by Meggan Preuss
Writing competitions. Are they worth it? Can they help with your writing? Or are they just a waste of time?
I believe they can, since they’ve helped me.
Hi! I’m Meg – an aspiring writer, supporter of local authors, and the current chairperson of a local writing group, Writers 2000.
Writing competitions? Yay or nay?
Writing competitions are a great way to not only practice and flex your creative writing muscle, but they can also help with many aspects of the craft.
While some writing competitions can be hit or miss, some can definitely be worth the effort.
Years ago, I entered the Poetry Institute of Africa’s Annual Competition. While I didn’t win, I was one of the many finalists that were published in that year’s anthology, Wandering Realms. And being published, no matter how small, is always a win in my book.
Without that competition, I would never have been bitten by the writing bug and would never have dreamed of having my name on the cover of an actual book.
Fifteen and published in an actual book – that was quite a boost to my confidence.
And that’s where the Writers 2000 comes in. Back when I joined the club in 2015, I entered the Annual Competition at the last minute and placed not only first for Poetry but joint second in the Fiction category.
The pros of writing competitions
You improve your craft
The best way to improve your writing is to write, write, and write. And just like writing fanfic, competitions allow you the option to practise and improve your craft. The more you write and enter, the more you learn about your writing style and abilities – are you great at plot but bad at characterisation? – competitions can help determine your writing strengths and weaknesses.
You learn to be precise with word choice.
Word count or certain word use criteria will help you become more precise in your word choice. You learn to tell a story in the shortest amount of words.
Many members from Writers 2000 have found that the word counts of our monthly challenges (200 and 65 words) have helped hone their writing skills.
You learn time management skills
Competition deadlines are great in teaching time management skills. Deadlines are a great motivator for writing. If you ever want to be a professional writer, sticking to deadlines is a must.
Members of Writers 2000 often joke with me as I am notoriously known for only writing my entries the day before the deadline.
You get free feedback on your writing (sometimes)
Some writing competitions either provide feedback from the judges or your fellow entrants. Feedback, especially constructive feedback, can be a great way to improve your writing. Feedback can also provide you with other viewpoints on your entry – a different way of looking at your plot or characters.
Back in 2015, the Fiction judge, Anica Foxcroft, provided me with three full pages of feedback on my entry. Notes that I still have today, as they were so incredibly helpful.
Always take critique wherever you can get it.
Unfortunately, some competitions will only provide feedback for a fee.
You can find a community
Writing can be a lonely task, but a community makes it easier.
They can celebrate your wins and commiserate your losses, they can provide writing advice and be a sounding board for any issues you’re having with your writing.
Thanks to award ceremonies, forums, and social media, you can meet and connect with your fellow writers and judges. Some competitions run for a few months, with multiple rounds, and workshopping with a mentor such as ROSA’s Strelitzia Award.
Through competitions, you can find writers who are like-minded and you may even find a writing buddy or a mentor.
There are a vast number of local writers always willing to help a fellow writer.
You can discover new styles and genres
A writing competition is great for trying out a new writing style (such as epistolary) or genres without spending a long time writing a full novel.
Over the last couple of years, the theme for the Writers 2000 Annual Competition Fiction category has been Romance (2019), Horror (2020) and Children’s (2021) – themes selected to push writers past their comfort levels and try something new.
I never considered writing romance (a genre I love to read) until I placed first with my first ever romance short story.
You can find motivation and inspiration.
Competitions can also be a source of both motivation and inspiration. Themes or styles that you want to try out and explore.
Globe Soup runs competitions where not only is there a theme, but they also assign you a genre for your story.
Often, the validation of winning can motivate you to pursue your passions.
Also, competition entries can be turned and twisted into something more. I once expanded a poem into a short story that received first place.
You can win awards and/or be published
Competitions, especially if you win, can lead to awards and, most importantly, publication. Some competitions award publishing contracts and sometimes publish anthologies for finalists. You could even attract the attention of publishers or agents willing to publish your work.
When you enter writing competitions, there is quite a lot you can get out of the experience. Even if you don’t win, you never know where you might end up.
Writers 2000 Annual Writing Competition
Writers 2000s Annual Competition is open and I encourage all who read this to consider entering. It’s a great experience and opportunity for you to showcase your writing.
A twist of fate
Midnight of 31 August 2022
Categories that follow the theme
- Fiction: 2000 words
- Flash Fiction: 500 words
- Non-Fiction: 800–1200 words
Categories that do not follow the theme
● Life’s Like That: A humorous look at daily life – strictly 500 words maximum
● Poetry: Any length but keep it reasonable
● Haiku: Traditional Haiku of 3 lines and 17 syllables (5-7-5). Haiku do not have titles, and punctuation is seldom used. However, for this competition, we require a title and pen-name.
Fee per entry for all categories except haiku – R20 for members and R50 per entry for non-
members.Fee per haiku entry – R10 for members and R20 per entry for non-members.
There are prizes for the first three places in each category, and every year we ensure that our prizes, especially first place, are top quality.
Address any competition queries or entries to Shirley Armstrong
About Writers Write
Writers 2000 is a group for people interested in writing. We are a mix of published writers, aspiring novices, and dabblers.
We hold monthly challenges and an annual competition which allows members to exercise and improve their writing.
We meet once a month for our ‘Author Talks’, which are always interesting and informative. Our speakers are writers, editors, journalists, and publishers.
Anyone with an interest in writing is welcome to join.
You can contact us through our Instagram or Facebook pages, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meg Preuss is an aspiring writer, local author supporter, avid fanfic reader, animal lover, and tech geek.
She dabbles in poetry and writing fantasy and romance.
She loves to chat about her crazy pets, books, crafts, and good movies that make you cry.
You can find her at megpreuss.com or email her at email@example.com.
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