How Do You Feel About Writing Contests?

A bit of controversy exists about whether or not it’s beneficial for writers to enter their work in writing contests.

Some feel that contests are a waste of time and money, contending that publishers aren’t impressed by a writer winning a contest. And they’re not very happy that most contests require an entry fee of $10.00 or more.

On the other hand, entering writing contests can be a way to get your work measured against other writers’ work. Sometimes the contest judges will give a contestant valuable feedback; many contests offer publication of your writing, if you are among the winners.

Recommended Resources
One of the best sources of writing contests is Poets & Writers. Read one perspective (okay, a rant) about submitting stories to writing contests in “Common Faults in Short Stories,” by Stephen Moran, The New Writer’s Handbook, Volume 2. (It’s a book.)

What’s your opinion on writing contests? Have you entered any? Benefitted from any? Been burned by any? Leave a comment to share your experience.

I’d be honored if you’d subscribe to this blog and follow me on Twitter @lynettebenton for more writing tips.

13 thoughts on “How Do You Feel About Writing Contests?

  1. I’m thinking mostly about contests offered by RWA chapters, which usually involve extensive feedback, and often a chance to send an editor your work if you final. I think there’s some benefit to getting the anonymous, impartial feedback from people who don’t know you, especially if you’re a beginner or are trying out a new genre or style. For the more experienced writers who are likely to final, contests like these can be a way to shortcut the query process (the editor will judge them by the deadline), and in some cases, can give writers a way to get their work in front of editors who don’t normally accept material except through an agent. OTOH, the feedback from first-round judges isn’t always useful, and one can spend a lot of time and money entering contests instead of working on the rest of the book or moving on to the next project.

  2. Great topic, Lynette! I’m a bit torn, actually. On one hand, I think they’re great for exposure (you win, get published nationally, and promoted. More eyes = more opportunities). However, they can be frustrating and possibly even biased. Plus, the money (ugh).

    I think it’s worth it to enter truly respected contests, or ones that will get you notable recognition. Otherwise, I do think they can be a waste of time.

  3. In my writers’ group, several have won writing contests (Best first novel, other literary journals). But I have to say, We have some amazingly good writers in this group. But there are always a ton of new lit journals, and on-line, coming out. Start with the lesser known ones who are hungry for content, but still good writing. Re biased: A contest I recently entered required no identifying info re author on the submission. Only on cover page, which was separated, probably coded somehow.

    I posted this query to both my writers groups via email and Facebook, so hope some members check in.

  4. What a great topic for discussion. I’m a big fan of contests. I’ve entered many, won only a few. In the case of my debut novel, it received a few semi-finalist nods while a work-in-progress. That validation, that someone impartial had read it and found it worthy of some recognition, helped me stayed motivated to keep writing. The completed novel also won a significant award, which definitely helped get my foot in the door with an agent and publisher. On the other hand, contests can get expensive. I set an annual budget for entry fees, so I don’t go overboard. And, of course, there are many contents out there that are free to enter and are backed by legitimate foundations, etc. In addition to Poets & Writers, a great resource is Hope Clark’s Funds for Writers newsletters (, which list contests, grants, etc.

  5. One of my novels, submitted to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, made it through the first round by failed to make the quarter finals. However, two of their expert judges provided professional and custom feedback about the chapter they read. This was extremely valuable, since this was the first time that work was critiqued outside of my writing support group. Previous contests with reading fees I’ve entered for short stories leave me cold, and I’ve stopped submitting to those.

  6. I’m jealous that you belong to a writing group with very accomplished writers. I agree that it’s best to enter contests in which the writers are not identified, so the judges can’t be biased about anything, like gender.

  7. I’m on the fence on this one. I’ve not entered my work in any competitions, though I’ve thought about doing so. Then I ask myself am I impressed when I read that a particular book has won a particular competition? No. The writing itself must do that.

    Would it impress me if *my* work won a particular competition? Hmm, I’m not sure. I think if I were to enter a competition it would be with a piece written specifically for that purpose. Something that didn’t take long to put together, something that didn’t really matter. However, I think I’d rather spend the time working towards the bigger goal (and the biggest prize of all). 😉

  8. I got started writing memoir and blogging because of a newspaper contest in the Kalamazoo Gazette. Prize was not much monetarily but it gave my work exposure to 90,000 readers. More importantly, since the judges were people I respected, I was encouraged to write more. I’ve decided not to keep entering contests, however, now that my memoir is under contract. Good question, Lynette.

  9. It’s true, Nina. When I tweet about writing contests I make it a point to only include those that cost less than $15 to enter. Like you, I know the mags need money, but so do we writers!

    Thank you for commenting. And I’ll be back visiting *your* blog again soon.

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