Contests are a great way to get your writing out into the world. Thanks to a contest by the Canadian Authors’ Association, I’ve had a short story published in an anthology. Thanks to a screenwriting contest by the CBC, I’ve had a short film produced and screened at two film festivals, including the Ottawa International Writers Festival. And, as a finalist in the 2014 Writing for Children competition by CANSCAIP and the Writers’ Union of Canada, my manuscript has been sent to three Canadian children’s publishers, along with those of the winner and eight other finalists. This means that my story has made it to the top of the slush pile, which is huge when you consider that publishers receive hundreds, if not thousands, of unsolicited manuscripts each year. As well, thanks to this contest I am now represented by one of the oldest and most respected literary agencies in Canada.
Needless to say, I’m a big fan of contests!
Here are my top five tips for choosing and entering writing contests:
1. Be picky. Be sure that the contest is not just a money grab, and more importantly read the fine print to ensure that you retain the copyright to your work. Check out this article on writing contests to avoid.
2. Be a perfectionist. This must be your mantra for all of your work. It’s critical to have a professional proofread your writing. Why? Because many contest judges remark on the number of entries that contain grammatical and spelling errors. Those manuscripts are the first to be set aside and they save the judges time. Don’t let yours be one of them!
3. Promote yourself. If you are a winner or runner-up, be proactive. Call your local or community paper and announce the good news. Include your good news in your submission letter to publishers. When my short film was produced, I contacted the Shadows of the Mind Film Festival and they screened it.
4. Keep writing. The next contest is just around the corner. Extra bonus, contest deadlines are great for helping writers finish that draft story or screenplay they’ve been wanting to write for months (or years – guilty as charged!). Stories can be as long as a paragraph. Check out the postcard story contest by literary magazine Geist.
5. Stay local. There are the big national writing contests, such as CBC’s Canada Writes, which is amazing, but keep an eye out for the smaller contests in your own community or region.
Have you had success with writing contests? Share your story!