Oh Snark, oh Snark,
My critique group is in a tizzy while getting prepared for a local writer's contest. Perhaps I don't tizzy well, but I am not among the enthusiastic members. We seem to see the opportunity in two different lights. They seem to feel that winning will bring editors knocking, pleading for the awarded work. I sigh. I say that winning a contest simply helps sweeten the query and that's about it. It might catch the eye of an overworked editor/agent and convince them to give the work a read, but the work must stand alone. If it ain't good, no blue ribbon will make an editor send a contract.
I just attended a conference and got four requested reads (and I have no awards). I feel my time was better spent. So, are contests worth the effort? They're a bit expensive. Would a ribbon convince you to request a read?
Yikes. Do they give out ribbons for participation? Miss Snark remembers those ribbon award days well, given her innate ability to conk her compatriots in the shins with field hockey sticks...an ability not matched by the hand-eye coordination required to do anything productive like score a goal-for her own team or anyone else's.
But I digress.
Writing contests feed on the fevered hopes of writers that this will be Their One Big Chance.
If you think you're Lana Turner sitting on the bar stool at Schwabs (for those of you in the Pacific Northwest...this Schwabs is NOT the tire dealer based in Prineville) remember that Lana Turner wasn't actually discovered that way, and neither will you.
But I digress.
No, writing contests don't mean a thing (unless it's Miss Snark's Second Annual Writing Contest of course). It is, however, a way to focus on getting something finished, and having someone outside the critique group read it. It's not going to kill you to enter. It's not going to keep me from reading your stuff if you send it to me. It's also not going to be an automatic "oh dear dog I must read this incredible tone poem that won First Place in the Frangiapani, North Dakota Writer's Bar and Grill Sweepstakes". I reserve those swoons for writing that involves royalty checks.