I want to be a writer when I grow up. To that end I’ve done a lot of new things: I’m writing, of course. I also took classes, started a blog, read a lot of books, participated in critique groups, did some public speaking, took a research trip, and in November I entered a contest. It was a short story contest for my state affiliate writing group to encourage participation in the state writing competitions. Since it was a 500-word story, I thought I’d try it. 500 words and they give you the line it must start with – no sweat.
Oh, you naive thing, you.
I brainstormed and got four rough ideas for a story. Which to choose? I ended up working on three of them. It’s hard to write a limited amount of words and still convey what you want. I invested a lot of work and finished before the deadline. It cost $5 per story to enter. After I finished, the debate began.
Self: “I don’t think these are very good.”
Self: “I think they’re pretty good.”
“It’s waste of money.”
“But you might get more money.”
“No, I’m just going to embarrass myself.”
“It’s good writing.”
“But not good enough.”
“You can do this.”
“A professional is going to read this and laugh.”
“You’ll never know if you don’t submit.”
Even after getting good feedback from family and writer friends, I was hesitant. The final argument in the self-debate put me over: “If you don’t believe in yourself no one will.” So I wrote the check and sent in all three stories.
A month later the contest winners were announced. Out of nearly 30 entries, one of my stories won Honorable Mention. And no one was more shocked and thrilled than I when one of my three stories won Second Place! My prizes included a certificate and $40. So I got a little return on my monetary investment, but I got a big return by shrinking my inner critic/Resistance.
What I found most valuable were the scoring pages that were returned with my stories. I learned more about my strengths and weaknesses as a writer. Now, does this mean I’m over it and can submit anything anywhere? No, I’m currently working on a contest story and having some of the same internal conversations. But I will push through and submit. My goal is to submit to five contests this year.
Every writer should try a writing competition of some type. There are several benefits in my opinion:
- confidence booster
- work with a deadline
- makes you push past fear and Resistance
- professional feedback
- wake up call to shore up writing weaknesses
Thinking about entering a writing contest? Here’s some good information to help:
Read Jody Hedlund’s Why Bother With Writing Contests?
Want to find a contest to enter?
Check out Just A Contest that keeps a large listing of legitimate contests.
If you want to get your toes wet with a friendly no-stress writing contest, go check out my friend Sandy’s blog Ars Longa Vita Brevis where she is running a short story contest through January 31st. $25 gift card to Amazon or Barnes and Noble is the prize.
Question: Have you ever entered a writing contest? What was your experience? Would you try again?