Posted in Writing

Entering Writing Contests

Entering Writing Contests

One of my goals for this year is to enter more writing contests and submit more of my writing to magazines and the like. I don’t really have anything “worthy” of agents or publishers yet, but I want to start getting my writing out there.

I would like to submit at least one piece of writing to something per month.

I sent a short story to a contest in January. I don’t really know what I’m going to do for this month.

But here’s my question: How do you prepare for a writing contest?

Do you have a story or poem in mind that you’re already written and then search for a contest that is looking for that kind of story? Or do you find a contest and write something based on the contest’s needs?

Last month I had a short story written and ready to go. I found a couple different contests that were looking for general fiction short stories. There was no theme, no specific genre. So I sent it in.

This month there are some contests I would love to enter, but can I don’t really have anything ready to submit.

How can I come up with an idea based on the guidelines, write it, edit it, and make sure it’s ready to face judges along with a ton of other pieces all by the deadline.

So what do you do? What works best for you?

I’ll let you all know my decision whenever I figure it out, but if you have any ideas or tips for me that’d be great.



Born and raised in Massachusetts, Rachel Poli is a writer and blogger. She has an associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education and a bachelor’s degree in English Studies. She enjoys writing young adult novels, middle-grade, and children’s picture books. She is currently working on her first novel.

22 thoughts on “Entering Writing Contests

  1. First, breathe and relax. You got this. You can handle it.

    Next, make a schedule. If you know when a specific piece is due (I’m assuming they are short submissions, of course.), give yourself a week to write draft one and have a couple trustworthy people read/edit it in a couple of days (3-5 max), and then edit it once more before submitting it. Seems simple, but it’s all I got for short notice pieces.

    1. That’s what I did for the contest I submitted to last month. And I feel pretty confident with that piece even though it’s a long shot I’d win anything.
      Thanks for this. 🙂

  2. For me, it’s about writing regularly and not thinking “okay, now I’m going to write something that will be worthy of a contest”.
    If I find a contest I like, I spend a long time not writing anything and just thinking up ideas casually. The more I focus on the actual contest itself, the less likely I am to come up with something! Other times, I write something and think “I’d like to submit this somewhere”. There isn’t one way I prefer over the other.

  3. I’ve been thinking I need to enter more contests and submit to magazines this year, too. I tried a few months ago, but it’s been a while. I like the idea of submitting at least once a month––maybe I’ll do that, too. 🙂 As for whether to use something old or to write something new––I guess it depends on the contest. Sometimes I find a contest with an interesting theme and I decide to write something new for it. Other times I just look for somewhere to submit something I’ve already written. I have a bunch of short stories I wrote in college that I should probably edit and submit.

    1. You’re right. I think it depends on the situation. I too have some stories from college that I could fix up.
      Good luck if you enter any contests in the near future!

  4. Sometimes I’ll write a piece for a specific contest and other times I’ll look for competitions to submit to. It really depends. I try not to obsess over the results though. Writing should be about writing, not winning awards. Also, once I enter something, I tend to work on another project right away or do something else.

    1. Right, I think it depends on the project. I don’t obsess over the awards, but it would be cool to win something someday. Though, I think I would just rather my piece get published than get the cash prize, lol. Then I can have my foot in the door.

  5. Ey looks like we’re running the same goals too. I’m really hoping to get something published this year and I’m also struggling with content.

    I think we each have our own ways of getting into the stories we write. With our previous novels, how did you come up with them or your short stories? Perhaps think along those lines and then see how you could guide the story towards the competition guideline?

    Also everyone above has said some really good points so take it all in and come up with a story, your story, one you really enjoyed writing and then see if it’s contest ready. If not, whip it into shape.

    Think of it like Pokemon. When you get it, it’s your favourite and you love it but its not the strongest. Not yet. So then you work with it, teach new moves, grow it and watch it become Pokemon League Champion material and when you look back you see the journey it took to get there. Your story will be the same.

    Pokemon analogy. I’m too deep today. xD

    1. Yes, I’m getting a lot of great advice! I think I’m mostly just afraid that I’ll end up rushing my story to meet a deadline. I know there will be other contests and other opportunities to submit something, but hopefully you know what I’m trying to say.
      I love the Pokemon analogy, too! That explains it so well, lol!

      1. Haha glad you liked the analogy. I don’t know where it came from haha.

        As for the rushing a story for a deadline, there is no worse feeling than submitting something you know you could have improved because you had a deadline. By this I mean you rush wrote it, rush edited it and at the end you know it’s not the best. Different to the feeling that it’s not good enough, after putting all the effort into writing and editing.

        In short, don’t let deadlines lower your writing standard for the sake of time.

      2. Oh, right. If I feel like I’m rushing the writing or editing, then I’m not going to bother to submitting it. That wouldn’t be good for me, the story, or the judges who would have to read it, lol.

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