Have you ever thought about entering a writing competition, but then wondered if it was worth the time and effort and, often, the cost?
When I started writing fiction, I knew nothing about the publishing industry. I didn’t even know what I didn’t know.
Books? Oh, yes. Love those. Words? Yep, slap a few together and you have a sentence. Formatting? Hello, word processor.
My experience writing technical documentation for software and network equipment had improved my writing and introduced me to the review process. But critique groups were still not in my knowledge base. And short story submissions—how did that happen?
So, after finishing my first short story, I entered it in a writing competition. It was free. It guaranteed someone would read my work. And, if it flopped, that would at least give me an idea of how far I had to go. (Expect the worst and hope for the best.)
Before the official announcement, the contest director notified me that my story had not won. However, it had received an honorable mention. Additionally, the judges shared a general statement of advice pertaining to the entries who did not win. Those two things indicated that my story wasn’t bad. But it needed work. And it needed meaningful depth.
Overtime, I’ve discovered that feedback is not the only benefit to writing competitions. Here are a few more.
With a healthy perspective, competitions can be great motivators to push harder and make improvements.
The organizers announce the contest results on their website. They may also share results in newsletters, press releases, or on social media. Prizes can even include publication of the winning entries. And some awards have a separate category listing on book sites—like the ones on Barnes and Noble’s website. All of which increase chances readers will discover your writing in the vast sea of choices out there.
As with any job, quantifiable results add credibility to your resume. And placing in a reputable competition is a quantifiable result.
To Enter or Not To Enter
Opinions and viewpoints on writing competitions vary. And that’s okay. Consider what your reasons are and if it’s right for you. Follow where God leads you.
If you decide to enter a writing competition, research beforehand to avoid scams. Review the contest’s history, current judge selections, terms of entry, the experience of past participants, and the cost. (Writer Beware is a respected source for learning how to spot scams that target writers.)
No matter the outcome, the experience and challenge of contests can be beneficial—similar to submitting to magazines and other publications (which I plan to do more of going forward).