Writing Contests Are More Than Just Fun

Sharon Sala and Skye Taylor

Authors Sharon Sala and Skye Taylor celebrate their contest wins in the ACRA 2013 writing contest. Large writing organizations generally offer well-run and valuable contests! (And life-size pirates)

Okay, perhaps my definition of fun differs from yours. I can remember when I started writing, submitting my writing to a contest conjured up a variety of emotions ranging from pure dread (I’d rather run naked through town) to excitement (I really could win this thing!)

But there is a lot of value to submitting an appropriate piece to a bonafide contest. I’ve injected the adjectives because you can’t submit a novel to a short story contest and you should only submit your work to contests that have solid credentials. IF you fail to consider those two guidelines, discomfort will ensue.

The benefits:
1) You get to work against a deadline. Professional writers have deadlines. Learn to plan appropriately so you are done, polished and submitted on time

2) You can get great feedback. Read the prizes and see if a critique by an editor, agent or published author might be one of the rewards. If it is, and you’re interested in that, go for it!

3) You might win some money! Now, to be honest, I have never won enough money from a contest prize to support myself for the year. I have however, won or placed in contests that led to sales of the piece or manuscript, and then voila! I made some money then. BUT, there are some contests in the marketplace that have great cash awards and someone will win it – might as well be you!

4) Keeps you writing with a clear goal in mind. Your writing will take on a different importance and place in your life when you have a clear goal in mind for it.

5) The prizes might include getting your work read by an editor or agent who is otherwise inaccessible. Send in your best work (nothing less will do anyway, right?) and maybe your manuscript will be read by that influential editor or agent!

So, if you’re interested in submitting to contests, there are a million worldwide. I generally source them through Writersmarket.com and search for contests which can be searched by category (i.e. short, novel, play, etc.). There are probably a large number of other ways to do this, too – I generally don’t have tons of time to devote to the search, so I fall back on the people who gather them to one place.

Write, edit, polish, submit!!! And good luck!

Here are a few I’ve come across recently –


Brooklyn Nonfiction Prize (Brooklyn Film & Arts Festival; Deadline Nov. 15, 2013 Cash prize and publication, no entry fee. See website for details: www.filmbrooklyn.org


Glimmertrain Press – Quarterly contests, cash prizes and publication. Fee required $19, visit website for all the details: www.glimmertrain.org.


Grub Street National Book Prize in Poetry – submit between Jan 1 and June 1 2014, Fee required: $30. Cash prizes, travel & lecture tour. Visit website for all the details: www.grubstreet.org


Visit www.writersdigest.com and check out the variety of contests, deadlines and costs for what will fit your needs. Cash prizes, publishing packages and more.

Visit pw.org/magazine for the grants and awards database to see an entire year of contests.

Catch up with you on Sunday when we check out Penny Sansevieri’s marketing advice!!  Keep reading and writing. Nancy Q.




About NL Quatrano

Award-winning author, speaker, editor and ghost writer, Nancy owns a full-time editing, writing and specialty publishing business: On-Target Words/WC Publishing. Volunteer/member of professional writing organizations including Florida Writers Assoc., Sisters in Crime, and AWAI. 2010 Professional Woman of the Year by the NAPW. Linked in Editor Pick May 2013. International Women's Leadership Association nominee for Outstanding Leadership 2014.
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2 Responses to Writing Contests Are More Than Just Fun

  1. Skye-writer says:

    Really?? You’d really rather run naked through town? Seriously – great blog. Thanks for the highlight.

    • NL Quatrano says:

      Well, I wouldn’t chose that option today (yes, you are all spared that nightmarish scene, I promise) but I might have chosen it 20 years ago over submitting my manuscript to a stranger. In 1997, I won a critique by a published author and thought I’d won the moon! When she returned the ms, saying for the most part, “Don’t quit your day job,” I was crushed – stopped writing for 2 years until my critique partners coaxed me out of hiding. But I learned a lot from that time – mostly that not writing sure didn’t work for me, no matter what others thought. And, the published author was correct – that manuscript was far from submission-ready. I’ve learned how to deliver hard news with compassion; I’ve learned how to coach people so they learn how to write better for submission purposes. And, I’ve learned to be selective about when and where I submit. I believe we should all be selective, as professionals. Thanks so much for the post, Skye!

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