Thursday, September 14, 2006

Beware contests

Sigh...yet another contest for unpublished novelists has been announced. Lest you think I am recommending this contest, I am not. I'm cautioning you about this contest and all contests that charge reading fees.

The very wonderful short story writer Ron Carlson (and contest judge) said that contests do one thing: They get you out of bed.

But they do little else. Because they get you and every other aspiring writer out of bed to write, the competition is fierce. So you send off your story or your chapters with your fee and you wait and hope and wait.

Many contests don't even have to award the prize if the readers feel that no one qualifies.

Listen, it's hard to publish fiction, but it's still possible. Look at all the novels coming out, all the short stories. You do need a combo of great writing and sheer good luck. Doesn't hurt if you have some great publication credits or a famous writer who knows and loves you.

But contests, they make you feel like something is happening when nothing necessarily is.

If you insist on submitting to contests, though, search out the good ones. Look on the acknowledgment pages of novels for the names of contests that the author is thanking. And then make sure your story or novel exerpt (or entire novel) is stellar--as stellar as you can possibly make it. Those first paragraphs/pages mean so much.


for_the_lonely said...

Hello Barbara,
I came to your blog by way of your published article in this month's issue of Writer's Digest. Congratulations, and THANK YOU for this article! As a fairly "new" writer (I've made a career as a freelance writer for the past year) I have been searching the internet for various ideas for a personal website. I have found pieces here and there. Actually, I have followed almost the same exact steps that you have outlined in the article! Good to know that I am on the right track... ;)
I am going to purchase your "Pen on Fire: ..." book and find the flame for inspiration once again! Thanks so much!

Take care,

Anonymous said...

Contests are just scams that prey on writers' hopes and dreams. Cruel.

Nick Battista

Greg said...

Barbara, I’ve had your blog saved in my favorites for some time, and though I intended to comment before, finally felt compelled to by this entry. Funny, I’ve thought many times about submitting a story to a writing contest, but each time I thought about it, I came back to the same conclusion – it would be nice to win, I suppose, but to what end?

A successful writer is a dichotomy – how do you measure it? I keep coming back to the conclusion that its simply when you love and appreciate what you do; when its soul food for you. Striving and yearning to win contests and sell millions is wonderful – I want it too – but I find whenever I focus all of my attention on that goal, my creative mind dwindles and I don’t feel inspired to write at all. Sort of like when you have to prepare a term paper for a grade – it’s all obligation and no fun!

So instead, I now try to write to inspire and feel inspired – to increase my connection to others, and to better understand myself. I know that at some point it will bear fruit, because I trust my talents and abilities. And strangely enough, my writing then improves ~