Top Five Friday: Writing Contest Tips

Today’s prompt: Thoughts on writing contests.

Um, hello! I think they’re awesome. Of course, I might be a tiny bit biased, seeing as I won one from Ellechor Publishing House.

With that being said, I would offer up a bit of advice for those of you thinking of entering a contest. And, I’d offer up the advice to take this advice with a hearty grain of salt – because, I’ve only ever entered one contest, and it worked out pretty well for me.

So here are my top five tips if you are thinking of entering a writing contest:

1. Observe the conditions and rules of the contest and follow them.
This should be a given. If the rules say you have to submit your work between the hours of midnight and three a.m. on an odd-numbered day, then do it. If the rules say your work should be between 2,500 and 5,000 words, make sure your word count falls between those two numbers. Whatever the rule is, follow it.

2. Do some research into the contest.
You want to make sure you’re actually entering a contest and not some vanity press lure (not that there’s really anything wrong with vanity presses; they are a way to ensure you writing will be published. But. You might not want to enter something that you could probably “win” anyway. Make sense?) Check out past winners of the contest (if applicable) and their work. Is it “out” there readily able to find? Can you find evidence there was such a contest?

3. Another research tip: look into the company holding the contest.
Is it legit? Is it real? What claims does it have on its website, and can you find evidence to back up said claims? Even fledgling companies should have some substance to them. Think: ways to connect with the company, a tangible/physical address, links to books and/or authors published.

4. Make sure your work is ready.
Now me, I found Ellechor’s Avant-Garde Manuscript Contest through a Google search and used its deadline for entries as a means to spur me to complete my book. I’ve always found I work best with a due-by date in mind; if you leave something open-ended, I tend to keep saying, “Someday I’ll finish that bad boy.” With that being said, could my work have been polished more? Heck, yeah! So – if you have the time before the contest deadline, go over your work. And over it. And over it again. And another five times for good measure. Which brings me to my last tip . . .

5. Have someone trustworthy read your work, and maybe re-read it.
Find someone who will actually read it and not be afraid to point out what works, what doesn’t, etc. You don’t want someone who will read it and declare it the best piece since The Great Gatsby, (as much as that would be wonderful to hear); but you do want a sharp second set of eyes to crawl all over your work and point out the things your own eyes have glossed over (and, trust me, your eyes will gloss over plenty).

What tips do you think should have made this list? Or – what are your thoughts on writing contests?

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