Sunday, February 22, 2015
Many aspiring authors who are plugged into the writing social network have undoubtedly caught wind of many, many contests meant for newbie writers to get their work in front of agents. Some involve a Twitter Pitch alone, some are queries or first pages, or maybe even the first ten pages of a work. All sound glamorous and promising, and all can be a major time-suck. Many writers probably wonder "Should I enter? Is it worth my time to finesse a 140-character gripping hook for my novel versus spending that time actually revising said novel, working on my query, or researching prospective agents?"
Here's my take, as someone who has entered (and lost) several writing contests. Usually only one, or a few, authors win any given contest, so entering renders an individual very, very susceptible to losing (there are a LOT of aspiring authors out there, people). Upon finding out you weren't chosen, it can feel like a colossal waste of time time, resources, and hope.
The way I see it, every contest you enter gets you out there. Freeing your work into the world is important (duh, because how is it ever going to get published if no one sees it?). Every time you enter a contest, you get a little more used to other people seeing and critiquing your writing. And, every time you work on creating whatever is required for contest entry, you learn something about your work. Can you hook someone on your novel in 35 words or less? It's harder than it sounds...and I think that sounds pretty hard! After entering your first 250 words into a couple of contests and not winning, you might consider making some changes. When available, reading the winning entries can also teach a lot about what people in the industry are looking for.
Conclusion: Enter contests, IF you have a finished manuscript. Don't kill yourself trying to enter every single one, but if you have time before a contest deadline, go for it! For every hour spent assembling a contest entry, spend two on continuing your other work.
Some upcoming contests:
1) Pitch Madness from the contest queen, Brenda Drake (deadline is midnight February 23rd!!). I entered this year. This is the one where you write a 35-word hook, plus submit the first 250 words. 60 finalists move on to an agent round where agents duke it out to request partial or full manuscripts from finalists.
2) SCBWI Work-in-Progress Grants (submissions March 1-31). One winner in each category will have work presented to leading publishing houses.
3) Twitter Art Pitch Party for PB through MG (April 2). This one's for illustrators!
4) Check out Sub It Club's Contest Page for all kinds of smaller contests (win critiques or lessons, etc).
BEST OF LUCK IN ALL YOUR CONTESTS!