View Full Version : Writing Contests

10-22-2007, 08:22 PM
What does everyone think about writing contests? Are they worth the time and effort? Are they a good thing for new writers to do? Are there any benefits to entering contests other than the stated prizes? What contests, if any, have you entered during your writing career?

10-22-2007, 08:39 PM
I can't speak for the US, but here having won a conest gives you more credibility as a writer and may open the door for future books being accepted for publication.

10-22-2007, 08:40 PM
I ended up caving and entering that Amazon novel contest. I'm not sure if it was a good idea or not, and if any agents show interest in my novel before January I'll pull out. With my luck, an agent will be interested around the end of February, and if I make the semi-finals that means the manuscript will be tied up until end of April. I foresee the agent getting upset and deciding to pass because of this, and I will never get anything other than form rejects from queries for the rest of my life.

Basically, I'm terrified of writing contests. ;) That's the only one I've ever entered.

10-22-2007, 08:45 PM
I've never entered a writing contest. I've never seen what the value is, other than making you feel like a loser when you don't win.

10-22-2007, 08:47 PM
Ah, well, it's sort of a rejection. I've only entered one and the novel I submitted sucked, so it isn't a wonder I didn't win. But I really wouldn't rule out participating in a writer's contest, especially one that offers publication for the winners or is aimed directly at first-time authors.

10-22-2007, 08:56 PM
I see the value if a publisher or editor is likely to have heard of the competition. If however, we're talking about the small contests that are held by single individuals or random websites, my opinion is that they're useless.

Like an award, the prestige of winning a competition is only there if it's known.

10-22-2007, 09:00 PM
I never have, although once or twice I was tempted, and promised myself I would - but I never did. Unless it's large and important, the credit does you no good, and if it is large and important, the competition would wipe the floor with me.

Unless you count The Great Tea Debacle, which I'll win.

I see nothing wrong with writing contests, if they're legit. And for those who enter I say Best of Luck to you - they're just not my cup of tea, apparently.

10-22-2007, 09:10 PM
I think my phobia of contests is that when I send a story somewhere for normal publication, I feel it's just me and the publisher, one on one, either he likes it or it isn't for him.

A contest, however, you're competing against hundreds, maybe thousands, and judged not just for how good your story is, but how good it is against all the other thousands of stories they received.

So the first is just a rejection. The second is an endictment.

10-22-2007, 09:10 PM
I've entered contests, some on the web and some for my writer's club and I entered several sponsored by a conference I attended.

I enjoy the web-based ones, even though I've never won (except for an honorable mention in one of Miss Snark's many mini-contests). Why do I like them? They're typically themed, and I like the challenge of writing to a pre-determined theme. It's like a writing exercise, where I brainstorm possibilities and choose one to write.

For my local club and the conference, I think of them more as a way to offset my costs. There's such a small pool of entries, so the odds are in my favor. I paid for two years of club dues in one contest, and brought the price of the week-long conference down to $75 by scoring a few wins there.

Other than those kinds of personal benefits, I can't say they've really been beneficial as far as advancing my career. I don't even mention them in my credits, because they just don't sound, to me, like a big deal.

10-22-2007, 09:13 PM
An epiphany.

I think the thing that keeps me out of writing contests is the fact that they're usually themed. I can't tolerate writing a pre-determined theme. Being told what to do activates the teenage brat in my brain, and I simply can't do it.

10-22-2007, 09:21 PM
Being told what to do activates the teenage brat in my brain, and I simply can't do it.
I don't perform on command. I agree.

10-22-2007, 09:25 PM
So you guys don't submit to themed anthologies or themed issues of magazines either?

10-22-2007, 09:36 PM
I don't. No.

Unless I have a piece that was already written which matches the criteria.

10-22-2007, 09:42 PM
I entered my last novel in several RWA-chapter-sponsored contests and had no hopes of winning whatsoever. However, I did find the experiences helpful because the judges' comments helped me to focus on what needed to be fixed in the book. If more than 1 judge mentioned something as a negative, I dealt with it. If only 1 judge didn't like something, I made a writerly decision on it. I think it really helped me polish the story (which I'm now entering in the Golden Heart).

Others may not need that outside eye as much as I did.

10-22-2007, 09:45 PM
So you guys don't submit to themed anthologies or themed issues of magazines either?

Are we talking fiction? Then no. I don't do shorts.

Non-fiction? Yes. I find it harder to write to a theme as well, though.

10-22-2007, 09:51 PM
So you guys don't submit to themed anthologies or themed issues of magazines either?

