Writing Contests Are Good Practice

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This is a guest post by Mary Hodges If you want to write for Daily Writing Tips check the guidelines here.

There are some writers who wouldn’t dream of entering a writing competition. They consider such things beneath their dignity. I’ve even come across someone who refused to take part in competitions because “someone has to lose”. My response to this would be “someone has to win, and it might be you. But if you don’t enter, you certainly won’t win.”

My own feeling is that writing for a competition is helpful for these reasons:

  • You have to write to a word limit.
  • You have a deadline to meet.
  • You often have to write on a given topic.
  • Even if your work is not among the winning entries you have a finished story article or poem that you can adapt for another market
  • Writing competitions seem to be a growth area. A Google search for “writing competitions” came up with over a million hits!

    Prizemagic includes some interesting details about Michael Shenton and his book Stiff Competition based on his experience of entering competitions. The poetrykit site includes a link to story and other competitions and a warning to beware of scams.

    There are numerous print magazines with titles like Competitors’ Companion but these include only a few writing contests. They are mainly devoted to general consumer competitions where the entrants need to provide proof of purchase and concoct advertising slogans for particular products.

    Some points to remember when entering competitions:

  • Always read the rules for entry carefully. State age, sex, ethnicity, place of birth or residence, and whether or not your work has been published. – I’ve seen all these used to restrict who is eligible to enter.
  • Look carefully at the deadline. There’s no point in sending your work off too soon and making it unavailable for other uses any longer than necessary.
  • Look for contests that give a clear date by which the winners will be notified. Once that date has passed, you know you can submit your work elsewhere or enter it in another competition,
  • Note the prizes and the entry fees – if any. Remember, a bigger prize might attract more entries; you might have a better chance of winning in a smaller local comp. albeit with a smaller reward.
  • Contests you can enter by email are to be preferred every time over those that require hard copy entries. Some ask you to send an S.A.E for an entry form, requiring wo lots of unnecessary postage.
  • Look carefully at what the organizers say they will do with the non-winners. I’ve come across one contest where the entrants granted the organizers “a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual license to feature any or all of the submissions in any of its publications”. Do you really want to give your work away when you might submit it to another publication or enter it for another contest?
  • Keep a copy of your entry and a record of where you sent it.
  • I should come clean and say I haven’t won lots of writing competitions. I seem to get to the runner-up stage quite often, but don’t make the big time. Of course prizes in writing competitions are not always in the form of cash. You might win a holiday, a place on a writing course in some exotic location or as I did many years ago you might win a lavatory seat!

    I’m not kidding. This was part of a prize for writing a poem about Convent Garden in London. Prizes were items from the various shops in Covent Garden including one that specialized in wooden loo seats with the owner’s initials on the lid!

    But when all’s said and done it’s not the winning that counts, it’s the taking part.

    Mary Hodges has published poems in The Oldie, Freelance Market News and Quantum Leap magazine. She edits the Garstang Arts Centre Newsletter and is Press Officer for her local Women’s Institute. She also writes plays, one of which was produced for the Women’s Institute Drama Festival. Although computer literate and interested in the web, she has not yet set up her own website or blog. Two sites she’s found particularly useful are PrizeMagic and The Poetry Kit.

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    4 thoughts on “Writing Contests Are Good Practice”

    1. I’ve entered screenwriting contests before, and I think the best benefit is that they force you to finish your script at a certain due date.

    2. I totally agree. I have entered a number of poetry, short story, and playwriting contests, and while I have only won one of them, it was a very useful exercise in completing something on deadline (no more procrastinating!).

    3. I haven’t entered any writing competitions, not because I think they are beneath me, but because I’m too chicken. I wonder if losing would feel like crippling rejection. Your point, though, that writing for contests can be a stimulating experience encourages me. I’m going to have to give this competition thing a try!

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