If you spend any time at all over at Seekerville blog you are familiar with many great writing contests available to writers--published an unpublished.
So, do contests really work?
I guess that depends on what you want to accomplish. Here are some of the benefits that I can and have seen as a result of writing contests.
1. A chance to get several critiques. In most contests the first round judges are either published authors or experienced, trained judges. For the cost of 20-35 dollars or so, you can get two or three critiques that can vault your understanding of writing to a whole new level.
2. A chance to get your ms in front of an agent or editor. If you final in a contest, quite often the final round judge is an agent or editor, or in some cases, like the Genesis, the final round is judged by three industry professionals, agents and editors.
3. A chance to get your ms noticed. On more than one occasion, I've heard of authors who finalled in a contest, then contacted the agent who had been holding their ms in a slushpile. The agent plucked the finalling ms out of the slushpile for a closer look.
4. A chance to get to know some other writers. If you final, see if you can contact your fellow finalists and pray for each other until the contest results are announced. You might make some lifetime friends. :)
For the past two years, I've coordinated at least one category for the ACFW Genesis Contest, the premier contest for unpublished writers of Christian Fiction. I encourage you, if you're an unpublished author, to enter. See where your writing is. You might final, but no matter what, the critiques will teach you and propel your writing.