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There Might Even Be Cake

October 9th, 2015

jan-halstead-blogNot all writers enter competitions, which is good news for those of us who do, because it improves the odds in our favour.

But, if other people aren’t entering, then why not? Well, let me guess. It’s a lot of time and effort, there are bound to be loads of entries and most of them won’t win, quite simply because not everybody can. So, all of those people will have wasted their time. Also, it costs money.

I can’t argue about the entry fees. All I can say is, stick to a budget. A few are free. Lots of them won’t cost more than a couple of coffees. Decide how often you can afford that.

As to the rest, I’ve said all these things myself in the past. But there’s still a whole host of reasons why we should be entering competitions, and they are these:

•             To gauge our worth. A competition does what it says on the tin. It allows us to compete. Even reaching a shortlist gives us an indication that our work has merit.

•             Objective feedback. Some competitions offer judge’s feedback for anyone placed or shortlisted, and my own decision to enter is often influenced by the status of the judge. We all need quality feedback and no successful novelist is going to randomly knock on my door and ask to see my latest short story.

•             Competitions offer an alternative market for fiction. Name your market for every assignment, says the Writers Bureau. It’s not always easy, is it, particularly if you don’t write regular women’s magazine fare? But there are competitions out there for every genre. They are a valid target for your work.

•             Competitions encourage you to work to a deadline. They’re an incentive to focus and get the job done on time. Forget polishing the dog. Get on and polish your entry.

•             Money, prizes, award ceremonies. It’s great when you’re placed, and it can happen. But, even shortlisters are often invited to award ceremonies. It’s an opportunity to mingle with other writers and check out the competition. There might even be tea and cake.

•             Completed work is never wasted. So you haven’t won but, if the competition has pushed you to finish something, then you still have something to show for it. Look again at your work – analyse it, polish it, tweak it. I’ve sold on stories that have failed to make a competition shortlist.

•             Competition wins or even shortlistings can include publication online or in print, and in competition anthologies. Publication in print magazines or anthologies can then be registered with the ALCS.

As the saying goes, ‘you’ve got to be in it to win it’. Don’t take my word for it. Give it a go.

Jan Halstead is current Chair of Chiltern Writers. Her short stories have appeared in ‘The People’s Friend’ and ‘The Weekly News’, and, thanks to competitions, ‘Writing Magazine’ and the anthology, ‘Come Into The House’, published by Corazon Books and available on Amazon.



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