How do you feel about writing contests? As the books-as-babies metaphor goes, entering writing contests is a bit like entering your kids in pageants, no? Then again, some of these contests are just plain fun. For instance, I'm writing a short story for the Genre Wars over at the Literary Lab, and--dork alert--I'm enjoying it.
Every year I say I'm going to try to win the Flannery O'Conner Short Fiction Award, and on the eve of the deadline, I find myself shivering on the floor, blowing my nose in the discarded pages of my short stories, wondering why I try--but every year I also do a ton of revising to get those stories in fighting shape. To me, contests are just motivation to do SOMETHING.
Here is what I have accomplished by losing several contests this year:
- I revised a pile of pages into a semi-finished novel that I later finished.
- I wrote Chapter 1 and a synopsis of a second novel.
- I wrote a short story from the point of view of a secondary character in my novel. In doing this I learned so much about him--why he wants to be a doctor, how he feels about his mother, that he learned to be compassionate when he was a scared little boy who had to be extraordinarily brave to save someone he loved.
Do you enter writing contests? Worth it, not worth it? What are the best writing contests? What makes a writing contest worth your effort?