The Ultimate Comparison

Since we started a discussion yesterday about comparisons among writers, we can't forget the ultimate comparison test: the writing contest.

So far this year I've entered two writing contests for unpublished authors: the Genesis Contest (sponsored through ACFW), and the Touched By Love Contest (sponsored by Faith, Hope & Love of RWA). By the way, the Genesis entry deadline is today, March 31.

For the Genesis, I entered two historical romances, the first 15 pages; the cost was $30 per entry. For the TBL, I entered only one historical romance, consisting of the first 30 pages; the cost was $25.

Now why did I pay all that money (a total of $85) to enter these contests? Was it because I crave the enlightening feedback on my story from the judges? Yes. Was it because I want to see what areas in my writing craft I need to work on? Yes, again.

Ultimately, however, I entered the contests because I want to compare myself with other writers. I'm eager to find out where my writing fits on the scale: am below average, in the middle, or above average? My finishing scores in these contests might give me a better idea of how much further I have to go, before I finally start coming out on top.

What about you? Have you ever entered a writing contest? Why did you enter and what was your experience? And if you haven't entered one, why not?


  1. Mornin', Jody. Yeah, I've entered several contests for both prose and poetry over the years...mostly to put a deadline on myself to have a finished product, then to have a "product" with which to work and possibly recycle into something else. :)

    PS You're a natural born teacher.

  2. Hi Angie,
    Entering to give yourself a deadline is a great idea! One of the MS's I entered isn't finished yet, so I'm definitely more motivated to plug away at it now that the first 15 pages are in the contest.

    And thanks, Angie! :)

  3. No, I haven't entered any contests, though I sure do want to. I think I am just scared. I haven't finished my first ms and I guess I am stil thinking it is a bunch of rubbish (being my first attempt and all) I just joined ACFW and am in the process of trying to get into a crit group. Maybe after I start getting some help and get some polishing done, I will feel more up to submitting.

  4. Hi Sherrinda,
    I think you are right on track with where you need to be. Sometimes we can rush ahead before we're ready. I bet that next year at this time you'll have at least one if not two MS's ready to submit into the round of contests!

  5. I love contests, but have only entered one before this Genesis.

    I am now a full 'contestee' because I entere *three* into the Genesis Contemp.Romance catagory, and am thinking about doing at least one into the touched by love. I'd do all three, but wow, That'd be $180! I've already spent the $105 for genesis, ,so figure I can do one more $25 this year. Then I need to be done:-)

    I enter because I think it's a win-win all the way around for my writing career. If I don't final, I get great feedback. If I DO final, I have something to add in my 'resume' of writing. If I WIN, then I have something even better to add to my 'resume' and my book actually has a bit of attention from agents/editors.

    In this day of both parties being very cautious about new writers, I think we need every chance we can get!

  6. Oh man, I've been on the fence about these two. I really, really wanted to enter but feel like I have too many balls in the air with my manuscripts, plus I didn't know which one to enter! LOL
    Yes, I've entered tons of contests. Anonymous feedback, imo, is the most valuable kind. It's also SO subjective. Be warned! :-) Last contest I entered, I got a 90 something from one judge and a 50 something from another. LOL Now to figure out what to change...
    Contests are SO fun though. I can't wait to hear how you do.

  7. I've entered two contests. One in which 2 out of three judges scored me almost perfect scores and the last one scored me probably the lowest on record. (Talk about No inbetween) :)
    And the second contest I came in third place.

    I plan on entering some of the published contests.

  8. Hi Krista,
    Three into Genesis?! That's amazing! Hopefully you'll get a great idea of where you stand in relation to other writers! With three, hopefully at least one of them will win! And I agree, it's a great opportunity for us to get feedback.

  9. I've entered the Genesis for the third time this year. But that's the extent of my contest entries, sadly. I really hope to start entering into some RWA ones.

    My goal in entering the Genesis each year is to hopefully discover a steady improvement in my submission scores. It did the last two years, but who knows what this one will reveal. It is so very subjective, but there are real nuggets to be learned when you get lucky enough to see some consistent remarks offered by the three judges. Then, at least, you know where you need to be spending extra effort.

    Anyone know when the FHL deadline is?

  10. Hi Jessica,
    That must have been very confusing to get a 90 from one judge and a 50 from another. At least you knew you weren't in the bottom of the pool of entrants.

    Since this is my first round of contest expereinces, I may have a totally different post about contests next year at this time! I could be saying something like: scrap the contest idea, they're way too subjective, they won't tell you much of anything about your writing! Who knows!

    I'm glad you still think they're fun even if you haven't entered any more!

  11. Hi Jennifer,
    Your experience sounds just like Jessica's! Extreme scores! I think that would be more frustrating than just scoring low with all of the judges!

    Congratulations on winning third in a contest! That is great validation and encouragement.

  12. Hi Eileen,
    Thanks for your insight on the Genesis contest. I'll make sure I look for something consistent in what the judges are saying before I rush to make changes. And hopefully, like you said, we'll be able to see steady improvement each year!

    The deadline for TBL is April 1 (tomorrow by midnight).

  13. Ugh. I entered Genesis and my stomach is still rolling with nerves! Why did I enter? I was coerced by a writer friend and that is all I shall say...! :)

  14. Hi Jaime,
    I know, I get gibberish whenever I think of all of the critiques too! Are contests really self-imposed torture? I guess we'll find out!

  15. I have never entered an official have-to-pay contest. I entered Nathan Bransford's first paragraph contest and got into the six finalists. I keep clinging desperately to that... but in realit, I really should be entering contests like you are. I'm not sure I could bring myself to pay, though.

