Writing Competitions: Knocking on the Door

Fall is a time when many writing competitions announce finalists and winners. So, in light of any upcoming announcements, I’d like to consider the world of writing competitions.

The Heavy Door

The entry barriers to gain notoriety and find a way to make a living as a writer can often be rather high. It is not easy to convince others that your writing is worth their reading time when you are an unknown. Of course, there are other doors to knock on.

Enter the world of writing competitions. Most writing competitions offer a low entry barrier for the aspiring writer. Usually to enter, all you need to do is pay the fee. This means anybody with a few spare dollars and a piece of writing can throw their name in the hat.

While some may see this low barrier as problematic, I consider this a wonderful opportunity. Writing competitions provide an open lottery for the hopeful writers of this world, myself included. However…

Is it worth it?

That is the big question when talking about writing competitions, are they worth it? The best I can say – maybe.

It’s important to enter the right competitions. Make sure they’re worth those entry fees because at thirty to fifty dollars a pop the price can quickly cut into your rent.

While my own personal experience has only been with screenwriting competitions, I imagine things are similar in other types of writing competitions.

Of my experience, I have advanced past the first round in more than one writing competition. This current year, I’m still holding out on several up coming announcements. I am not, however, holding out with a hope to win.

Why Not Hope to Win?

Winning a writing competition does not guarantee any great success or career in your future. I have heard some people think it might automatically change your whole life. However, the evidence is to the contrary.

Go look at the history of any major writing competition and scan the list of winners. How many have you ever heard of? My guess is probably not too many.

Plus, winning a writing competition is extremely difficult. Some even say it is more difficult to win a major competition, which are the ones to enter, than it is to sell your work. Here, an experienced judge tells how hard it is to win.

It is not likely that you’ll win a competition. Even if you do, winning is not a magic path to writer stardom. That is why I’m not wasting my time hoping to win.

I would rather spend my time writing. Then, I think the best tactic is to use any forward placement in a competition as leverage to convince others that it is worth their time to read your material. If you have a body of work to back up your quarter finalist or second round qualifying piece, then you’ll probably be on a stronger path to a writing career.

At least, that’s my inexperienced plan.

-Zac

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