Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Writing Contests

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at all over at Seekerville blog you are familiar with many great writing contests available to writers--published an unpublished.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For the past two years, I've coordinated at least one category for the ACFW Genesis Contest, the premier contest for unpublished writers of Christian Fiction. I encourage you, if you're an unpublished author, to enter.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.


  1. I definitely agree with your benefits here. Thanks!

  2. Genesis really is the best! You took on quite a job, lady :D

  3. I did enter my first Genesis contest this year. Looking forward to the critiques. I also entered the same MS in the Novel Matters contest. Can I ask how many contests one should enter at a time? I was thinking of sending it to one more contest. Or I could polish up my second WIP and send that instead. Im only a few chapters in to that one.
    Thanks for all the info.

  4. Hi, Jan,

    My advice would be to enter the ms in one or two contests, then wait for the results before spending the money entering the same ms into another contest. I entered one ms into three different contests at once when I first started out. The result? All three sets of judges pointed out the same things I needed to fix. If I had been more patient, I would've learned from the first set of judges, improved the ms, then stood a better chance in subsequent contests.

    I advise against the shotgun approach to contest entries. You'll most likely be paying over again for the same critiques.

    :) And YAY! For entering your first Genesis Contest!

  5. Good advise - I will take it.
    Thanks Erica!

  6. The contest route worked for me. Three years ago I sent 34 entries to contests. (I had four manuscripts I was submitting.) I finaled a handful of times, but the real benefit I gained was the wonderful feedback. I'm so grateful for the help my contest judges have given me.

    I took the next two years to study craft and learn to fix many of the issues my judges had pointed out. I revised one of my stories and entered it in ten contests last year, hoping to final in one or two. I did even better, taking several firsts.

    In addition to my wins, I received five requests for fulls from final round judges, one of those from my Dream Agent, Rachelle Gardner. I sent her my file, and the next day I found an email from her in my in-box that left me rushing around the house screaming at the top of my lungs like a crazy woman. She offered me representation during a phone call four days later!

    Contests might not work for everyone, but I certainly have benefited from them. The Genesis is a great one, and I wish all the best to those who are entering.

  7. Great list! I think contests can be a great learning tool and can help an author get noticed, but only if she is selective about the contest she enters.

    I only enter one or two a year, but I make sure they're contests that my dream editor is the final judge in and that I receive detailed feedback. Always worth it!