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Simple Tips for Entering and Winning Essay Contests and Other Writing Contests

Updated on May 6, 2018
Cyndi10 profile image

Cynthia researches and writes about a variety of topics including travel, family, business, gardening, beauty, and health & wellness.

Why Enter Essay and Other Writing Contests

Entering essay contests is one of the many ways a freelance writer can add a substantial amount of money to your coffers or provide other interesting prizes and there are plenty of writing contests spread among the genres to share among the writers. For those writers who are also photographers, there are also writing contests with a photography component to to them. There are tips for entering and winning the essay, poetry, fiction, or other writing contest.


Some writing contests are absolutely free and require nothing more from you than your entry. Others require you to pay a fee to enter or you sign on as a member or subscriber to their product, usually an email subscription. Of course, free should always be considered because it is easy on the bank account. Fee based contests can become expensive, defeating your purpose for entering in the first place. They should be considered carefully for their legitimacy and for the benefits of the return.


Knowing which contest to enter is just the beginning. There are also the sweepstakes writing contests. These contests are usually not judging the writing itself, but instead draw a winner at random from a pool of entrants. That does not mean your writing should not be good, however, because the winning entries may be published in some way. One of the great things about entering a writing contest that has a sweepstakes component is that many times there are fewer entrants because so many individuals are intimidated by the word "writing."


Elements of Writing a Good Essay

Tips for Entering Essay and Other Writing Contests

The following are a few things to keep in mind as you submit to essay contests or other types of writing contests:

  1. Read the rules carefully and follow them. It is a good idea to print or bookmark the rules so that you can refer to them often, especially before submitting your entry. Some contests are looking for unpublished writers and others accept both. Additionally, some contests, especially essay contests, are for asking from entries from specific types of writers, such as high school students, graduate students, or transgender writers. The rules will tell you this. You wouldn't want to be disqualified because you overlooked a requirement or stipulation.
  2. Establish who owns the rights to your work once you submit and/or once you win. If it's not mentioned in the rules, ask. This may determine whether you enter a particular contest or move on to another.
  3. Know the prize. Money is not aways the the prize. There may be some other reward you are interested in and prizes can run the gamut from free subscriptions for popular writing magazines to free critiques of your work. One of the more novel rewards I've run across was in a haiku contest which gave a Tiffany diamond ring as the top prize. In addition, the winning haiku was to be tattooed on the arm of one of the contest judges. Interesting.
  4. Pay attention to the word count. This is a part of the rules that may be easy to overlook, but rest assured the judges will not. If your word count does not fit the requirements, you will be automatically eliminated from the contest.
  5. Some writing contests require you to become members or subscribers before you can even enter the contest. Determine whether this is a service, subscription or membership that is of value to you. Providing your information when you enter the essay contest or writing contest may mean you will begin to receive regular (maybe, too regular) emails and offers for their products and services. Hubpages offers wonderful contests with great prizes. It is an example of becoming a member of the writing community before you are able to enter.
  6. Ask for the winners list if it's not automatically accessible on the contest site. This may give you an opportunity to review the writing of the previous winners. This won't necessarily mean the type of writing chosen is what the judges are looking for this go round, but it does show the quality of work that has won in the past.
  7. Never pay for lists of essay contests or any other writing contests. There are many sources online available for ferreting out good writing contests. When googling free writing contests, the list is long. Some of the sites will list free sites others, give free information, but require you to pay to enter the contest.
  8. Review the judges. They are almost always writers. If you are familiar with their work, it may give you an indication of what they will look for in writing style. If you are not familiar, it is worthwhile for you to review their work.
  9. If you enter, take the writing contest seriously. Edit and rewrite as you would for any other submission. After all, if you win, you want this to be a representation of your craft and your abilities.
  10. Maintain a list of all the contests that you enter and track their results. This will help with entering future contests. It may also be helpful when preparing your taxes.


Track the results of the writing contests you enter.
Track the results of the writing contests you enter. | Source

While free is almost always the most desirable, if you have discovered a writing contest that requires a small fee, if it interests you and you have determined that it is a legitimate contest, by all means don't ignore it. This is especially true if 1) you like the prize offers, 2) the fee is small enough, and 3) the writing contest is in one of your strengths. Poets and Writers has an excellent list of writing contests in nearly all genres. They can be found here.


There are various ways to make money as a writer and one of the ways can be entering essay contests and other types of writing contests. While it's true there is no guarantee that your entry will win, not entering is a sure way not to win. Who knows? Your essay, short story, poem, or novel synopsis may be just what the judges are looking for.

© 2012 Cynthia B Turner

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    • Cyndi10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia B Turner 

      5 years ago from Georgia

      Hello Kathryn, I think writing contests can be an excellent way to add to the bank account. It takes some research to find the right contests.

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment and good luck with your contest entries.

    • Cyndi10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia B Turner 

      5 years ago from Georgia

      Hello Stephanie, One thing to look for that will often indicate the entrant numbers might be low is an extension of the deadline. I saw one out of Eatonton, Georgia that has an extended deadline.

      Good luck!

    • Cyndi10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia B Turner 

      5 years ago from Georgia

      Hi Suzie, Glad if I offered any useful tips. I hope you have great luck with the writing contests. You certainly have the talent to win. I'm rooting for you.

      Take care.

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 

      5 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      These are solid tips for entering a writing contest. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 

      5 years ago from New Jersey

      Very good advice. I hope to win a writing based contest at some point. Maybe I will find one of those contests with very few entrants to increase my chances.

    • Suzie HQ profile image

      Suzanne Ridgeway 

      5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Cyndi,

      Great tips and love the interesting prize you found in the form of Tiffany ring and tattooed haiku winner on a judge! Seriously different! LOL

      Love to enter something at some stage so these will come in handy, thanks for the share!Voted up, interesting, useful & shared!

