I was never the kind of kid who enjoyed competing.
Sports days, party games, debates…I avoided them all and hid in the corner with a book.
But there is one type of contest I’m okay with – writing competitions.
Why? Because they’re a great opportunity to test your skills, get your work in front of experienced judges and perhaps win a few bragging rights in the process.
Not convinced? Read on….
Why Writing Competitions are Important (Even If You Don’t Win)
1. They get you used to rejection
Every writer knows that rejection is part of the business, but knowing it and feeling it are two very different things.
The sting of rejection isn’t pleasant but it’s a necessary evil and often the thing that separates immature writers from more seasoned scribblers.
Entering writing competitions will hurt your pride because…brace yourself….you’re going to lose more than you win. I’ve entered many during my career and the wins were few and far between (which makes them all the sweeter).
It’s not that you’re a terrible writer, it’s that sometimes the numbers aren’t in your favour, or your writing isn’t exactly what they’re looking for, or the editor only glanced over your submission because she’s having a bad day.
Competitions are great but they’re also random, unfair and highly subjective. Writers need to learn that lesson as part of their armour.
Being creative takes guts and only the strong will survive to write another day.
2. They force you to brush up your CV/Bio
Many competitions ask for a short blurb about you and your career. For established writers who’ve grown complacent this is a great chance to brush up their bios, and update their CVs.
You should always be job-hunt ready – it’ll keep your skills sharp and ensure you don’t miss any unexpected opportunities that come your way.
3 They help you break out of your comfort zone
I write non-fiction for a living. It’s fun, interesting and very varied but sometimes I want to stretch my creative muscles a bit.
Over the years I’ve entered competitions for poetry, flash fiction, short stories and creative non-fiction.
Every writer gets stuck in a rut if they’ve been in the trenches long enough, it’s always a good idea to engage a different part of your brain.
Your writing will be better for it.
4. It helps you connect
There are countless writing communities on the web and taking part in their competitions can put you in touch with an established network of potential colleagues, mentors and online friends.
These groups can keep you motivated, pass on potential opportunities and provide a sense of fellowship.
Writing may be a solitary occupation but everyone needs their support network.
5. You might get valuable feedback
Some competitions (especially those run by small independent presses) offer feedback from editors – which can be really helpful for less experienced writers.
Competition editors don’t know anything about you other than what’s on the page so you’ll get a stripped-down, honest and informative critique.
Judges are usually industry veterans who would never otherwise see your work so it’s a great opportunity.
This is the moment to set aside any hurt feelings or dented pride and question yourself. Consider their recommendations and tips, take them onboard and move onto the next gig.
Where to find them
Now that you’re all fired up and ready to compete, here’s a few links to writing competitions that are regularly updated and open for submissions.