We had a nice number of Dead of Winter entries: enough to be competitive but not so many as to be overwhelming. As has been my experience in the 15 years I’ve judged this contest, there were about ten entries left for rereading and, from those, I had three clear favorites. My favorite popped right into my top spot. That’s not to say it’s a guaranteed winner; Erin and I still need to collaborate.
Still frustrating: stories that don’t follow word count parameters, stories that arrive late, stories that aren’t horror stories (DOW is a horror story contest), stories that don’t use the theme, and stories that have the theme shoehorned in rather than written into the story. This happens every time. Sometimes a single entry checks off a couple of those boxes.
Invariably, this eliminates at least 25% of the entries. So if you stay within the word count parameters, use the genre, use the theme, and send it in time, you’re already in the top 75% of entries.