Monday, June 13, 2022

Writing Contests - Worth the Effort

Have you ever entered a writing contest? How did you do? If not, why not?

Writing contests can be a great source of inspiration, feedback, and creative exercise. Here, the authors of the First Love IWSG Anthology expound on the pros and cons (mostly pros) of entering a writing contest.

From Kim Elliot...
I’ve entered a few brand-sponsored contests on I was thrilled to win Hilroy’s #startwriting contest and Tim Hortons’ #timscoldbrewstories contest. Each of those earned me a nice cash prize which I’m using to finance my novels. Contests are a great way to spark creativity and compare your style to other writers. I plan to enter many more!

From Linda Budzinski...
For me, contests provide a great source of inspiration. I love having a prompt, a specified word count, and a deadline. A blank page can be daunting, but the parameters inherent in contests make the creative process more manageable. "The End" is in sight before you've even set pen to paper! And while the result--potentially winning and/or having my story published for others to read--is exciting, I try to allow the joy of writing and creating to be an end in itself.

From Denise Covey...
I don't enter writing contests as a rule. The IWSG Anthology was different as I'd wanted to see a romance genre contest ever since it started. So when the romance contest was announced, I felt duty bound to write a story seeing I'm a romance author. It was great to win a place and I'm really excited to see the Anthology published. 

From S.E. White...
I enter writing contests because apparently I really enjoy pain. Sorry, bit of sarcasm sneaking in. Really, I enter writing contests for the honest editorial feedback from unbiased readers (i.e. not my friends and obligated to sugarcoat anything). I firmly believe that editors and beta readers are my best friends, catching my plot holes, boring moments, and downright embarrassing mistakes. Sometimes I don't have a trusty, brutally honest beta reader to turn to. Editors can get quite pricy, and occasionally they aren't in my budget. But a writing contest is usually pretty cost-effective (ranging from free to 20 or 30 dollars to enter) and gives me at least three different judges feedback. Well worth the occasional sting, in my recommendation.

From Michael DiGesu...
I enter writing contests mainly to sharpen my skills and to hopefully have a strong enough entry to be published. This was the first time one of my stories has been chosen, and I am thrilled. Contests force you to write, polish, and submit. They are a wonderful way to have your stories read by professionals, and that can lead to bigger and better things. I generally submit to at least five contests a year. Several have been through Writer’s Digest and others through mainstream magazines like the New Yorker or GQ. My advice on them is to be select. Submitting to smaller publications or through writing blogs may be best to way to start. Contests like the ones through Writer’s Digest can get costly and they are extremely competitive. 

None of my stories have ever made it into even the top 50. They must get thousands of entries and they take months to read through them all, and once they finally do select the winners, it can be a huge let down. Anthologies are also a great way to submit because several stories are chosen and you have a much better chance. Contests are good training for querying your works to publishers and agents. Most of us know how tedious this can be, but if you are selected, it makes it worth your time and effort.

From L. Diane Wolfe, Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C. ...
The best advice for entering writing contests: be sure to follow the guidelines. Submit the correct genre and proper word count. If there is a theme, adhere to it. Send exactly what the contest requests and be sure to include all of your contact information. Failing to follow the guidelines just means your story will be rejected. After all that hard work, you don’t want to blow your chances.

From Katie Klein...
I think contests are a great way to gain exposure and build credibility. Anyone can host a contest, though, so my advice to writers would be to make sure to do your homework. A little research will go a long way in determining if the contest is reputable and the winners deserving. Also, entry fees can be high, so be sure to prioritize.  

From Sylvia Ney...
I only rarely enter writing contests. I refuse to pay for entry into a contest so I only enter free ones - either because I support those putting the contest together, I support what they are trying to accomplish, or they are offering FREE feedback by credible sources. I really value IWSG so I have submitted to a couple of their anthology contests. This is the second time I've had a story chosen for the group anthology. I also have a piece called "WIN" in the first anthology: Parallels. I have also had work chosen for publication in multiple other contests including; "Forgotten Memories" which appears in It's in the Gulf - a disaster relief fundraiser, "Homegrown Love" which appears in The Searcher: Spring 2014 - a publication that focuses on raising awareness of the importance of genealogoy, history, and libraries, and "An Interview of Tim O'Brien" which appears in Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors Volume 2 which is an annual anthology contest put on by Southeast Missouri State University Press and the Warriors Arts Alliance.

I've entered my share of contests and had some published, some not. Whether you're in a slump, need to take a break from your WIP, or just in the mood to try something new -- Look for a writing contest! You can always give the prompt a go and whip up a short story, then decide later if you want to submit it or not. The writing is the important part. The more you write, the better you get!

Happy Writing!


  1. We're glad you all entered! Sylvia, this is two anthologies for you!

  2. Contests are very good training and get one's feet wet.

  3. I've actually been looking at a few recently, though I've never truly done them. I've personally been looking at the Reedsy one.

  4. A world 🌎 new to me. Thanks


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