How To Win a Darrell Award

First, the short story, novella, novel, young adult or other media work has to be nominated. This sounds simple, and anyone (including the author of the work) can nominate – yet every year we miss eligible works for lack of a nomination.

Sure, if a member of the Jury finds an eligible work, that member MAY nominate it. Sadly, many eligible works are not found by us or brought to our attention.

So, if you know of a work that you think may be eligible, NOMINATE IT. Forms are on the website (

No more than five works by one author can be nominated in one year. So, if your favorite author just published a collection of new short stories or has several stories appearing in print in one year, choose carefully as to which work you nominate.

Second, it has to be eligible. The last time we expanded the counties covered was in 2010, when we added Hardin County and SHILOH. We reserve the right to expand or change our coverage area, so please check back here on our website for what we are considering our coverage area at the time you nominate the work. A story has to be either set in the Midsouth (at least one significant scene and more than that is better) OR have been written by an author who was living in the Midsouth at the time it was published. It has to be Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror fiction in prose form – not poetry and not non-fiction.

If the story does not have at least one significant scene set in the area, the author must be living in the area when it was published or it is not eligible. Former residency does not count. Merely referring to the area in passing without having any actual scenes set in the area does not count.

As we do not want to insult anyone’s sincerely-held religious beliefs, we try to draw a line between religious general fiction (which is based on the author’s faith yet may have some fantastical or horrorific elements) and religious SF/F/H (which is mostly SF/F/H but may have some religious elements). Religious SF/F/H is eligible; religious general fiction is not.

We added a Young Adult category a few years ago, and we alternate between that and Other Media Works, with us considering 2 years of work for each in their respective years. For 2020, we will be considering Young Adult works. Please be sure to look at the Nomination Form for what time frame is eligible before you nominate.

Children’s literature remains ineligible for the same reason that poetry is ineligible — there is just too much of it and none of the Jury reads it, so we are not qualified to judge it. Non-fiction remains ineligible.

Third, the work should tell a good story. The Jury is composed of SF/F/H fans, folks who read and read a lot. So, if it is yet-another rehash of an old story, it needs to at least say something new or tell it in a different (and good) way.

Fourth, we all like stories that do not annoy us with typos – missing words, obviously-wrong words, and such. If your publisher does not have a good editor, find a good editor to proof-read your story BEFORE it is published.

Fifth, it is now a requirement that the author or publisher sends us copies of their work if they are the ones who nominate it. If it is nominated by someone other than the author or publisher, it is not a requirement that the person who nominates send us a copy of the work, but we still greatly appreciate it when they do, as we can not judge a work if we cannot find it. Our budget is very limited, so we buy very few books.

Sixth, if you kill off one of the major characters in the course of your story, try not to make it one that the readers really like, unless the story requires it. Needlessly killing characters that we like tends to annoy us — it will cost you when we discuss your story.

Seventh, a strong opening to a story helps to get us hooked. A weak or vague or unsatisfying ending can undo a good bit of the enjoyment of the story. Between the opening and the ending, there needs to be a good flow. If you do not understand these things, consider taking some classes or reading some books about writing BEFORE you self-publish your Great Masterpiece.

This has been edited to bring it current with the 2019 Darrell Awards rules. Last updated March 2019.


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