It’s not all about the money, but be wary of some Writing Competitions.

Writing ideasThis week I’ve been busy not just with writing my novel, but trying to decide which writing competition to enter. I believe it’s important to build a portfolio of work to show agents and publishers. This isn’t just about work you’ve had published, but your determination to forward your career as a writer.

Writing a novel takes time and energy and at times brings little reward until it is published, which may take you years until you succeed unless you’re going down the self-published route. If you are like me, and want to be mainstream published, then you need something to keep your spirits up while you wait for your success.

I enjoy entering writing competitions. I do this for two reason, firstly, they are shorter than writing a novel so you have the pleasure of having a finished piece of work, and secondly you have a piece of work out there in the big unknown which may bring you some great news or a happy result.

Now that I’ve found my writer’s voice, I have a good idea what sort of competition suit my writing style. So anything on the dark side of life appeals to me as well as any competitions I don’t have to pay to enter.  We newbie writers are poor souls 😦

That’s the thing about writing competitions there are plenty out there which don’t cost you and have good prize too.

I think it’s important to read all guidelines not only to make sure your entry doesn’t fall at the first hurdle, but to make sure the prize is worth all you time and effort.

I always ask myself a series of questions. 1) Who’s running the competition,  2) How much is it going to cost me to enter?
3) If I’m paying good money, what’s my return going to be?  4) Will I be published or not.

To enter some, you can pay between £3 to £25, So I always weigh up whether the prize is worth winning. Money is nice, but getting published is even better, when you are building your career.

I tend not to go for being solely published online, unless it is part of the prize i.e. money & online publication, but even this isn’t enough for me. I see it as being important to find competitions which is going to help validate my work and me as I build my career. If I win or I’m a runner up in a competition which is run by a company with some clout and they only publish online then this is fine, because my future agent, or my readers can go to the site and read my winning story. Hopeful they will leave me some nice reviews

It’s too easy for anyone to set themselves up as a publishing company or to have a writing competition website where they will take your hard earnt money, while you believe you’re  in with a chance to get your work published.

I suggest you do you homework first. Google, (or any other search engine will do) the name of the company or the name of the person running the competition or better still check out Absolute Write Watercooler.  They have a forum called Beware, recommendation, & background checks.

Now, not all competitions will be listed on there so you need to make your own judgement on whether it is worth your time entering it.

I tend to go for competitions where you will get your work published in a hard copy book.  If the site has had annual competitions and produces anthologies of the winning stories then you can check these companies out at Amazon, or other online bookshops to see whether the books have been published.  Better still buy a copy to see what the winning stories were like and to check out the quality of the editing too.  If the book sold well its readers may had been kind enough to leave reviews so it worth checking out the authors listed in the books too.

This may seem like a lot of hard work just to enter a competition but it worth doing if you’re not going to waste your valuable writing time for a competition which is only serving to line the pockets of some nasty people.

Here in Britain we have the Writing magazine which they lists writing competitions as well as running their own.  It’s worth buying.

If you are planning on having a go, may I wish you lots of luck. Remember, it’s tough out there, but no one said it was going to be easy 😉

Paula R C


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