Wednesday 13 November 2013

Should I Enter Writing Competitions?

G'day, Lucy here.

Writing competitions

ACFW's "Genesis" competition. RWA's "Golden Heart" or "RITA". Plus a slew of other slightly less known, but nonetheless well attended competitions.

But, should you enter one? Put your work, your hard-won writing out there for some stranger to pore over, pick at, and express some (perhaps) lofty opinion about?

Sounds a bit ... scary ... daunting ...

"Image courtesy of imagerymajestic /"

So, what are some of the reasons for entering a writing competition? I'll list some for and against below.


* Unbiased feedback. 

Not just any old unbiased feedback--the judges for theses contests are seasoned writers who have been through the obstacle course of publishing at least once. They know what good writing looks like, and they know what to say to help you polish your book to that standard.
Also, being unbiased (like say, your mum or a close friend) they won't tiptoe around hurting your feelings by telling you that perhaps your book isn't quite as perfect as you'd thought it was.

* Toughen up that author hide.

We can't afford to be sensitive about our work. If a book has problems (plot mites as I like to call them), then they'll be visible to critique partners, to agents, to editors, and, to those readers who may quite well hand out one star reviews.
Evaluating and applying contest feedback is a great way to take a step back from your book and look at it objectively. Weak hero? (ouch!) Lack of conflict? (grr!) Run on descriptions? (but, but, I like description!) Sure, wallow in how unfair life seems and how much work is in front of you etc etc etc--for about 3 minutes. Then pull up those fuzzy house socks and get to work!

* To learn.

We never stop learning. Let me say that again: We never stop learning. Good writers--great writers are continually learning. Finding out ways to deepen characters, widen plots, weave themes, to say more with less. NYT best sellers, authors with fifty books under their belt, the first time author--they, we, are all learning.

* Hopefully get an agent/editor's attention.

This is waaaay down on the list. If your book makes it past the eagle-eyed judges and up the score ranking and (gasp) finals or even (double gasp) wins then--depending on the sort of contest--will land on the desk of an agent or editor. And hopefully they like your story so much that they offer you representation or a contract.

"Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /"

Rewards. Risks. Which is which? To enter a contest or not? Let's look at the reasons against entering...


People could steal your cool story ideas. 

I haven't heard of this happening, but who's to say it couldn't?

* Judges can have conflicting opinions.

Most bigger contest have three judges. Sometimes their opinions, suggestions, and comments can be very contradictory. If that's the case, then why bother entering at all? (To which I would suggest you take the mindset of 'well, I'm here to learn, so what can I learn from what all the judges have to say).

* God gives me the talent to write and every success, therefore I don't need to enter a contest.

This is both true ... and not true. 

God does gift us with the talent to write (or sing, or dance, or rock babies), and he does bless us with success, BUT like the parable of the talents I don't believe that God intends us to simply bury our talents and not seek ways to improve and develop what he has give us. 

So, there are the options. I've probably missed a few ;) but there's a few things to get you thinking about whether or not to enter.

For an up-to-date list of what contests are open I recommend the Seekerville blog. Here's the link.

All the best as we write for His glory,

Lucy Morgan-Jones is a stay-at-home mum to four precocious children by day and a snoop by night, stalking interesting characters through historical Colorado, and writing about their exploits. 
She enjoys meeting new people from all over the world and learning about the craft of writing. When she can be separated from her laptop, she is a professional time waster on facebook, a slave to the towering stack of books on her bedside table, and a bottler, preserving fruit the old fashioned way so she can swap recipes and tips with her characters. Her home is in country Victoria, Australia where she does not ride a kangaroo to the shops, mainly because four children won’t fit. ;)Represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, she is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, and Romance Writers of America.

*cross posted over at International Christian Fiction Writers blog.


  1. Thank you for these good points, Lucy. Over the years I've been a judge for various competitions and know only too well the time and effort it takes. If they are big contests especially, there are often more than 3 judges as there are more than one "round" of judging. Another reason to enter is that so many writers are reading your work. If your entry obtains even a finalist top three awards and your name is put then to your entry, think of the promotion, the attention that has been drawn to your name (your brand) for when you do have that first sale.

    1. yes! A great reason, thanks for pointing that out, Mary. :)

  2. I haven't judged (or entered) any competitions, but I have seen some of the feedback provided. It's well worth entering for the feedback.

  3. A good post and fun way to look at the pros and cons.

  4. Thanks Lucy - great post. Getting unbiased feedback is a definite advantage.

    1. It is! I've improved a lot myself just from entering competitions. :)

  5. I think the goals for entering contests are different for published and unpublished writers. The biggest benefits for unpublished writers are definitely the opportunities to gain unbiased feedback and the added bonus of getting their ms in front of editors/agents if they final. For published authors, book contests judged by readers are a great opportunity for authors to reach new readers.

    I guess it's possible that a judge could think about stealing your idea, but they could never write a book with your voice, vision and story telling ability that makes your story unique and different to everyone else.


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