Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Confessions of a (Reformed) Contest Avoider

I admit it. I was in avoidance mode. I hadn’t had much luck with contests when I went a few rounds some fifteen years ago. More recently, some of my very talented peers had met with disappointment and frustration at their contest results which only reinforced my negativism.

Contests are a big waste of time, energy, and money, I decided. My time is much better spent on writing, editing and revising my work than messing around with silly contests.

Then I took a workshop from editorial consultant Marcela Landres at the University of New Mexico Writers Conference. She shed new light on the whole contest scenario. Ms. Landres proposes that today it isn’t just non-fiction writers who need a platform, so do those who write fiction. So how do you go about building a platform if you write fiction? I mean, you can’t very well be an expert on free-range plasma conversion drive systems, despite the fact you may write about them. So how do you do it?

Several ways. By having an online presence. By building a reputation through the media, speaking engagements or conducting workshops. And by entering writing contests.

Huh? I thought. Contests? Those frivolous time-wasters?

Yes, contests.


Several reaons, but first of all, there’s one big advantage for those who may be too timid to subject their “babies” to this test. Consider this. Nobody knows if you don’t do well, but you can tell the whole world when you score. Winning a contest allows you to write those magic words “award winning manuscript” in your query letters and to shout it out on your website (some even give you fancy banners to shout it out for you with custom logos) and list it among your accomplishments. If you are a finalist (usually the top three), your work may just end up in front of your dream editor or agent to judge, and sometimes they even request the manuscript. Nice little shortcut to the top of the stack, wouldn't you say?

That’s the icing, but there’s another huge value in entering contests. The feedback. Good solid advice from those who are either industry professionals, published authors or trained how to provide feedback to their peers. In other words you have the advantage of that elusive property that so many writers value….fresh eyes!

So there’s my spot of advice for today. If you’re an aspiring author, enter contests. (If you took my spot of advice earlier and joined RWA, you’ll find a host of chapter contests posted on their website in chronological order.) It could just pay off handsomely. :)


  1. Great post, Laurie. I would also add there's nothing quite like that feeling of jumping completely out of your frakking skin every time the phone rings on the day finalists are announced. :]

  2. LOL Oh, yes, I know that feeling well. Especially lately. :)


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