How Contests Changed My Writing

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Do you participate in contests? I never did. I’d receive the Publishers Clearinghouse packet in the mail, and I would do a free throw right into File 13. After all, why bother? Thousands of entries, but hardly thousands of chances. You’d have a better chance of being struck by lightning.

Until I started writing. That was a contest based on skill. Sure, it’s a subjective thing. What one person hates, another loves. But work at the craft, polish the writing, and it becomes great. I entered a few writing contests many moons ago when I was working on my inspirational romances. I never won, but the feedback I received helped me improve.

Fast forward to over a decade later: at a conference by author Hope Clark, she said, “If you don’t enter, you won’t win. So enter as many contests as you can.” It was good advice. I began entering more of my projects—poetry, short stories, the first five pages of novels. Some of the contests were free (yay!), while others had a small fee. After a couple years of losses, I received an honorable mention for a novel in 2012. Then in 2015, I won an Editor’s Choice Award for a short story. But even when I lost, I won. The unparalleled feedback I received was invaluable, especially with ACFW’s First Impressions contest.

Now the ACFW Keystone Chapter is holding the Great Beginnings Contest. They’re not looking for much, just the first five pages of a novel and the synopsis. And the cherry on top of this sundae is the nominal entry fee ($10-15). So polish those pages and send them an entry (or two!) After all, if you don’t enter, you won’t win.

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