Why enter writing contests?


Primary reasons given for entering writing contests usually mention cash awards or promised publication or finding out “if my stuff is good enough.” All good reasons, indeed, to send in your story, book chapter, essay or poem.

Previously we’ve noted how winning our own WEN Writing Competition has even led to traditional publishing contracts:

Winning Contest Helps Author Land Multi-book Contract

Another Contest Winner Gets Publishing Contract

And here are more reasons to enter one of these or other writing contests  –

Contests give you a good reason to write an article you have been “burning to write” for ages, but haven’t yet found a viable market for. It might be a personal experience piece you believe will help others effectively deal with an issue – or motivate someone else to do something. Look for contests that accept unpublished nonfiction entries, especially essays.

Or, your “burning desire to write this up” may not be a personal experience, but rather an issue or situation or someone’s remarkable achievement you know about – and want others to know. It has experts, statistics, and anecdotal stories supporting its premise and illustrating its importance. Write it up as an article and submit it to a contest. Not only might you win a cash prize, but if you place well, you will be motivated to look harder for a magazine or website to publish it.

Don’t write nonfiction? That’s OK. Instead of “telling” about your issue or situation as it happened, “show” it in a short story. Use your imagination. Fiction can be an even more powerful motivator than nonfiction if you write well. And many contests have short story categories.

Quality writingAwards look good on resumes, “about” pages, social media (including LinkedIn) profiles, book covers, job bids, email signatures, and your other promotional materials. Being an award-winner gives you immediate credibility.

Contests also tend to be more democratic than general submissions, according to Becky Tuch at The Review Review:

“Because names are withheld from the manuscript, an unestablished writer is on equal footing with Mr. Top Dog Writer. The editors and judges won’t be thinking about whose name on the journal’s cover will help sell issues. The work itself is the single important thing.”

Awards can help you get accepted into those groups or professional societies with entrance requirements. Some have minimum requirements of publishing credits or writing awards. A caveat: Some of these groups are particular about who awarded the “prize.” So if this is your main motivation for entering contests, be sure to run the potential competition by the group’s nominating committee to see if it is a contest recognized and accepted by them. At the very least, concentrate on contests with longevity and industry recognition – if this is your primary motivator.

Contests soften magazine editors’ rejections by offering new, immediate outlets for those pieces you believe have promise. Yes, you will likely want to first review a rejected piece for possible tightening, revision or fine-tuning. But once done, send it right back out to an appropriate contest. Then – if the contest’s rules allow – continue resubmitting to publishers while awaiting the judges’ decisions. Some contests for Contest Rulesunpublished work require only that an entry be unpublished at time of entry, and future publication does not affect the entry. Other contests state that publication prior to announced winners will cause the entry to be withdrawn. So check the rules or ask the administrator. But even if you do have to withdraw your entry because your piece has been purchased by a magazine, what a wonderful reason!

Winning a contest is good for the ego. And rare is the writer who can’t use an ego stroke once in awhile. Over the years, we’ve heard from more than one of our own contest entrants that placing among the winners provided the motivation they needed to keep on writing – just as they were about to give up.

Fresh eyes when you return to the story or essay or poem you’ve been working on doggedly. As noted above, some contests do not allow you to send your submitted manuscript to another contest or to a magazine, journal or website while it is undergoing their judging process. You may consider this stipulation a deal-breaker and choose not to submit to them. But if the contest is an important one in your genre, and the waiting period is within a few months, you may decide to enter anyway. The benefit: Time away from your work, as noted by Suzannah Windsor Freeman of Write It Sideways

“If you’re not allowed to simultaneous submit to other contests or magazines, you’ll be forced to put the manuscript away for a few months. If you don’t end up winning, you may come back to the piece with fresh eyes, and note areas for improvement before sending it out again.”

CheckmarkSo check off these reasons to add “Enter contest” to your To-Do list

  • Motivation to write that piece that’s been nagging at you.
  • Add credibility to your bios and listings.
  • Get a totally impartial “blind” reading.
  • Possibly help you get a publishing contract.
  • Impetus to move that rejected piece back on its way to potential success.
  • Possible publication if the contest is sponsored by a journal.
  • Feedback from judges when a contest offers it.
  • Winning an award or an honorable mention can boost your writing ego enough to keep you writing and keep the naysayers at bay.
  • contest Cash awardsOf course, we all like to pick up those cash awards.
  • Test a project to see if it shows promise.
What about you? Have you found other reasons for entering contests? Please speak your mind below:


About Dana K Cassell

Hi, and welcome to our Network. I'm Dana Cassell and am the one writing most of the posts on this blog. I've been in this writing/editing business for way longer than I care to admit. My goal here is to provide you with useful insights from our professional members and from my own experience - to help you achieve your own success, grow your editorial business, and publish successful and worthy books,


  1. Thanks for your blog. It is one of the few blogs that I always read and I’m never disappointed. Just wanted to say, “Thanks.”

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