Writing Contests – To Enter or Not to Enter, That is the Question

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Introduction

I have read several hubs on the pros and cons of entering writing contests. Some have had exceptionally sound advice, while others are simply the result of disappointment and resentment.

I am fairly new to the Writing Contest scene, so my experiences may not be relevant to those sages who have been submitting, with or without success, for some time. I am simply going to share what I have learned, through experience and research.


1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK

If a contest sounds too good to be true, it is! Spend the time to research these, so-called publishers, to find out if they are a reputable and legitimate business. Google them, use the HubPages search engine to see if any other Hubbers have had any dealings with them, good or bad. Check them out at the BBB, (Better Business Bureau).

Some publishers require a submission fee for each submission, many do not. This is where you need to do your homework. The best place to find a listing of legitimate publishers looking for submissions is Poets & Writers magazine. It comes out every two months and has a listing in each publication of every contest, dates, submission requirements and contact information.

All it will cost you is some time and effort, but it will save you from the “many” unscrupulous people out there that make a career out of ripping people off.

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2. PUT FORTH YOUR BEST WORK

I have read, on HubPages and other sites, some extremely well written publications and some decidedly poorly written ones. A submission to anything, be it a blog, hub, or competition, will only be read and taken seriously if the grammar, punctuation and spelling are correct. If I start reading a piece and the spelling is atrocious, the punctuation is nonexistent or the grammar is glaringly bad, I’m done. I’ll click off of the item at the first sign of a poorly written article, story or blog.

Now I am not a professional writer, not yet anyway, and I make my share of errors, but I have learned the hard way to make sure my writing is as error free and polished as it can be, before I publish it.

My secret is no big secret. After I write my first draft, I print it off and read it on paper. It is astonishing how many mistakes I find when I do that. I correct those mistakes and then run the item through a program called “Grammarly.” (See the links below) This is a program that I highly recommend. It can be down loaded to your computer and will check for spelling, grammar, plagiarism and even suggest alternative words. There is a charge for the program, but I think it is well worth it. Not only has it corrected many of my blunders, but I’ve learned a lot about grammar that I had either forgotten or didn’t know.

You would think at this point I would be finished and ready to publish. Not so, I have two proof readers who read each item and make their suggestions and corrections. After they are done, I run it through Grammarly once more, then print it out and read through it – one more time. If I am satisfied with the product at this point, I submit it. Even this article will go through this same scrutiny.

One of my mother’s sayings is, “If you’re going to do something, do it right or don’t do it at all.” I think that some people just slam up Hubs for the sheer numbers and provide little or no regard to the quality.


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3. GROW SOME VERY THICK SKIN

Writing is an art, and all art is subjective. Not everyone is going to like what you write. What you submit to one competition may find itself in the circular file, while another may be the one that has your submission in the top 10. What is the difference? The judges who read everything subjectively just like the rest of us. Every writer has his / her loyal followers who will read anything they write, and then the rest of the world has no interest in them at all.

The most important thing is, DO NOT give up. J. K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, was turned down by 12 publishers before her submission was accepted. How do you think publisher number one feels today?

The author of The Help, a recently released movie, was turned down 60 times before a publisher accepted her submission.

That’s tenacity and determination, or something my mother used to call “sticktoittivness.”

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4. A HOBBY OR A PASSION?

Is your writing a hobby or passion? Is your desire to submit Hubs for the sheer fun of it and make a few bucks on the side, or are you on a mission to submit your work to legitimate competitions in hopes of taking your talent to the next level?

If it is solely your hobby, have fun and keep up the good work.

If it is your passion, follow these rules of writing that I have been working on for the past few years.

• Write something, anything, every day.

• Read something, anything, every day.

• Always write to get better; challenge yourself, and learn from your mistakes.

There is a gold mine of books, magazines, and blogs that teach the serious writer how to write. Use them. Two of my favorite periodicals specifically for writers are:

Writer’s Digest and Poets & Writers

It is worth the expense to subscribe to these magazines. Visit the magazine section in your local bookstore, there are many other literary publications, such as Glimmer Train that publish articles written by up-and-coming writers. I like to read the articles and stories in these publications just to see how other writers write, and what contest judges look for.

Of course, there is always the possibility of becoming a writer the traditional way; go to school. Check out your local colleges and universities to see what they offer, and in today’s on-line society, there is a plethora of online colleges and writing courses to choose from.

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5. THE BEST ADVICE I EVER READ

When I first decided to pursue writing seriously, I went to the local book store and purchased several books on how to write. I sat down with my treasure trove of scholarly knowledge like a starving child with a bowl of food. I opened the first book and gobbled down the first paragraph which started with this statement. “So you want to be a writer and make a lot of money,” it went on to add, “Change professions.”

I will always remember that advice, but I will continue to write. I am a full-time professional who writes, not as a hobby, but as my passion. My desire is to improve my ability every time I write, and perhaps one day I will see my name on the best sellers list in my local book store.

So to answer the question – To Enter or Not to Enter – my answer is, Enter, and continue Entering. Never give up; never give in to disappointment or discouragement. If you are serious about writing, KEEP WRITING!

