Writing Contests: Dos and Don’ts

Hi everyone. I learned so much last week doing the scavenger hunt! And today I’m rushing to enter a writing contest. The deadline for postmarks is TODAY! As my dad used to love to say, “Do as I say, not as I do!”

Writing Tip for Today: Students often ask about contests so I will share some tips I’ve learned over the years.

Are You Ready? If you are afraid you are not accomplished enough as a writer to enter a contest, there’s good news. Many contests offer feedback that will help you hone your skills. I’ve been a judge for several contests and I can say I always give the most positive, encouraging advice I can give. The act of submitting your work to strangers is a growth step in and of itself. Don’t worry about whether you’re “good” or “talented” enough. Force yourself to polish up a piece and enter it!

Which Contest? As with many other writing-related tasks, do your research. My personal rule is that if the entry fee is more than $25, I skip that contest. Most contests entry fees range from $10-$25 per entry. There are even many online contests which are free to enter! Take a look at the prizes, what kind of “publishing” the winners receive and whether or not a hard copy will be available. Beware contests which charge more than an entry fee (or a very high fee) or which pressure you to buy a zillion copies for your family and friends. Stick with organizations you have checked out or that you trust. A good place to start is to research contests in the genre you write in.

Follow the Rules! Once you decide to enter, you will be nervous your first time out. Relax! Most contests have strict rules to follow and you don’t want to overlook something just because you’re rattled. Pay close attention to format, entry forms, how many copies required and most important, if the contest is “blind.” Blind contests require that your name NOT APPEAR on the copy anywhere–not on a cover sheet, byline or even header or footer. If you don’t follow the rules, you could be immediately eliminated. Spring is on its way, and the writing contests are a’blooming. Take that leap of faith and enter one soon! 

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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