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