Why it’s always worth entering writing competitions…

Grab yourself some gorgeous stationery and get writing!

Grab yourself some gorgeous stationery and get writing!

Today I thought I’d write something for all you budding novelists, short story writers and poets. There are some wonderful writing competitions around these days. In her great post last week, Luisa Plaja mentioned the very exciting Fiction Express Competition in which you create a 500 word story with three different endings. The horse and pony charity Mane Chance are also currently running a great competition (check it out here!) which asks you to write a poem or short story about animals. Your writing will be judged by the amazing British Children’s Laureate and Warhorse author Michael Morpurgo!

Have you ever entered a writing competition? If you haven’t then you definitely SHOULD! And here’s why…

1. If you always have lots of imaginative ideas floating about in your brain, entering a competition will motivate you to actually get them down on paper. Do you, for example, REALLY want to write a book about a time-travelling piglet who becomes best friends with an alien? Time and time again you’ll be told that the best way to get better at writing is to keep writing – and it’s true! The more you write, the more skilful and confident your writing becomes. Entering a competition might just be the kick-start you need to begin your first novel!

2. Need some inspiration? Writing competitions often give you a particular theme, genre or target audience as a stimulus. They might give you the title of a poem or the opening sentence of a story. Sometimes this is much easier than starting with a ‘blank canvas’, as it gives your imagination something to play with… It’s also good practice for being a professional or commercial writer as literary agents or publishers will sometimes ask you to have a go at writing something in a particular style or genre.

3. Be your own editor! How do you feel about a strict word count? Some people get very frustrated when they are told they can only submit 500 words for a competition, but others see it as a challenge! When you have to stick to a word count, you have to be tough with yourself – using only your very best ideas, cutting out the waffle and grabbing the judge’s attention straight away with your originality and your beautiful writing.

4. PRIZES! Let’s not forget prizes! EVERYONE likes prizes… Some writing competitions offer fabulous prizes from brand new books to pens, vouchers, laptops, stuff for your school or even meet-the-author days…

5. Get your writing noticed… Lots of competitions are judged by people who work in the book industry. Sometimes they are able to give you really useful and encouraging feedback on how to make your writing even better. A few competitions are sponsored by particular publishing houses so, if they REALLY love your writing – who knows? – maybe one day your time-travelling piglet and alien story might just make it into print!

Have you had any luck entering a writing competition? Tell us about your experience! Do you think it helped to make you a better writer?

Lucinda Martin’s first book, Moth and the Nightingale, won the runner-up prize at the Montegrappa First Fiction Competition at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in 2014. It is being published by Chicken House in 2016.

4 thoughts on “Why it’s always worth entering writing competitions…

  1. Great post, Lucinda. This was how I got started as a published writer. Winning a couple of writing competitions with the first short stories I sent out into the world was a huge boost to my confidence. I wasn’t always as lucky afterwards, but I knew I could do it.

    • Me too – if it wasn’t for entering a writing competition, my first book wouldn’t be getting published next year! In such a competitive market with publishers wading through thigh-high slush piles, competitions can be a fantastic way to get noticed! 😀

  2. I’ve always been intimidated to enter contests. Probably just holding on to the old “better to let them wonder if you suck than to send in your work and remove all doubt” axiom. But over time, I’ve grown to embrace feedback as part of the process. I’m just about ready to start submitting. Maybe as soon as this fall.

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