This week: On Writing ContestsEdited by: Kittiara
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It can be fun to submit your work to off-site writing contests. Unfortunately, you have to tread with care...
This week's Drama Newsletter is all about writing contests, and what to look out for.
As you have probably discovered by now, Writing.Com hosts a wide variety of contests. There is the official contest, run on a monthly basis, and there are many contests hosted by other members in our community. These contests offer inspiration, and participating in them can be a way of challenging yourself, trying out new genres and forms, and making new friends.
Sometimes, you might like to try contests outside of the site. Depending on where you live, there might be local writing contests, regional ones, and national ones. There may even be international ones. Participation in these contests could be a way of getting your name out there... but there are risks.
I discovered this myself, about 15 years ago. I’d picked up a pamphlet from the local library, advertising a poetry contest that was free to enter. Figuring that I had nothing to lose, I submitted a poem. Imagine my delight when it was accepted for an anthology! I was over the moon... only to discover that that anthology cost a lot of money. When, later, I researched the company, I discovered that this was how they operated – accept as many submissions as possible, regardless of the quality of the pieces, and then try sell the anthology to those published in it and their family and friends on the basis that they’ll want to see their/your name in print.
There are many such contests out there. They may have very impressive names. They may send you a certificate to tell you you have been included in a “poetry hall of fame”. Unfortunately, it’s not one you can frame and proudly hang on your wall. Or, you can, but it’s meaningless. In fact, earning prizes and awards from such companies can work against you if or when you want to submit your work to publishers - the bad reputation of such publications will be well-known.
If, then, you would like to enter an off-site contest, it is advisable to do some research. A simple Google search will offer you names of contests that are of a questionable nature. Other writers have shared their experiences with a wide variety of contests. This can help you build a first impression of whether or not it’s worth entering your work.
It is also advisable to have a look at the contest’s terms and conditions. What do they say about copyright, for example? Do they merely ask for the right to print your poem in a specific publication, should you win the contest? Or do they claim full rights to your piece? Some will claim rights even you do not win – the mere act of submission is to hand them the rights to your work. This is a clear warning sign.
It is also recommended to check out previous winners. Are they easy to find? What is the quality of their work like?
Should you win, how will you receive your prize? Do you have to attend a special event to receive it? If so, would it be free for you and your guests to attend, or are they trying to sell you tickets?
Some organisations will offer you all sorts of things, from mugs with your name on it to expensive agents. They do not care about the quality of your work, nor your talent as a writer. They are simply trying to make money off you, and they will praise you and flatter you, but it’s important to remember that they’re doing the same thing to every single other person who entered their contest. It’s sad but true.
There are good contests out there. It’s a shame that we have to be so cautious when trying to find one. It’s better to do some research, though, than to end up disappointed. We pour a lot of ourselves into our work, and we deserve better than to give that away to people who have less-than-honourable intentions.
Some contests that might inspire you:
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Wishing you a week filled with inspiration,
The Drama Newsletter Team
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