Most of my writer friends know I’m somewhat of a contest junkie. I’m not a super-competitive person, but there’s something exciting about the possibility contests offer–whether it be a chance to work with a mentor, the opportunity to have your query or first page in an agent showcase, or maybe just to get a critique of some kind.
I’ve been entering contests for a few years now, and honestly, I’ve lost track of how many I’ve participated in. I can, however, tell you the number of contests I’ve “won” (or been chosen for), and it adds up to a grand total of TWO! Not the greatest odds, but for some reason I keep coming back.
Now, I consider myself a pretty decent writer, but there are a LOT of good writers out there. Some of these contests have hundreds of entries (some, even over a thousand). Many times, it comes down to the market (what’s popular at the moment), subjectivity, and maybe even luck.
So you might be wondering what’s the attraction? Why would someone keep entering contests when there’s such a small chance of being selected? Well, I’m here to tell you there’s a lot more to gain from contests than just “winning”.
Here are 10 reasons to love writing contests:
#1: You get the opportunity to connect with other writers. Since most of the contests I participate in are promoted on Twitter, entrants have the chance to ‘mingle’ with other entrants. Of course, this is going to be what you make of it. You an sit back and do nothing, or you can really get in there and make new friends, so to speak. I don’t get super involved in every single contest, but I tend to “meet” at least one or a few new writers through each. Many of these people have become great writing pals (my #Pitchwars and #P2P16 peeps–I’m looking at you!)
#2: You might get feedback. This isn’t a given, of course, but in some contests, someone will give you some kind of feedback on your entry. This can be very helpful in honing that query or revising your first pages/ chapter.
#3: If you follow the #tenqueries or teaser hashtags some of the contests offer, you can often learn a few tips on what makes a good or bad pitch/ query/ first page.
#4: You can also connect with more experienced writers, editors, and possibly agents in many contests.
#5: Even if your entry isn’t chosen, you can usually read the entries which are to get a feel for what’s hot right now. You will also have the opportunity to read some great writing!
#6: Personally, entering contests give me a big push to get things done. If I know I want to enter X contest by Y date, then I will bust my butt to get things done in order to meet that deadline.
#7: If you really want to, you can gain something from every contest. That something might be feedback, finding a critique partner, seeing an agent you want to query, or maybe even getting an idea for a future book. The possibilities are really endless, but learn to look for the silver lining in each contest you enter instead of just sulking when you don’t get picked.
#8: Your work gains exposure. This may not seem like a big deal, but sometimes, people remember your story and you never know where that might lead down the road. Interns, editors, and even other writers may become agents, and if they liked your story, they just might ask to see it again!
#9: Contests are fun! They give you something to look forward to and get excited about. In a sometimes depressing world, that’s definitely a good thing.
#10: Sometimes (though rarely, in my case), you do get chosen, which can be a great boost to your morale. And who doesn’t need an occasional morale boost in the marathon that is novel publication? Not to mention, many writers have gained an agent or publisher through a contest. Some have even gone on to publish bestsellers. So this just goes to show–you really never know where a contest might lead!
So next time you’re considering entering a writing contest (assuming you have a completed novel), just remember you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I say, go for it!