DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME ENTERING WRITING CONTESTS!
DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME ENTERING ENDLESS WRITING CONTESTS!
"OH, THAT SOUNDS SO NEGATIVE!" I can hear you shout.
Yes, I know.
"YOU'RE JUST SAYING THAT TO SCARE AWAY THE COMPETITION!"
No....honestly, I have your best interests at heart.
Listen to me! There are SO MANY people out there who want to TAKE ADVANTAGE of your desire to be a writer...along with your desire to win contests and MONEY!
Preditors. Sneaky, under-handed, finding-a-way-to-beat-the-system preditors. They abound on the Internet. And they love to target money hungry eager-to-be-discovered writers, like YOURSELF!
Listen to this story. I entered the Poetry for Millions contest, currently running online. They offer a $1000 FIRST PRIZE...NO ENTRY FEE...how great is that, I thought. Nothing to lose. Okay! I'll enter!
So I shoot off one of my poems to them. A few weeks later, I receive a letter in the mailbox. I see the return address.
POETRY FOR MILLIONS?
I get all excited inside.
NO! IT CAN'T BE!
If I had stopped allowing my emotions to take over for a moment, I would have realized the envelope looked like the result of a mass mailing.
NEVER MIND LOGIC! I am only thinking thoughts about WINNING, $1000, and WOW!
I tear open the envelope. There's my name...what's it saying? Out of thousands of entries MY poem has been selected....semi- finalists...chance for grand prize....
Now my emotions are sky-rocketing.
NO WAY! I'm thinking. My poem wasn't THAT good...WAS it?
Maybe it was better than I thought. THEY'RE EVEN GOING TO PUBLISH IT!
This is SO EXCITING! I race in to my husband, shouting the news.
"Are you sure it's legit?" he asks, always the pessimist.
"YES! YES!" I scream, waving another piece of paper in front of him. "THIS IS THE PROOF! I HAVE TO INITIAL IT AND SEND IT BACK! PLUS THEY WANT ME TO WRITE A 100 WORD BIOGRAPHY TO INCLUDE WITH MY POEM WHEN THEY PUBLISH IT IN THEIR BOOK!"
After the initial excitement passes, I read through the rest of the letter. I am informed that they want to publish my poem in their beautifully bound book...which is being sold for a mere $50...I am under NO obligation to purchase the book, of course...and NOT purchasing the book will NOT deter the judges in any way when judging my poem for the contest...oh...and if I would like my 100 word biography included in their beautifully bound book, it will cost me an additional $25.....
Suddenly, I feel deflated. Duped. Dumb. I am yet another aspiring writer who is here to be taken advantage of. Of course they assume EVERYONE will want to purchase a beautifully bound collection of poetry that THEIR POEM is featured in...along with a personal biography, as though they are a real honest-to-goodness writer...
These people aren't doing anything illegal...and they probably make lots and lots of money...enough to give away some cash prizes. So it's a win/win situation, right? Wrong. Because I now feel like an absolute idiot!
I have entered many writing writing contests...Science fiction, poetry, flash fiction...entering contests can start to consume you. You want to win...you MUST win...originally, it starts out as a fun idea...maybe make a little extra cash....hoping you can win so it will look good on your "writing resume" and give your ego a shot of adrenaline. Then it becomes a maddening obsession. You endlessly try to track down "Writing Contests" in your Google search.
I'm not telling you to stop writing...or even to stop entering contests. Just do NOT allow your ego to get tied up in it....don't allow it to "take over" - thus preventing and distracting you from working on more "real life" goals, such as sending a manuscript into a magazine or publisher...finding an agent, etc...
Granted, it's easy to allow yourself to become distracted from these goals, since they are scary and involve possible rejection. Writing contests are a good way to "procrastinate" real life scariness...and just sort of hide out in the world of magical contests. Don't let that happen! It's a road to nowhere.
If you are going to enter an online contest, you should first of all, make sure it's legitimate. Writer's Digest is one such legitimate contest that - if you win - will truly look impressive on a writing resume. Suzie's Writing Corner.com? Not so impressive! Also, of course Hub-pages offers legitimate writing contests, as well.
Be aware, though, that many writing contests are just glorified popularity contests. The person with the most online friends will win...even if their writing stinks.
Other sites are unscrupulous...charging entry fees for contests (NEVER pay an entry fee...unless the contest is sponsored by a well known reputable company such as Writer's Digest)...these unscrupulous people never really award any prizes...there again,hoping to take advantage of aspiring writers and people who are eager to win money.
Check out the site Preditors and Editors, if a contest sounds suspicious.