Breaking Into Writing

Yesterday’s post included a potential writing opportunity, which got me to thinking about breaking into writing…

From time to time, (like last Friday) I post about some of the things that writers struggle with from the point of view of someone who is published because that’s where I’m fortunate enough to be coming from.

This does not mean that I’ve forgotten how it felt to be hoping to get published.  (Honestly?  I still hope that every day and it’s not much different!)

But worrying about sales figures, or about whether people are reading and liking your books is what my husband refers to as “dilemmas of the privileged.”  I know there are tons of great writers out there, quite probably better writers than I am, who are still waiting for that first call from a publisher, who dream of  seeing their book on a library or bookstore shelf, and who would love to be obsessively checking their rankings on Amazon.  I used to be one.  And even though I’ve got a few books out, I’m still one.

Because if you’re a writer, one article or magazine story or book is never enough.  You’re always writing, always wanting to share your stories, always hoping to publish something new that will make that possible.  There is no finish line.  I know a lot of writers, and none of them have written and published one book and then said, “OK.  That’s it.  I’m done.”

But the road to publication is a hard one.  It involves talent and persistence and just plain luck – I’ve had stories turned down because the editor accepted something similar just the week before.  It can take a LO-OOO-NG time.  Not only that, but the fact that you manage to get published once doesn’t necessarily (or even probably) mean that you will get published again, or that it will be any easier.

So what (besides writing, of course) do you do while you’re waiting to get published for the first (or subsequent) time?

Yoga?  Not for me.  I’m too impatient!

Housecleaning?  Um, I think we’ve established the fact that housecleaning is not my activity of choice 🙂

Bake?  Fun, but potential side effects (can you say hippo?)

So, would you like to know my little secret?

Writing contests!

I love them.  They give you practice with deadlines and word counts and subject matter – at conforming to an editor’s preferences or requirements.  They are fun.  From many, you will get feedback about your work which can be very helpful in making that story, and/or your writing in general, better.  Should you happen to win or place, you get money (sometimes quite a bit) and prestige – you can say “Story A won the Writer’s Writing Contest!” which might potentially help you sell Story A to a publisher.  And there are even some contests where the winner is awarded publication by major publishing houses.  These are opportunities to get your manuscript in front of an editor when you might otherwise need an agent to do so.

I hate sitting around waiting (yeah, back to that impatience :))  Sending a manuscript to a contest makes me feel like I’m doing something constructive, and gives me something extra to hope for and look forward to… After all, Story A could win the Writer’s Writing Contest…!  And the more you submit, the more hope you have of success – don’t you think?  I haven’t done a writing contest in quite a while, and I think it’s time to get back in the game!

If you’re interested, here are a few you can check out:

Children’s Writer Contests
Delacorte Press Contest For A First YA Novel
Highlights Fiction Contest
Southwest Writers Contest
Writer’s Digest Contests

There are LOTS more!  Please feel free to post your favorites in the comments if you’re a contest junkie too 🙂

So what are you waiting for?  The deadline for Highlights is Monday and first prize is $1000!  Spruce up an old story or write a new one.  Send it in and see what happens.

Most of all, have fun and good luck 🙂

2 thoughts on “Breaking Into Writing

  1. ponygirlnmh says:

    I just sent a sumbission out for a “Very Short Fiction” contest! It's a flash piece(under 1000 words), though not for the young reader market.

    So begins the anxious wait, pretending I assume I won't win, but holding that spark of hope hidden close-by.

    Hey, it's like the lottery- you can't win if you don't buy the ticket, and you never know.

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