This post was written by Maria Frazer.
I’m obviously a big fan of contests, and I’m so grateful for all they’ve meant in my writing journey thus far. While contests can be an awesome way to connect with an agent, not everyone does, but it doesn’t make the experience any less meaningful. I’ve been thinking lately about different things I’ve gained from entering writing contests, and I want to share them with you here.
Critique Partners and Writing Cheerleaders There are many ways to find critique partners, including our Facebook group specifically built for that purpose, but when you are getting started it’s nice to connect with writers in a variety of different ways. Through contests I have been able to meet people who write the same category and genre as me, and we have been able to swap work. There are several people who I have connected with through contests, either before, during, or after the fact, who I am still critique partners with now. Contests can be a great format to meet other writers.I’ve also met people through contests who are so supportive of me and my work, which is such a valuable friendship to have. Writing is a solo process, and contests bring in a community aspect to it that many folks crave.
Writing Friends at Different Steps in the Process Maybe you’ll enter a contest and not get in, but become critique partners with someone who did get in, swap work, and realize that the caliber of unagented work is higher than you realized, and you need to step up your game.Perhaps you will connect with a judge or mentor in the contest who is agented or published, and has been around the publishing world longer than you have and can give you pointers when you are feeling lost. (These are good people to check in with when you get offers of representation. They may know behind-the-scenes info about different agents that you might not otherwise know about.)
And maybe you’ll meet people whose work isn’t at the same level yours is yet, and reading their work will help you learn how to edit and critique a manuscript constructively.
I’ve met all of the above people in contests, and each experience has been helpful in its own unique way.
Accountability If you haven’t said, “I’m a writer” out loud yet, entering a contest is a way of doing that. Acknowledging that you are a writer and that you are taking this seriously is a big and kind of scary step that is inherent in entering a contest. For me, it was like jumping into the deep end and admitting to myself and others that this was something I wanted.Contests also made it so I was following a bunch of authors on twitter, which it made it hard to fade away from the world of books and writing. I found that accountability, even if a lot of it was in my mind, very helpful.