I don't write shorts. I wish I could, but I think the shortest thing I've ever done was 70k.

Soccer Mom
10-22-2007, 10:20 PM
I DO write to themes, because I write a lot of short fiction.

As for contests, I don't do them alot, but I have done occasional ones.

This is the only one I've entered in a long time. I expect my rejection any day now. It's Delacorte's (http://www.randomhouse.com/kids/writingcontests/#middlegrade).

10-22-2007, 10:43 PM
Okay. I'll admit it. I'm a contest addict. I love them.

I don't know, I probably need therapy or something. But I do, I luvre them.

They don't all help with credits, but some certainly do. That's not why I do them, though. Probably, it's because I like the whole competition thing. Some I enter just for fun. But mostly, I prefer the bigger ones--it's because of the judges and the prizes--representation, contracts, publication. To me, it's like buying a lottery ticket. But the odds are slightly better.

10-23-2007, 12:21 AM
I entered a couple GlimmerTrain contests way, way, way back in the day.

I stopped a long time ago. It seemed like my money was better spent on postage to different markets, though.

That said, there are awards you can win that I want very badly, though they are specific to stuff that's already in print.

edit to add disclaimer: I just ran my own little writing contest, but I didn't charge an entry fee and awarded no money, only a book. That is a very large distinction to keep in mind when talking about writing contests.

10-23-2007, 12:52 AM
I've entered a couple of GlimmerTrain as well. I don't now -- just trying to focus on writing my novel and subbing the shorts to paying markets.

10-23-2007, 01:36 AM
Nobody's interested in my shorts. Nor my long johns, either.


The Lady
10-23-2007, 02:36 AM
There's no harm in sending your story off to the big, free ones. Like Writers Of The Future for example, or The Francais Mac Manus Short Story Awards here in Ireland.

I shortlisted in TFMSSW last year and I know the confidence boost I got from it was very nice.

So in short, if they're free, why not?

I balk at paying money though.

There's one BIG fee charging one here in Ireland. Funnily enough it has many well known, big name authors as judges.

Anyhow, I find it suspicious. Although it appears to be well respected and I'm not claiming that everyone who enters wins, by any means, I can't understand the function of the company (it's that big) except to run numerous writing contests and sell anthologies.

They also charge 20 euro per entry, and 45 euro per critique.

So OK, you might think, so I don't have to pay for the critique.

But on another password protected writing site I was on, one of the members had her story critiqued first and then passed forward for judging. This only came to light when she posted about her irritation at her winning entry being subject to scrutiny as somebody had complained that she had published it elsewhere previously.

(She had, but in a shorter version)
Apparently, according to her, the judges were very anxious to get it sorted with her as they had worked with her on the critique.

I'm sorry, but that's just mind boggling. And wrong. It made me wonder whether somebody who hadn't paid the extra for a critique would even be considered.

So yeah, free is good, fee is bad. And having critiquing as part of the service is plain suspicious now in my book.

Actually, when I saw that critique service offered along with the fee for that competition, I fully expected that crits would be given out after the competition, not during and entries offered the chance to be rewritten during the duration.

10-23-2007, 02:58 AM
I've only entered one contest (anyone remember the Fangs, Fur & Fey community blog contest earlier this year?). My material came in second, and while it didn't win an official prize, I did walk away with an invaluable new beta (and a published author, to boot :D ).

10-23-2007, 06:43 PM
I recently entered one with a piece I did as a writing exercise several years ago just to find out what happened. I got two good critiques from the judges. However, as I understand it, most contests don't supply a critique of the submitted work, so I'm a bit leery of sending another piece in. Most of my work doesn't fit their criteria since it is either too long for a short story and too short for a novel.

10-23-2007, 09:47 PM
When I went back to school (community college) I entered a writing contest sponsored by the college. It was open to all, and you could write about almost any subject. I won first place in the non fiction category. Won fifty bucks and got my story published in a 'literary' magazine the college put out every year for the winners of teh writing contest. Since I dont write anymore, dont know if it did my writing 'career' any good, but it sure was an ego boost for a while.

yer pal Brian

10-25-2007, 08:54 AM
I just ran my own little writing contest, but I didn't charge an entry fee and awarded no money, only a book. That is a very large distinction to keep in mind when talking about writing contests.
I never entered any contests until I found myself lusting after Badducky's ARC. ;o)

I'm not looking to enter too many contests; they're too distracting. But if it's free, and the prize is something reasonable and it's up my alley for one reason or another, I'm open to the idea.

The only contest I really want to win is the one for a good agent's and a good publisher's attention.