Have you ever heard of Sonia Sanchez, Leila Springer, or Brad Felver? Chances are you haven’t and neither have I. They are all winners of writing contests that have occurred in 2018. Sanchez won $100,00 for her mastery in poetry. Leila won $3000 and an online publication of her short story. Brad won $15,000 and help with publishing and promoting his book. A writing contest may seem glorious, but looking at these competitions and their requirements made me wonder if they are really worth it. Even though the prizes are awesome, there are important things to consider.
Many of the contests are broad in their genres. They accept novels, poems, and essays from various backgrounds, and then they judge you. How can you judge a mystery against a drama or a science fiction against a period piece? It’s impossible to rightly compare apples to oranges, yet they do. The writing contest world claims that people that apply to their contests will gain recognition, win prizes, and improve their writing. Here are my thoughts on this.
The contests are supposed to offer recognition, but as I’ve asked at the beginning of this blog, have you ever heard of any of those three people? The contests are helping writers become recognized within the writing community, but not with the readers. I thought the point of writing was to attract followers so that I could establish a career as an author. No one can do that without followers and fans, so is anyone really benefiting from recognition within the writing community? I did dig a little deeper and saw that Brad Felver was able to get nationwide book promotion from his writing contest, but there are very few contests that do so.
Yes, the money and prizes are the probably the most motivating factor to someone submitting an entry to a writing contest. However, if your passion is writing, why would the prize be such a motivating factor? Shouldn’t you just want to improve your craft, hone your ideas, and let out your creativity? I get it, I’ve been down in the dumps due to writing and had a hard time trying to figure out how to pay the bills with my passion. However, I’d rather find a job that pays me for my writing skills instead of gambling against thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people for money. Some of the contests don’t even offer a lot of money. Many of the prizes I’ve seen are under $3000 and Sanchez, Springer, and Felver are just the exceptions.
I know I’ve heard of some contests sending back writing comments and suggestions to all those that participate, but I know that I would want to have someone that was an established, popular, or a best-selling author commenting on my writing skills. Some of the judges may be authors, professors, or even editors, but are they popular? How many books have they sold for each title? I want someone with a proven writing record to read and judge my work accordingly. Where are the famous writers acting as judges – they’re busy writing! They don’t have time to commit to judging hundreds of thousands of stories, novels, or poems. They are writing and working with film directors. They are doing what I want to do, so I’ll follow their lead.
I think it’s best to study my favorite writer’s website for writing information that may help me improve my skills. If I really want feedback, I will join one of the hundreds or thousands of Facebook community writing groups. It’s peer to peer review, but it’s good enough for me at my level. I would rather find a job on Upwork.com and see what employers think of my writing as they pay me (a win-win situation). Also, there is plenty of marketing information out there that will help me get recognized within the reading and the writing community. I don’t need to waste my time on writing contests and neither do you.