Write It Sideways

The Pros and Cons of Entering Writing Contests

Today’s article is written by Suzannah Windsor Freeman, founding editor.

I’m working on a short story right now, and I have just over two weeks left to finish.

Why? Because I’m writing it specifically for a contest, and the deadline is quickly approaching.

I’ll admit, I’m not the type of writer who enters a lot of contests, but I’ve taken part in a handful of them. I’m interested in those that (a) suit my particular writing style, (b) don’t cost too much to enter, (c) offer a substantial prize, and (d) would look good in my portfolio if I were to win.

There are thousands of writing contests each year, but are they really worth your time, money, and words?

It really depends on a number of factors. Each contest should be evaluated based on its own benefits and drawbacks.

Pros of Writing Contests

Cons of Writing Contests

Before You Enter…

So, you’re ready to give this contest thing a try? Keep these practical tips in mind:

Right now, the contest I’m targeting is the CBC Short Story Prize. The entry fee is a modest $25, and the word count is between 1200 and 1500 words. Given the short count, I don’t doubt many writers are entering multiple pieces at once.

The winner receives $6000, publication in enRoute magazine, a 2-week writer’s residency, and an interview on CBC radio. Four runners-up receive $1000 and publication on CBC’s website. Last year, there was also a longlist of 35 entries.

This is a well-known contest with some excellent prizes and fringe benefits—one that I believe is more than worth my time and money.

Some writers love contests, some find them to be a waste of time. Submitting my work to literary magazines and anthologies usually comes before contests, but some opportunities are too good to pass up.

It’s wise to be aware of the pros and cons of writing contests, so when the right opportunity presents itself, you’re ready to take advantage.

Do you enter writing contests? What’s your best advice for choosing wisely/ What are your top tips for making your piece stand out from the crowd?