Why Enter Competitions?

  • Entering a competition will stretch you to meet a brief (i.e. writing to a theme or topic), a word limit, editing and meeting a deadline. It’s all good practice for later on.
  • Entering a contest will challenge you to experiment with new themes and ideas.
  • Some competitions are free! Some require a fee, but no-fee contests are a win-win situation for the writer, even if you don’t actually win. If you do win, you can put in your CV, and, if you’re very lucky, you might win some cash too! If you don’t win, you can always re-work the piece and send it to a magazine or, contest rules permitting, enter it in another competition.
  • When you’ve chosen your competition, take your time. If it is going to win, it must be well written: don’t rush it. Build in time to re-read, edit, re-draft and polish your entry before sending it off.  Treat it as you would any other piece of work. In this way you are more likely to adopt good habits for later on.
  • Just as with any other submission, when you’ve entered your first competition, don’t sit around waiting for the results; enter another! In fact, you could make a very late New Year’s resolution to enter one competition a month. It will certainly help to improve your organisational skills and will mean you’ve got at least one new writing project a month to work on.
  • Be careful that you understand what you are giving to the competition organisers. Are you giving up any rights to your work? Competition information should include some mention of the copyright. Many legitimate contests will state that any entries submitted, become the property of the sponsors and will not be returned. This could very well mean that your entry, winning or not, could appear later in a company magazine or ad campaign without your permission or further compensation. Most sponsors simply destroy non-winning entries, but others want one-time printing rights, or even perpetual electronic rights for website entries. This is standard procedure, and most contest organizers will respect an author’s request to return rights following the contest. You may not want to give away all rights to your work forever, unless you have been well compensated. This commonly happens with commercial or slogan contests, where the sponsor produces a derivative advertising campaign using your idea. Many years ago, that’s exactly that happened to me. I entered a cat food competition and for monhs afterwards, I heard my winning entry on TV. My actual winnings were a small supply of cat food! My cat was delighted. I wasn’t too upset but I wished I’d read the small print! Of course you may feel that it’s worth it, if you get a writing credit for your work. Becoming well known is sometimes worth more than pounds in the pocket.
  • Some contests include a critique of your entry by a publisher, agent, best-selling author, or all three. I my opinion, these are the most valuable types of contests to enter, since a critique may point to errors that you’ve missed or encourage you to work on your strengths to enhanced your future work. In a writing competition that includes a critique, even if you don’t win, the feedback can be worth its weight on gold. My first book There’s Always Tomorrow was the winner in a competition. I had to write the first 1500 words and a synopsis of the book. When the judge read it, she recommended me to an agent. The agent asked me to send the whole book but 1500 words was all that I had. She happily agreed to wait for a whole year for me to finish the book and the rest is, as they say, history.
  • West Sussex Writers’ Club hold monthly competitions for members. Click to their website here.
  • Look out for writing magazines. There are oodles of competitions listed in them, or trawl the net. Good Luck!