Writers are advised to enter writing contests, even if there are entry fees because it’s not only good practice but it helps one’s online presence when s/he wins, places, shows, or even receives an honorable mention.
My name wasn’t on any of these lists for a fiction contest’s winners’ announcement yesterday. Invariably, the winners are people who regularly appear on the lists of visiting faculty of numerous MFA programs, have received $1000000000 in grants, have won numerous other competitions, and probably wrote Gutenberg’s first Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew novels.
On one hand, there’s the thought that if you can’t win them all, it’s better to lose to people with writing credits it’s hard to match. On the other hand, it’s a bit of a wake-up call if–with all the honorable mentions and notables lists–one’s work is considered outside the top 20 entries. I used to fret about this more than I do now.
If you fret too much, you’ll just give up writing, especially when the contest is small and doesn’t have a prize large enough to attract the attention of the BIG TIME WRITERS. It’s easy to worry if you can’t even compete with people who are still in elementary school.
You have to be careful when you enter these competitions because they often have long lists of obscure formatting rules that aren’t natural for most people, as in, must have a 1/8″ margins and 12-point Bodoni type. (Nobody uses Bondoni anymore.) And then, too, it’s easy to get excited about contests which look like sure things as in, For authors who grew up in Tallahassee, Florida and later lived in Waukegan, Illinois where they once saw Jack Benny in concert.
Lose one of those and it’s like sports commentators say when somebody takes a bad fall in a basketball game, Oh, that’s gotta hurt.
Sure, you lose one of those made-for-me competitions, it’s natural to be gunshy about entering anything else for a while. But the temptation is always there. If you don’t enter, you might just shout, “You don’t understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender.”