Writing Contests – Yes or No?

I just entered my first writing contest. I have to admit I’m a little apprehensive, but also excited to hear what the judges think.

This particular contest evaluates the first five pages of your work and compares it to other entries. There are prizes, but that isn’t my main reason for entering. The contest offers a critique and comments regardless of whether you win or not, and if you win, it provides affirmation of your writing to include in your next query letter.

Many unpublished authors have used them as a tool, and they can be an effective avenue for getting noticed. If you have contemplated following this route, there are some things to keep in mind that will give you an advantage. Using contests the wrong way are a waste of time and money. Educate yourself on how to make them work for you.

Make sure only your best work leaves the house                                                                       Edit and re-edit you work before sending it out to a contest just as you would with a literary agent or editor. It has to be as close to perfect as you can get it.

Make sure you have a compelling hook                                                                                          One of the best ways of increasing your odds in a contest – hook your reader. Pull that contest judge into your manuscript and then leave him/her hanging with an even better hook that leaves them screaming for more.

Color inside the lines                                                                                                                           In other words, follow the rules. A writing contest is not the place to bend the rules and do cute things to make your work stand out. Bending the rules when it comes to point of view or passive voice will generally reduce your score significantly.

Judge the Judges                                                                                                                                     If you are entering a contest with the hope of getting in front of an editor, make sure the editor judge reading your work, works for a publishing house that buys the type of manuscript you are writing.

Know what the judges are looking for                                                                                           Most RWA chapters post their score sheets showing how manuscripts are scored. Review the score sheets and make revisions as indicated to give yourself a better chance of making the finals.

Just some things to keep in mind.

Would love to hear recommendations from any of you who have entered contests.

-Jan R

Writing Contests – Yes or No?

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