By Rachel Dylan
No matter what your genre, there seems to be a writing contest these days for everyone—unpublished and published authors alike. Today I’d like to talk a bit about contests for unpublished authors. I’m going to steal my own thunder and tell you that I am answering the “to enter or not to enter” question in the affirmative with a big and resounding, YES!
There are many great reasons to enter writing contests, and I’d like to outline a few of them here and talk about the benefits of contests.
1) Fear—I think a lot of authors, myself included, have the initial fear of having someone else read and critique their work. The writing contest allows you to rip off the Band-Aid and have a stranger provide an opinion. Not only will their opinion be more objective than your friend or family member, but it will be an opinion—sometimes a strong one, or even a negative one. But having that experience is a crucial part of growing as an author. Which leads to point two.
2) Feedback—Learning how to take feedback is an important part of being an author. Once you put your story out into the world, you will get lots of feedback, and not all of that feedback will be positive. Contests are a great way of learning how to take the feedback. Whether its readers, editors, agents, or other publishing industry contacts, getting accustomed to having someone provide an opinion and feedback on your work is invaluable. Which leads to the next point.
3) Learning and Growing—It’s not just enough to take in the feedback, but what do you do with it? One of the things I learned from contests is to recognize certain blind spots I might have about my own writing. But it’s equally important to know when to stand your ground. Take the feedback, use what you can, and don’t internalize the negative comments. Remember that it is just one person’s opinion. It’s okay to have an emotional reaction to feedback, but it is so important to keep growing as an author to learn to accept criticism.
4) Exposure—Yes, this is what most writers are seeking from entering the contest—getting your pages in front of an industry professional! Many contests have the final round judged by editors and agents who can discover you and your story. This exposure is a wonderful way to make contacts. Even if your current story isn’t for them, you never know the contacts and connections you will make for the future.
These are just some of the benefits of entering contests, and I hope it will encourage you to take the leap and put your work out there into the world.
Rachel Dylan was a litigator in one of Atlanta's most elite law firms for over eight years and now works as an attorney at one of the Big Three automobile manufacturers. She is the author of Deadly Proof and four Love Inspired Suspense novels and lives in Michigan with her husband. She is active on social media and you can visit her website at www.racheldylan.com.