    • Cyndi10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia B Turner 

      5 years ago from Georgia

      Hi there. Thanks for the vote up. There could be "gold" in some of those contests. As I mentioned, some have very few entrants and that alone makes you possibility of winning pretty good, especially since you have the skills.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      5 years ago from USA

      I haven't entered into any contests, but the idea does seem very intriguing. The only one I have won is the HubPages contest, and that was for a random drawing. I will have to add this to my repertoire of ways to make money. Thanks for all this great advice. Voted up.

    • Cyndi10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia B Turner 

      6 years ago from Georgia

      Go for it. Win! Thanks for commenting.

    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 

      6 years ago from Asheville, NC

      You've got me inspired. Great Hub - thanks.

    • Cyndi10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia B Turner 

      6 years ago from Georgia

      Contests can be fun and sometimes can provide topics for you to write about if you are stuck. As long as you aren't paying for the entry, give it a try. Thanks for the comment and votes.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      It looks like I'm the only one here who's never entered a writing contest! After reading this informative hub I think that's just what I'll do. You've provided information that ensures success in entering.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • Cyndi10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia B Turner 

      6 years ago from Georgia

      Hi Nell Rose, It could get very expensive to enter the number of contests that are available with fees. Just think, 5 contests at $20.00 each would be $100.00. Free is always better :-) Congrats on that long ago poetry contest. Just proves you are a winner. But we know that. Thanks so much for the comment.

    • Cyndi10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia B Turner 

      6 years ago from Georgia

      Hi Vinaya, I am certain you will win at some point because of the talent you have. I've entered some contests that I thought I would win, but did not. Just a matter of diligence. Good luck to you, on your submissions and thanks so much for your comments.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      6 years ago from England

      I haven't entered a competion for a long while, I did win a poetry competion back in the 90s and that was great! and yes it was free to enter, great info, nell

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      6 years ago from England

      I haven't entered a competion for a long while, I did win a poetry competion back in the 90s and that was great! and yes it was free to enter, great info, nell

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      6 years ago from Nepal

      Cyndi, I have submitted my works in many writing contests, but never found luck. Once I was a member of author stand, and entered writing contests many times. However, rejections do not discourage me. Recently I have submitted my poems in yet another contest.

      Thanks for your tips.

    • Cyndi10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia B Turner 

      6 years ago from Georgia

      I like contests and you are so right, a contest is a good motivator to sit down and write, often giving the focus for your writing. Thanks for leaving a comment.

    • Robert Erich profile image

      Robert Erich 

      6 years ago from California

      A fellow contest enthusiast! Writing for potential prizes is always a win-win situation. Even if you don't win the prize, it has at least motivated you to sit down and write a quality piece of work. You can always enter it somewhere else later or publish it in your memoirs. Great writing and valuable information on where to find contests. Thanks for sharing!

    • Cyndi10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia B Turner 

      6 years ago from Georgia

      Hello Ruth, Thanks for taking a look and leaving a comment.

    • profile image

      Ruth Pieterse 

      6 years ago

      Interesting hub. Voted up and useful

    • Cyndi10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia B Turner 

      6 years ago from Georgia

      Hi, There are so many contests I imagine just keeping up with entering could be quite time consuming and maybe even habitual :-) I hope you were a winner. Thanks so much for sharing! Take care and enjoy the rest of your day.

    • How to - Answers profile image

      L M Reid 

      6 years ago from Ireland

      That is something I have not done in a while. I used to enter contests a lot but then I kind of got out of the habit lol.

      Your tips for entering and winning contests are very useful thanks

      Shared on Twitter and with followers

    • Cyndi10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia B Turner 

      6 years ago from Georgia

      What can it hurt, right? Especially if the contest is free, why not go for it? The next hubpages contest if right around the corner. That's a good place to start. I, on the other hand, usually forget to send in as many entries as I plan to. I hope to change that with this contest. Thanks for leaving a comment.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 

      6 years ago from Upstate, New York

      I enjoyed your informative article and hope to slowly work up the nerve to enter a few contests someday.

    • Cyndi10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia B Turner 

      6 years ago from Georgia

      Wow! You are an early riser. I appreciate the comments. I'm also looking forward to the start of the new contest. The competition here is so great, but that's a good thing. Thanks for the votes. Take care.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      6 years ago from South Carolina

      Lots of great tips showing the benefits of entering writing contests and also some of the pitfalls to look out for. As you say, it is important to read and follow all of the rules and guidelines.

      I agree that Hubpages sponsors good, free contests and am looking forward to the one that starts next week.

      Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • Cyndi10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia B Turner 

      6 years ago from Georgia

      @ Frank, I hope my tips are the catalyst to winning for you. I know your writing is always a winner. Thanks so much for leaving a comment.

    • Cyndi10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia B Turner 

      6 years ago from Georgia

      @ Ghaeich, hi. Thanks for taking a look at my article. There are lots of contest out there. Start writing! Take care.

    • Cyndi10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia B Turner 

      6 years ago from Georgia

      @Billybuc, I'm sure you'll be a winner. Your writing is some of the best!

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      6 years ago from Shelton

      Very good tips I too have meant to enter contest but haven't done so yet.. perhaps this hub is a kick start thanks cyndi10 :) Frank

    • profile image

      Ghaelach 

      6 years ago

      Evening Cindi.

      I think Bill took the words out of my mouth as I agree with all he says. A case of don't just say it, do it, or better still write it.

      Good info and I will be taking a look , why not and as they say "You've got to be in it to win it"

      LOL Ghaelach

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Excellent tips and I really need to enter more contests. It's always on my to do list but I never seem to get around to it. Thank you!

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