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Why You Want to Enter a Writing Contest

MB Partlow is a writer, a cranky optimist, a domestic goddess wannabe, a voracious reader across any genre, and the Director for the Pikes Peak Writers Conference.

Why on Earth (or Any Other Planet) Would You Want to Enter a Writing Contest?

by MB Partlow

If you have a manuscript you’re working on or a finished novel hiding on your hard drive, you might want to expose your brainchild to the world through a writing contest. You could want feedback, fame and/or glory*. Or you could be a masochist.

Step one is to always read the directions carefully. You wouldn’t want to spread your foot-fungus medication on the wrong body part, and you wouldn’t want to submit your manuscript to the wrong contest or in the wrong category. Maximize your results by taking the time to carefully read through what and how to submit. Many contests are open to published or unpublished authors, while others, like the Zebulon, are open to both.

So why enter a writing contest?

  1. Issac Asimov came up with the first Three Laws of Robotics, but you’ve got three more that are going to revolutionize the genre.
  2. The wild, limitless horizon of science fiction excites you and ignites the fires of creation in your brain. It grabs you by the boo-boo and won’t let go.
  3. An objective eye on your work can help you see what bits are working, which bits aren’t working, and which bits are just shiny and distracting.
  4. You have ever, ever gotten to the end of a book, flung it down and said, “I could do better than that.” Prove it.
  5. Your mother always calls it “Star Track” but you still love her.
  6. “It’s not worth doing something unless you were doing something that someone, somewhere, would much rather you weren’t doing.” (Terry Pratchett) If you’re making people uncomfortable, you’re doing something right.
  7. Prizes can be quite nice. If you are not yet published, then mentioning to an agent or editor that you won a writing contest can at least prove you’re taking your work seriously. If the agent or editor has previously judged for that contest, so much the better.
  8. Some people believe that any sort of artistic expression can be considered a form of therapy. Octavia Butler said, “Writing is one of the few professions in which you can psychoanalyze yourself, get rid of hostilities and frustrations in public, and get paid for it.” Notice the word “public?” Keeping the pages in a box under your bed doesn’t count.
  9. Because Writers Digest has lots of contests in lots of different categories, and Writers Digest is a glossy magazine with colorful advertisements which totally legitimizes everything they do. (Can also be interpreted as: All the cool kids are doing it.)
  10. You’ve got the Genre Stuck Blues. (Insert harmonica music here.) You’ve proven yourself in one genre, or you’ve grown tired of writing within your genre’s established confines. Maybe you just want to stretch your magic writing muscles and challenge yourself. A contest is a good way to do that and get some feedback on your efforts.
  11. “I just entered my work in a contest” is a great way to get your parents, spouse, sibling, co-workers, critique group members, significant others, domesticated animals** and imaginary friends off your back.

Now that you have some good reasons, consider The Zebulon Writing Contest with the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. The Zebulon strives to emulate the realities of traditional publishing, focusing on query letter, manuscript sample and synopsis. The contest is open to both unpublished and published authors of novel-length fiction, as long as the entry is unpublished, not under contract, and not part of an already established series. The contest is open from Sept. 15 to Nov. 2, 2014. The VIP judges of the final round are established agents and editors, most of whom will be in attendance at the next Pikes Peak Writers Conference.

For more information about the contest, visit The Zebulon web page at the Pikes Peak Writers website.

* Fame and glory not guaranteed. Quantities are limitless, but results will vary. Professional driver on a closed course. Standard deductions when applicable.

** With the exception of cats, who would dispute which one of you is on the receiving end of domestication.


1 Comment on Why You Want to Enter a Writing Contest

  1. I’ve been thinking about entering some contests but have to reflect whether I want to do so seriously or simply to see if I can get a reaction with a completely off-the-wall story. I don’t just mean regular off-the-wall, I mean like totally crazy.

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