If you're reading this, you probably have a dream. A dream that springs from the depths of your heart. A dream of sharing the stories you love to write with readers who eagerly pluck them from a bookstore shelf.
Dreams move us forward--filled with expectant hope. But writing for publication has a twist that not all dreams possess: it's a business. Big Business. And as much as we artistic types might wish to ignore that fact, we can't allow ourselves such a luxury if we are to achieve and sustain our dream. Publishing competition is fierce. So even after winning multiple contests, we can't settle back with a complacent smile and allow our growth as a writer to stagnate while we await "The Call."
That's where contests continue to play an important role for me, providing a vital means of learning the craft of writing. You can have a billion fabulous ideas, but if you can't convert them into plausible plots, convincing characters, and winning appeal, well. . . best of luck.
I don't know about you, but I can eagerly devour a book on a facet of writing, ooh and ahh at the insights, then forget (in an embarrassingly short time) what I read. I'm a hands-on learner. I have to apply--again and again--what I hear or read, so that it roots deeply and permanently into my wordsmithing repertoire.
Contests are to my writing what an apprenticeship is to other professions. I don’t enter my manuscripts merely to be a Contest Queen or because I have nothing better to do with my time (or money!). In these "waiting room" days, I'm committed to developing my writing skills in order to become the best writer I can be. For the time being, that means taking advantage of top-notch contests for the unpublished.
One of these days--God & Editor willing--"The Call" will come. At that point I'll no longer be eligible to semi-anonymously test the waters with a new idea, a plot twist, a synopsis, or characters. I'll lose the opportunity for real-life reader feedback before my story is assigned an ISBN number. I'll lose the opportunity to revise, enter again, and see if I've "nailed it" this time. Believe me, I'll happily give up those privileges! But in the midst of awaiting the reality of my field of dreams, I'm determined to use this time wisely. To me, contests aren't just about winning or catching an editor’s eye. They're also about growing. And stretching. And drawing closer to your full potential as a writer.