Ever Think of Entering a Writing Contest?

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On this day in 2014 I published 100th Post!.


 

I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d written about contests before on here. I had to do some searching of the archives just to make sure. I don’t think I have. So, let’s begin.

First off, writing contests differ greatly. We recently had the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award that offered ridiculous monetary prizes and publishing contracts. Then we have Macmillan with their handful of annual competitions, though I think they sometimes go calendar years without a winner. Then there are a million others that can be found online.

Ever think of entering one? Or maybe you’ve entered several. If someone told me that I absolutely had to enter a competition I’d go with Macmillan’s PI contest. It may not be as lucrative as some others, but I know there are not thousands of entrants every year. I know because I’ve been told by someone who won it. Steve Hamilton. I have all but two of his books. And when I met him a few years ago he told everyone in attendance that if we’re thinking of publishing a book, that we should try the comp. He’d judged the previous year and said there were a few hundred people entered. But I very highly doubt I’ll ever be winning any major contest. Which is fine by me.

But really, I don’t much see the point of entering any one of the many competitions that do not offer a publishing contract. So I’m going to send you my book for a prize of $50 and a critique by a “publishing expert”? Or I’m going to send you my book for chance to attend a writing conference that no one has ever heard of? Or I’m going to send you my book for a chance to be published by an indie press that publishes five books a year and makes its authors no money from their work? Uh no. And those are the kinds of competitions I’ve come across.

There are a few writing contests that are absolutely worth your time and effort, but there are so many more that simply aren’t. You just have to know which it is.

 

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7 thoughts on “Ever Think of Entering a Writing Contest?

  1. In my first year of university I my english professor entered a paper I wrote on J.M. Coetzee’s novel Disgraced and I won “Best First Year Essay.” There was a ceremony, I recieved a certificate, and won a massive book on art history. It remains one of my prouder accomplishments because the english department at the University of Alberta is top notch and really big so I was up against some really talented people. Since then I have not entered a contest or even attempted to publish anything. But I may do this down the road. For now I am enjoying putzing around in my story garden.

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  2. Never entered one. I don’t think I trust them enough.

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  3. I used to enter short story competitions sometimes, but haven’t for a while. I got nowhere in all but one (where I was short-listed). It was a lot of effort, in terms of having to stay within the arbitrary word count and meet various other criteria, and usually you get nothing out of it unless you actually win. (Which, given the often huge number of entries, is unlikely.) No feedback, nothing. You don’t know if you missed out by a little bit or by a lot. One contest did give a rating and a brief critique of all entries but it wasn’t that great. And of course, it all costs money.

    The most recent one, which really put me off the whole business, shortlisted only three stories out of (apparently) hundreds of entries, and the only feedback for everyone else was a rather snarky combined list of everything the organisers didn’t like about all the other entries. The list was all pretty general and obvious stuff, revealed some subjective personal preferences that weren’t specified up-front in the contest’s rules (not uncommon unfortunately), and I don’t think my entry was guilty of most or any of them anyway. Not helpful, nor encouraging, and left a bad taste in the mouth.

    Of course, I’m just bitter and twisted because I’ve never actually won one.

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    • Hm. You do sound a little bitter. Haha. I’ve always been under the impression that contests that you gave to pay to enter will never really get you anywhere. All the major ones I know if are free to enter and have legitinate prizes. But yeah, I’m not big on them at all.

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