1. Competitions teach you to work to a deadline
This is a skill you will need if you want to be a writer. There's no point being brilliant if it takes you forever to finish a paragraph because no one will ever get to read it. Set goals for your word counts and really try to stick to them.
2. Competitions often have word limits
Word limits can be frustrating but they teach you to make sure that every single word earns its place in your story. You may have to start the action in a different way than you originally wanted just to save on the word count but more often than not your story will be stronger for the cut. Make sure you stick to the prescribed word limit for competitions though, most will immediately disqualify your entry if you go over.
3. Competitions stretch you as a writer
Many competitions have themes or a phrase that you must incorporate into your entry. A theme that you wouldn't normally deal with might give you an idea for a new full length manuscript in the future or a different style of writing than you would normally go for.
Some competitions offer feedback as part of your entry. One such competition is the CYA Competition (for YA and children's writing) http://www.cyaconference.com/program/competition/aspiring-unpublished/. At the conclusion of the competition entrants are emailed the judges score sheets which include comments and suggestions for improving your story. So, you might win, you might not but at the very least you'll have some industry feedback to improve your writing for next time.
Entering competitions exposes your work to new people. Judges are often published writers, publishers or industry insiders who know what they are talking about.
6. Writing Resume Credits
If you win or are shortlisted for a writing competition it is an entry you can record on your writing resume. When you submit a manuscript to a publisher or agent you will be asked what your writing history is. If you have some competition wins or anthology entries to your name it will look like you are dedicated to becoming a published writer.
7. Having your work published
Some competitions include the winners (or top 10 entries) in an anthology that is published at their expense. You are usually sent a copy for yourself but can purchase additional copies for friends and family.
8. Endorsement of your work
Writing can be a frustrating and lonely occupation sometimes so it's nice to have your work acknowledged by a third party who doesn't know you or worry about hurting your feelings. If they picked you as the winner, it's because your work is genuinely the best.
How do you find these competitions?
- Join your local or state Writers' Centre and they will email you opportunities and competitions
- Industry newsletters e.g. Buzz Words http://www.buzzwordsmagazine.com/
I recently was placed on the shortlist for the 2016 Varuna Publisher Introduction Program. http://www.varuna.com.au/varuna/index.php/programs/varunanews/item/508-pip16-shortlist
The winner is announced in April. I was lucky enough to win a PIP in 2014 and it was an amazing experience to work with Stephen Measday and spend a week at Varuna. Keep your fingers crossed for me!
Keep writing. Sally x