Reason 1: You can win. Then you get to display a nifty badge for the website, get to write award-winning author in your bio, and max the ever-loving crap out of its marketing potential. It feels pretty good too. I’m a finalist in the the Passionate Ink Stroke of Midnight Contest Novella category. See, over there, nifty right?
But not everyone wins you say. Boy, I know that too. The novella is not the only piece of work I submitted. Here’s the value I gained from submitting “next year’s winner” in this year’s contest.
Reason 2: Skin thickening. A useful trait for the writer-inclined. No matter how good you get, someone’s probably not gonna like you. One of my critiques one was damning. All part of the process.
Reason 3: Mastering market realities. Of my three reviewers, one loved it, one ripped it to shreds and stomped on it a few times and the third was in the middle. Not all readers are the same. Not all markets have the same expectations. Mastering that big wide market out there and learning to target an audience is key to mastering the business side of the craft. Like injections, this part of the game is painful but necessary. Contests can proxy the emotional experience of sending work into the market and learning to deal with mixed returns.
Reason 4: Anonymity. I got critiques from the unknown faceless crowd which were helpful. I want to get better. I want to see how someone who does not know me reacts to my work. Critique partners become known entities, familiar with your style. Having someone read it who knows nothing about the work (or me) adds another layer of value.
What have you learned from submitting to a contest? Would you do so again?