The fourth mini-contest was held in December 2007. It challenged contestants to write two sentences: a bad one featuring a horrible writing cliché, and a good one that replaced the cliché with strong, evocative writing.
We received 37 entries from 20 contestants (contestants were allowed to submit two entries apiece). Two reading judges selected 10 contenders from all the entries received. Six prize judges labeled one entry as their “favorite” and rated the rest as either “yes,” “maybe,” or “no.”
(That’s right, six judges. Our guest judge this time was Sean Tierney, an experienced writer and professor of communications teaching at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. We have global connections, people! Aren’t you impressed? You’re not? Drat.)
No entry for any contest to date has scored as well as this mini-contest’s winner. Five of the six judges considered it their favorite. Nothing we have ever received before this was the favorite of more than two judges.
Third Place ($5) by Darren Blair
CLICHE: She couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.
REWRITE: Whenever she sang, her notes pitched upward with such sharpness that they would frequently impale innocent starlings as they passed on by.
Second Place ($10) by Laura Loomis
CLICHE: She looked like she’d seen a ghost.
REWRITE: She looked like she’d unwrapped a birthday present to find a severed head.
First Place ($15) by Melody Ringo
CLICHE: They stared at him like he was from another planet.
REWRITE: They stared at him like a cow stares at a new gate.
Honorable Mentions (no money, just fame)
Two other entries scored highly enough to earn honorable mentions.
CLICHE: The house looked like a tornado hit it.
REWRITE: The rooms were strewn with weeks-old mail, grocery bags, and newspapers, as if a giant had turned the house over and shaken it before setting it down again.
(by Laura Loomis–this contest allowed two entries per author)
CLICHE: Blue sky thinking.
REWRITE: Brain-tickling, attention-zipping, expectation-ripping, neuron-firing twinklings of inklings.
(by Kat Dawes)
It Was His Idea
This contest premise came from newsletter reader Michael Van Ornum. As a reward, he automatically gets an entry published (but no money).
CLICHE: I was busier than a beaver.
REWRITE: I was busier than a single parent with four hyperactive kids in a toy store.
(by Michael Van Ornum)
Now It’s Our Turn
Two of the prize judges wanted to try this one, too.
CLICHE: His argument was weak as water.
REWRITE: His argument collapsed faster than the first little pig’s house of straw.
(by Tarl Kudrick)
CLICHE: His speech was dull as dishwater.
REWRITE: His speech wasn’t just colorless, it sucked the color out of everything in the room, leaving us sitting in endless gray monotone.
(by Bethany Granger)
Congratulations to the winners and our sincere thanks to everyone who entered the mini-contest.