Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

Monday Musings: All Those Contests June 1, 2015


If you look around the internet these days it seems more frequently than ever new writing contests are popping up. They used to be sporadic throughout the year and now it feels like there’s a contest at least once every month.



If you’re a writer, these contests offer a unique opportunity to hone your query, pitch, and even sometimes your first 250 words or an entire page. In addition, it can get your work in front of some amazing agents who you would otherwise have to query normally via their agency websites (aka “the slush”).



Personally, I have benefited from some of these contests. When I was still querying it gave me the unique opportunity to polish my work and make great contacts/friends in the writing community. In fact, I’ve been so blessed by these contests that I even host one now with Michelle Hauck every January/February. And this brings me to my point…



When Michelle and I did our contest this year we had everything buttoned-up. Almost every agent we asked to participate said “yes.” We were both blown away and grateful. Then when it came time, we opened our submission window and “BOOM” within six minutes all 200 spaces were filled. To say we were both shocked is putting it mildly.



Once all the entries were in, our contest got underway. Our mentors did their jobs (beautifully!) and the posts went up. And then a very sad thing happened. We discovered another person on the internet had started a contest at the same time (a contest that we had never seen advertised – although Michelle and I blew out the doors publicizing ours just to make sure there wasn’t ANY crossover).



Several of our selections also appeared in the other contest. Agents were not happy about the double entries. We smoothed things over and everything worked out.



So Amy, where are you going with all this you may be asking? Here’s the deal: there are a lot of contests out there. Each offering a unique opportunity to share your work. What I caution is you choose wisely. Agents are beginning to see many of the same entries over and over and are tiring of it. This causes them to stop participating in contests.



I get it. Contests cause a frenzy. When you’re proud of your work it makes sense you would want to get it out there. But what I recommend is you take your time and look at what contests can do for you in the broadest scope possible:



1) Help you improve your submission materials


2) Connect you with agents/editors


3) Introduce you to possible critique partners



All these are critical to your process, but they are not the end all be all. If you don’t get selected, don’t let it stop you. Move forward. Improve your craft. Polish up your work as best you can and then send your unsolicited queries. Many times “the slush” gets a bad rap. But I can tell you from personal experience the slush can pay off.



Yes contests are important, but you can’t get caught up in them. Focus on your goals and your writing. Once you’re ready, polish up that query. Get those submission materials required by the agency ready (because you’ve done your research and YOU ARE following the guidelines) and then send them.



At that point, the future is out of your hands. Work on something new. Be confident in your writing and know that if this manuscript isn’t the one, the next one might be. Remember to keep improving. Your “yes” could be right around the corner. It could come from a contest or from the slush. The most important thing to remember is that if you want it bad enough you can NEVER GIVE UP.



Have you entered a writing contest? Did you find it helpful? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.


10 Responses to “Monday Musings: All Those Contests”

  1. michelle4laughs Says:

    I’m so glad so many people have found contests helpful. The real success of all of these contests comes from the people who enter. I want to thank everyone who takes part in the ones I’ve helped host.

    Amy is a wonderful co-host and I owe her a lot for all her support of me.

  2. crbwriter Says:

    I’ve participated in numerous contests, and loved the opportunity (Sun vs. Snow!) to break through the slush and get personalized feedback. My SCBWI regional chapter also hosts a 10-page contest that guarantees feedback from an editor–a huge value. My biggest concern with online/public blog contests is that my work will become shopworn. I don’t enter all the contests I’d like to because I prefer to submit fresh material. Which means finishing more manuscripts. And that’s why they call it a writing career.

  3. Beth O'Grady Says:

    I entered QueryKombat as a first timer. The experience has been great, although I wasn’t selected I did end up with a great critique group and reconnecting with a friend. I will probably continue to do contests, but try to not get too invested in them. They are fun for sure but I could see where it would get a little heartbreaking to continually lose out. I’ve found the most valuable part is the critiquing of other’s queries and work, it will help improve my writing and queries as I move forward.

  4. Julie Artz Says:

    I love contests and have gotten some excellent feedback on my query and first pages through participating in them. It’s very hard as a writer to know how many is too many though. Let’s face it, we’re all a bit desperate to get out of the query trenches, and entering contest after contest is so tempting!

  5. Yes, they are so helpful in many ways. Finding amazing critique partners, getting feedback, getting out of the slush which allows you to get some personalized feedback from agents or editors, reading through comments on the contest’s Twitter feeds (judge’s hints/suggestions) etc… Even not getting picked can help…that feeling of rejection can motivate you (after you get over any sad feelings) to do better, learn more, polish more. I would never have learned so much in the past year if it weren’t for the contests I’ve entered. Even contests that I haven’t joined offer learning experiences…reading through entries and comments on posts etc…

    I feel your pain over having another contest rise up suddenly when you had yours planned forever. I wondered about that. As a contestant, it would be nice if contests were spaced more evenly or, if not, that the judges could make sure there wasn’t an overlap in entries picked. But maybe that would be too hard.

    Anyway, as a writer, I love the contests and am so appreciative of all the work you and the other hosts/judges/slush readers etc… put into them! Thank you!

    • Thank you for sharing your comment Shari 🙂

      • Rebecca Says:


        A huge thanks to you and Michelle for hosting Sun vs Snow. I was a participant this year (GO TEAM SNOW!). I’m sure they are a lot of work for you. And they are fun, stressful, and a great motivation to buckle down and get revisions done for those of us entering.

        As a writer who loves the contests, I want them to keep working. And that certainly means making sure the agents aren’t seeing a lot of overlap between contests. I think many of us have seen manuscripts that have been in multiple contests and benefited from it. But I also think most writers want to do the right thing. The challenge is, we might all think differently about when it is or isn’t okay to submit to contests. Clear guidelines from the hosts in the entry info – as was done for Query Kombat – could help.

        Thanks again for making the contest happen!


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