Shelley Widhalm

Tips for Entering Writing Contests

In 52: A Writer's Life, Shelley Widhalm, Writing, Writing Contests on December 22, 2013 at 11:00 am

I gleaned a few tips for entering writing contests from articles I’ve clipped, conversations with writer friends and personal experience.

Most important when entering a writing contest is to only show your best work and work that has been polished.

Be selective on which contests you enter and enter those where winning guarantees publication in a reputable journal. Avoid contests that only consider winning entries for publication and contests that lack a website or mailing address.

Winning a writing contest or getting a story or poem published demonstrates to literary agents or publishers that someone other than family and friends sees merit in your work. It gives you an accolade to mention in any query letters you submit to literary agents for longer work. Plus, it gives you a shot of confidence to know that your hard work is acknowledged.

Before entering a writing contest, it’s important to:

• Get a sense of the taste and style of the magazine or journal.
• Follow the contest guidelines, themes and rules for entering.
• Research the final judge and read his or her work.
• Avoid entering simultaneous submissions; save them for non-contest entries.
• Keep track of your submissions on a spreadsheet, including contest name, entry date and deadline, title of the work and the entry fee, if required.
• Submit early and, if allowed, often.
• Avoid contests with large entry fees and low payouts to the winners.

Most of all, remember that contests are one of many paths to publication. Submitting to a journal or magazine during regular submission periods also can earn you those publication credits.

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