Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Are Writing Contests Worth The Effort?


Blue Ribbon

Image courtesy of Billy Frank Alexander

Writers do all kinds of things to improve their abilities.

Certain activities take a bit of courage; though, for most folks, writing itself takes a lot courage :-)

Also, a writer is constantly being judged—first by themselves, then by anyone reading their work.

Some feel they need to submit to Literary Contests before they publish—a trial-period to hone their skills

Some do contests just to, hopefully, win some cash.

A Google search for “literary contests” will give you plenty to think about; but, what are some of the reasons, besides money, for entering these contests?

I found an article on Women Writers Worldwide that could give you a few reasons: Why Enter Writing Contests? Let Me Count the Ways…

That article also has these topics:

* You won a contest—so what? Will it increase your book sales and add to your credibility?
* Raise your odds of winning—choose the right contest for you
* Slamming scams
* Dos, don’ts and top tips to avoid scams

And, while that article can help you get your foot in the door of literary contests, there’s a WebSite that could help you walk right inside and take up residence :-)

Winning Writers

This site is a Mega-Hub about literary contests—including many that are free to enter.

Check out all these Resources ( even though the links aren’t my usual purple, they are live :-) :

If you visit and find the Site helpful, do, please, come on back and tell us about it in the Comments :-)

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For Private Comments, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
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2 responses to “Are Writing Contests Worth The Effort?

  1. Jane Watson January 29, 2014 at 7:09 am

    This is an interesting topic. I agree that entering competitions can be a good training exercise for writers – meeting a deadline, writing to a word limit, sending it off, taking your own writing seriously etc. In my own experience however not all competitions are run the way they should be in the best of all possible worlds :-) (and just in case anyone reading this thinks I have sour grapes here, let me point out, very modestly, that I have in my time won several important short story prizes in Australia – all of which I am incredibly grateful for. But I am in no way deluded into thinking that this is a measure of my true worth as a writer, I’ll let my readers decide this.)

    So firstly let us ask the question – what is a ‘competition’? Let us say it is a contest for a prize between rivals. This seems to imply, to me, that the rivals are all compared to each other but in my experience in big literary competitions this does not always happen…if for instance there are 2000 entrants in a competition and the judge is a well known literary figure paid, usually very poorly, to read the entries, then this judge cannot possibly read all 2000.

    So the 2000 entries are first of all farmed out to various literary organisations who are asked to read to compile a short list. The 2000 entries may then be divided into piles of 20 each and each reader asked to find 5 stories from each pile for the long or short list. But what if all the A grade stories are in one or two piles and none in the others? Or what if the readers of several of those piles have less experience with reading stories or poetry etc than the readers of other piles? What if their standards of excellence are quite different to the main judge’s standards?

    As you can see, by the time the short list gets to the main judge there has not been a fair comparison between rivals, at all. Instead there has been a kind of statistical sleight of hand. The 20 stories that the judge is left with to judge for the main prize may not be the ones he or she would have chosen had he /she compared all the entries – one of those left behind in a pile that had more than its fair share of quality entries, may have been the *real* winning entry the judge would have chosen if he/she had ever seen it, which of course, because of this process, he/she never does.

    This is not a deliberate scam or even a scam at all. This type of sorting takes place in even the most prestigious of competitions with the very best of intentions. Perhaps it has to happen this way … large competitions cannot possibly afford to pay a judge to read 1000 – 4000 entries and no professional author has time to do this for pocket money.

    The real issue here is not to be despondent if you don’t WIN competitions. They are often a lottery and in no way judge your real worth as a writer. Look upon them as you would the lottery.. be happy if you happen to win but bear in mind that they are often a numbers game:-)

    Like

    • Alexander M Zoltai January 29, 2014 at 8:07 am

      Thank you, So Much, Jane, for a look behind the scenes as well as into the heart of literary competitions :-)

      Like

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