What You Need to Know About Writing Competitions (Other Than How They’re Annoying to Search For)


The beauty of writing competitions is that they’re really quite simply explained. Which is exactly what this week’s Definition shows.

Writing Competition:

Strictly speaking, a writing competition can be any contest that pits writer against writer.

There are poetry writing competitions, short-story writing competitions, novella writing competitions and novel writing competitions. And some are genre specific, whether for sci-fi, romance, fantasy, etc.

Prizes run from $$ to publishing contracts, and you could be competing against dozens of fellow writers, hundreds of fellow writers or thousands. It all depends...

It all depends on the writing competition you choose, and most of them are pretty upfront about their rules, deadlines and prizes.

See? What did I say. Pretty simple, right?

What this week’s Definition doesn’t show is how obnoxious it can be to find the right one or ones that work for you, if only because an online search for “writing contest 2018” comes up with an instantaneous 113,000,000 results, including the following top-3 link titles:

  • 2018 TV Writing Contest – Script Pipeline

  • EngineerGirl – 2018 EngineerGirl Writing Contest

  • Creative Writing Contests for 2017-2018.

Problem is, if you’re anything like Innovative Editing, then you have little to no experience in script writing and no real commentary on engineering except “it’s cool” and “I’m bad at math, so I studied English instead.” And for that third entry, if you’re a Texas or Oklahoma resident in grade school or college, awesome!

Otherwise, step aside.

Really, don’t even bother doing a basic search at all. After spending 30 minutes doing just that, I gave up entirely in favor of giving you a different piece of advice: Join a Facebook writers’ group and ask your fellow members for tips on where to find them. Those back channels will probably be far more effective and far less time-consuming.

Whichever way you choose to go, once you find a seemingly suitable writing competition, here are some questions you need to be asking:

  • Does it charge you a fee to submit? You want to be very wary of these. On the one hand, it does take a lot of work and effort to run a proper contest. On the other hand, you might not have any guarantees that there’s anything proper about the one you’re paying for. As a general rule, there are plenty of reputable, worthwhile, free writing competitions out there – as long as you can find them – or at least that charge a low reading fee of $5, $10 or $25. Anything higher than $50 is probably a scam.

  • Are you eligible? You need to read the rules and guidelines as carefully as possible. That should be easy enough, as they’re typically confined to a page or two. But pay attention to the details anyway, including deadlines, accepted genres, word count and such. You and your hard work can and will be disqualified if you don’t adhere to them.

  • Is it worth it? Find out what the grand prize is. Is it a publishing contract? An anthology inclusion? A mention in a local magazine? You need to determine what you’re hoping for first. Then weigh the costs against the rewards.

If all those factors fall in your favor, then have at it! No matter what writing stage you’re at, these writing competitions can be a great motivational force.

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