The Issue With the Special Issue
Theoretically speaking, every issue of the Neopian Times is special, even unique in that it only comes once. But there are issues which are dedicated to certain repetitive topics (which usually are related to some Neopian holidays), which come round once every year, and which are deemed special issues because of said repetitive topics. You can easily distinguish such special issues from the regular issues by the fact that with the special issues the background of the Neopian Times is changed to match the topic. It will be all green for Illusen Day, all gruesome for Mutant Day, and all yummy in celebration of the Annual Chocolate Ball. Another thing which makes these issues special is that the contributors of these issues get a nifty gift in thanks for their creative work. Because of this, competition for the spots in the special issues can be quite tough, especially with the major special issues of Halloween, Christmas and of course the anniversary issue of the Neopian Times; the latter coming not only with a gift but also with the prestigious NT Writer avatar.
Now, with all that competition you might wonder how in Neopia you are ever going to make it into such a special issue. Well, this is what this article is about. In it I will detail five different ways, varying in reliability, of making it into such an issue, but I'm sure, one of those ways will also work for you.
This is perhaps the most obvious way. Making it into the issue by purpose means that the work you submit will focus on the topic the special issue revolves around. However, considering that it's the most obvious way, it's also the way most potential contributors will choose. So competition is extra tough. It does not mean you can't make it that way, but it means you should put your absolutely best topic-related joke in the comic, write your absolutely most wonderful short story revolving around that topic, give your absolutely irresistible topic-related information in the article, have your most absolutely... well, I think you get it. In other words, it has to be absolutely convincing and solely work for the issue. Just referencing the topic will not be enough.
Sometimes it's hard to think about something absolutely convincing and topic-related to work on as potential entry. This is where a glance at the Neopian Calendar will come in handy, because the calendar will tell you if a certain Neopets species has its species' day the same week the special issue is to be released. And you can be sure that the NT editor will not neglect this Neopets species when selecting the entries for that particular issue. So perhaps you don't have a Petpet-related idea for Petpet Appreciation Day issue, but you have a clever idea for a JubJub-themed work and seeing that JubJub Day is just two days prior to Petpet Appreciation Day, JubJub-themed entries will work just as well for the Petpet Appreciation Day issue.
Though not officially noted in the calendar, competitions such as Daily Dare or Altador Cup tend to return every year around the same time, enabling users to plan entries revolving around those competitions and making it into special issues being released throughout the competition. This however is less reliable than picking matching Neopets species, as the competitions usually run through several issues of the Neopian Times and you are not guaranteed that your competition-related work will actually appear in the special issue and not in one of the regular issues.
This way is all about covering current events and news. It relates to newly released games, pet colours or even recent developments in plots, should a plot happen to be under way at that time. A major downside of this way is that you have only a very few days (less than a week) to work on your entry. It is also somewhat unreliable in that you are not guaranteed new game releases or a plot the week prior to your targeted issue. Pet colours you can be pretty sure of, seeing that the calendar tells you about coinciding Neopets species' days, but you'll never know what colours await you to write about.
Making it into a special issue by chance means that there happens to be a free spot available in that issue and your held-over work, no matter the topic, happens to be the one on top of the pile of held-over works, so you get that free spot. Seriously, this is the most unreliable way as it all depends on there being too few topic-related or certain Neopets species-related entries for the NT editor to use in that issue and consequently resulting in an open spot for regular entries. It is also unreliable in that it requires you to have an entry already held over, but even if you have one held over, you'll never know if yours might be the one on top to get that precious free spot. Not surprisingly, I have never seen this way to work with the major special issues, though you might get lucky with minor ones such as Faerie Festival issue.
This way perhaps is the easiest or most reliable way, but it is also the way which requires you to invest the most work. It works by having a series published in the Neopian Times which happens to run through the special issue. As continued series are not interrupted just because of a special issue, it does not matter what topic your series is about, it will simply be continued, thereby giving you a much coveted spot in the special issue. Such a series could either be a multiple-part comic or a multiple-part story. Though seeing that the multiple-part story is given its own category (which is in fact called 'series'), you'll be facing comparatively less competition when entering a story in this category than when trying to get your comic accepted along with all the one-part comics. But as each part of a series has to fulfill certain requirements, you can easily see why this way comes with the largest amount of work. You'll also have to time your submission carefully, allowing some weeks for your series to be checked and then held over before finally being published and then having enough parts to make the series last till the special issue or even beyond. But as all these things are predictable, you can get your work done in good time and then lean back and simply watch things happen.
One last bit of advice: No matter which way you choose, no matter which category you choose, always make sure that you give your entry your best effort. Your work does not have to be perfect (after all, we are all imperfect human beings), but it will be much more rewarding to have just one well-done entry in the competition compared to three sloppy ones entered simply to cover more categories. And the one well-done entry will also stand a better chance at being selected than any sloppy one.
That being said, I keep my fingers crossed for you that you will make it into your dream special issue when it next comes around.