You don’t need to search too hard to discover a range of writing competitions where budding authors can flaunt their literary wares.
Being Irish, I tend to glance every so often at what’s on the competition board of writing.ie. Another site which seems to rank highly is Christopher Fielden’s which showcases short-story competitions from all over the world into one (very long) page.
I’ve been writing seriously for the best part of a decade, and have mixed feelings about the competitions which are usually for short-story (although there are poetry and flash fiction entries too).
On one hand, it’s a great platform for the author if they get short listed. A win can be a real string in the bow especially if the author has aspirations to hunt down an agent; demonstrable proof that they have a talent that has been recognised outside of their little supportive, but ultimately biased clique.
It’s also a great chance to find your voice. No better feedback than rejection after rejection to correct course, especially if it is accompanied with feedback.
Before my blogging journey began in April 2014, my reading and writing preference was for longer articles and stories. I was one of those sad bastards who in their teens, read the Russian classics penned by Dostoevsky and Tolstoy ( – no regrets despite being a sad little virgin for a frustratingly long time).
155 blog posts later, my writing style has changed. People don’t have the patience (I include myself in this bracket) to spend ten minutes reading a post, especially if it’s from a relative unknown – the downfall of many newbie bloggers.
I’ve written several blog posts particularly to do with embarrassing travel adventures, which could be considered short stories. Before blogging, I would have been uncomfortable trying to fit a voice or word count that a competition insisted on. I preferred a longer format to ‘map’ out the story. Now though, I think learning to write and capture a stories essence in a sprint style, can be a really valuable tool in an authors armoury which can be rolled into the novel template.
Dan Brown, love him or loathe him, does a good job with this. Each chapter builds to a little cliffhanger – lodging that hook in your cheek just a little deeper with each chapter. Before you realise it, you’re being reeled quickly across the finish line. No 100 pages of back story with Mr. Brown.
With that being said, I’m planning to enter a few comps this year. I won’t lie. You enter these things to win – the marketing and attention that would come from winning or being short listed would be fantastic, especially for an unknown author.
Realistically though, I’m treating it as a way to get the creative juices flowing, perhaps unearthing a little gem that someone might find, or something that I pocket for myself to use at a later date to polish into a novel.
To other authors and short story aficionados, what has your experience been of writing competitions? A distraction, or a great chance to hone your voice?
N.B. As a side note, I entered my first (and only) competition back in 2010. Run by the Irish Metro Herald it was designed to find new undiscovered talent. My entry (which you can read here) made it through as one of the twelve finalists out of over 300 entries. Alas, I crashed and burned at the interview stage, a story which probably merits a post in its own right.
You can find out about my debut novel, Pathfinders by visiting this link.
image attribution – Joshua Siniscal via CC