Writers often wonder whether entering writing contests are worth the time, effort, and money. I can't tell you what you should do, but I can share some of the pros and cons of doing it. There are many contests out there, some more legitimate than others, and some with some very strict rules you need to follow.
There are four main points you should consider when thinking about entering a contest:
* Is it in a genre I want to write?
* What is the cost to enter (if any)?
* What prize will I win?
* Would I be proud to list it in my writing credits if I won?
This is the best way to start considering the pros and cons of entering any contest in particular, but here are some of the pros and cons in general.
1. Making you write to a deadline
There’s no time to waste, so the deadline can help you get more done.
2. Stretching you as a writer
The topics and themes can often be interesting and make you try new things.
3. Increase your prestige
There are a lot of writers out there. Winning a prize in a contest can help you establish credibility as an author.
4. Money and other rewards
It’s always nice to be paid for your work. Plus, even if you don’t win cash, you might have the kernel of an idea you can expand on or use in a full-length work.
5. Getting a publishing credit
If the winners are printed, there is nothing quite like the buzz of seeing your name on the page.
6. Having the chance to submit multiple entries
If you really love the topic and can think of all sorts of ways to go with it, a contest that allows multiple entries allows you to write what you love, plus have more chances of winning.
1. Some really are cons
Watch the fees. They can really all start adding up if you are not careful, with little to show for your efforts.
2. Exclusive submission requirements
Some contests insist that you can’t submit your work anywhere else during the contest, or sometimes even if you win a prize. You should always maintain your rights over your own work whenever possible, and not tie it up for weeks or months on the off-chance you might win.
3. Less than prestigious contests
Some contests are recognized in the writing world, while others are more interested in grabbing your fee. Do your due diligence before writing a single word or paying a penny.
4. Too many rules and regulations
It can be really frustrating to find a contest with a topic you would love to write about, only to discover that for some reason you don’t meet the eligibility requirements. Read the fine print before writing a word. But if the topic really excites you, write it for yourself anyway. Anything that gets the creative juices flowing is always a good thing.
5. Too much formatting, copying or other picky requirements
If the rules about formatting are more than a couple of paragraphs long, skip it. You’re supposed to be judged on your ability as a writer, not a typist/word processor.
Herb is an author, speaker, retired college professor, and retired Army Reserve chaplain living in South Florida.
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