Monday, January 14, 2013

Doing Contests Write

by MarcyKate Connolly

If you're a writer in the query trenches, you've likely seen and even participated in writing blog contests. They're fun! They're exciting! And it's oh so easy to get swept up in it all. I know, because it was one of my favorite things to do!

But before you shoot off that entry, take a deep breath, relax, and make sure you're doing it right.

DO be sure your manuscript is complete and polished within an inch of its life. There's nothing worse than winning an agent request for your full manuscript and realizing you need to scramble to finish that first draft. And oh, crud, you gotta revise that puppy, too? All that pressure can be avoided by just finishing the dang thing first.

DON'T enter a contest if you've queried all the judging agents. I know how tempting it is. Maybe they'll see your book differently now that you changed that paragraph in your query, or rewrote the opening scene. Or maybe it still won't be for them and all you've done is take a spot from someone else. Don't be that guy or gal. Mystery agent contests are trickier because you don't find out who the agent is until the picks are made. Obviously not much you can do there but close your eyes, hit send, and hope for the best!

DO ask questions. Most blog contests have an announcement post before the entry window. If you're unclear on the rules, don't be afraid to ask in the comments. Others might have the same questions.

DON'T freak out if you don't get picked. Sometimes you'll miss the submission window. Sometimes your entry won't get past the preliminary judging. Sometimes every entry will get a request but yours. This is totally normal and even to be expected. Subjectivity is kind of a bitch. Sure it sucks, but don't let it get you down for too long. Keep trying—maybe next time will be your turn to win :)

DO make friends with other contest entrants! This is a fabulous opportunity to find new critique partners, or just general writerly camaraderie. Case in point, last year's Writers Voice contest.

DON'T stress too much. I know it's hard, but it's important! Your writing career does not depend on any single contest. Seriously. So have fun, keep your chin up, and try not to stress.

DO keep querying. Every contest is different and provides a new way of presenting your work. I've seen everything from one line pitches, Twitter pitches, one paragraph pitches, full queries, first lines, first pages, first paragraphs—you get the idea. Not everyone is good at all of these. Just because your 13-word pitch didn't blow an agent's socks off doesn't mean your actual query won't.

If you're looking for contests to enter, you're in luck! There's a bunch coming up and several blogs that run them regularly.

Current Contests:
Other Blogs to watch for Contests:

MarcyKate Connolly writes middle grade and young adult fiction and becomes a superhero when sufficiently caffeinated. When earthbound, she blogs at her website and ferrets out contests on Twitter. Her debut upper MG fantasy novel, MONSTROUS, will be out from HarperCollins Children's Books in Summer 2014.


Heather Kelly said...

FYI--MSFV has an entry window opening today at 12 EDT for those people looking for a contest!

Thanks for the thoughtful post. I like contests for a way to spice up the querying process. Also, I just love fun and games. :)

Good luck to everyone entering things!

MarcyKate said...

Ooh! For some reason I thought MSFV's January window had already passed - thanks for the heads up. I'll update the post!

SC Author said...

Woah, thank you for this! I'm still getting past your first advise; I need to finish up my MS :( But there are so many awesome contests! Arghh!!!

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Great advice - so many good pieces of wisdom for people entering contests. I've got a ways to go before my current WIP is even close to ready, but I'll keep a look out once it is!

Jemi Fraser said...

Great advice, MK! Contests are terrifying and yet such a great opportunity! I've only entered 2 and I did get great feedback from them both :)

Arlee Bird said...

Someday I may have to try entering one of these contests I suppose. Good way to get some exposure.

Wrote By Rote