Your wonderful story about love and loss and love re-found is the darling of the WhatchamaCallit contest. There, in the sleepy little town of Writer's Hope, Oregon, population 309 (where old Mrs. Delbet passed away late yesterday, but Minnie Drexler gave birth to twins, so the population actually grew in spite of the Delbet's bad news...), your manuscript is the one to beat.
Now that's awesome news. Celebratory news. Wonderfully, magically, marvelous news.
But what fits the bill in northern Oregon might not pass muster in the Big Apple. Or Peachtree, Georgia. Or Decatur, Nebraska.
And what about L.A.? D.C.? Tallahassee?
Tucking your beloved manuscript into various (and hopefully competitive) regional contests gives you a better sense of where your story fits or doesn't fit.
Word use varies regionally. The Coke I buy in Western NY isn't the same stuff they sell on the streets, and doesn't even resemble the orange soda they're grabbing in Mississippi, although both are referred to as 'coke'.
Unless, of course, they're calling it 'soda' or 'pop'.
Word use reflects regionality and accuracy, and contests are a great way of measuring whether or not your manuscript reads as flawlessly in the Northeast, Midwest, Outer Banks, or the Deep South.
Whole 'nother ball game.
When you choose a contest to enter, look carefully at those final judges and check for local appeal. Until you're a known name, there's nothing wrong with assessing the marketplace using contests as your measure stick.
For the price, you can't beat the results.
When your work finally makes it to that editor's desk, you want the cleanest, sharpest, savviest piece of work you can produce, right?
So send it out, get a feel for the market, measure your appeal. For thirty bucks and some postage, it's not a bad deal.