The Age Old Question of the Writing Contest
I came across a post from YA author, Jodie Llewellyn, on the subject of writing contests, yes or no? I left a comment and as I was writing it, the comment nearly ruptured into a full-blown blog post. So, here we are to complete my thought. Please out her post HERE
To summarize, she said she hasn’t really pursued them mostly because it takes time away from her current project, and asked if others saw them as a priority.
As I said in my comment, you should ask yourself if a contest you are considering will benefit your writing career. By benefit, I don’t mean monetary prize, although that can be a heck of an incentive. But beyond the money some contests offer publication of your story in a magazine, anthology, or some other small market. Others may offer a spot in a writer’s workshop with writing professionals. Rarely, you may find one that will get the winning manuscript reviewed by a professional editor.
These are the things that, in my opinion, you would want out of a contest. Publication in an anthology counts as a professional credit and looks good in your query letter. To be in a workshop with pros gives you a chance to directly ask the questions that you been scouring the web for answers to. You learn skills and add valuable tools to your writer’s toolbox. And getting to bypass the slush pile and have your manuscript looked at by an editor is almost worth its weight in gold IF your ready to accept the criticism.
If you obsess over contests then, as Jodie said, it cuts into the time of your work in progress then you’re not finishing anything and, therefore, not submitting or self-publishing.
With that being said, conversely, entering lots of writing contests does to at least one thing for you: It gets you writing. Not only that, you’re learning to write within narrowed specifications, meaning the theme of the contest. This can help, I think, with learning to take editorial direction. If you should land a multibook deal someday, the editor may call you up and say; “We have a slot open in the publication schedule for a YA sci-fi, techno-thriller, that the angst of left-handed artificial intelligences in the workplace, then you’d be equipped to tackle such a project. You would also get experience in writing against hard deadlines, which is important when you get your first deal.
Contests can be beneficial. It’s up to you to decide if they benefit YOU.