USA men's skater, Jason Brown, went to the ice as a 19-year-old representative of our country. He knew he couldn't do the quadruple jumps to earn a medal. He also knew the competition would help him learn many new skills. When Jason received his scores and learned he placed ninth, his face shined. He smiled and hugged his coach. He didn't medal, but his delight in the experience radiated and the crowd cheered him on.
Russia's men's skater, Evgeni Plushenko, skated Monday in the team competition helping the Russians to earn a gold medal. During the days that followed, Evgeni skated the short program and did well. He then warmed up for his long program on Thursday and fell during practice, injuring his back. He was given medication to help him endure the pain for the performance that night. His country depended on him to win another gold.
During the time between his fall and the evening's performance, Evgeni considered what to do. For whom and why would he risk his health by skating the long program? Later in an interview with ABC he said, "I think God is saying, 'Evgeni enough, enough with skating.'" The crowd cheered as he stepped out on the ice. He waved. He scanned the adoring audience then turned and approached the judges table to withdraw his name from the competition, stating he was retiring. It was a very difficult decision to make.
I have a feeling Evgeni will be coaching many children on the finer points of skating in the years to come. His career is long from over.
As successful writers or aspiring to become successful writers, we have our own style of Olympics. We enter writing contests. First, we enter small competitions then move to larger contests. Why? Why should we spend the money and work really hard to enter a writing contest?
Benefits for Entering Writing Contests:
1. One of the most beneficial and hardest components of entering a writing contest is to accept/receive the criticism. Confession: I entered a contest last December and have received the scores and comments/criticisms. Two of the three scores were exceptionally high. The third was rock bottom. I had to dig a hole in the ground to see the number. Despite the two great scores, I couldn't bare to open any of the comments because the third score broke my heart.
I gave myself a day to have a pity party then assigned a day in the future when I would open all three score sheets and learn. I wish I could have smiled and been excited at the two high scores like Jason Brown. Hugged my coach (God) and been thankful for all He's done to bring me to this point as Jason did with his coach. This is my new goal in my endeavor to become a successful writer.
2. Time management. There are many things in life that steal our attention away from what we should be doing. A theme in my house is do the hafta dos before the wanta dos. Plushenko used the time between his fall in practice and when he stepped out on the ice to consider the best choice for his life.
The strict requirements given for each contest are great practice for agent/editor submissions. If you receive a contract, you will be expected to adhere to specific deadlines and specifications. Time management skills learned in the process of entering a contest prepare writers for publication.
3. It forces us to examine/edit our work. Both Jason Brown and Evengi Plushenko arrived early and stepped out on the ice before their performances. They tested the ice. Practiced their most difficult jumps. Skated the arena and noted where the judges tables were. They watched other skaters, listened to their coaches, and took deep breaths.
The only work ever written perfectly the first time was the Bible. Like the skaters, we need to step into our arena, examine our words, listen to critique partners, read other writer's works, note what the judges/editors/agents are looking for, rework sentences to improve quality and move our manuscript to a higher level of acceptance. Use the time before pressing the send button to make your manuscript medal worthy. Perfecting our work for a contest prepares writers for publication.
Reasons Not to Enter a Writing Contest:
1. The prize money. Generally speaking the prize isn't more than a token over what you paid to enter. We may not receive a gold medal, but successful writers use the affirmation of a contest win to press forward to the high calling by God to become a published writer.
2. Capture the glory. We may wave to the crowd cheering to us in appreciation (usually on FB and locally) but that glory will not last forever. Some gold medal olympic winners have faded from the eyes of the viewers. Successful writers note the success of a contest win on a resume, a query letter, or proposal as validation of their skills in order to earn a contract. The goal is not the contest. The contest is simply a tool to prepare writers for publication.
3. Because other writers are entering. This turns the contest into a fad and takes away every benefit. A successful writer doesn't need to please others, they need to please God. Imagine what might have happened if Plushenko had taken to the ice for the long program as his coach and others wanted him to. Most likely he would have fallen or injured his back during a jump. He may have been carried off on a stretcher. He chose, instead to withdraw because it was the right thing for him to do. The last skating memory the audience will have of him is his excellent short program and the gold medal performance for the team. As it should be. The goal is not to gain the attention of others in the field, but to prepare ourselves for publication.
Many writers have won writing contests and have never been published. Winning the contest does not guarantee a published book. It does not guarantee an editor will read your full.
Competing in a writing contest does guarantee to be a process in which your skills and your manuscript can be honed to a quality worthy of what it's original intent--for publication.
Are you planning on entering a writing contest this year?
Here are a few writing contest websites that are open for entries at this time:
My Book Therapy The Frasier Contest
American Christian Fiction Writers: The Genesis
American Christian Fiction Writers: The Carol
Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Contest: BRMC Writer's Contest
Why are you/would you/have you entered a writing contest? Your answer may help a reader with their decision, so please comment.
Mary has moved to Michigan with her husband, closer to her three college kids. She misses the mountains of Montana, but loves seeing family more often. She writes contemporary and romance Christian fiction, is honing marketing and writing skills, and loves to pen missionary and Bible adventure stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids.