Thursday, August 11, 2011

Writing Contest - A big Thumbs UP!

If you aren’t an active part of a critique group or have some Beta readers giving you feedback on your manuscript, assessing how you’re growing as a writer can be difficult. One of the best ways to do this is by entering a writing contest.  Now, it may seem intimidating, but here are three reasons why you should go ahead and fill out that entry form.

·         It will help you learn to follow directions. This may seem like a little thing, but it is surprising how many people burn an opportunity with an agent or editor simply because they didn’t check the submission requirements. Check them. Follow them to the letter. To. The. Letter. A contest, much like submitting a query, is a winnowing process and you don’t want to end up on the threshing floor before they even read your story.

·         You learn to work with a deadline. All contests have a date at which submissions are no longer accepted. Writing to deadline is something that you will eventually have to do and learning how you deal with this during a contest is a lot better than freaking out when an agent gives you one. Do you need to get more organized? Do you need specific writing times to be productive? A contest deadline will reveal how you work under pressure.

·         You learn how to take critique. Even if you blow them out of the water and final on your first try, you will get back suggestions for improvement. Taking criticism graciously is an essential part of being a writer. Learn how you handle it from a contest and you can be sure you won’t break down later on when dealing with a publishing editor. Do you argue? Do you get hurt? Do you throw up your hands and walk away or buckle down and improve? Contests can help you see how you deal with this.

There are a lot of inexpensive contests out there with wonderful professionals willing to look over your first 50 pages and give you honest feedback.  The types of contests available span the genres, from romance to flash fiction, there’s something out there for your style and story.

Many writers’ guilds offer contests as well as their local chapters. Romance Writers of America and Writer’s Digest Magazine both have excellent opportunities to get your work in front of professionals. Take care to enter contests that only charge a nominal fee. Around thirty-five dollars is the norm. Anything that charges a hefty entrants price may not be reputable.

Contests can be exciting and helpful if you enter them with the right attitude. Who knows, you might take the trophy.

(Post originally appeared on Purple Knot blog tour.)


Michael Offutt said...

I think connecting with true readers who want to read your work from first page to last is very challenging. So anyone with a good beta-reading critique group has got a huge resource pool.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've never entered a contest, but I do have some awesome critique partners and test readers.

Crystal Collier said...

The other helpful benefit of contests: credentials. For those just starting out placing in a contest is a way to show agents/publishers you are serious about your art and have made an effort to get out there.

Hart Johnson said...

I've seen contests, too, that include reader voting rounds that give authors practice at that social networking piece. It's funny, I thought for a minute I don't do contests, then remembered I do the Amazon one every year. DOH! Guess I do. That one is FABULOUS for learning to creat a pitch and focusing on getting the beginning of the book really right.

Jamie (Mithril Wisdom) said...

Thanks for the tips :) I've only ever entered one writing contest, but I should really get back into the swing of things.

Raquel Byrnes said...

I'm glad you liked the idea of entering contests. They really have helped me grow as an author.

Thank you guys so much for stopping by. :)

L'Aussie said...

This is great advice. Winning the right contests can help get your foot in the door with editors. I really like Narrative magazine online. They run a lot of poetry/prose contests and have a great magazine too.


Damyanti said...

I follow this advice. Once or twice, I've been given great crit by the editors.