Friday, 29 November 2013

Do you enter writing competitions?

You don't? What puts you off?
  • Paying to have your story read?
  • The fear of being scammed?
  • The many thousands of entrants in the most prestigious competitions?
They are all good points. After all, if you've done any kind of research about writing and publishing, you'll have come up against the advice to never part with your money. Scams are definitely out there - blogs like Writer Beware: The Blog often share the shadier side of the publishing industry. And yes, if you only enter the large competitions that have prizes in the £/$1000s then more people will enter those.

But... I happen to think that competitions are an important part of the writing process.
  1. Firstly, you learn to cope with rejection. You can't always win, after all!
  2. I used to have a comprehensive list of competitions that I tried to enter. It meant that I always had several stories submitted, and several being returned.
  3. You learn how to work to deadlines, and in some cases to a specific topic.
  4. You might win!
What about those worries you have though? Well...
  • Paying money... I have several criteria in place. 
    • Do I think my story is worth the entry fee? Some of my stories are very short, or not so good as others; some would suit a certain market - say a small writers circle competition - but not an international literary journal.
    • If the limit is 1000 words and the entry fee is £10, I would not enter. But if it was £5 I might consider, if it was £3 I would. You would develop your own limits.
    • Are there any other benefits - a critique included in that fee, an agent reading the short list? 
  • Scams... Isn't that what the internet is designed for? You can research the competition, check out if people have mentioned it elsewhere, good or bad. If uncertain, don't enter. And if the prizes seem good to be true, it's possible they may be. The more you look at competitions, you better judge you will be.
  • Too many entrants... I started quite small - I entered the ones that had a prize of £50 or £100. These days, I may not bother with something so small, but again that limit would be different for you all. Some competitions announce how many entrants they had in previous years, so you can further judge if you want to chance it.
At the end of the day, someone has to win first prize, whether that's £100 or £1000. Why shouldn't that be you??

Some competition listing sites:
Writing Comps (it says UK comps, but there are several US ones thrown in too, and besides most contests these days are international because online entries are so easy.)
Christopher Fielden
Thresholds

These lists will double up, so choosing your favourite interface is probably a better idea than searching through them all. Googling short story competitions will probably provide even more listings that are more US-centric.

Let me know how you get on!


32 comments:

  1. When I first started writing I did enter competitions and even had some success but lately I have found I have less time to write short stories so my pool of suitable entrance material is more limited. I think I have entered 2 or 3 competitions this year. Yes the entrance fee has put me off sometimes, I have seen some wanting £20 which for me is too much.

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    1. 2 or 3 is a good steady number. £20 is way too much. I sometimes enter the Bridport Prize if I think I've got a brilliant story, but they're up to £15, I think. That's a special circumstance for me though.

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  2. I used to enter competitions all the time but rarely do nowadays. It's the time thing with me. It takes time to fill in forms, write edit and post off. All time when I could be progressing with my novel. I guess I'm really better at long projects.

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    1. Most of the competitions these days have online entry, which makes it a lot easier. Although it does mean I can't kiss the envelope before I post it! Kissing my laptop feels somewhat weird :-)

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  3. When I was teenager, my mom tried to get me to enter some competitions, but I always chickened out. I still don't enter them. I guess I'm a little shy about sharing my work in that way. I do, however, post some of my stuff online.

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    1. I'm the other way around - I would much prefer strangers to be reading my work than people I know. It's taken me a long time to have people read my work before I send it off. The best thing about competitions is you can't choose who will read your work, and they might think it's the best thing they've ever read!!

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  4. I think forming your own criteria for why you enter or why you don't makes sense. One thing I look for is if publication part of the prize, and if so, how many slots - does only first place get published or is it the top ten, etc.

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    1. That's a good point, Madeline - publication can be more important than a monetary prize, if it's the right title.

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  5. I've entered a few, but I honestly don't feel it's worth it--for me at least. I'm not at the point with my writing where I even have a chance of winning, so paying the entry fee is just a waste of money, I think.

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    1. I find my writing improves when I know I'm planning to enter it into a comp. And you never know who you'll be up against, you might be the best in that comp on that day. That's why aiming for very small ones - with small entry fees - can make sense to start with. Also, most comps are online, and they publish previous winning entries, so you can compare your story to past winners!

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  6. No, don't enter competitions. Writing my actual novels are, and have always been, my priority.

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    1. That's fair enough Wendy! Although there are some great novel competitions out there, for newbie novelists. They are slightly more prone to scams though, I think. I entered a first page comp recently through a local literary group - an agent will read the top three.

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  7. Hi Annalisa,

    Although I understand your reasoning, personally, I don't enter writing competitions. I find just trying to keep doing my own variety genre writing, is plenty enough for me.

    A good weekend to you.

    Gary :)

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    1. I'd love to read some of your work Gary - any chance of that?

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  8. I entered contests ages ago and it led to nothing. After that, I focused on novel writing.

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    1. I've got to the stage where I'm sending out old, revamped stories - ones I believe in but haven't succeeded. Just the excitement of sending them out, even if they don't win, keeps my writing fresh and fun.

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  9. I entered once a few years back and was delighted to win the critiques prize for my short story.

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  10. I have occasionally thought about it, but I've found that quite a lot have titles or genres that do not inspire me. More to the point: I'm really chicken!

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    1. That's the best part about entering them, Fanny. You learn not to be too worried about other people reading it, judging it or being rejected.

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  11. Writing is such a crapshoot anyway that entering a competition is worth a try. I've entered and won at our local library for instance. That was free. I've entered some poetry ones and paid $1 a poem for entry fee and won $25. It's good for the ego to win, and losing is not a huge rejection issue.

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  12. I enter and enter (after I'm sure they are reputable) because it hones my skill. In fact, that's what I'm working on right now. Happy writing, Annalisa!

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    1. Good luck with your next submissions :-)

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  13. I always have great intentions of entering competitions but seem to run out of time with them. I need to get better organised and get some sent in. At the moment though I wouldn't pay more than £5 for an entry fee.

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    1. There are some good ones for £5 or less. A lot of writer's circles hold open competitions. But, yes, it takes organisation - even with my list I find I miss the closing dates!

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  14. Good question Annalisa! I do enter competitions, not as many as I'd like, but three or four a year at least. I particularly like to enter when I'm writing or editing as it means I have something to check my inbox for, thus stopping me getting impatient and submitting my novel before it's ready. I subscribe to first writer.com (£2 per month) which gives me almost daily lists of new competitions/ agents and publishers accepting submissions. I'd recommend it if you're serious about entering competitions as they show everything from tiny free ones to those with prize money in four figures. Agents and publishers are also rated by users for your benefit.

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    1. Thanks for the link. Entering competitions while you're writing is a great idea. I must get some more sent off!

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  15. I hadn't considered competitions. That actually sounds very motivating.

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    1. They really are, Tonja - have a look at the links in the post, see if something inspires you!

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  16. I have heard of competitions, but I honestly don't know why I haven't since I have had a few emails asking why I haven't submitted anything to magazines. I guess it is because I never thought that anything was good enough. I am off to check out your suggested links.

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    1. You have just as good a chance at winning as any of the other entrants, that's the great thing about competitions :-)

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Please comment - I love a good chat!