Many writers hone their talent by entering contests. Others do it to spread their name. Some even get their big break from them. In our case, we each entered a Moonlit Romance writing contest earlier this year—and won!
When we wrote our entries we were each at different stages of our individual writing careers: Nell had a book out and contracts with more than one publisher, Rebecca had already won a contest that had resulted in publication, and Jessica was a complete contest newbie.
Nell says:“I was thrilled to place in the contest. I’d wanted to write something fun and flirty and Dan, the hero of my story, implored me to write about him. I didn’t take much persuading, and he turned out to be one of my favourite heroes.”
Rebecca says:“I was still on a high from winning a different contest and felt confident enough to enter another. My characters took on a life of their own and my entry wrote itself in under a week. When I heard I’d been chosen as a winner, I was delighted.” “Nell told me about the contest and I was initially hesitant about entering because I had another project on the go. Eventually she persuaded me to rework something I’d started three years previously, so I started cutting, revising, and rewriting. I was gobsmacked (but very pleased!) to get placed.”
We came from diverse stages in our individual writing careers, with ideas in different shapes that were written in varying ways, but there was one common factor—we all worked hard to make our entries the best they could be. And in the end, each of our efforts resulted in publication and another step along the road of romance writing!
So what advice can we give, and how can you find a contest that’s right for you?
Our Top Ten Tips:
- Know the rules and stick to them. This may sound obvious, but it’s surprising how many people miss an important piece of guidance that ends up invalidating their submission.
- Present your entry properly. If there’s a specific format, follow it. If there isn’t, stick with the gold standard: 12pt Courier/Times New Roman font, double-spaced – and don’t forget page numbers!
- Do not exceed the word count, even if you think it makes the story better, and make sure you don’t enter a vampire fantasy into a contest for inspirational stories! You’ll be wasting your time and the judges’.
- Don’t “over-egg” your entry. If the contest requires a 5,000-word story, don’t try to cram in all the events, subplots, and characters of a 60,000-word novel.
- Don’t push yourself. For example, if a contest focuses on a genre you’re not familiar with and you’re struggling, it may be best to get to know that genre better first.
- Don’t wait until the last minute to send in your entry. This is especially important if you are entering a contest based in another country (as two of us did). Time zones also apply to emails!
- Develop a thick skin. You may get bouquets, but you could just as easily receive brickbats.
- Don’t become a ‘contest junkie’ and enter everything. Try to go for the contests that will bring you the most benefit, whether this is a chance for publication or a simple learning experience.
- Leading on from this, determine what you want to get from a contest. If winning money is the answer, don’t enter. If you want to do it to increase your self-confidence, get feedback, get motivated, or simply because you love to write and have a story to tell, go for it!
- Relax! Those who don’t get placed aren’t tarred and feathered. And most of all, keep writing!
Our Top Ten Contest Resources:
- Writing organizations, e.g., RWA, whose Golden Heart and RITA contests are extremely popular. RWA chapters also run their own contests. Other writers’ associations, e.g., the Romantic Novelists’ Association (
) or Romance Writers of Australia, also run contests. UK
- Writerspace, a portal for readers and writers of romance, lists many contests.
- Romance Junkies. This site runs an annual writing contest that regularly attracts hundreds of entries. Many entrants who have won or placed highly have gone on to publication.
- eHarlequin (
) and Mills and Boon ( USA ) also run occasional contests, varying from online reads and round robins to 1,000-word excerpts that could win you a meeting with an editor. UK
- Your own eyes and ears. The online community will always know about an upcoming contest, so keep those feelers out.
We would love you to share your success stories and funny moments about entering writing contests! Have they helped or hindered? Which is your favourite? Tell all!
Fall in Love: An Anthology, featuring September Song by Nell Dixon, The Little Shop of Dreams by Jessica Raymond, and Autumn Splendor by Rebecca Ruger, is available now from Moonlit Romance (e-book or print-on-demand paperback).
And check out their websites for more on what they are up to post win!