Tuesday 26 January 2010

Writing Competitions

I’ve been involved with writing competitions a good many times, mainly as a judge in recent years, but also sometimes as an entrant. An early version of what became the first chapter of my debut novel, All the Lonely People, was submitted to the Southport Writers’ annual seminar competition in the late 80s and got nowhere. Actually, that’s not quite true or fair, since I did get some feedback from the judge, Jessica Stirling (who was in fact a very likeable fellow, Hugh C. Rae) which offered some encouragement.

A couple of years later, the Southport Writers’ ran a short story competition judged by the senior fiction editor of ‘Bella’. My story, ‘Are You Sitting Comfortably?’ won – a truly great moment. The story was published in ‘Bella’ (which sadly does not take fiction any more) and in ‘Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine’ and it helped to launch my career in print..

I’ve been asked to mention a writing competition run by that admirable organisation Mystery Women, and the details are here. Mystery Women does, I’m glad to say, allow men to join, but its special mission is to encourage women writers.

Is it worth devoting time and trouble to entering a writing competition? On balance, I think it often is – though it’s very important not to allow an initial lack of success to deter you from continuing to apply fingers to keyboards. Winning competitions and literary prizes is the icing on the cake – the ultimate measure of success is having readers who want to keep coming back for more of your work.


Anonymous said...

Martin - Thanks for sharing your experiences with writing competitions. I think you're right that entering competitions can be worth the effort. I also agree about how important it is not to let oneself be deterred by false starts, not winning competitions and rejection. Anything that helps one gain writing experience and get one's writing "out there" is probably worth considering.

Ann Elle Altman said...

I think it's important to enroll if only to try and improve your craft. A site I joined for reviews and editing often have contests and I've won so I feel it's important.


Dorte H said...

I think this sounds interesting. Thank you for posting about it.

1000 words - I should be able to live up to that part of it at least.

And as far as I can see, they accept participants from all over the world?

Eeleen Lee said...

I have won a few contests. But a lack of recognition is not a deterrent.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Thanks for the link, Martin.

I haven't entered any competitions, but I think it would be an interesting way to get short fiction out there and increase confidence or name recognition.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for these comments. MW is a good organisation and I do think it is good to have a go!
Lee, welcome to the blog!
Dorte - I imagine so, but if you like, I can check with them for you.

Dorte H said...

Yes please, I would like to be sure before I begin writing. If I can participate, I probably will.

Martin Edwards said...

Dorte, the answer is that people from outside the UK are welcome to participate. The prize conference is in the UK and travel costs are not included in the prize.

Janet O'Kane said...

I won my first ever writing prize last year since I was about eight. As well as giving me a tremendous boost it means I get to go to the Harrogate Crime Festival this year for free. So it's always worth having a go.