Writing Contests – What Are Your Thoughts?

I love contests. For years I entered the Writer’s Digest monthly writing challenges — things like, Write a new end to a favorite fairy tale in 75 words or less. These were good for one thing — to exercise your writing muscles. The winners did get their names in an upcoming issue of the magazine, but that was the extent of it. Still, I entered dutifully because it was fun.

When I started writing full time, I graduated to a contest I learned about from a friend in my critique group. Each year in her local newspaper there was a challenge to write a story using a certain prompt and a select number of words.

Later I moved on to the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Genesis contest. Open to members who are unpublished, this contest judges the first ten pages of a novel.

I’ve also entered a good number of short story contests, from ones offered by Writer’s Digest to those held by the now defunct online e-zine Swords Review.

Then there are the quirky contests offering things like cash, Amazon gift cards, or editorial reviews as prizes. I’ve entered a three line pitch contest, a 24-hour story contest, a first page contest, a first 100-words contest. In fact I originally started this blog so I could enter a contest that paid money for ranting (mine was about bookstores 😉 ).

Some of my favorite contests have been ones I’ve come across on agents’ blogs. Once there was a picture and contestants had to write a story to match. Others require the incorporation of certain words. Some involve poetry.

I’ve even held a couple contests here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction, which I called Fantasy Challenges. The prizes were books donated by particular fantasy authors.

All this to say, I’m thinking about holding another contest and have even lined up another judge to help. But recently there’s been some conversation about frustration with contests.

I’ve had my share of those too. Sometimes the judging seems arbitrary. On a few occasions the entry fee seemed exorbitant especially in light of the (almost non-existent) prize. Once I waited months for results only to find out my entry was never actually a part of the contest due to a technological failing.

Other times, however, when bloggers could comment or judges gave feedback, I’ve found the contest extremely helpful.

So what do you think about contests? What kind do you like to enter (or do you)? When it comes to the prize (sorry, cash is out of the question 😆 ), if you had the choice between a new novel donated by an author or a free 10-page critique by yours truly (or perhaps another freelance editor if I can get someone else on board), which would you opt for?

Published in: on June 8, 2011 at 6:42 pm  Comments (10)  
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