Should I enter a writing competition?

blog post 1I’m asked this question a lot, particularly when I’m running a course.

Yes, I do believe that competitions are a good way to progress. They not only give you writing practice and focus but they form part of the writer’s learning curve. Competitions often have deadlines and themes, too, which echoes the process of writing for a publication, which will almost certainly have deadlines and expect you to write to the brief given.

Not everybody can win or be shortlisted. I’m afraid that rejection is part of a writer’s life and learning not to let it stop you writing is a step forward in itself. If you’re placed in a competition you have something to put on your writing CV, you have validation, you may well have prize money and/or publication.* I have friends who have contracts with traditional publishers for their novels as a result of entering competitions.

Although I write the actual chapters on a computer, each book gets its own new notebook. Coloured pencils and post-it notes are essential too. More about that in a later blog.*NB A word about rights: If you’re offered publication as a result of a competition win, make certain that you retain the copyright, ie the right to sell your story again. If you sell ‘all rights’ then the competition’s organisers can use your story for profit in the future and you will receive no further fee. The word ‘first’ is important in rights, for example ‘First British Serial Rights’, which would mean the publication would have the right to publish once, for the first time, in Britain. No more. Websites are more complex and will usually ask for world electronic rights. If that’s the case, try to limit the licence timewise.



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12 responses to “Should I enter a writing competition?

  1. Thanks for that information, Sue.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Really enjoyed this piece, particularly regarding rights.
    I also find it useful when competitions offer a critique service, usually for a little extra charge. Objective advice from a person with experience is invaluable.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks Sue for an interesting blogg as usual and the tip on copywrite

    Liked by 1 person

  4. janerossdale

    I entered a writing competition with a small pot of gold and a publishing deal at the end of it (The Daily Mail First Novel Award, 2008.) What I would recommend is learning about the publishing industry. I was so gobsmacked at having won that I didn’t think to ask the right questions (I had imagined my then agent would ask them for me). As a result my book was published under a women’s fiction imprint when my fiction isn’t aimed solely at women and my book’s title was changed to something very girly. Even though the book sold 15,000 copies, my follow-up novel was turned down because the main character was a 12-year-old boy. So my advice is get smart, have a clear idea of your long-term goals and know your options.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for posting this, Jane. When I run workshops I frequently advocate learning about publishing as well as writing. It’s easy to concentrate on the writing and then feel adrift when you attain success, or not know which path is the best, or whether you’re being treated fairly (although most people in publishing are lovely, of course). And you must write very well to have won a comp such such a huge entry! Go you!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I get prompted to enter competitions and part of me thinks I should but what with the book writing and blogging I never seem to have the time. Wrong of me I’m sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree by the time I finish editing planning my next project facebooking Tweeting and Instagram I’m knackered


    • I don’t feel there’s a right or wrong. I’ve entered v few comps myself. It’s just that a) they work for some and b) they seem more part of the creative culture than they were, hence X Factorc etc. Some publishers now use them as a quality filter. They’re not for everyone.


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