Thursday, April 12, 2012

Writer's Write Because They Must

Why Writing Contests and Challenges Have Value

Multiple contest ops at Writer's Digest
I’ve been rejected by the best. The three books I entered in the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Novel contest a couple of years ago were soundly if gently rejected for even the least prize, a subscription to their wonderful magazine. That’s okay, I was already a subscriber. What I did get were comments from the judges, which I found helpful.

When I worked in the newspaper business our entire staff (of five) spent days on end filtering through our clips in an attempt to select the best of our best to send off for consideration in the state press association contest and the Associated Press state contest. I won awards more than once, but never a first. What I got were comments from the judges, which I found helpful.

I haven’t entered any contests lately and I’m feeling the need to put myself out there again, yes with the hope of winning, but equally to get commentary from the judges, which I will find helpful.


Why Bother?

Creds, sister (and brother), creds. When you do your profile and it asks what awards you’ve won, do you have something to put there? Good for you! If not, wouldn’t it be nice to call yourself “an award-winning writer” and be able to name the award?

“Oh, I’m not doing this for the recognition,” you say (and, yes, I’ve heard writers say that), then why in heaven’s name are you writing? You write because you want people to read your work, and there is no better gauge of your growth as a writer than having peers look at what you’ve written. Contests and challenges are a great platform for doing that.


The Goodies

Usually there are prizes: cash, publication of your work (invaluable), or gifts. That, too, is recognition. You grow your platform/profile the more you expose your work to others. You strengthen your writing by taking on tasks you never imagined taking on. Today I wrote four tankas for Robert Lee Brewer’s poetry challenge. I didn’t even know what a tanka was! Brewer’s challenges – poetry and platform – have forced me to write intentionally and be more creative.


Broaden Your Network

What are you? How do you identify yourself? Are you a writer? I’ve got news for you; the most sympathetic people you will encounter are other writers. Writers want to see other writers get published. They want to see you be successful. Through challenges and contests you come into contact with other people in the publishing industry and you never know where those contacts will lead.

For information about writing contests do an online search. Lots of stuff pops up. Be sure you check out the rules before entering any contest. Make sure you retain rights to your work after you enter or win. There may be entry fees, so check that out as well. I find that entry fees are usually pretty low and worth the investment to get feedback on your work.

A few contest links among many:


Through my website and my radio show, Writer’s Block, I sponsor a free writing prompt challenge. I’m the sole judge so the comments you get back (if your entry isn’t selected) will be my opinion, but my opinion is pretty good. I design, develop and edit newsletters, have edited and written for a daily paper, published and written for a weekly paper and developed, designed and wrote an e-zine. And I'm a full time writer.

The prizes include a guest spot on Writer’s Block, at which time you will read your winning entry. Your entry will be posted in my blog summary of your segment along with links to your website and published work, and you’ll win a free copy of my e-book, Tiger Lilly. I invite you to take part in the Writer’s Block writing prompt challenge. Go to Writer’s Block for details.

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