Why We Should Enter Writing Contests

~ By Liza Keogh

So, you’re thinking about entering a contest sponsored by RWA, or one of RWA’s local or online chapters?

Good! I have some thoughts to nudge you along.

Some of us are plotters, some are pantsers, and some of us have created a hybrid of the two that works. Some of us are traditionally published, some of us are self-published, and some of us are hybrid.

What’s important is we all started somewhere, and if we’re even contemplating entering a writing contest, it means we also finished something we started. Woot!

When you’re new to writing, a contest provides a concrete deadline. Some of us need a little pressure to get to the finishing line.

A contest can also provide you with feedback, from a bare-bones numbering system, to a few sentences, to a healthy chunk of pages that have been marked up by thoughtful, attentive judges.

A contest can also help you find other writers within the vast community that is the RWA. It can be daunting to wade in to a thriving organization and find your place. Entering a contest is one way to get to know the waters. Volunteering to judge the preliminary round is another. 

But, if you’re curious, then just do it. Pressing send might feel a bit like jumping into your favorite swimming hole a few weeks too early, but the plunge is worth it.

Before you press that send button, let’s review:

  • Do you have a completed manuscript?
  • Have you polished that manuscript so it’s nice and shiny?
  • Run it through spell check and grammar check one more time. Just in case.


Go back to the contest rules page and read through carefully. Then, look at your manuscript.

  • Does it fit into one of the contest’s categories?
  • Have you formatted it correctly? 
  • Have you removed all traces of identification from the file(s) you are sending?

Go back, again, and triple check those pesky formatting rules. They’re important. You’re submitting a piece of writing you believe in. It hurts to be disqualified because you forgot to remove your name from the file’s properties, or you’ve formatted your pages into .docx, not .doc.

Good luck!

Liza is a pantser who craves organization and deadlines. She has a modest amount of experience with entering writing contests and knows what it’s like to press send on a polished project, and what it’s like to press send on something half-baked. Believe her, it feels much better to send in a piece of writing that is ready!

Most days, she can be found in her writing cabin, working towards her next Life Goal: becoming a published author. You can find her blogging at https://lizakeoghblog.wordpress.com, and on twitter @lazy_liza_k.

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