Writing Rules & Guidelines

Writing Contests are for authors and writers who use the written word as their art form. We create beautiful mental imagery and weave profound concepts which inspire and enlighten our readers.


Table of contents

What are the requirements for entering?
Beginner and Advanced text Contests may be entered by anyone, unless a specific contest description states otherwise. There is no limit to the number of entries you may submit, unless one is stated in the contest description.

How do I enter a Writing contest?
  1. Create an account if you don't have one yet.
  2. Find a contest you like that is open for entry in the list of Contests.
  3. Read the rules to be sure your entry meets the contest requirements and general Arena Guidelines.
  4. You must be the original author of all the work you submit.

Do my Stories stay mine after I enter them?
Yes. Dagger Bay doesn't take away any of your rights to your art, you simply give Dagger Bay permission to display it.

You must be the original author of your entry, first and foremost. DO NOT enter someone else's writing as your own work; not only will your entry be disqualified, you could be banned from participating in any contest on the site, in any category.

Writing is primarily about creating images with words, thus many of our contests will be limited to plain text; as is customary in typical writing contests. Yet, in order to make full use of the advances of modern word processing, selected contests will present the option of using text effects (colors, fonts, spacing, etc.) as an integrated element of the storytelling. Likewise, there may occasionally be contests which incorporate illustrations or images as a primary feature of the story; for example, as in graphic novels. However, use of text effects and illustrations will be limited to only those contests in which the individual contest's rules specifically allow them. Please do not attempt to use them in any plain text contests.

Do not enter jokes you've found on the internet or stories from movies and television. Don't recycle old one liners, net lore, or clever sayings that have been around so long they have no creditable source. Be original, unless otherwise specified in the contest's description. Writing contests are not about the funniest, most eloquent, most interesting things you have ever heard someone else say -- they are about the funniest, most eloquent, most interesting things you yourself have written.

Your Writing entry should follow the spirit of Dagger Bay's guidelines with regard to taste and subject matter. Pornography, overly racy writing in a contest intended for all ages, overt profanity, hateful, bigoted or otherwise sick-making entries will be disqualified. Going around the word filter counts as profanity, too -- don't do it unless you have prior approval from a Dagger Bay Quartermaster.

Strong attention to spelling, grammar and punctuation is required, and will be considered a measure of quality, so be sure to spell check and proofread before you enter. It is also advisable to proof your entry after you enter it, to ensure it will be viewed as you intended it (check for spacing, paragraph breaks, etc.). You can access and edit your entry at any time during the Submit period, but will not be able to edit your entry once the Voting period has started. Too many blatant errors will result in disqualification, but we will be somewhat flexible with minor errors and typos, requiring only that you fix them if asked to do so.

Entry length: When a Word Limit is imposed, the word count is strict, closely monitored, and may not be exceeded.


Types of Contests
Regular contests will will be composed of two types:
'Short contests', which will involve quick or easy to write themes, generally fewer than 300 words.
'Long contests', which will seek stories ranging from 500 - 2500 words. These parameters will be narrowed closer together from contest to contest and will vary according to selected themes.

Special contests will also run periodically in several categories:
'Novella contests', which will entail entries from 5,000 - 10,000 words.
'Cross-media contests', which will include features from the graphic arts to complement the underlying text entries.
'Pirate Brawl contests', which are contestant-defined, head-to-head contests.

Submit & Voting Periods
Short contests will typically have 5 days to submit entries and 2 days for Voting.
Long contests will typically have 14 days to submit entries and 3*(or more) days for Voting.
* If a Long contest has fewer than 10 entries, voting = 3 days; 11-15 entries = 4 days; 16-20 entries = 5 days; etc.
Novella contests will have 25 days to submit entries and 5+ days for Voting.
Pirate Brawls will vary by contest, but will generally follow 'Long contest' guidelines.


Voting Scale
  1. Obvious plagiarism or cheating. If you give this score you should also flag the entry and explain what's wrong.
  2. An entry that is well below average or doesn't meet the contest criteria. If you give this score you should also flag the entry.
  3. An entry that is below average, or has many spelling/ grammatical errors. You should not give an entry a 3 or below unless it has distinct problems that cause you extra work evaluating it.
  4. A flawed entry that could have been good, but has several spelling/ grammatical errors, or has distinct composition problems.
  5. An average entry. Nothing bad, but not particularly memorable, may have a few spelling/ grammatical, or composition errors.
  6. A good entry, maintains your interest through the entire reading, with only minor errors or minor composition problems.
  7. A very good entry with no spelling/ grammatical errors that get in the way of your enjoying it, and with good composition.
  8. A very good entry that has no weaknesses, and is a great idea/funny/touching etc.
  9. An exceptionally good entry with no errors, and makes me say "wow!"
  10. An amazingly good entry that has no errors, and makes me want to read more by the author, and buy an autographed first edition of their next book.

