Basically, I don’t. I can guess, but what do you submit for a competition? What will grab the judges fancy?
The first thing I do is look at the competition – does it result in an anthology? If it does get a copy – I find that the e-book version is normally much cheaper. Now you know what they were looking for in past years.
Read the guidelines. Some say – remove all identifying marks whilst others ask you to clearly label with your name. Find out which and do it. They won’t let you know if they have disqualified you because you made a mistake. And even if you have read the guidelines last year – read them again. Sometimes they change.
Who are the judges? There ought to be a page or paragraph about the author and in it they will say what they are looking for. Have a look.
But… And this is a HUGE but… Don’t get caught up in the ‘what to write’ and ‘how to write’ trap. If you have a good story then why not take a chance. I’ve just submitted a slightly off the wall story to a big competition. Will it work? I don’t know. But it is a good story so why not give it a go.
And watch the price. I never submit to a competition that is over £10. Keep the prize value in mind and never pay more than it is.
And that is my last advice – just do it.