Writing contests and challenges can help you get published or boost your writing career in many ways:
1) They teach you to work under deadline (important for motivating yourself to get published in the first place as well as crucial for your success after publication).
2) They help you improve your skills as any writing practice will, but they might give you an extra boost in areas that you’re weak (for example, they can help you to master particular genre techniques or more effectively imagine and capture certain scenarios or emotions you’ve yet to perfect).
3) They give you opportunities to network (depending on the nature of the contest, see examples below) or to meet agents and editors if you win.
4) They provide you with a win or honorary mention you can use as a publishing credential for your queries and cover letters.
5) They can provide you with extra funds so you can work a little less at your day job and spend a little more time writing or working on getting published.
The following resources are a small sample of what’s out there, but they are a phenomenal sample. So check out the options below and get writing.
Writer’s Digest includes articles, interviews, tips, and exercises to help writers develop their craft and increase their understanding of the publishing industry. The Competitions page is a great resource for several fun and lucrative contests each year. Win, and you’ll be meeting New York editors.
Writer’s Market, published by the group at Writer’s Digest, is THE bible for aspiring writers—full of contests, publishers, agents/editors, freelance writing gigs, contacts, and advice. Be sure to get this year’s edition.
Writers of the Future is a first-rate contest for those trying to get published in sci-fi or fantasy. The list of judges reads like the Who’s Who of speculative fiction. Winning here is a great publishing credential and networking opportunity.
The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest lets you send in your worst first line ever. Tons of fun.
Fundsforwriters.com is a great source for contests, grants, awards, and fellowships.
WriterGazette.com This site features articles, tips, contests, resources, and job postings for freelance writers.
National Novel Writing Month Every November writers are challenged to churn out a 50,000-word novel. The site lets you track your progress and network with other participants.
WinningWriters.com sponsors a poetry contest, but also helps you ensure the validity of other poetry contests.
Kidlit.com is a new blog from an associate at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency that offers contests and advice for authors of children’s books.