I hate losing. I understand I’m not alone in this sentiment, but loss does instill a feeling of loneliness. So when I enter a competition, I have to do so knowing I have a fighting chance of winning. This usually means having an idea of my opponents ability.
This is probably why I enter so few writing competitions and schemes to get people writing. As there is invariably (although not always) a short period of time between me discovering the existence of the competition, and its closing data, it isn’t unusual for me to ignore it. I’ll almost always share an interesting-looking competition on Twitter, however.
On the occasions when I’ve broken my back to submit an entry, the results have so far been unsuccessful. I suspect the reason for this is that — certainly for me — it’s just too hard to create a work for a specific topic in the timescale available. As a writer for whom every tap of the keyboard needs to be profitable, taking the time out from work can be difficult, and financially risky.
Given that these competitions are aimed at writers, that seems slightly topsy-turvy. The solution, of course, is to put time aside to write. A bit confusing if you’re already a writer! You might also attempt to complete competition-ready works months in advance, perhaps trying to anticipate what topics will be demanded.
Broadly speaking, there are two types of competition open to writers: cash prizes, and development. Sometimes, both are on offer, but usually its a toss up between raking in a few quid for your work, or spending more time on it. But should you bother entering?
This is a tricky question, one that I’ve attempted to answer recently in real life. The only answer I can give is “yes — if it will get you writing.” Because ultimately, there is a small chance of winning the prize unless you’re one of only a handful of entrants. But is the prize really the prize? Isn’t pushing yourself to get writing, finishing a piece of work, your poem, short story, novel, screenplay or whatever, isn’t that the real prize?
So if you’re thinking about entering a writing competition, make sure you have the time, the inclination, and the financial backing. Don’t rely on the prize money as a done deal, and don’t expect someone to clean up after your mistakes. Finally, look at the prize for what it is — an incentive. The real success is in finishing — but invariably, that’s where the work truly begins…