Confessions of a “Contest Junkie”

Contest-JunkieI first heard the term “contest slut” at a local chapter Romance Writer’s Association (RWA) meeting. (I’m using “contest junkie” so as not to offend anyone.) Not only did it make me laugh, I realized it fit me perfectly. I’ve always had a thing for awards – I blame it on both all the dance trophies they gave out when I was taking lessons at a very young age, coupled with my natural tendency toward competitiveness and perfectionism. Not matter what the cause, if I find a contest I qualify for, you bet I’m going to enter it. (I do this in my work life as well. I’m an internationally award-winning marketing writer as well.)

I used to see that unpublished authors had won awards but I couldn’t figure out what contests they were entering. Then I joined RWA. Boy, does the romance genre like its contests. From there I found myself more aware of opportunities in other genres. As of the end of March I will have three books entered in at least a dozen contests:

  • Guinevere of Northgallis: 2 (there aren’t many contests for historical fiction that’s not romance)
  • The book I can’t tell you about yet: 2 (same ones as Guinevere, as it is historical fiction as well)
  • He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not: 11 (most are romance but it’s competing against the other two in a few)

Things I Have Learned from Contest Entries:

  1. Your first five pages and first 5,000 words are crucial. Those are all you get for most contests – and also from most agents/editors. This has made me even more picky about what I include in those oh-so-important opening pages.
  2. Writing a one-page synopsis is really hard (mine are usually 2-4 pages), but it is possible if you take out all the sub-plots and strip your story down to the bare bones.
  3. You meet other writers (especially if you also volunteer to judge categories other than your own) and learn how much talent is really out there, plus form a support network.
  4. Having your work entered into contests helps give you something positive to think about while you’re waiting on queries, submission or just trying to get that next book done.
  5. If you final/win, it can help all aspects of your career, even if your entry isn’t in your main genre. Contests give you exposure to agents and editors, plus you have something of value to include in your query/submission letter if you final or win.
  6. Every contest has different submission requirements so (like with querying) read the directions and follow them to the letter.
  7. I haven’t received feedback yet, but most contests require judges to give it, so I’m looking forward to seeing what they liked and didn’t and editing from there.

My first contest will be announcing finalists this week, so please cross your fingers, toes and eyes that it gets selected. And I’m sure I will be entering more, even once I’m published, because I am an admitted contest junkie! I will let you know good news as I get it.

Have you ever entered writing contests? Judged them? What are your thoughts on what you can get out of them?

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