Thursday, March 19, 2009

Writing Contests

Back when I was first beginning to write, I entered a short story contest sponsored by The Writer magazine. I paid the fee, mailed my story, and waited for my prize. Yes, I was just that green and that vain to think that my work would actually win. Needless to say, it didn't. The story, I now realize, was terrible in the way that only first stories can be; however, since that time, I've never entered another contest.

But I have been curious about them. Many times, after reading the bio of an author who has won a prize, I've wondered if I should enter a contest again. Certainly the credentials of winning a contest gives an author's credentials a boost. And in some instances, prize-winning entries are printed in anthologies.

Part of the problem with contests, however, is trying to find them. Usually, you run across information on a contest after the deadline has passed. Additionally, it is easy to get sucked into scams posing as competitions in which writers are pressured into buying an anthology of the contest's 'winners'. That's where Moira Allen's, Writing to Win: the Colossal Guide to Writing Contests enters in.

Generally, it is my philosophy to not pay for what you can get for free. That is why, in previous posts, I've recommended visiting online sources for market information as opposed to subscribing to a magazine or buying a book. However, I have yet to find an online compendium of writing contests that compares to the one compiled by Ms. Allen. Because its listing are organized by writing type (poetry, short fiction, nonfiction, books, scripts and screenplays) and also by deadline (so that the author knows when to submit her work), Writing to Win is easy to use. And, with over three-hundred pages of listings, the book is probably as close to comprehensive as any resource like this can be.

Writing to Win isn't just about listing contests; it offers plenty of good advice about how to prepare a story for submission as well pointers on how to determine whether a competition is legitimate or not. The book doesn't claim to offer writers a 100% guaranteed way to win (I wouldn't recommend it if it did!), but what it does do is shed some light on how contests work and how writers can best present their work. If you are at all interested in entering writing competitions, then I recommend this book.


Writing to Win: the Colossal Guide to Writing Contests by Moira Allen, is published by Vinegar Hill Press, copyright 2008. The book retails for $16.95 and can be purchased by visiting at or from


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