Throughout the year, there’s an abundance of contests available to authors of novels, screenplays, short stories, and poems. Often the contest have nominal fees; sometimes they’re even free. The value of participating comes in the form of feedback, making new connections, and experience.
Over the past two years, I’ve participated in several contests and found each one a valuable experience.
The first contest I tried was in 2012 with the Windy City RWA. Being a member of the national RWA group, allowed me to enter at a lower fee. I submitted the first thirty pages of a magical realism story I was working on at the time in their YA category. I didn’t place in the top five, but I received score sheets and feedback from three published authors. And as every writer knows, feedback is golden. I combed through the comments until I understood what they thought I was doing well and where I needed to step up.
The next contest I entered was in April of 2013 with the Valley Forge RWA chapter (The Sheila Contest). This time I submitted the first thirty pages of The Undead. I’d been working with my two CP’s and was close to finishing the manuscript. Again, no top finishes but I received detailed score sheets and feedback from four other writers. I felt like I was on the right track.
At this point, I wasn’t getting addicted to contests, but the feedback was helpful and insightful. I came across one more contest and decided to give it a try because it seemed perfectly focused on my genre. In May of 2013, I entered the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal 2013 On the Far Side contest. This time, I decided to send both the magical realism story (entitled The Seren) and The Undead. I took both first and second place in the contest, won back all but five dollars of my entry fee, and got a huge boost of confidence.
And as far as landing my publisher… I participated in #pitmad last August. Yep, #pitmad, the tweeting pitchfest. Armed with a (not so polished) manuscript, more confidence from feedback in the contests, and a “let this be a learning” opportunity attitude, I crafted a 140 character description of my book. Katie Teller was scouting out the feeds that day and saw mine. I was over the moon and extremely grateful.
The goal of entering writing contests isn’t necessarily to win (although it’s nice), but to see how your story stacks up against others and to receive feedback from other writers and authors. Contests can be a win-win situation if you let them.
Here are a few websites with contest info –
Stephanie Smith’s Contest Chart for Writers – what a great spreadsheet of opportunities
Brenda Drake – the pitch master
Chanticleer Book Reviews and Media – Chanticleer hosts contests for all genres (Full ms and novels)