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Entering a Creative Writing Contest

By: Angelique Caffrey - Updated: 27 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Creative Writing Contest; Competition;

So you’re ready to take the plunge and enter a creative writing contest? Congratulations… you’re in luck! There are plenty of opportunities available to amateurs and professionals desiring to boost their reputations and curriculum vita with awards as judged by their peers.

However, before you can send in your best work, there are a few details you need to know as well as consider:

Not All Writing Contests are Created Equal

There are creative writing contests that are absolutely worth your time and energy, but there are also ones that aren’t. Before you submit your entry, make certain that you have a reasonable shot at placing or you may simply be spinning your wheels.

For example, some fledgling publications have been known to initiate contests for the sole purpose of gathering content. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this method of getting a magazine, website, ezine, or newsletter off the ground, it might not bring you much more than a byline. If this is exactly what you’re seeking, it’s the perfect venue. But if not, you may prefer to enter a different contest.

You’ll Typically Need to Pay to Enter the Writing Contest

Entry fees are commonly a part of creative writing contests; ordinarily, these funds cover the costs of editors, marketing, general paperwork, and publishing costs. Fees usually range from a modest few pounds to sizeable amounts. Typically, contests with smaller fees aren’t as well-known (or sometimes well-respected) as their pricier brethren; however, that doesn’t mean you should write them off. It just means that if you win one of their awards, it might not look as impressive to future agents, editors, or publishers.

On the other hand, writing contests with higher entry fees are likely to be less cluttered with applicants. Therefore, if your work is exceptional (have someone else evaluate your piece with a keen eye and honest feedback), you might want to consider entering.

Prizes are Usually Modest, Though They Can Be Quite Amusing

Unfortunately, the top prizes for winning creative writing contests are usually pretty humble from a cash standpoint. In fact, you may receive little more than your entry fee even if you win the top prize. Thus, if you submit stories to a number of contests, you may end up spending more than you could reasonably get back, even if you were to place highly in all of them.

However, many contests offer other perks besides monetary awards, including subscriptions, trips, gift certificates, and contracts. Though receiving a ceramic mug might not be as thrilling as being given a £200 purse, it can still make you feel great whenever you drink your tea.

Editing is Rare

Are you hoping for a response from the people evaluating your submission? If so, you’re likely to be disappointed. Contest representatives are not usually prepared to thoroughly edit your work. Though some contests explicitly state that they will provide minimal feedback to everyone who enters, most do not. So if you don’t win, you probably won’t ever know if you came in a distant fourth or very last place.

You Have to Follow Directions

Because the point of a contest is to easily weed out competitors who are not quite “up to snuff”, many competitions have very specific entry directions designed to make it easy on the judges. Consequently, if you don’t apply in just the right manner (such as stapling when you’re asked to bind or submitting it in the wrong font size and type), you may wind up having your entry thrown out before the title is ever read.

It May Take Many Months to Hear Back

Finally, you’ll need to be patient. Unfortunately, it can take up to a year to hear a “yea” or “nay” from a writing contest, especially if it’s an annual event and you sent in your entry early. For your peace of mind, don’t sit around twiddling your thumbs; instead, work on other projects during the interim. And never forget that if at first you don’t succeed… submit again and again!

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The article shows all the downsides of entering a writing contest, and there are certainly many of them. However, the thrill of winning something, and the boost that gives a writer, can beat all the negatives. You shouldn’t make your writing life revolve around them, but as one thread in advancing your career, they’re very useful.
Thomas - 27-Sep-12 @ 11:54 AM
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