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Tis the Season for Writing Contest....hmm....

Don't we all want to be respected? Someone to tell us how great our writing is?


And we all fall into the ever evolving trap of "enter our contest!!!" Top notch judges, get your name in front of agents/editors, get some great feed back.....

I have to admit that I too fell into the contest trap when I first started writing. There was nothing more I wanted than to write the first three chapters, a synopsis and hit send as quickly as possible! I was going to WIN!!!
OH, don't mind the fee that is attached to it!

Now if you look over there <------- you are going to see that is a FINALIST in a contest! GASP!!  Those aren't the contests that I'm talking about. I'm not talking about Golden Heart Award from Romance Writers of America, Indie Book Awards, Malice Domestic Agatha Awards....

I'm talking about the writer's chapters that hold contests to raise money for their associations. These contests are telling you that if you win, such and such agent is going to possibly request your novel! Who wouldn't want to pay for that???

But how you get there is a different story. This is where I say BUYER BEWARE!!

Do your homework. What are you really getting for your buck? Who are the judges? Are they really trained in judging?

Currently I'm judging a contest and while I'm doing it, I have to admit that I might not be the best judge out there. I was giving a NOT SO GREAT score, when I stopped for a moment. I had to wonder what made them ask me to judge the contest. What did I really have to offer?

I'm just a person who can tell a good story. I don't have an English degree. I haven't won any BIG contests. Hell...I'm self published! So what gave me the right to judge anyone's work?

Then I went back to the submission I was judging. Just because I didn't like the genre, I was giving a bad score. I had to take out my distaste for the genre out of the equation and judge the contest based on the scoring sheet.

How many other judges can say that they have honestly judged a contest taking their personal feelings out of it?

I'm not saying that you should avoid contests all together. I'm saying that these small contests do not offer any type of literary credits. Most of these contests are fun, and generally an interesting challenge.
And there are some legitimate ones out there.

Ask yourself the following questions before you enter into the contest season:

1) Check out the organization putting the contest on. Do your homework. How many winners actually got an agent from the contest? Not a request, a contract.

2) What is the prize?
Is it going to be worth it agonizing months waiting to hear if you won when you only get a small medal??

3) What is the fee? What do you get for that fee?

4) Who are the judges? What are their real credentials?

5) How you are scored? Look for a scoring sheet or ask for one.

All I'm saying is don't waste your time on something that is going to get you nothing. I'd rather you spend your time writing!

What is your experience with writing contests?


  1. Great Post Tonya.
    I've had a mixed experience with contests and I've done a few.
    You're right in stating the importance of finding out who exactly is judging, what their writing background, but their judging experience as well. More than a few times, I could tell by the scoring, the comments were based less on the story or the crafting of it, but, more on the fact that they simply did not like this particular genre. I have had good feedback as well and in saying that I don't mean someone simply telling me my story had potental. I have gotten some invaluable constructive criticism as well that has helped me improve my writing overall. I think when picking a contest you need to pick and choose carefully.

  2. Good post, Tonya. I have judge in our chapter's writing contest for the past two years. Like you, I am not an English professor, and wonder what would qualify me to judge writing ... and that is that I AM a reader. When I filled in the score sheets though, I tried to be kind because I had hope that if my writing were being judged, I would want that person to be kind. Every writer's work is judged in the end by the person who buys the book.

  3. Great post Tonya. I entered a couple of contests last year, but my purpose wasn't to win. What I wanted was educated feedback and critique from judges who I thought knew their business (checked the judges, credentials, etc.). From that point of view it was extremely helpful, since some of the judges pointed out some really important things I hadn't thought of re plot and setting. Others gave great feedback on over-use of certain words, etc. The ones who gave me 10's were wonderful to see and read, but actually weren't as helpful. I guess it depends on what you're looking to get out of the experience. Winning would just be the icing on the cake. :)


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