The writing contests #QueryKombat and #WritersVoice are just around the corner. I really believe these contests are beneficial for writers, and I think the people who donate their time to host and judge them deserve a medal. Writing contests aren't just about finding an agent. If you get an agent because of a contest, fantastic! If not, you'll be taking away an invaluable experience anyway. So win-win!
5 Reasons Writers Seeking Agents Should Enter Pitch/Query Contests:
1. The CPs
If you don't know what a CP is, you definitely need to enter a contest. CPs are critique partners and they are way better beta readers than your friends and family, because they write too. I know what you'll tell me because at one time I thought it too, "I have lots of friends and family that are voracious readers." Trust me when I say it's not the same. CPs will catch things in your writing, queries, synopsis, whatever, that need a little improvement. Even if you happen to be a rock star of a writer they can help you up your game even more.
2. The feedback
Many contests offer feedback. Are you sending out a less than desirable query? You may have written a bestseller-to-be but if your query stinks it probably won't get the attention it deserves. What about your first 250 words? Do they capture the voice of your novel? Are they strong enough to lure an agent's attention? Writing contests help you look at the most important parts of your submission and they encourage difficult questions. Did you start your book in the wrong place? Is the beginning too slow?
A writing contest prompted me to take the plunge no writer wants to take. I sent the first 9 pages of one of my manuscripts into book heaven (It wasn't even the manuscript entered into the contest but I was able to transfer the feedback received on another work.) RIP 9 pages *tear*, but you know what it did? It improved the story and gave it a better chance of becoming agented. Someone posted a meme in my critique group the other day:
We aren't just in love with our words, we are in love with our story. Sometimes we have to cut some of the words we're in love with to better the story. (This is me paraphrasing one of my CPs words)
3. Writing pitches can help you discover and redefine the true stakes of your story.
Have you ever tried to squeeze your entire story concept into 35 words? It's challenging to say the very least. It's like taking a hammer and bashing, mashing and rehashing a summary until you understand the most important point of your story. It's tedious and horrible, but it helps you understand your story's stakes better. What will happen if the stakes aren't met? Sometimes, when you realize what the true stakes of your story are, you can up them or make them more prominent throughout your story.
4. It will help you understand the quality of the competition.
It was a writing contest that propelled me into another round of revisions. When you start understanding how wonderful other writers are, you understand the level of excellence you need to achieve. Suddenly I realized that it wasn't good enough for the book to be good. It needed to be fantastic and that meant revisiting the manuscript to make sure every chapter sparkled.
5. The writing community
Contests welcome you into the writing community and it's a fabulous one you definitely want to be a part of! There are authors I am rooting for and I'll be the first in line to buy their books when they are published. As reclusive as we writers may be, sometimes we need validation. We need people to say our ideas are wonderful and push us along. It's not as much about ego as it is needing a little push to get us through the rough, discouraging and critical journey of a writing career.
Seriously, enter a writing contest. Even if you are in tears for a couple of days because your entry didn't get picked, it's worth it. Sometimes we need these learning experiences to grow as a writer. Whatever you do though, never give up!
Here are links to upcoming May/June 2015 contests: