We’ve talked about writing contests before on this blog, but the subject just came up for me again and it’s on my mind, so . . . Are writing contests write for you? Not just right, but do they help your writing? It depends.
I, personally, like writing contests. I like to hear a total stranger’s perspective on my writing. Why? Because it helps me see the holes, the plot problems and whether my story grabs the reader right from the beginning. Most writing contests are for the first few chapters of your work.
Having said that, I have also learned not to take everything said to heart. What one person likes another doesn’t and it is important to distinguish the good critiques from the bad. If a judge comments on point of view shifting, that is something to improve. If a judge says “I think this would be better written in first person because I like first person” that’s their opinion and is totally unhelpful. And yes, that is an actual response I received from a contest.
If you take everything said to heart, your own storytelling voice can get lost in your re-writing. It’s important to listen to your own voice when deciding whether or not to make changes in your work, after all it is YOUR work. Not the judges. This is your baby.
When deciding what contests I am going to enter, I consider three things: 1. The scoresheet – if the contest shows how and what they score, I will read it through. My hero and heroine may not always meet in the first chapter – if it is a one chapter contest and scores are handed out for the first meeting, I won’t score well and I won’t enter that contest. 2. The final judge in my category – if it is an editor or an agent that I would love to have read my work, then this is a contest that I would definitely consider. This may be optimistic, but no one enters a contest without hoping they will final and it is always better to consider the whole picture. Plus if you do final, it is another thing to go on your resume when sending out query letters. 3. The fee – if I can afford two contests in a month then I’ll choose the best two that would suit me as a writer. If I can afford one then it is one.
One last thing that I will say about writing contests is that they force us as writers to be brave simply by entering them. Sharing our work as writers can be a scary thing. No one wants to be criticized. Contests can help us overcome that fear, thicken our skin some and get us ready to query that agent or pitch to that editor.
I like writing contests. What’s your take?