Purple Prose + writing contests

The Contest Circuit

©Stina Lindenblatt

As if querying isn’t torture enough, many writers like to put themselves through the nightmare of contests. Several types exist, each with benefits. The most popular ones include:

1. Those held by writing organizations such Romance Writers of America (e.g. The Golden Heart and RWA chapter contests).

2. Blog contests where feedback is given on your entry (e.g. MissSnark’s First Victim Secret Agent contests (MSFV)).

3. Blog contests where agents bid on entries. No feedback is given. (e.g. MSFV Baker Dozen contests, Brenda Drake’s Pitch Contests)

4. Pitch fests on Twitter. (e.g. Carina Press on April 4th #carinapitch)

Each of these contests have their own pros and cons, the #1 con being they are SUBJECTIVE, like everything else in publishing. With the RWA contests, you have to pay to enter. I participated in one last year, and I won’t do that again. I finaled, but the scores were ridiculously high. Sure my entry was good, but I knew it didn’t deserve the 99 out of 100 one judge gave it (more like the 87 the published author gave it). I wanted feedback. That’s not what I received.

MSFV Secret Agent contests require thick skin (just like querying), but you can get some amazing feedback from agents and fellow writers that will help make your first page stronger.

Contests like those held by Brenda Drake are great for getting your pitch seen by agents who aren’t currently accepting queries. Since demand to get into these contests is high, and only a few entries make it in, your entry has to be strong to begin with.

Contests are a great way to be seen by agents, but beware submitting the same piece again and again, as agent Sarah Lapolla pointed out on Twitter:

The lack of variety is why I stopped saying yes to contests for a while. When I started doing them again, the same pitches were still there.

Do you participate in writing contests? How do you feel about them?

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The Contest Circuit + writing contests