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How To Find A Writing Contest That You Might Actually Win

writing contest

Winning a writing contest can boost your confidence, give you a great accolade for your cover letter—and maybe even fatten your wallet with some welcome prize money! If you’ve got the “write” talent and are willing to do some research and planning, you may have a decent chance at winning a reputable writing contest.

Five Steps To Finding The Right Writing Contest

1. Identify your niche. Determine whether you or your writing have any characteristics that will make your submission a “ringer” in a specific contest. What do we mean? There are many writing contests limited to certain types of writers, such as “women over forty,” or “men from Texas.” And there are also contests that favor specific themes: stories about beloved pets; poems about motherhood, etc. Once you have a sense of your niche, take the next step.

2. Do an Internet search for key terms. If you’ve written a personal essay about hiking the Appalachian trail, do an Internet search on various combinations of the terms: writing contest, Appalachian, hiking, nature writing, essay, nonfiction contest, [your state or region], [your gender], memoir, etc. Even if a contest you’re hoping to enter is currently closed to submissions, make a note on your calendar with the date that it will open again. Often, writing contests with very specific submission guidelines are less competitive than contests that are open to anyone writing about anything. So the more specific the contest parameters, the better the odds for you!

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3. Set a budget. Most contests require an entry fee; how much money do you want to spend? Setting a budget for yourself may help you to prioritize contests and clarify your goals.

4. Determine your odds. Once you’ve narrowed the field down to a few contests, use the information you’ve gathered to make an educated guess about how crowded the competition in each contest will be. Then, rank the contests in order, from most competitive to least.

5. Submit carefully! Always, always follow submission guidelines—otherwise your submission will be disqualified, and you’ve just thrown that entry fee away.

Why It Makes Sense To Submit To A Range Of Contests

If you follow the steps above, you may find yourself submitting to small and mid-sized writing contests (as opposed to the contests that regularly get national attention). Don’t underestimate the power of a “small” win. Exposure to new audiences and bragging rights in your author bio are just a few of the perks of winning any legitimate writing contest.

That said, don’t automatically rule out the “big” contests simply because you don’t think you have a shot at winning. National contests that are open to all writers and that have no required topics or themes may have more intense competition—but it might be worth your time to shoot for the moon. You know the saying: Even if you miss, you’ll land among stars!

Looking For Lists Of Creative Writing Contests?

Look no further! Writer’s Relief has a TREMENDOUS list of creative writing contests—and the best part is, you don’t have to waste time flipping between slow-loading pages or sifting through information you don’t need. Our comprehensive list of writing contests is regularly updated and easy to sort by genre, deadline, entry fees, and prizes. After all, it’s our job to save writers time and energy so they can spend less time doing paperwork and more time actually writing! And along with managing submissions to literary agencies and literary journals for our clients, Writer’s Relief can also manage their creative writing contest submissions. Want to learn more about how we can help? Start here.

Writer QuestionsQUESTION: Do you enter writing contests?


2 Responses to How To Find A Writing Contest That You Might Actually Win

  1. The reason I lost faith in the writing contest some and all is $$$$$$
    I can’t afford to send the summary, etc. plus cash and then not hear anything for months on end. I’d like to find an agent to help me AND I want to continue moving forward with my writing. Thanks for any insights you might have. Best, Alice Owens Johnson

  2. Entering contests has been a valuable experience regardless of whether I win any of them or not. Some contests offer criticism and advice. There are useful resources for emerging writers if one is willing to look. Although being on the downside of thirty precludes me from some of the opportunities, I definitely would not trade the insight of experience for a different chronological number.

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