Creative writing competitions: a beginners adventure

In 2019 I wrote a blog which reviewed monthly recommendations made by the Guardian Review in their ‘literary calendar of books and events to note in 2019’.  For this blog, I read and reviewed one book a month from the list, and I also researched and wrote about the dates the list recommended we note. I read and reviewed 11 books I almost certainly would not have otherwise read, and I learned about events and people mostly new to me.  It was an adventure I enjoyed very much.  More importantly though, I stuck to a disciplined writing schedule.

As a hobby writer, it is too easy to allow one’s effort to become secondary to housework, other hobbies, and putting the pen down when things go wrong.  My journalist cousin once reminded me of the well-known adage that that journo’s cannot wait for the muse – they have deadlines or no job.  Creative writing as an amateur, especially when stories won’t form or words will not be tamed, is far too easy to walk away from. It’s just a hobby, right?  No-one cares if the book or story isn’t finished.  Only I do care and am often frustrated by the whims of my hard-to-tame procrastination monster (who looks a bit like this!)

This year I have set myself a new challenge.

At least once in every month in 2020 I intend to enter a creative writing competition. Once the competition deadline is over and/or the results have been announced, I will post my submission.
For the most part and unless there is a very good reason to deplete our bank account and exasperate my partner, I will enter free competitions which means the likelihood of me posting any winning submissions will be low. Free competitions attract a lot of submissions.

Writing competitions have a huge internet presence across all genres. They present the opportunity to have one’s work recognised and valued, perhaps be published, possibly result in a prize of some kind. Critics have argued competition outcomes mean little: Judging panels are so small they cannot represent potential readers to any significant extent and judges’ credentials, criteria and fitness to judge is not always transparent. Feedback is often poor (when any is offered at all). Competition winning, it is said, is no alternative to the more usual efforts to be published by a reputable company. (see Geoff Ward’s interesting article on competitions for Medium).

Writing competitions can be fun though!

In December 2019, on a whim, and as part of my research for this blog, I entered two small competitions. I gave my entries literally minutes thought and sent each in within fifteen minutes of first seeing the posts. I won prizes for both! (Thank you to Patsy Collins for my much-appreciated book – and also for how very supportive you are to other writers).

I am cheating a little by posting my other competition success in December as my first ‘comp’ post outcome of this blog. The competition was hosted by Ink Pantry which is a marvellous platform for writers – do check it out. I was astounded to achieve a ‘highly commended’ for poetry as the last effort at poetry (fortunately lost forever) was no doubt about unrequited love, spots and/or hating school.

Writing for competitions will encourage me to write outside my comfort zone – whether this is about required word count; genre; style; requirement to include reference to specific items etc.

My 2020 blog will consist of two-part posts each month. Part one will be about the writing process. I will give details of the competition – about why I chose it. The genre and anything else I think is relevant, interesting or useful. Part two will be the piece I submitted. Often writing competitions require submissions to be unpublished, so I will only post my submission once the competition has been concluded.

I hope this blog, like the last, will be another writing adventure I will learn from and enjoy.  I hope others might too.