Friday, January 7, 2011

Writing Contests: On your marks...get set...holy crap I just lost!

Writing is kind of like a wasp. One of the only ways to smack that scary little insect away is to do something irresponsible and crazy: enter a writing contest or competition.
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Oh, but the jitters come along. The inner-mind shrieks,“What if they don’t like it? What if...they think I’m a terrible writer?” Ah, and those fears are well warranted in many cases. Yet, fear is just that, and a great President of the United States of America told us that was rather foolish. So, let’s step away from that and move to the real part of this piece: where to look and how to enter contests. And why.

Let’s get down to business. Only novelists can enter these competitions. Writing anything else is a waste of time and should make you want to grab said Shotgun and do something rash.

No, I’m kidding. JK does not condone such thoughts. Write about it instead.

But, the question is a serious one: what kind of writer is a serious writer? No one wants to be sitting at the dinner table and asked that question. People want to feel that what they’re doing is legitimate. To think that for all of the time you put into your craft, that others might not appreciate or understand your passion, is almost a crime. Thus, before delving into the contests, let’s discover the types of writers in general. If we didn’t do this, then why would judges at a competition?

Are you a poet? Yikes. This is the hardest type of writing by far. Poetry can be done by the seat of your pants, but the hardest part (and what makes it harder to come ahead) is making a unique, powerful impression, in only a few verses. But if you succeed, you’re probably incredibly talented.

Are you a short story writer? Better. This takes skill for sure. But, it is still really hard to get yourself out there. I find it easier to write novels, so I commend authors who write impressive short stories.

Are you a novelist? I love you. You have the worst and best job of the writers. You probably need an agent, but you don’t have to work up battle scars in the publishing industry. All it takes is One Big Thing for you to become famous. Good luck.

It doesn’t really matter. There are thousands of foundations, businesses, and free organizations out in the world (including those explicitly on the Internet) that host these competitions. If you write, you’ll have a place to show your moves.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get one thing straight: you need to actually write something. It’s an incredibly romantic dream for a would-be writer to look for the flashing lights and screaming fans. Sorry to break it to you, but it generally does not happen like that. Again, good luck.

But, please do not become discouraged. (Actually, please do. I, like John Lennon, wish that I was the only one out there, and thus the best.) Because of the increasingly challenging nature of the writing world, these contests do exist!

So, where do you go? Search Engines are a great start (especially for Internet based competitions). Funds For Writers is on the list, as I did submit a piece. Sadly, I didn’t make the top three. Oy.

Online Communities, such as Webook, have things like Page2Fame, which pits you (with a couple of dollars) into a queue of stories (1 page, 5 pages, 50 pages) to be rated by the community. Sounds easy, but it really is not. Kyle and I both have pieces on there and only Kyle looks like he’ll be elevated to the Second Round. Oy. (Great for him, though!)
Just because a competition charges an entrance fee does not mean it will be good for you. Then again, generally it means your work will be taken very seriously. With Webook, that’s a double-edged sword (e.g. not everyone knows how to give a quality review). So, be careful with that site. But, do look into it.

And lastly, if you are looking to garner respect (or a couple bucks) for your work, make sure you try your best to polish the piece. There is no worse a feeling in writing than regret. Work hard and you’ll at least feel that you put it all in at that point in your writing life.

Therefore, give it a shot, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get something out of it! Also, be prepared to wait awhile. It’s best to write something else and improve as a writer. Let it go and see the world!


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