Why Enter Story Contests?

by @AnnieDaylon

shutterstock_163750679My primary aim when I started writing was to pen novels. One day, I veered from that path into the world of the short story. The result? An immediate burst of accomplishment and, surprisingly, a joy in the genre itself. I still participate in the marathon of the novel, but am always up for a short story sprint.

In order to get my work out there, I entered story contests. Rejection? Yes, lots of it. But considerable success, too. Knowledge crept in: the contests, especially the twenty-four hour dashes, were helping to hone my craft. I kept entering…

Reasons for Entering Short Story Contests

  1. Fun. You have opportunity to play with styles and voice.
  2. Readers.  Your work is seen by objective readers.
  3. Inspiration. Topic is often given. You get to brainstorm around it.
  4. Blind judging. You can dip your toe into the water anonymously: no query letter; no dreaded synopsis. You are selling your work, not selling yourself.
  5. Motivation. You have a deadline, so you have to put BIC (butt in chair) and just write.
  6. Feedback. Sometimes you get feedback.  Disagree? Reject. Agree? Apply.
  7. Word Count Limits. You have no choice but to tighten writing by dropping modifiers and using stronger verbs.
  8. Credibility. Published? Short-listed? Either gives you credibility… something to put under “Recent Awards and Publications” when submitting queries.
  9. Immunity to Rejection. Rejection gradually loses its sting. You simply edit your stories and submit them elsewhere.
  10. Collection. Stories accumulate. Before long, you have a collection.


Along with the above benefits comes the awareness that a lot of small publications are staffed by volunteers, many of whom are writers. They give their time to support you. You give a small fee to support them. The result? A writing community. A complete circle. Bonus!

My Best to You,

Annie Signature Light Blue

6 thoughts on “Why Enter Story Contests?
  1. I completely agree with your arguments for entering contests. Some of my first accomplishments as an author came from contests and, like you say, because they are anonymous, the let down from the “rejection of losing” isn’t nearly as bad as the piles of rejection letters you receive from novel writing.

    Lately, my short story writing has given way to my novel writing more out of sheer habit than anything else. I have, however, entered one short story contest and that was a month ago, so who knows? Maybe I’m back in the game 🙂

    Good post! I will keep a watch on your blog for more!

  2. I agree with your arguments and the commenters. I seem to have trouble having the time to do contests as well as my memoir. When I see who wins the contests, I shy away from entering, because I don’t have a degree in creative writing or language arts. I guess I need a jolt of self-confidence. I do appreciate your encouragement. I enjoy all of your blog subjects. Thank you:)

    • The main reason I enter story contests is to hone my craft. Contests lead me to attempt genres I never would consider on my own and, through contests, I am learning to be lean with words. I don’t focus on winning (nice when it happens,) only on improving and expanding my collection.
      Time (oops! I mean lack of time) is always a factor. I try to priortize and that means putting goals in writing; next, I decide what is needed in order to achieve those goals (courses? contests?) Sometimes what is needed is to focus on one thing, and one thing only, until it is complete.
      As for a jolt of self-confidence: Check out this post: “8 Famous Authors & Their Formal Education- or Lack Thereof! http://lauramarcella.blogspot.ca/2010/09/fun-fact-friday-8-famous-authors-and.html

      Thank you for sharing and good luck with your writing.

    • Glad you liked the post. As far as lists of story contests… I have found many through the Poets & Writers website which has a data base of grants, contests, and awards: http://www.pw.org/grants. Since I live in Canada, I use the Canadian Writers’ Contest Calendar (great resource!) which is available from White Mountain Publications: http://www.wmpub.ca/cwcc.htm. Hope these are helpful.

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