I did a bad thing today. I liked a Tweet that was part of a contest without first reading the contest rules. In my defense, the rules Tweet showed up in my Twitter feed several Tweets after the one I liked and the one I liked was a commentary, not an actual contest entry, but still… Contests have rules for reasons. Prizes are awarded for specific things. No participation trophies are handed out, so there’s no point entering your love poem in a horror screenplay contest. It will be rejected without consideration and the contest judges will send bad vibes your way. Those judges are another reason to follow the rules. Judges for many contests are volunteers with lots of other, non-contest related, responsibilities: day jobs, children’s soccer tournaments, dinner with the in-laws, manuscript revisions. They’re donating precious time so don’t waste it. 70,000 words take a long time to read. Don’t annoy the judges by trying to force them to read 90,000. They won’t. They’ll consign your tome to the “not worth a glance” pile and they’ll jinx you by wishing all your pens run out of ink in the middle of climactic scenes and your laptop’s caps lock key gets stuck in the “on” position. Finally, following the rules gives the people who might represent you or publish you or invite you to give a speech at a dinner in your honor some idea of how easy (or how nightmarish) you might be to work with. No one likes an arrogant jerk who thinks the rules don’t apply to them or that exceptions should be made for them because they’re that special. (Really. We don’t like you.) And someone who can’t (won’t) comprehend even basic rules? Let’s be honest. Don’t we wonder how some people manage to cross the street without someone holding their hand? Don’t we groan and wonder if poking olive forks into our eyes would be less painful than explaining things to them “one more time”? Read the rules, understand them (they’re less complicated than the new tax law), follow them. Don’t submit your 100,000 word, free-verse rom-com screenplay to a contest seeking a 60,000-80,000 word mystery novel. Submit what’s being asked for and give yourself a fair shot at the contract/cash prize/trophy. Have you ever judged a contest where entrants ignored the rules? How’d you deal with the non-compliant entries?