Thursday, April 16, 2009

Competitions....Arrgh? Or Woohoo?

Recently our writing group read through the top 3 prize winners in a local competition and were dumbfounded how they won. The first prize story we, after re-reading twice, couldn’t really comprehend. So I figured, ‘oh, perhaps they liked those abstract artsy stories that purposely make you feel slightly foggy the whole time'.

Then we read the second one, in which the author successfully (?) used six different similes comparing the main character to different kinds of animals, ranging from a bird to a dinosaur. ‘Maybe the judges knew the person’, I thought.

And then, third place, which actually was our favorite, a Southern sounding tale about a father-son relationship. The one thing all of three stories had in common were locations…a certain shared setting. So before I flick away another few dollars, I’m going to make sure I…
1) Check the history of winners.
2) Check the judges and read their biographies to see what they lean toward.
3) If it’s a local competition, will they favor regional writers, or at least writers writing about the nearby locale?

Anybody have anything else? Or perhaps any stories to share about experiences in competitions.

And by the way, Anthony…man it’s tough going after you. =). Great sex post.


  1. Wait, I missed a sex post?

    Very interesting post Patrick, but not encouraging. Although, having been a member of several "writers groups", I know how biased they can be with their opinions...and how important popularity is above skill. Sad, but true.

  2. I have entered my latest novel in a few contests. I haven't heard back yet, but now I'm going to be viewing the results through different colored glasses.

    I competed in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards contest last year and I did feel that the some of the stuff that made it into the top ten were less than spectacular. Of course anyone who didn't win would say that.

    I wrote it off to my novel being commercial fiction and the judges looking for more literary stuff, but now, I don't know.

  3. That was a great sex post, LOL!

    Contests are biased, just like anything else. But a fact of life, anyway. It's good to do your research, though.

  4. Great comments about the competition.

    I think entering competitions is a bit like playing yahtzee. You've just got to keep rolling the dice and rolling the dice until you get yahtzee.

    With that said, I don't think it's all luck, although luck plays a big part. The more judges and/or layers of judges there are the better. If the contest is small and the number of judges is small there is a greater chance of bias or preference for a certain style.

    Now I suppose that can work for you or against you. If you can find a small contest that has a preference for your style of writing that would create a high probability of success.

    I'm most interested in entering genre specific contests with a reputation that would catch the attention of industry people.

  5. Yeah, sorry for the downer post. I'd just gotten bounced myself from the ABNA contest, so maybe some of the vibe I was feeling dipped into what I wrote.

    Next week I'll be back on the positive track.

  6. No need for apologies. I didn't see it as a downer post at all.

    It's reality!

    Going through and reading the contest finalists in our little writing group made me feel much better, like the winners were not on another level that was above my reach.

    I read the top three winners in the PNWA conference for the YA and Fantasy categories and I can say that I was much more impressed with those top three finalists. And, the fantasy category showed openness to very different kinds of styles, so each contest is really going to be different.

  7. I once entered into a competition, but I quit after the first half mile.


Join the conversation, add insight, or disagree with us! We welcome your thoughts.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.