file-20-11-2015-11-20-40A student recently queried with me the value of entering competitions. What’s the point, because, in her opinion, she didn’t think her entry was of a good enough quality.

Well, let’s just hang on a minute there, shall we? There’s part of me that wants to remind entrants to ‘know their place’. You are the entrant. You do the writing and entering, and leave the judge to the judging!

But let’s just take a step back first, and remind ourselves what a competition is. According to my Oxford English Dictionary a competition is “an event or contest in which people take part in order to establish superiority or supremacy in a particular area.”

It’s worth remembering, therefore, that a competition is only between those who have entered. So avoid pre-judging your work. There’s no point in thinking, I’m not bothering to enter because my work will be nowhere near as good as everyone else’s … because you have no idea who is entering or what they are entering. You might not think your short story is as good as one of Stephen King’s, but if Stephen King isn’t entering then your story isn’t competing with one of his, is it?

Most competitions are judged blind, which means the judge has no idea who has written any of the entries, so each entry is treated without prejudice.

And a judge’s role in a competition is to identify the best work (in their judgment) from all of the entries submitted. There is not normally a predetermined quality threshold that all entries have to pass in order to be judged. (If there is … it will be in the rules. There will be a clause that says the judge has the right not to award a prize, if they feel not one of the entries is worthy of the prize.)

Writing competitions can be good for writers. They give you a deadline. They may help you get started with a theme. You have a wordcount to adhere to. And then there’s the benefit of the prize money. Some competitions can also be useful stepping stones to other writing projects.

So don’t dismiss writing competitions. If you’re submitting work to magazines then you’re already entering a competition, because submitting for publication means your work is competing with that of other writers for that limited space in the publication, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction.

Good luck!

And to get you started … here are details of the Doris Gooderson Short Story competition, which has just been launched. We’re looking for stories (in English) of up to 1200 words. Entry fee is £5. 1st prize is £200, 2nd prize is £100 and 3rd prize is £50. The closing date is 11th July 2016. Full rules and entry forms can be seen here:

What Is A Competition
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