Reasons Why You Should (and Shouldn’t) Enter Writing Contests and 10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Enter a Contest


Writing contests can be the launching pad needed to take your career to the next step, or they can be a huge waste of time and money. Are writing contests right for you?

Here are a few reasons why entering writing contests can be a good idea as well as a few reasons why you may want to give them a pass.

Reasons Why You SHOULD Enter Writing Contests

It Can Get You Noticed

When you win a writing contest, your name and work will appear in the publication hosting the opportunity- sometimes both in print and online – and that gets your name out in front of the kind of crowd you wanting reading your writing (readers, other writers, and possibly agents and/or publishers). Even being an honourable mention can put your name and work out there and end up catching the right person’s eye.

It Can Give You a Respectable Credit

If the contest and publication are respected, winning (or being an honourable mention) can give you a nice credit on your writing resumé or in your bio. You can possibly leverage it for further publications and opportunities.

Winning Can Put a Little Money in Your Pocket

Yes, then there’s the money. Not all contests offer a financial prize and even fewer offer a prize that’s of any significant amount. But, hey! Every little bit counts.

Reasons Why You SHOULDN’T Enter Writing Contests

It Can be Costly

When contests have entry fees that range from $10 to $35, that can add up if you’re entering a number of contests. (Yes, this does often include a subscription to the publication holding the contest – but the fees still add up).

It Can Hurt Your Creativity and Confidence

Some writers thrive on critique and competition. Others can find constant rejection hard on the ego. Although all creative professionals will likely have to deal with rejection more often than not, putting your work up for competitions can work against confidence.

In the same way, some writers thrive with guidelines and deadlines, and many contests will want you to keep your entries along a certain theme and with specific restrictions. If you have something that happens to suit, perfect. But adjusting your work to suit a contest can compromise it in ways that you may ultimately not be comfortable with.

You Can End Up With a Whole Lot of Nothing

With popular contests bringing in high amounts of entries and judging being a matter of opinion, your chances of winning can feel about as likely as winning the lottery. In the end, you can end up doing a lot of work and spending a lot of money and getting nothing in return.

So Do You or Don’t You? In the End…

If you want to jump into the world of writing contests, be picky. Be picky when choosing which contests to enter. Be picky about the work you choose to submit. Be picky when it comes to editing your entry.

Don’t throw your money away by submitting just any ol’ work to just any ol’ contest that comes along, but also don’t let ideal opportunities pass you by.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you enter a contest:

  1. Do I have any work that I feel confident enough to enter?
  2. Is my work in its best possible form?
  3. Does this publication usually feature work like mine?
  4. Does my work suit this particular contest?
  5. Who is judging the contest?
  6. Do I recognize/respect the judge(s) own work?
  7. Can I afford the entry fee?
  8. What would I get if I won? A financial prize? A mention? Publication (print and/or online)? Any other perks or honours?
  9. How would I feel if I won?
  10. How would I feel if I didn’t win?

If you feel confident in the answers you’ve come up with, enter away! If you feel a little hesitant with a few of your answers, you might want to wait until your work is a little more fine-tuned or you find a contest/publication that is better suited for your work.

Good luck!

Have you had any writing contest success? Do you think they’re a good idea or a waste of time/money? We’d love to hear from you in our comments below!

* Image by Musuvathi J Ubendran.

0 thoughts on “Reasons Why You Should (and Shouldn’t) Enter Writing Contests and 10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Enter a Contest

  • Freeth

    I’m not aware of a single writing contest in Canada that does not have an entry fee (subscription) as a requirement, is there one? This Vanity Press system does great disservice to readers, writers, and demeans many otherwise fine magazines. Their primary effect is to generate new subscribers and contribute to the bottom line. The result is sub par writing and glut of unread, and unwanted magazines. Canada imho could support at most one, two, or three literary magazines. However government assistance and the vanity renewal contests ensure that we have more than two dozen.

  • Rick Sparling

    I enter many contests and do it for the experience. I suppose if I was interested in “where I went wrong” I would pay to have my stories appraised, but that, in itself, is admitting defeat. I usually re-write my stories and re-word in some cases and try to fine tune it before submitting. I do have a high level of “rejection acceptance.” Otherwise I would be talking to myself by now!