Why do I enter them? It is not for the thrill of the win, tho I do love that. Entering a contest is like taking a course in writing. It is necessary to produce a piece of work to someone’s specifications and turn it in for a grade. The reading fees are way cheaper than a course but just as significant for me. In other words, I am paying to do this, so it makes me (mentally) take my work up a notch. I don’t worry about other participants. Simply try to do my own best work.
Word count, personality of the magazine and/or the judge. Take a look at the winning work from the past. Ramp up your own efforts. Take a look at your past portfolio. Is there something that can be re-purposed? Taking a work apart and re-forming it is a wonderful exercise. Finding contests is as simple as putting the words “writing contest” into google or subscribing to a variety of blogs and sites that feature contests. Poets and Writers Magazine lists contest.
I like to enter in fields where I am trying out my skills for publication.
Contests put our work before readers, albeit judges, but in a way all readers are judges so contests are a good trial run for publication.
I was fortunate enough to recently place third in a children’s writing category for the Alabama Writers Conclave. The encouragement of placing has urged me to keep writing in that genre and to polish my work to a higher gloss (standard). Every day new contests appear. Take some time to search the net–warning, looking for the right contest is as time consuming as looking for markets. Don’t let it distract you from writing, make it an adjunct and an inspiration to your writing.