Are writing contest a good way to jump-start a writing career? I think so and here’s why, I learned from experience that more people are interested in writing contest result than just the writer and contest judges; sometimes even literary agents show an interest writing contest. Enough so that if you had gone the query letter route, even submitted a book proposal and were rejected well entering a writing contest could hold a pleasant surprise for you. Rejection is part of the business so don’t get too discouraged if that has happened to you.
Now, granted you were not rejected because you were, let’s just say, way ahead of your time writing wise, I suppose there might be something wrong with your writing craft. In some way writing contest are a good way to have the latter possibility evaluated too. If you determine that you are in fact writing at a professional level then don’t be afraid to dust yourself off after a rejection and submit an entry in a writing contest. Strengthen yourself against rejection, even professional writer suffer rejects. In a lot of cases the rejection has nothing to do with their writing ability but more to do with the subject they are writing about, most editors look for good fits, subject wise, for their publication.
Because most editors end up with more good written material than they have space in an issue of their publication so the hacking and slashing off excess submission material is usually very impersonal and always a little painful for those sent a rejection notice. The good news is there are hundreds of other writing opportunities. If you think you might fall into the category of perhaps needing a little more help perfecting your writing you might want to look into the online Creative Writing Center or someplace like it. In writing persistence does pay off so just remember, especially if you enjoy reading the way I do, when you write if you are happy with your work, other will be too.
Since novel writing will be probably one of the smallest categories you will find in writing contests, mainly because novel manuscripts are very time consuming when it comes to judging and because of the amount a judge needs to read and remember when it comes to judging time. Judging a novel is way harder to judge than article writing, poetry, or short a story. For the novel writer though The First Three Chapters is a site where authors can submit three chapters of their completed project to literary agents looking for new clients; so it could be worth checking out if you have an interest in submitting some of your writing for publishing consideration. It will cost you almost twenty bucks but I’m leaving the link here just in case.
A good place to start your search for writing contest possibilities is the Contests and Awards section of the Writer’s Market publication. You might be able to find a copy in your local library, or local book store. I mention the local library because my last copy of that publication, including taxes, cost almost thirty dollars. I believe one of the reasons The Writer’s Market publication is so expensive is because it has a shelf life, mailing address locations seem to last longer than some of the contact people names do. Changes happen in publishing, people in key places move around. I always felt better using the personal touch when submit my writing and tried to know the name of the person doing the acquisition so my letter intro did not start with—to-whom-it-may concern, Dear Sir, or Dear Madam.
So it’s a good idea to make sure you have the current year’s issue of the Writer’s Market and if money is no object the Writer’s Market is a great publication to have around for selling your work to trade journals, consumer magazines, book publishers, and small press.
I admit my suggestion might sound a little like playing the lottery, when it comes to submitting to a writing contest, and might even seems like a long shot; but just like the lottery if you never buy a ticket you don’t stand a chance of winning, not entering a writing contest could mean the same thing, at least for that particular writing contest. I think you should at least give yourself a chance to win; so when it comes to opening doors for your writing I say entering your work in writing competitions is worth the chance.