Choosing Writing Contests
November 22, 2006 7:57 AM   Subscribe

Writers: How do you decide which writing contests to enter?

Just wondering how you decide which are worth your time (and potentially, money.) Also, do you actively look for contests, and if so, where?
posted by clairezulkey to Writing & Language (4 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
If you are a screenwriter, check out for a list of contests. It also rates which ones are the most influential/important.

For other kinds of writing, I believe the large tome called Writer's Market has information on contests.
posted by np312 at 8:32 AM on November 22, 2006

When I was shopping poetry around (yeah, I gave up a few years ago) I would occasionally see contests whose judges were poets I admired. Those were the ones I entered, on the suspicion that the writers I liked might have tastes similar to my own.

There are at least a few mailing lists that carry contest announcements. I subscribed to one that my college hosted, but I get the impression there are general-readership ones too. The announcements on the list I read would often include the names of that year's judges. (In many contests, they change year to year.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:51 AM on November 22, 2006

What kind of writing? Fiction? Journalism? Poetry? Narrative non-fiction?

I enter the journalism contests that I have a chance of winning and that don't introduce any kind of ethical conflict (such as being decided by organizations I cover or may cover some day). Back when I didn't have a boss that would pay the entry fees, I paid myself. I thought they were worth it. Still do.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 9:51 AM on November 22, 2006

Yeah, I think you need to add more detail to this question as there are a number of different kinds of writing.


2. If you want, check out Poets & Writers. Their website has lists of upcoming projects.

3. There's also Winning Writers, but they require you to pay.

4. For general submission resources, see Jeffrey Bahr.

Entering contests actually takes a lot of logistical effort and money, so I think you should think about four things: (1) difficult of contest (i.e., chance that you'll win); (2) the degree to which the contest is worthwhile (here, look at award money or prestige); (3) the cost of entering (most poetry book contests require you to pay $15-35); and (4) fit. Categories 1 and 2 are contradictory: prestigious contests are generally recognized to be lotteries. If you don't have very much experience, you might want to just try middle tier contests that few people will be entering. I think the publisher is important: there are a lot of prestigious contests with fat purses that I think are not worth entering: when's the last time you've seen any of the winner's in bookstores? I usually only enter "prestigious" contests if I've heard of people who've won it before.

Fit - This is very important. For lower level contests, it means that you are a black skateboarding doctor and that's what the contest is asking for. For higher level contests, it means that you google the publishing house, journal, judge, and past winners and see how close you come to their aesthetic. If you don't like the stuff they publish, don't enter.
posted by kensanway at 11:45 AM on November 22, 2006

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