Welcome back. In this post, I’m answering more questions that were asked about writing contests. Part 1 was about submissions and guidelines.
Before I forget, I wanted to mention that there is a link listed in my sidebar under “Writer’s Toolbox” titled “Writers Beware” that is of value to all writers. It’s a good website for staying ahead of those who would prey on writers, especially those with less experience.
1) What’s the best source for legitimate writing contests?
Answer: The yearly “Writer’s Market Guide” (by Writer’s Digest) and the yearly “Christian Writer’s Market Guide” have sections in them regarding contests. But, if all you are looking for is a list of contests, then the cost is a little high.
Answer: Every contest has its own set of rules. Some allow multiple submissions; some only allow one. Other contests may not want you to submit the same piece to another contest simultaneously. Be sure to carefully read and follow the submission guidelines so that you aren’t disqualified. Some judges can be quite picky.
3) What’s a reasonable entry fee? Are contests that charge an entry fee better than those that don’t?
Answer: Some are free (yay!). Personally, above $20 dollars is prohibitive to me. The general rule is: the larger the contest, the larger the fee will be. This is reasonable because more people are needed to read through all the entries.
The fee a contest charges has no bearing on how good or bad it is. Do your homework. I tend to submit to contests for magazines where winning entries have a chance to be published (or some other value beyond bragging rights – see question 9).
4) How do you know if your work is good enough to submit?
Answer: When it is the best it can be. You will always learn new things. You’ll always look at work a month or a year later and see ways you could improve it, but that doesn’t mean you should hold on to your writing until then. Make it your best it effort and then send it. Try to avoid perfectionism.
5) Should you write something specifically for a contest, or write a piece and then find the contest for it?
Answer: The easier way is to write specifically for the market, whether it is a contest entry or a regular article. I know sometimes you have an idea and you just want to enjoy writing it, but it is harder to find homes for them afterwards. You may find yourself having to rewrite your piece to fit the guidelines.
6) What are some good entry-level contests? Which are better suited for more advanced writing?
Answer: As in the question in Part 1 about submitting to larger markets, I’d recommend trying a variety of larger and smaller places. The guidelines will give you a good idea of the requirements. You don’t write at one level for one contest and another level for another contest. Just do your best work each time.
7) What’s the best way to find the right contest for an existing piece of work?
Answer: Decide what category the piece fits into and study the guidelines. If the contest is sponsored by a specific magazine or website, then study their publication or content as well. They’re probably looking for work to publish for their readership. The more you know about what they are looking for, the better your chances will be. If the guidelines don’t give you enough information, email the contest sponsor and ask for further clarification.
8) If your piece doesn’t win, what’s the best way to learn why and how to improve it?
Answer: Take it back to your writing critique group or a trusted writing mentor and ask for their honest opinion. If you know someone who has been a judge for a contest, you can ask them to take a look at it too.
Answer: Some contests offer a critique as a part of entering the contest. That’s a great reason to enter. A good critique is worth anywhere from $50 to $200 dollars. Take advantage of a contest that provides all entrants with a critique. That’s almost like winning.
If your question wasn’t answered in the last post or this one, feel free to ask anyway. I love to help. You might even spark an idea for a post. I am learning every day and I encourage you to do the same.
As always, if this was helpful, let me know. If it could help someone else, pass it on. If you’d like to know when I post something new, see the top right hand corner of the page. Until next time, keep writing.