Judging Criteria
NOTE: All submitted entries should be written in English. Although we're an international community we don't have the personnel or resources to properly judge material written in other languages. Both standard forms of English, however, are acceptable -- American style and British style. So when voting don't count it as an error if an entry uses the British spelling of words; such as colour, labour, travelling, etc. Also, if an entry uses appropriate notation, passages of dialogue may make use of regional speech patterns; ie: dialects, patois, argot, jargon, idioms, slang, etc.

Mechanics: The first thing we look for is correct use of the rules of writing -- spelling*, grammar, punctuation, etc. Every aspiring writer must know the basics. Problems with mechanics jump out at the reader and detract from their enjoyment of the story you worked so hard to write. Do all you can to find and fix these errors.

Composition: This area deals with how well you've constructed your story and told it to us. It encompasses story plot, character development, setting, and dialogue, among many other things. Do you 'tell us' or 'show us' what's happening? Do you draw the reader into the story? The criteria for composition are much more subjective than for mechanics, but they are what determine if the reader finds your story gratifying, predictable, or distasteful. This is what separates the 'hack' from the 'artist'.

Judging Guidelines
Each entry should be individually measured against the grading scale, rather than ranking them against each other. Consider the entry's merits as if it's the only one, and give it a score in line with what the scores represent. In other words, each is being measured against the common yardstick, instead of against the other entries.

Entries which don't meet a contest's stated requirements or Dagger Bay's general guidelines may be disqualified by the Quartermasters. This may occur at any point after submission to a contest -- during the Submit period, during the Voting period, or even after a contest has close and winners announced.

Disqualified entries may be edited and re-entered, or replaced with a different entry so long as the Submit period is still open. No DQ-ed entries can be reinstated after the Voting period has begun.

Following are some common reasons for disqualification, however, this list is not exhaustive.
  • Poor writing: too many grammar/syntax/punctuation errors to be easily readable.
  • Plagiarizes or copies too closely another author's work.
  • Too similar to a winning entry from a previous contest.
  • Re-submission of an entry previously voted on in a Dagger Bay contest.
  • Controversial material: Overtly religious or political, obscene, disgusting, etc.
  • Uses a graphic in a contest that doesn't specifically allow graphics.
  • Openly identifies the author.

What cannot be used in an entry?
The following are items we don't allow because of controversy, illegality, being off-topic or because using them is lazy. They are usually disqualified on sight. However, in their discretion, the Quartermasters may allow entries to remain in the contest based on individual merit, even though they violate one or more of these proscriptions. If you choose to ignore this list, you do so at your own risk; and don't complain about selective enforcement or you'll be referred back to this paragraph again.

Entries with elements we do not permit
Your entry has elements that are not safe for work (i.e. descriptions of porn, hate crimes, injury, sickness, obscenity) in a contest that is labeled appropriate for all audiences.
Your entry has elements that would likely be offensive to the majority of people who read it.
The intent of your entry is blatantly to make a controversial political or religious statement.
Your entry contains material that you didn't have the legal right to use.
Your entry contains a signature.
Your entry contains a web address.
Your entry contains a graphic, unless graphics are specifically allowed in a contest.

Lazy entries
You resubmitted an entry that had previously been voted on in ANY contest.
Your entry uses an idea similar to one that finished in the top 10 of a previous contest of a similar type.
Your entry does not meet the general quality level we require on the site for an advanced contest.

Off-topic entries
Your entry doesn't meet the intention and stated requirements of the contest rules.

Flagging Entries:
If you believe an entry has violated one of the stated rules, you should click the 'Flag Entry' button, and explain to us which rule you believe was violated. (The person submitting the entry will not be able to see that you have flagged them.) The Quartermasters will review the entry, and if they find that it has indeed violated the rules, it will be disqualified. In the meantime you should vote on the entry as if it were OK. We are particularly interested in preventing plagiarism, but our Quartermasters are not familiar with every publication ever written, and may on occasion miss a violation. If, and only if, you are absolutely certain the work has been plagiarized, then you may give the entry a vote of '1' as well as flagging it. However, please keep in mind that the person submitting the entry may be the same person who wrote the published material in the first place. So be careful with this accusation.

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* The Dagger Bay Writing Deck Quartermasters would like to extend their deepest gratitude to Cyn, Hbomb, Anni, Fanatic, and Jago, long-time administrators and moderators from Worth1000 who provided inestimable inspiration for these rules and guidelines. Your wisdom lives on.