Tuesday, August 25, 2009

DISCUSSION: Entering Contests

Contest are one way to break into the writing business. They teach you about guidelines, deadlines and you get feedback on your writing.

Dyanne Davis - Author will share a few tips on entering contests. Feel free to offer a few of your own.


PatriciaW said...

Dyanne, in what ways do you feel contests are helpful to a writer? Distracting to a writer?

Jeanette Hill said...

With the plethora of contests out there, in addition to identifying the correct genre, what are some other considerations we should be aware of when deciding which contests to enter? Also, how do you feel about entry fees being assessed for contests and is there an amount where the line should be drawn?

Chicki said...

Do you think RWA contests are beneficial to African-American writers or just a waste of time?

Dyanne said...

Please, please please forgive me. I have no excuse for not being here yesterday. I will say I was writing most of the day. But that doesn't make up for not being here. Again I'm sorry.

Now Patricia,

To answer your question contests are helpful if you're looking for some impartial feedback. Sometimes you want someone who doesn't love yo to read your work.

I find that entering contests can come distracting for writers when they spend so much time entering contests that they never finish the book. Some writers become what's known as contest sluts. They will enter any and ever contest out there especially if they received a good score, finaled or won one. The book can still be unfinished. Trust me, I'm not making this up. I know too many writers that when an editor said I want to look at the book didn't have the finished product.

As a writer you're trying to sell a book not a chapter. Don't go broke trying to enter contests. IMHO, two or three to get feedback should be more than enough.


Dyanne said...


First let me address the entry fees for entering contest. As a longtime member of RWA, and contest coordinator for many years, and now on the board of RSJ my opinion may be a little biased.

YES, I think it's perfectly fine for contests to charge a fee. There's a ton of work involved with having a contest. Begging members to judge, begging editors and agents repeatedly to be the judge of the preliminary rounds. Collecting and distributing the entries. Then going back over them to make sure scores are correct. Getting a new judge in case one was particularly harsh or there's a discrepancy is the that's over the top.

Preparation for my particular chapter contest is an all year long event. We go over complaints, we see what things worked and which didn't and we make adjustments. No one is more happy than the people who run the contest to announce the winner. That's a real thrill to make that call.

And I won't omit this part. I know for the RWA contest it's a huge part of each chapter's income.

Now this is the really important part of your question and it will actually go to what Chicki is asking also. In the last weeks I've been reading a lot of blogs where people are complaining about contest and RWA in particular.

The reason being that writers want to enter their work wherever they want and they don't believe points should be taken off becasue of it. While I will agree ALL writers have a right to write what they want and NO they don't have to change their style for anyone and on one is asking them to. But a contest also have the right to have rules.

Most contest will provide a judging form if you ask. Personally if I were gong to enter a contest I would ask for the form so that I could be aware of what my work would be judged on.

I think it's wise to know before entering a contest your reason for doing so. Are you looking for feedback, hoping for a win? If it's the win you're after is it the agent or editor where you want your work to be published.

I would advice researching any contest before you enter to see it's advantage for you. If the win includes a read by an editor that you would never want to write for why enter that contest?

Now, let's talk genre. If you can't clearly define what you write for yourself entering it in a contest is going to be hard. There is a big difference in fantasy and Sci-Fi for instance. You have to learn the differences. The same as you wouldn't submit a work or erotica to a publisher that publishes only christian fiction you wouldn't enter your work into a contest in the wrong genre. You will get creamed.

I have a couple of judging forms. If you'd like them email me and I'll fw them to you. davisdyanne@aol.com


Dyanne said...


I'm going to answer your question like this. It doesn't matter what type of contest I judge for I can always spot the ones who are members of an RWA chapter. Believe it or not editors and agents have said the same thing in public posts.

You didn't ask me if I think the possibility of a story involving African American heroes and heroines would win the contest you asked if I thought it beneficial. My answer is yes.

As writers, we're all trying to make a sale to a NY house. The NY houses go by industry standards. RWA chapters judge by industry standards.

On a personal note: Many years ago I took one of our chapter judging form and incorporated it into my writing. I knew what editors and agents would be looking for in that first chapter. I made sure the questions were answered in that first chapter and the second, and third and so on.

I only recently learned that there are different formats being used depending on the type of publication. If a writer is looking to sell to the industry then the first thing they will have to do is learn how to format according to industry standards. This is not giving u anything. This is learning to present your work in a manner that will give it a shot at being read and hopefully sold.

So Chicki, while I did not and still don't enter many contest because I'm really and truly too cheap. I have to say in all honesty that RWA contests are not a waste of time for AA. But I also think you can get the benefits of the contest by asking for their form and judging your own work aganist it or entering a couple of contests for feedback.

You didn't ask this question but it's a piece of advice I'm going to give anyway. I definitley think ALL writers should learn industry standard formatting.

Good questions ladies. Thank you All.


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