In between submitting to hoards of agents and publishers, it can be hard to even dedicate the mental space to considering writing competitions. Why look elsewhere when you can just go direct to the source, right? But it’s no secret that getting your work noticed is a tricky journey. First you have to find the right contacts, then you have to write a convincing letter, and then you have to cross your fingers that it’s the right piece for them.
Writing competitions and prizes are worth considering if you’re looking to get your novel published. Winning is, obviously, the goal, but there’s a lot you can get out of submitting to a competition other than the promise of cash money or representation:
Reinvigorate your drive
There’s truly no motivator like a deadline. Because a lot of agents and publishers accept submissions on a rolling basis, it’s easy to get stuck in the ‘I’ll do it later’ mindset. But with a competition that has set opening and closing dates, at a certain point, there will be no ‘later’. The deadlines of a competition can kick your writing into high gear and help prevent you from getting stuck in that dreaded writing rut.
If you’ve never had anything published before, the task of convincing someone that you’re a good writer can be daunting. Obviously, your work will speak for itself, but sometimes it helps to have a little somethin’ to propel the recipient of your work into your manuscript. Being able to say that you’ve been longlisted, shortlisted, or — even better — won a writing competition or prize may make an editor or agent’s eye linger a little longer on your submission.
Find your crowd
A writer’s life can be a lonely one. Between the hours of solitude sitting in front of computer to receiving templated rejections with no real connection behind them, it often feels like there’s no one out there to talk to about the struggles of getting published. Entering a writing competition is a way to invite a few more like-minded people into you life, though. Whether it’s the professionals hosting the competition, the bookish panel of people judging it, or even fellow entrants you meet online (thanks, Twitter), a writing competition can act as the bridge between you and someone you may not have otherwise crossed paths with.
Not everything is as hard as trying to win tickets to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child through entering the Friday Forty (seriously, I’ve been entering for years and you’re telling me my name hasn’t even been noticed once?). At least with a writing competition it isn’t entirely up to pure luck. You’ve put in the hard work, you’ve swallowed your pride and made edits that are for the best, and, most importantly, you’ve put yourself forward, which can be the hardest part. It’s time to cast the voice of self-doubt aside and admit, finally, that you might just have what it takes. After all, you never know until you try.
From now until July 31st, you can enter your novel into our Work in Progress Prize for a chance to win a meeting with an Agora editor and a Peters Fraser + Dunlop agent, plus manuscript feedback. It’s completely free to enter, and you can learn more about it HERE.