
      BBCode
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    This sidebar content panel can be a great place to do a quick summary or stats of your person/place/thing/idea   If you want to add things here that are not part of the article template, that can easily be accomplished using a --key::value-- pair:  
    Objective
    Competition Guide
    Guild Levels
    All

    Tip: When editing an article, on the right-hand side, click Design Tag Reference for a huge list of useful BBCode.   Then ctrl+F or Command+F to search for a specific BBCode
     

    More Useful Guides

    Guide to BBCode Commands
    Generic article | Feb 24, 2022

    Using BBCode to format your text and layout

    Guide to Images
    Generic article | Mar 7, 2022

    All about images and how to use them on World Anvil.

     

    About Images

    I know some people prefer not to use images or think including them is too difficult, and while they are not necessary, they can serve as much more than just eye candy.   Images are a fabulous tool for quickly setting a mood to your article and for describing a person, scene, object, etc. without having to resort to long, purple prose.   There are so many resources available for making images and/or finding available, creative commons images. But you must credit the artist, even if it's you.    
    See this sidebar space? This ends up being a long, empty space on many articles.   This can be mitigated in several ways:
  • Images, maps, family trees, charts
  • In-world quotes
  • Bullet and/or numbered lists :)
  • Quick explanation on related people/places/etc
  • Shorter article sections
  • Blocklinks to related articles

  • Guild members may disable this sidebar and/or utilize the full-width footer
     

    Sharing is Caring

    You can share your article in many ways: linking to it on your profile, social media, Discord, etc.   My biggest piece of advice here is to have a nice banner/cover image and to complete the excerpt (both under the Design tab) so these might entice people to read your article (both appear when linked on Twitter and Discord, for example).   Check out this WorldAnvil blog post on getting more readers.

    Competitive & Sporting Spirit

    Out of hundreds of articles, few will make the shortlist and only one from each league will win. The more effort, marketing, and community participation you put in, the higher your likelihood of making the shortlist, however there is still no guarantee. You may not probably won't win, and that's okay!   Think of this as an opportunity to stretch yourself as a writer and worldbuilder, to explore something you might not have otherwise included in your world. Think of this as a chance to showcase your talents and meet other like-minded community members. Think of this as an opportunity to practice putting your work out there for others to see.   If you've written something, that's a reason to celebrate.  

    More Advice

  • This is not solely a writing competition. This is for an article, which is a bit of a different beast than a short story or novel. Formatting, ease of reading, capturing your audience, these are all very important. Most readers are going to want to see something more than just wikipedia-style exposition.

  • Find what you like / what you're good at - some users write amazing prose in their articles, others have a snarky tone that just works, while others make great use of quotes, do amazing original artwork, or have hand-drawn maps. Find what works for you, and then showcase it.

  • S P A C E S between paragraphs!!!
  • A single sentence is a perfectly acceptable paragraph length
  • Is there a shorter way to say it? How about a list or table?
  • Reread to check for errors, inconsistencies, redundancies, unnecessary wordiness, and typos (people are forgiving, but too many decrease readability)
  • Community Challenge Checklist

    Check the challenge page to make sure you're following the rules!   Did you use the correct template indicated on the challenge page?
    Is it 300+ words, but within the word limit?
    If using a stub, reset the date!
    Did you follow any special rules indicated in the challenge?
    Is ALL of your artwork credited, and do you have permission to use it? (check the license)
    Did you somehow address the questions or the What to Include in Your Article part of the challenge? - This does NOT have to be directly answered, and you can leave mystery
    Is your article published and public?  
    Click that red Draft icon to publish
     
    While AI and spellcheckers will never do as great of a job as humans, there are many tools available to you to assist with proofreading and editing. Be aware that spellchecker and grammar checkers will not understand context.
  • Within the WorldAnvil editor, there's the Spellcheck button
  • Copying and pasting into Word, Google, or some other word processor
  • Hemmingway Editor - grammar checker that is free to use in your browser. This will highlight adverbs and instances of passive writing. However, it thinks "participate" is too big a word and that my sentence structures are too complex (smh), so use at your own discretion.
  • ProWritingAid - free version seems similar to Hemingway Editor, but a bit slower and more limited, though it does offer punctuation suggestions. This also seems to think "participate" is too big a word. I have not used the paid version.
  • Grammarly - use at your own discretion. I have not used.
  • And now for some hard truths
  • Just because you like your world or your article does not mean that anyone else is obligated to do so.
  • Just because you like or comment on someone else's article does not mean that person is obligated to like or comment on yours.
  • EVERYONE has room to grow, room for improvement. Even the winners. Even those people with those really amazing worlds.
  • The large community challenges are month-long competitions. A couple paragraphs may earn you a participation badge, but do not expect a flood of likes from minimal effort.