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Comments 18 comments

flagostomos profile image

flagostomos 5 years ago from Washington, United States

Hehe, unfortunately that's true about writers and money. I remember being a kid and I would write a million stupid stories just because it was a creative outlet that I enjoyed doing.


miss_jkim profile image

miss_jkim 5 years ago Author

flagostomos,

I think all writers start out by writing anything and everything as a creative outlet. The hard part is honing the skill and turning them into works of art.

Thank you for the comment.


Annie67 profile image

Annie67 5 years ago from Southern California

Very good information. Of course if you want to be a writer some of what you wrote we all have most likely looked into. However with that said, I must say...Hubpages is a great place to continue to find the information that you may not have thought about. Thank you, you had some greet tips


i scribble profile image

i scribble 5 years ago

I just hopped about 200 Hubs (some were repeats)and this is the only one that I stopped to read. Nicely written. I will now follow you, and check out your profile. Sort of sounds like stalking, doesn't it?


QudsiaP1 profile image

QudsiaP1 5 years ago

This was a very well written hub and you have definitely written excellent points for consideration.


flagostomos profile image

flagostomos 5 years ago from Washington, United States

I actually just today received an email from a writing contest I entered.. and like every other time I get a generic rejection letter and no feedback. I'm beginning to wonder if they just take your entrance fee and do nothing after that.


KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

You have some terrific advice. I found out a long time ago that if you don't write for the love of writing and are writing to make mega bucks, you will be very dissapointed. Rated up and interesting.


miss_jkim profile image

miss_jkim 5 years ago Author

Thank you for the read annie67. When I joined HubPages, my main goal was as a form of peer review. I've gotten a lot of compliments, which I appreciate, but very little constructive criticism, which I'm sure I need more. The compliments have encouraged me to continue to create Hubs and just keep improving. You are correct in saying there are a lot of Hubs published by some great hubbers that give excellent writing tips.


miss_jkim profile image

miss_jkim 5 years ago Author

Wow i scribble, I am quite honored to know that out of so many hubs, mine was the only one you read through. Thank you for such high praises, feel free to stalk and give me all the feedback you want.

Thank you QudsiaP1 for the read and the comment

flagostomos, I am truly sorry for the rejection letter. At least your received some form of contact. If the email you received gave any explanation for the rejection, use it as a foundation to build corrections. Then, submit, submit and submit again! One thing I have done with the Writer’s Digest short story contest is to order the book that is offered with the top 25 winners. The cost was $10.00 and I studied the winning entries in an effort to get a feel for what they are looking for. I have already submitted my next short story for competition. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Another suggestion is to submit your writings to local competitions. Even if there is no financial award if you win, a certificate to add to your writing portfolio is good for future submissions, perhaps to a literary agent!

So true KoffeeKlatch Gals. Writing must always be done for the love of it, otherwise, all you have is words on paper.


flagostomos profile image

flagostomos 5 years ago from Washington, United States

Hmm, good tips. Let us know how your last entry fares!


miss_jkim profile image

miss_jkim 5 years ago Author

Will do, thanks.


Sueswan 5 years ago

Very useful and informative.

I can see your name on the best sellers list one day.


miss_jkim profile image

miss_jkim 5 years ago Author

Thank you Sueswan, I hope you are right.


epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

....it's a really nice feeling to hook up again with you my friend and to go over some of your fine hub subjects.

This is a very engaging piece of writing on the many facts most of us don't necessarily think about - and this hub and your effort put into it - should win, ironically, a writing contest all of its own.

So good to see and read you again - I sincerely hope you've had a safe happy and productive summer.

lake erie time ontario canada 11:58pm on a stormy windy rainy night here by the lake


miss_jkim profile image

miss_jkim 5 years ago Author

Thank you for stopping by epigramman, and for such kind comments. My summer has been very hot and dry, but I've managed to stay inside where it's cool. Unfortunately, I've had to direct my "artistic" abilities toward painting and remodeling a few rooms in the house, so my writing has been somewhat diminished.

I'm looking forward to getting back to the keyboard and away from the paint cans. A short summer trip has given me some new experiences to write about. So, stay tuned!

What a great opening sentence you have written, “on a stormy windy rainy night here by the lake,” I look forward to reading what follows!


epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

....well it passed my friend and here I write to you on a warm clear dry sunny day at lake erie time 11:44am on a Thursday but last night I had to cancel work because of a tornado warning here and my roof is leaking badly so with the high winds and the heavy rains there was a lot of excitement but it all finally calmed down by 5:00 am and as they say this is the calm AFTER the storm ....and now we are having a stretch of dry clear weather and why not - because summer is almost over.

Good to hear that you were very productive this summer and in good health and spirits - I will look forward to hooking up with you more in the fall.


miss_jkim profile image

miss_jkim 5 years ago Author

Oh My! So glad you were spared any further damage, and hope the dog days of summer are more enjoyable for you.


mathira profile image

mathira 4 years ago from chennai

Question answered.

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