It’s the last week of NaNoWriMo, friends! With only a few days left to finish your manuscript, you may be asking, “What’s next?”
While I plan to make next week’s blog post about the world of editing and polishing your manuscript to perfection, there are other wonderful things that could await your manuscript after hitting “The End.”
With that said, join me in welcoming Author Ava January to discuss the world of writing competitions! But first, a bit about Ava:
Ava January was long listed for the Richell Emerging Writers prize 2019 and was shortlisted (twice) for Pitch Wars 2019. She writes Historical romantic suspense is currently querying her Lady Detective series and entering every competition that looks valuable to her.
You can find her on Facebook or Instagram: authoravajanuary or at http://www.avajanuary.com
I’m beyond excited for her to be here today to give us her take on writing competitions. Following her guest post, you’ll find an author interview with Ava!
So, without further ado, welcome Ava!
Writing competitions, why enter?
Ok, you’re a writer and you’ve got the tight shoulders and strained neck to prove it! If only there was some way to show the rest of the world just how creatively talented and determined you are.
Enter-The Writing Competition.
It doesn’t take more than a quick google search to find hundreds, if not thousands of writing competitions. Ranging from free to some pretty costly entrance fees, writing competitions are a common fixture in the writing scene.
But before you run off and start entering every competition you can find, let’s take a moment to talk about what they are, what they can do for you and why you should enter them (and, when you shouldn’t!)
Writing competitions are contests you enter with your current manuscript or a short story that fits within the parameters provided by the contest host. Prizes can range from cash, publishing deals or simply the kudos of being able to add the competition win to your writing CV. Some offer feedback from industry professionals or readers specific to your genre.
Most of us are hustling to find time to write and are yet to receive that 6 figure deal, so why should we take time out of our busy schedules and spend our hard-earned money on entering competitions?
I consider this the most important reason to enter competitions.
Earlier this year I was longlisted for the Richell prize, which is a prestigious Emerging Writers prize here in Australia. My name was listed, along with 16 others, on various industry-specific websites, viewed by industry professionals, readers, and other writers.
On the day of the announcement, I connected with the other longlisted entrants to congratulate them and share our pleasure (and in my case sheer disbelief!) at being longlisted. While ultimately, I wasn’t shortlisted, I made connections with other authors that has resulted in friendship and an invitation to collaborate with other talented writers in my genre on an Easter anthology (watch this space!).
I consider that a win.
To me, this is the second most important reason to enter writing competitions.
You don’t need to win to receive the benefit of this. If you are longlisted, shortlisted or a runner up, your name will be advertised to hundreds, sometimes thousands of people – requiring no further cost or effort from you. If you are already a published author this can drive new readers to your back catalog (and new readers= sales!).
This isn’t just about bragging rights! Kristin Nelson from Nelson Literary agency’s 2018 stats show us that out of the 20,000+ queries she received, 442 full manuscripts were requested. Only 110 of those receiving offers of representation from her agency.
This means you need to stand out. We all know how important a query letter is and any information that helps you stand out amongst the thousands is worth its weight in gold.
There are many short story, flash fiction and full-length novel competitions that congratulate you with cold, hard cash. Who doesn’t love money?
Wow, Ava, you are so knowledgeable – so tell me which ones should I enter?
That’s up to you my friend! You are on your own writing journey and should always take any advice with a grain of salt (including mine!) and make that advice fit you and your situation.
Do your research
Not all contests are created equal. If there is a cost to enter then you should spend some time googling the previous winners of the contest and look at how much promotion they received. You should expect to see a couple of pages in your google search regarding the winner or finalists of the competition. Find out what the winners are up to now and how that relates to your goals. Are they represented by an agent? Have they got their book published?
I have a simple spreadsheet of competitions that I want to enter. These are listed in date order, so I can keep track of submission and announcement dates. I like to color-code them as I enter/win/lose/place.
Read the Rules
Ensure you are eligible to enter. Like querying, don’t waste your time or that of the judges by entering competitions that you are not eligible. Some contests have very strict formatting rules and requests. Spend some time reading through the rules and ensure that your entry is specific to every competition. If you inadvertently break the rules you will be disqualified which means you’ve wasted your entry fee.
Most importantly, remember that contests and competitions are just that. Contests.
While winning can give you a much-needed boost of self-confidence (or cold hard cash!) not winning does not mean your work isn’t any good.
Submitting your short stories to publications is often a much better use of your time than entering competitions but for authors seeking representation, it can be a great way to get feedback on your writing and promote your name with minimal effort and outlay.
Ava January – Author Interview
How long have you been writing? What inspired you to start?
Officially, I have been writing for three years. I was inspired to start writing on advice of my creative writing lecturer at University. Thankfully, she was very forceful in seeing me as a writer and wouldn’t take no for an answer.
2. What advice would you give to a new writer, one just starting out?
Be yourself! Don’t try and mimic other writers, its ok to love and respect them but unless you are writing in your own voice you won’t resonate with readers. Learn your craft – read as many books about writing and editing as you can.
3. What comes first, your plot or your characters?
This is a tough one – sometimes characters, sometimes plot! Depending on how good the story is!
4. Describe a typical writing day.
I have two small children so I write in the gaps of my day- naptime three days a week and school hours Thursday and Friday. Every evening after dinner Monday to Friday is writing time.
5. What would you consider is the most difficult part of writing?
Editing – when do you stop? How do you stop? Why do we keep going and going and going and going? Also, avoiding the internet while writing – see my previous questions.
6. Do you have any advice on handling criticism?
Keep a small notebook with you at all times and write down the name of every man, woman, and child that ever offend you and keep it until… JOKING! I have no advice, it hurts but you need to consider who much you respect the opinion of the person doing the criticizing – is it your brother or a literary agent?! Choose who you listen to wisely.
7. What is the key theme and/or message in your WIP?
A key theme in my WIP is how women protected each other in an era where they had no legal recourse to do so. My protagonist earns her living by investigating the backgrounds of men looking to marry wealthy heiresses and use and abuse them and their money.
8. If you could describe your main character in three words, what would those three words be?
Fearless, intelligent, and bold!
9. Are you on social media? How can your readers interact with you?
I am! You can find me at avajanuary.com or IG/FB Author Ava January