The Benefits of Entering Writing Contests
Today, I’m pleased to welcome guest blogger, B. Lynn Goodwin, owner of Writer Advice, www.writeradvice.com. Lynn has sponsored and judged hundreds of writing contests and has some valuable tips on how to be a savvy writing contestant.
Do you feel that writing should be non-competitive? You could be right, but if you want to get your work out into the world, entering contests will help. If you polish your submissions and pick the right contests for your genre and subject, you’ll be setting yourself up to be a winner. Remember, you have to enter before you can win.
Here are some reasons to enter contests.
When I won one honorable mention I got a certificate and when I won a different one I got a lovely goody bag, filled with things I wanted.
One of my early writing teachers had her job at UC Extension because she’d been a contest winner.
In Writer Advice’s contests winners earn cash and the opportunity to judge the following year. Sometimes I invite finalists to submit additional writing to Writer Advice. Contests can help you build your resume and network.
Because contests have deadlines, you’re forced to push yourself beyond your writer’s block. If necessary, write in the morning, set it aside during the day, and rewrite at night. Submitting means you’re getting your work out in the world.
Not all contests offer feedback, of course, but it’s one of the perks of some. When contest submissions come to Writer Advice, www.writeradvice.com, I skim a paragraph or two as I’m downloading them.
If the writing’s so powerful that I keep going, I tell the author. If there’s a clever hook or a title that works, I say so. Praise opens ideas, and that’s a gift I give to those who submit. Those who are finalists receive both positive comments and suggestions from all judges.
“Send your best work” means revise, proofread, read it aloud, share it with a trusted friend or writing partner, listen to advice, take what works, and when you are satisfied, send it out. You’ll learn from doing that, but you’ll also learn from reading at least an excerpt or two from any periodical you’re submitting to.
Try writing to contests that send a theme. See what you have to say on a particular subject. Try writing in a genre you have not explored. See how well you can express yourself on subjects that are new.
Here are three resources. They will undoubtedly lead you to more:
Resubmit to a different contest, or an e-zine, or a blog. Do it the day you’re rejected. Remember that tastes vary and reactions are subjective. Every time you send your work to a contest, you’re guaranteed that the judges will read it, and that increases your audience. Every rejection brings you closer to your next acceptance.
An old saying from the sixties says, “If you love something, let it go. If it was yours, it will come back to you.” Let go of your draft and if it comes back consider that this might not appeal to the judges. If it doesn’t appeal to lots of judges, the last article on http://www.writeradvice.com/writingadvice.html may give you some revision ideas. Never abandon your work because it was rejected. If it’s become boring, give it a rest and see how you feel later.
Most contests ask you to pay for administration time, reading time, and responding time. The money also offsets the cost of prizes. NOTE: If you feel that you should not pay for contests, don’t enter…or broaden your thinking for six months or even three. Give it a try and see if your writing improves.
You have a lot to gain from entering contests and reading the work of the winners. You don’t lose until you quit trying, so keep putting your work into the world.
No one can tell your stories but you, and a good place to start is at Writer Advice, www.writeradvice.com. We are now running our 8th Flash Prose (fiction & memoir) contest. During the last eight years we’ve able to give a lot of positive feedback along with cash prizes. If you write short-short stories or mini-memoirs, I hope you’ll share it with us.
BIO: B. Lynn Goodwin is the owner of Writer Advice, www.writeradvice.com, and the author of You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers, available on Amazon.
Her stories and articles have been published in Voices of Caregivers; Hip Mama; the Oakland Tribune; the Contra Costa Times; the Danville Weekly; Staying Sane When You’re Dieting; Small Press Review; Dramatics Magazine; Career; We Care; Thickjam.com, Friction Literary Journal, and The Sun.
A former teacher, she conducts workshops and writes reviews for Story Circle Network, www.storycircle.org and InspireMeToday, www.inspiremetoday.com/. When she’s not reading contest entries, she’s working on a YA novel and a memoir.
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