On Writing Contests

Christian Fantasy Writing

This year, I’m volunteering as the speculative fiction category coordinator for the ACFW Genesis contest, and I’ve enjoyed participating in something I know benefits fellow writers of speculative fiction.

Today all entries had to go out to judges, so I’ve spent most of the day in a flurry of processing entries, reviewing spreadsheets, and sending out emails.

As I worked on various aspects of contest preparation, I began wondering about your experiences with writing contests.

So, those of you who write, have you ever entered or judged a writing contest? How was the experience?

And if you’ve never entered a contest, would you consider it in the future?


  • sally apokedak
    March 13, 2012 - 7:44 am · Reply

    I’m a huge proponent of writing contests. We often spend months or years writing and then send our novels off to publishers who tell us the story doesn’t work. With writing contests we can get helpful feedback early on. We can know if our opening chapter is grabbing a reader and if our premise works.

    Beyond that, if we win in a prestigious contest we can put that on our query letters and that will help us get an agent or editor to give us an extra look when we send our proposals out.

    I only submit to contests that are being judged by authors, editors, or agents I want to get my work in front of, or to contests that I think will give me clout on my query if I can place or win.

    Even being judge unfairly is a good experience, because it helps you prepare for rejections when you submit. It helps you learn to say, “Thank You,” when you really want to say, “Can’t you read?” 🙂

    So I can’t remember having a bad experience with a contest. I have won some and lost some, but I’ve never regretted entering.

    • Sarah Sawyer
      March 14, 2012 - 3:31 pm · Reply

      Excellent summation of the benefits of writing contests, Sally! And you’ve brought up a good point about selecting contests with judges whose input you value. Connections that lead to contracts or representation can happen that way.

      Regardless of whether you win or lose, it’s an opportunity to find out what works or doesn’t work–and sometimes to learn to sort through conflicting advice. 🙂

      All in all, I’ve observed that submitting to contests can go a long way toward helping writers present a polished manuscript in a professional fashion, and that’s always a good thing!

  • TheQuietPen
    March 23, 2012 - 10:05 pm · Reply

    Sally, you do present excellent reasons for submitting to writing contests.

    And I would–if I had more time. It’s a common excuse, but as a full-time teacher at a rigorous Classical school, I believe I have some reason to use it. Add trying to be a faithful wife, keeping up with a blog (that I do feel called to write), polish up a novel manuscript, keep in touch with family/friends, and exercise (if for no other reason than I cannot afford to buy larger clothes), and well, God keeps me going! 😉

    Nevertheless, during the summer when I’m only teaching part-time, I might take a crack at some writing contests. The idea of actual, professional feedback on any of my writing sounds great. I’ve submitted to a few magazines, and all I’ve gotten is “no reply” or a form letter. Not especially helpful.

    • Sarah Sawyer
      March 29, 2012 - 12:48 pm · Reply

      Most writers battle to find enough time, myself included. So many responsibilities demand attention, and it does take wisdom to balance everything and determine what needs to be a priority and what’s not that important.

      I hope you do find the time to enter some contests. If your work has evident faith themes, I’d recommend the Genesis contest. It’s an excellent contest unpublished Christian writers. Though I don’t have personal experience with it yet, Novel Rocket also offers what seems like a great contest. Sally won in 2010, which I believe led her to connect with her agent. 🙂

      Of course, you don’t have to enter a “Christian” contest. There’s a lot that could be learned from jumping in the mix with all sorts of other writers, even though the judges might not be favorably disposed toward Christian elements.

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