    I can compare myself to published books I read, to the work of other's unpublished works I read, etc. on my own. But a contest here and there would't hurt. And what if I won! That would be cool. :)

    You have a good point about comparing ourselves. It's silly, but like the "gold star" on our forehead if we win. And it's great if those contests offer good feedback. Do the judges really offer that great of feedback? And what kind of scale do they put you on?

  16. Oh, and isn't the ultimate contest querying? It's like a huge rat race where if we come up on top, we've won!

  17. Hi Lady Glamis,
    I think even the mini-contests count. Finaling in Nathan Bransdford's first paragraph contest shows you that you're ahead of many of the others that entered (at least with your first paragraph!).

    I think the difference between getting noticed by contests vs. agents, is that in a contest everyone starts off on an equal playing field. Whereas with agents, you could be a really great writer, but an agent might be too busy to notice you or take on your work.

    But yes, I do agree, the ultimate contest is getting an agent or editor interested in your work. As unpublished authors, there's no easy answer for how we can hook an agent. But it seems to me, that getting ahead of the pack in a contest, might be one way to gain notice.

  18. Hi Jody,

    I entered my first contest last year. When I got the results, I'd just received my first rejection and gotten my first critiques. My mental state was shaken, so I barely read the contest results! (I landed smack dab in the middle)

    This year, I've pledged to enter three RWA sponsored contests. I entered the Duel on the Delta contest back in Feb., and I'm considering entering the upcoming Maggie.

    Wishing you wonderful results with your contests. Let us know how they turn out!

  19. I do like entering contests but I always find myself writing to their needs instead of to my desire. I did pretty well in two Times writing competitions if you count second runners up once and third runners up another time. But again it was writing hard-boiled crime fiction and I never do that (except then). I hope you do well! Good Luck!

  20. I've entered several contests... mostly to win!! I've won a couple of "honorable mentions", some gift packages (books, book bag, etc.), second place for the annual Florida Writers Asso. contest in 2008 and a few more.

    As much as it's fun to win, I like the challenge of the contest subject. Many times it gets me out of my genre or out of my writing slump.

    And I enjoy reading the winning stories and see how they compare to mine and what the judges are looking for.

    I think writing contests are good experiences and winning them looks great on your writing resume!

  21. Hi Jill,
    I'm not familiar with Duel on the Delta or the Maggie. Now I will have to go over the RWA site and check them out! That's what I love about blogging friends. We can learn so much from each other!

    Sounds like you had too much feedback all at once! I can see how that would be a huge blow that could knock you off your feet for a while. I'm worried all my feedback may come all at one time this spring too and overwhelm me.

    But I guess we need to remember it's all part of the growing process!

  22. Hi T.Anne,
    Sounds like you've had some affirmation with your writing which we all need from time to time! But crime writing?! That must have been interesting! I guess it was a great learning experience--you learned what you don't like writing! :)

  23. Hi Donna,
    I appreciate your enthusiasm for winning! I'm afraid to even consider the possibility of winning a contest at this point!(Of course it's every writer's secret hope!) But I'm trying to keep my expectations realistic and just hoping I'll learn from these contests. And if I ever win, then I'll probably ruin my query by pasting the news all over it!

  24. I entered a few contests each year --keeping the cost low. I did enter Genesis this year for the first time mostly wanting the critique they offer. I entered Writer's Digest a few years ago and placed in the top 100 the first time I did but not the next time so I didn't do it again! It's fun to dream thouugh.

  25. Hi Terri,
    I like your idea of entering a few contests a year and keeping the costs low. If we're strategic with what we're entering, hopefully each year we'll keep seeing improvements!

  26. I haven't entered any contests yet (emphasis on "yet"). I really would like to know how I compare with other writers, but to be honest the whole thing seems a little intimidating.

    Something I need to work on, I know.

    Love your blog, by the way!

  27. This is the first year I entered any contests. I entered the Genesis and the TBL contest. Earlier in the year I entered a contest through Inspiration for Writers and I got 4th - so that was kind of cool. :)

  28. Hi Billy,
    I totally agree. I'm so intimidated by the contests! But I'm also looking forward to finding out where I fit in the crowd of wannabe writers. Am I almost there, or do I still have LONG way to go? At least I'll have a better idea, hopefully!

    BTW, thanks for stopping by! I just love getting the chance to chat with other blogger writers!

  29. Hi Katie,
    4th is awesome! How encouraging that must have been to you! Now on your queries you'll have something that may catch an agent's eye, and that's what we need, right? All the better if you can score high in the other contests too!

  30. I've entered writing contests before and I've also judged them, so I've been on both sides. :-) I do like being able to get feedback, but I really find it interesting when one judge likes something and the other doesn't! It all just points to how subjective writing is. But, there are some things that don't fall into that "subjective" category - grammar, spelling, and certain elements of craft.

    It's an interesting experience all around. :-)

  31. It was my SECOND PLACE finish in the Genesis last year that led to my contract. The third place finisher in my category will be published this year as well, so it's a great contest.

    It still amazes me that a year ago I was entering Undiscovered in the contest, and now the retitled The Familiar Stranger is available on amazon! (Though it won't ship until Sept.)

  32. Hi Melissa,
    I'm sure being on the judge's end of contests has been an incredibly enlightening experience and has helped you grow as a writer. Hopefully, no matter how subjective the judging, those stories that are truly remarkable will rise to the top.

  33. Hi Christina,
    I did not realize that was how you made your way to fame! :) How AWESOME! I think you have just given hope to all of us unpublished wannabe's who've entered contests! If we don't win this year, keep trying! It's worth the effort!

  34. I am a new blogger and love to exchange ideas, experience, information or just a chat. I hope to have a chance to take part in such a contest and have some exposures. Please keep me posted. Thanks and look forward to hearing from you all. Cheers and have a great day,


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