Monday 16 September 2019

Why You Should Consider Entering a Writing Competition… or Two

By Kristine Charles

September brings with it many things.

Spring. Footy finals. My birthday (yay!).

And the start of the Romance Writers of Australia competition season.

RWA rips in with the Ripping Start… (for which, full disclosure, I am the Contest Coordinator) but before you start moaning at me about dreaded third judges and why you have no time to enter competitions, here are three reasons why entering competitions is good for you.

Discipline and Deadlines

Entering a competition means you have to manage your work into the required format. Margins, spacing, number of words and section of work. You may have to prepare a synopsis to requirements (SHUDDER!) or write a short set-up to a specified word count. This is all designed – generally speaking – to replicate publisher submission requirements, and managing word processing software is a skill we all can master (if you haven’t – there are plenty of videos online to assist). These are important skills to have if you’re going to make it in the publishing world.

A contest also has a deadline. Submit by your deadline or you won’t be able to enter the competition. Simples. A little like meeting a contract deadline… right?

Fabulous Feedback

Yeah, yeah, we all know about the dreaded third judge. That one judge who just hated your work and completely tanked your average score. We’ve all met them.

But, in every cloud there’s a silver lining.

In entering a competition, you’ll generally (although not always) get feedback from a number of judges. And often even the feedback from the meanest of judges will leave you with at least one pearl of wisdom that makes your writing better.

You get to decide what feedback to take on board and what you sacrifice via burning to appease your writing muse – but getting feedback on your writing from people who don’t know you (and therefore won’t just say it’s AMAZING) can be useful.

As an aside, most competitions are always on the lookout for judges and, while you clearly can’t judge in a competition you have entered, volunteering to judge is a great way of dipping your toe into contest waters and seeing what they’re like. So, if you’re not quite ready to give a competition a go, consider volunteering as a judge first.

Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner

Yes, winner. Because you might win. And then you get to add ‘AWARD WINNER’ to your bio. Doesn’t that sound nice?

You also might not win, and that’s okay, because you gave it a shot. You’ve also done some work on your discipline, and you’ve got some fabulous feedback to consider.

So… which competitions will you enter this year? Let us know below.

Kristine Charles is the newest member of Breathless in the Bush and writes sexy tales where coffee (and red wine) is abundant, designer shoes and handbags are cheap, chocolate has no calories and men always put the toilet seat down. Find her at or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

I love to love… coffee.

I love to laugh… at dad jokes and gutter humour.

I love to learn… about the many ways to tell a story.


  1. Excellent post. I'm not sure I would have ever been published without RWA contests. They taught me an incredible amount.

  2. Entering contests is a great way to judge whether your work is ready to submit to publishers or to self-publish. That's what I did.

  3. Hi Kristine! Firstly, good on you for taking on the job of Contest Co Ordinator. I've both entered and judged a heap of RWA comps over the years, and have learned such a lot from doing both. Like Cathryn, I don't think I would have been published without the feedback from contests (together with the help of my lovely crit partners, of course :) ).

  4. Good on you for taking on the Competition Coordinator role. I have judged a lot of comps and learned a lot while judging. I have also entered comps and found the judges' comments invaluable.I was those comments that helped me place and win later contests.

  5. I agree with all of you ladies! Even with the dreaded third judge (who can be SO frustrating!) the comments you get from readers can be really helpful in polishing up that manuscript! You need to be open to the feedback though... it's really important to think about what's said and how that resonates for you.

  6. I was once the Contest Coordinator, and had tremendous fun with it, even when my letter box fell over twice during that year. Those were the days of paper competition entries! Well done you. I hope people do take the plunge and open themselves up to positive criticism.

  7. Well done on all your volunteering for the RWA Kristine. Gosh, you leave my head spinning with all your contest coordinating and the work you did for the recent conference trying to organise all the pitches.
    I agree, contests are a great way of providing feedback. If we genuinely want to hone our craft it helps to receive feedback. The only thing I'd underline is that authors should realise that we can't please all of the people all of the time and in fact I'd say it's impossible to please all the people any of the time! I remember one book of mine that came fourth in the Emma Darcy award and received scores in the high 90s was entered into the Clendon Award and it received two scores BELOW 50!! Several years later it was published pretty much in its original version so don't lose hope!


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