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Enter a Writing Contest

A winning solution for sharpening your marketing tools

I recently submitted my women’s novel to The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest (ABNA) and this week I entered the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest. If I win I’ll receive accolades, exposure, and money. But submitting to contests is time consuming, a lot of work, and the odds of winning are slim. Some might say, why bother? What I’ve discovered is that the true benefits of a contest do not come from winning, but from the process of entering the contest.

If you take the time to submit your work to a writing contest, you’ll accomplish five goals:

1) A fine-tuning of your opening pages. In contests, it’s usually the quality of your writing that’s being judged, not the overall story and character arcs. Submit the first pages of your manuscript and use this opportunity to carefully edit your work. Check the rhythm and flow of sentences. Make every verb powerful and every metaphor enhance the imagery of your story. These are the pages you’ll be using to attract an agent’s or editor’s attention and now you’ve made them even stronger.

2) A streamlined draft. Contests generally have a page limit, yet you want to give readers enough to see where your story is headed. It’s also important to end your submission at a critical point where the reader is left wanting more. So maybe it’s time to jump into the story sooner and leave the flashback and character descriptions for later. The process forces you to do a major cut, eliminating unnecessary words, reducing back story and even secondary characters. The result of this trimming is a tighter, honed manuscript.

3) A succinct synopsis. Contest submissions are one more opportunity to look at your synopsis with fresh eyes. The synopsis is an important tool for marketing your work to an agent or editor.

4) A stronger query letter and pitch. Writing my pitch for ABNA took it to a whole new level thanks to input from critique partners and colleagues. My pitch became my new query letter, one that is far more descriptive of the characters and plot and uses fewer words.

5) Motivation. If you’re like me, the greatest benefit of all is having a deadline. That contest ending date is the motivation I need to get my butt in the chair and stay focused.

I hope this inspires you to enter a contest. Poet and Writers is a great place to find writing contests, grants, awards and fellowships. Good luck!