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UPDATED: 2011-12 Writing Competitions, and why new writers should enter

Updated on June 28, 2011

A New Writer Helping Other New Writers

2011-12 Writing Competitions- Why New Writers Should Join Writing Contests

This article has been updated for 2011-12

It's difficult to be a new writer. We need to find agents to represent us, publishers to publish us, readers to read our work. Unfortunately, aside from our completed manuscript and plain gumption, we don't have much to show the people we need to impress. We need every little thing that can show agents and editors that we're serious about our writing, committed to investing time, energy, and even money into it, and that other disinterested people have shown they like our work.

And that's why this article is all about entering writing contests, where to find these competitions, and what the ideal competition would be like.

Here are the Top Four reasons why new writers should join competitions:

Reason #4 Entering writing competitions gives newbie writers like me a concrete goal to aim for. Many of us find we're writing only when we feel like it, or only when our kids will leave us in peace, or when work is not unduly stressful. To stay on track on that 100,000-word novel you're writing, it helps to have a deadline and specific targets. Just look at NaNoWriMo, which every year gets writers from around the world to write 50,000 words in just a month! And in November, at that, when many of us are busy thinking about the holidays or rushing to finish work that we don't want to still be sitting on our desks in January!

Reason #3 It can only add to our street cred. We're unpublished, so what can we put in our query letter that might convince the agent that we're serious about our writing and that others have appreciated our work? Surely seeing that we've been appreciated by competition judges can only be a good thing.

Reason #2 It's a great way to ease into the difficult thing of learning to accept rejection. After all, once can accept that one can lose a competition knowing hundreds or even thousands of writers are also joining, then losing to those who really just wrote better entries. It's much harder to handle an agent's or editor's rejection letter; it's just much more personal. But on the other hand, losing competitions isn't easy, either. Think of all the effort you had put into your submission, getting it into contest-ready form, waiting all those weeks for news, then losing. And worse, you probably paid an entry fee to join, and the money's gone... forever. Learning to cope with losing in competitions helps writers to prepare for the rejection letters to come. And if you do win competitions, then that's even better preparation for getting "The Call" when you submit that query letter that proudly mentions your triumph.

And the Number One Reason for joining writing competitions is... that you might actually win! And cash prize or publication award aside, wouldn't that be a great validation of all your efforts? That maybe, writing isn't such a meaningless activity to be done on the side, and that it might actually be... rewarding.

OK, so it may be a good idea to start joining contests. But where to start? Which contests?

The ideal writing competition

The ideal competition is free or has a very minimal entry fee (say, $10 or less), includes a critique or editing or at least some feedback on your entry, and an opportunity to be published, or to get an agent or an editor.

There are a number of competitions that come close to this ideal. Harlequin just concluded one, but that's only an ideal competition for writers of series romance novels. If you're into fantasy, then it's not so ideal at all. Recently, the Dundee International Book Prize and the Cinnamon Press Writing Awards both closed on the 30th of November. Both contests award publication to the winner, but Cinnamon Press has an entry fee, while Dundee was free to enter.

Things to remember...

Be careful, though, that you're not overeager about joining contests, even when they're free. For one thing, simultaneous submissions may be prohibited, so make sure you enter the one you really want to win, rather than the one closing earlier. And like many other opportunities in life, some contests may simply be scams. Take a look at the previous winners of the competition, and see how many have gotten their winning entry published. Also see how the entry fee compares to the prize. And finally, look at some sites that specifically warn against scams, such as the Science Fiction Writers of America site. There are also lots of information on how to avoid getting scammed, like this Suite101 article on how to avoid scams.

Looking for a competition to get started?Here are some
Competitions for New Writers

Disclaimer: I accept no liability for the contents of this listing or for the contests themselves. Please ensure you examine the legitimacy and check the accuracy of the deadlines and other details of a competition before entering. Please note that these contests may have entry fees which may or may not be reasonable, given the prize or award. Also check your eligibility (e.g. age, residency) to join.

Below is a list of current writing competitions for unpublished writers and/or unpublished novels. Please click on each link for details.

Chapter One Promotions Wednesday 29th February 2012
Red Telephone Novel Competition Deadline 31st December 2011
Discovering the Undiscovered: Novel and Memoir Competition Check in November for contest opening for 2012

Comprehensive Competition Lists

If you're interested in more comprehensive listings of contests (from around the globe) that include short story, poetry and flash fiction contests, below are my personal favourites of contest lists:

Sally Quilford's Writing Calendar
UK Writing Competitions
The Australian Writers' Marketplace
Funds for Writers
Creative Writing Contests
Australian Writing Opportunities

So start clicking on the links above and see for yourself what's out there.

Good luck on all your writing, and I hope you'll start entering- and winning- writing contests soon!

Follow me on Twitter or visit my website

N.B. This article first appeared on my blog "dreams pass into reality..." at

(c) 2009-2011


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