  • Accusing shortlist people of cheating is not a good look, and will turn people away from your work and from interacting with you in future.
  • Failure and introspection are necessary parts to growth. What could you do better next time?
  • Your feelings are valid, and disappointment sucks, but losing with grace is a valuable skill (not that anyone is really losing here. You wrote an article. You gained experience. You participated in the community. I don't want to promote toxic positivity, but some of the negativity that has been happening around these challenges is extra toxic.).
  • If you don't like the competitions, then just don't compete. There are separate Worldbuilding Prompts unattached to competitions.
  •  

    Inspiration

    The best way to improve is by reading other people's work. Here I've compiled a list of some of the past winners, or you can check out all entries to past competitions here.   When you're looking at great articles from other writers, think about what you liked, what elements you might be able to incorporate into your own writing, and what you might do differently to fit your style better. (And if you like an article, please let the author know by pressing that like button :) )        


    Comments

    Author's Notes

    Yes, this article contains a lot of personal opinions. Feel free to apply or disregard advice. It's also worth noting I haven't actually won any of the major competitions, so grain of salt.   All BBCode presented in this article is available to all guild levels, including free users (with the exception of the full-width Inspiration section). I did not showcase all available BBCode, as that's not really the point of this. See the Codex for more on BBCode.   Author Notes are in Section > Footer


    Please Login in order to comment!
    24 Feb, 2022 19:17

    This is great advice for writing articles in general. Thank you for writing this.   'If you've written something, that's a reason to celebrate.' I 100% agree!

    6 May, 2022 04:55

    Thank you :)

    - Hello from Valayo! Featured work: How to Write Great Competition Articles
    11 Mar, 2022 19:40

    Aah! Great read! Loved it because I feel like most of the advice- like Serukis said- can be applied to writing articles in general. :D (And those 'hard truths' are definitely something that many need to keep in mind when competing, just in general and even competing against themselves.)


    Seek out Fate in the world of Auriga!   Also, feel free to check out my Progress Report for this year's World Ember... AND if you want to see what I'm working on, you can check up on my prompt worksop space!
    6 May, 2022 04:55

    Thank you :)

    - Hello from Valayo! Featured work: How to Write Great Competition Articles
    17 Mar, 2022 07:46

    This article is quite amazing as a general guide to writing articles, thanks for writing it (you're amazing!). There's a lot of good stuff in here and I totally bookmarked it for future reference. I agree with the sentence of: "If you've written something, that's a reason to celebrate." As much as I find it weird for me at this age, late twenties, I used to detest writing when I was a kid and now I love it in terms of fiction writing (still working on the poetry angle and not particularly great at if unfortunately in a traditional sense). On another note something I would add to this is DO NOT get into the editing mode too early in creation of an article or a story. As that can interrupt the ability to create stuff for what you are trying to do. I've been been guilty of that a few times unfortunately. nonetheless I just remind myself that editing can come later after I have jotted stuff down, which usually works for me as a perfectionist.

    17 Mar, 2022 14:22

    Thank you :)   That's a good point about editing, but I'd be a total hypocrite if I wrote that :) But I do agree; sometimes I get stuck trying so hard for perfect that I forget good enough is perfectly fine.

    - Hello from Valayo! Featured work: How to Write Great Competition Articles
    28 Mar, 2022 00:03

    What a great article with solid and fantastic guidance. Great resources.


    Featured Articles in the Shadow War across Creation by Graylion

    Roleplaying
    Ruleplaying
    Rollplaying
    6 May, 2022 04:55

    Thank you :)

    - Hello from Valayo! Featured work: How to Write Great Competition Articles