How to make your contest entry the best it can be

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With the new year still shiny, one of your goals might be entering a writing contest. Why, you say, would you subject yourself to all that potential rejection?

Yes, you get feedback from your critique group. And your relatives stand in awe of your prose. But it's time to develop your rhino skin and hear from someone to whom you're not near and dear. Someone who will point out what could be wrong, but also what's working. What better way to re-energize yourself on a project that might make you feel weary.

A contest entry forces you to analyze your manuscript in new ways. I once wrote about five ways a contest entry can hone your novel. And if you're having trouble with motivation, there's nothing like a deadline to get things moving. I'm planning to enter a February contest just to get myself in gear.

 If you make it to the final rounds, many contests use agents and editors as judges. It's not uncommon for entrants to field requests for their manuscripts from contest judges. And it's a lot quicker than the query process!

If you've decided to enter a contest, the first order of business is finding the right one for you and your genre. I've got you covered there, with six ways to find writing contests.

Then, it's time to work on your entry. I've lined up a few posts to help you make it as good as it can get.
Staging your manuscript. This post give tips on contest entries, depending on what the rules ask for.
Pimp your prose. Understand why adjusting your sample pages can lead to a contest win--and sometimes a contract.
Pimp your contest entry. A fantastic post with specific advice on how to tweak the formatting of your sample pages, while still keeping within the rules.
Six ways to win with writing contests. Advice from setting your goal, to debriefing after the contest is over.

What has your contest experience been like? Even if you didn't place, was it worth it? If you've never entered, would you consider it?


  1. Thanks for this! I'm looking to enter more writing competitions this year, and this is a HUGE help.

    As always!

  2. I've never tried to do more than edit my entries, so it'll be interesting putting some of this advice to use.




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