How to Win a Screenwriting Competition (5 Secrets Revealed!)

Screenwriters Network, January 16, 2021

As a host of a screenwriting competition, it’s our duty and job to be completely transparent with all of our submitters. In this post you will find all the tips and tricks on how you can write a memorable, impactful and award-winning screenplay

We will be revealing the top 5 common traits of many of our award-winning screenplays. Along with it, we’ll be showing you our exact judging process to show you how me make our decisions. This information will inform you on not only how to win or rank a lot higher in the SWN Screenplay Competition, but many other screenwriting competitions too.

  1.  Jump To Section
  2.  Screenwriting Competition Judging Process
  3. SWN Screenplay Competition Scoring
  4. SWN Procedural Sheet
  5. 5 Common Traits of Award-Winning Screenplays
  6. Picking the Right Screenwriting Competitions

Screenwriting Competitions Judging Processes

Haven spoken with many screenwriting competition organisers you would be quite surprised on how unstructured and strange some judging processes can be.

Before we get into it, I just wanted to reassure you that if you feel like your scripts aren’t getting the recognition they deserve after lots of hard work, there just maybe a possibility that you’re submitting to the wrong contests.

We will be sharing with you our judging process at SWN Screenplay Competition, it has been tried, tested and worked out to be as fair and unbiased as possible. This is also very similar to many of the top contests in the world; the Academy Nicholls Fellowship (Oscars), Page Awards, Screencraft and many others.

The SWN Screenplay Competition Scoring

Each judge is given a Procedural Judging Sheet which incorporates marks out of 10 against many aspects of a winning screenplay; character desire, structure, plot, character development, cinematic potential, denouement, prologue, call to adventure, dialogue and pacing.Just for further clarification:

Character Desire

What is the one burning desire that your protagonist has? Is it meaningful? Are the audience going to relate or connect with your protagonist on their journey? Do we care?


Is there some form of structure to your screenplay that makes your story easy to digest? Is it unstructured and chaotic, or does it read and flow smoothly?DISCLAIMER: We do not advocate or favour any theories or teachings; 3-act structure, 5-act structure etc. As long as your story has some form of structure that makes the story flow smoothly, that’s what we’re interested in.


What does your story consist of? Is the bulk of your story great action, meaningful moments and interesting plot related scenes. Or is it a little mild, unrelated and/or too reflective of everyday life. What events does your script consist of to pull in the audience? Is it related to the character desire and potential theme?

Character Development

What interesting character traits do your characters have? Are they 3-dimensional and interesting? Do they have a past? Are they unique and fascinating? Are they boing, passive and/or underdeveloped?

Cinematic Potential

Does your script have many moments that will translate well visually? Is this script non-visual and unimaginative? Does it have an array of exciting, interesting or unfamiliar locations? Does it have any breathtaking, thematic or nuanced scenes? Will a director be able to interpret this script well?


The denouement is the culmination of all events of your script; the pay off! How impactful is your ending? Is your resolution satisfying and related to your characters desire? What’s the lasting impression on the audience? Have all loose ends and sub-plots been resolved or addressed?


The prologue is your opening image, the introduction to your story. Does your opening set up a theme? Is there a hook or device that draws the audience in at the beginning? Is the introduction to your story memorable, impactful or shocking?

Call to Adventure

The call to adventure is often a very good predictor of how strong your characters desire is. This works in symbiosis with your protagonists desire. What is it that sets your character on their journey? Is it an impactful or emotional event or series of events? How strong is your call to adventure? Is it a fleeting thought within your protagonist, or is it devastating or dramatic moment?


Is the dialogue overused, too obvious and revealing? Is it repetitive? Is the dialogue used in a way that’s unique? Is there subtext involved? Do all of the characters speak differently? Is the dialogue poignant? Is there a good amount of conflict in the dialogue? Is some of the dialogue too long?


Is this script well-paced? Does it have any slow moments? Is the pacing too fast without any breaks in the drama or action? How well paced is the begging, middle and end acts? Could the story be shorter? Could it be longer?

SWN Procedural Sheet

Preliminary Judging

Our readers are assigned a percentage of scripts based on their specialties and interests. They are asked to mark each of the aforementioned segments out of 10, to tally up a total evaluation out of 100.Any scores above 60 are passed through to the quarter-finals.


In the quarter-finals, scripts are read by a second judge whom also marks their assigned scripts out of 100. Both marks are then added and divided to create a mean average in order to know which scripts to qualify for the semi-finals.The top 20% of scripts qualify for the next round.


Using the same judging and elimination process, another set of readers are asked to mark their assigned scripts out of 100. The mean average is then worked out again between the three readers marks. The top 10 scripts are then put through to the next round.


Passing the top 10 scripts of each three categories to our final judges (Kenneth Kokin, Grant Cathro, Dougie Brimson & more), they are again asked to score out of 100; accept their scores count as two scores (86/100 + 86/100) to calculate the mean average of the winning script of each category.I hope this has helped you guys! But if you really want to take your scripts to the next level, we have also analysed and picked out the top 5 most common traits of our past winners’ scripts.

5 Common Traits of Award-Winning Screenplays

Although there is no formula for an award-winning screenplay, there certainly are many common traits that are present…

  • Unique
  • Strong Character
  • Desire
  • Conflict
  • Empathy

At Screenwriters Network we have studied and broke down what makes script an award winner as this decision is very important.For those of you who are looking to break into the business via the competition route, follow these five steps and refine your craft – you never know, you could be the next competition winner!

Picking the Right Screenwriting Competitions

A word of warning; pick the right competitions!

Every competition can differ in their process but we have found some to be illogical and unreasonable.

Be careful when submitting your scripts! If you have any hesitations about submitting to a screenwriting competition, email or call them directly with your questions, if they don’t get back to you or avoid your questions; AVOID THESE COMPETITIONS AT ALL COSTS!



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