Hi everyone! Today, I’m welcoming Annalisa Crawford to my blog to tell us a bit more about entering writing competitions. Also, I want to congratulate her again for placing third in the Costa Awards. I’m so proud of you!
Reasons to Enter Writing Competitions
by Annalisa Crawford
I love entering competitions – I like the idea of having my stories out in the world without having to do very much market research, and I like the anticipation when the long- or short-lists are released, followed closely by the winners. And, occasionally, I win… which I also like. Okay, I lose, as well; it’s a bit of a lottery. But that’s not a reason not to enter.
There are several regular comments people repeat when I talk to them about competitions. It’s too expensive. It’s a waste of time, you’ll never win. Contests are scams.
You might have your own reasons for avoiding them, but I’ll take the ones above one by one, and answer any others in the comments.
1. It’s too expensive.
oYes, some of them are. I’ve actually paid £17 for a single entry before. I don’t pay that much often, but I weight up the prestige of the competition, the overall judge, and the prize money – and then I decide whether I have a story/can write a story that is worth £17.
oSome are completely free – such as the Costa Short Story Award. But you have to bear in mind how many people will enter a free competition, which will make your odds of winning reduce.
oMost of the competitions I enter are between £5 and £10.
2. It’s a waste of time.
oI tend to enter stories that I have hanging around, those that I don’t know what to do with or have been rejected by a couple of magazines. Competitions usually have a looser idea of the type of story they are looking for – whereas a magazine will have a definite style.
oThe story can be tied up for several months, but as long as you build this into your submission plan, it won’t be a problem.
oThe discipline of writing a story, refreshing it, submitting it to a deadline is important. It gives you something to work towards.
3. You’ll never win.
oWell, firstly, someone has to – why not you?
oOn the other hand, you probably won’t. You’ll be frustrated and angry, but you’ll get over it, and you’ll write something else. If you’re sensible, you’ll try to work out why that story didn’t work but the 1st/2nd/3rd place entries did. You’ll learn without even trying.
oA lot of the larger competitions these days are being judged by literary agents and publishers. They are not just judging the competition, they are looking out for good writers. Even if you don’t win, they might see your name, and they might be interested in you.
oYears ago, when I was just starting out, I’d see the same names on the long-lists and short-lists, then I’d see them placing 1st, 2nd or 3rd. Then I’d see them publishing their first novels. One name I remember seeing was Helen Dunmore.
4. Contests are scams.
oI haven’t heard British writers complaining about this quite so much as US writers. But, if in doubt, don’t enter – or spend some time researching.
oRead the terms and conditions – I know most people don’t, but in this case it’s very important. You need to make sure you are following the rules so you won’t get disqualified, but you also need to know what happens to your story if you win – do you retain copyright, will the story be published. The terms will also flag up areas where it feels scam-like, in which case, don’t enter!
How about you? Do you enter? Have you won? Do you have doubts that I haven’t covered above?
Annalisa Crawford lives in Cornwall UK, with a good supply of moorland and beaches to keep her inspired. She lives with her husband, two sons, a dog and a cat.
She writes dark contemporary, character-driven stories, and has been winning competitions and publishing short stories in small press journals for many years. She recently won 3rd Place in the Costa Short Story Award 2015.