The strangely compelling world of writing competitions

Gosh, there’s so many out there!

I participated in an annual competition, at the end of my first year in our local writing group. I entered a piece in every one of the 10 categories proffered by the National Association of Writers and Groups. I worked hard to hone each piece, to adhere to the rules, and to submit my entries in a timely fashion. I waited with increasing excitement for the announcement of the short lists. And then I was so dismayed to receive what I thought of as a single paltry Honourable Mention (I think the designation was Highly Commended, but the feeling was the same) for one of my efforts. Not even within scratching distance of a short list!

I resolved never to enter another competition again.

So much for resolutions; since then I’ve entered numerous contests for various writing activities: poetry; 100 word stories; 500 word stories; more recently a competition for a longer short story up to 4000 words; first pages and first chapters of emerging novels. Along with many pieces that have foundered along the way, I’ve been developing a personal Writing Archive of pieces that have been more successful. New Writers here in England has a fascinating piece on why competitions can be valuable: ‘Why should I Enter a Writing Competition?‘ Granted that competitions are a valuable source of revenue for the organisations promoting them, but the New Writers group also offer a new 300 word competition along with their justification, and I’m about to bite.

The submission deadline is near, at the end of the month, and as I thought about what sort of fiction I could possibly write, especially in such a circumscribed word count, an idea popped into my fevered brain, and now I’m eager to write it down. I was afraid I’d lose it, as I dropped off to sleep, but I awoke with it still twirling around. That feels like a good sign, an indication that the competition itself is only as relevant as the open-ended stimulus.

So at some point today, sooner rather than later perhaps, I shall be here at my keyboard, and the creativity will be unleashed, for a few minutes. It doesn’t take my dancing fingers very long to tap out 300 words. But I need to make a beginning, a middle, and an end that work together to create a real story, a piece that exhibits and compels a particular feeling.

During that time of creativity, perhaps even while I’m ruminating on how to put the piece together, perhaps even at this very moment, I expect to experience some sense of peace, of joy.

Strangely, that seems to be the point in participating, after all.

2 responses to “The strangely compelling world of writing competitions”

  1. Best of luck Larry- you just never know! And yes, there should be some enjoyment in all of this. Definitely 🙂


  2. Seems like writing & competitions are almost an addiction albeit a good one. You described your initial ventures & your pilgrimage forward as a writer. Not sure why but I thought of trumpet vines I once had grown. They bore the most beautiful blossoms & grew like crazy ever reaching skyward. The uninitiated plant lovers would never have guessed how far my tiny transplants would one day grow towards the sun. Right on Larry!


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