As a writer, I am always looking for a new way to improve my writing skills. I have done this by entering events like NanoWriMo and by doing things like my 30-in-30 short story self-challenge and I think I have attained a modicum of success doing them.
Still, I need to keep pushing myself or I will fall back into my bad habits of watching television, playing online games and generally wasting time instead of writing. The problem is, I don’t always have the ambition to come up with something new to try on my own.
That’s where writing contests come in.
I have entered a writing contest in the past, specifically the “Write a First Chapter” contest put on by “The Writing Show“. My story didn’t win, but I did receive several valuable benefits from the exercise:
a) I have the first chapter to a new story finished. I believed in the chapter enough that it may grow into something one day.
b) I received valuable feedback on the chapter; feedback I have already applied to other writing projects.
c) I proved to myself that I could come up with a good story idea in a short period of time and write something decent (also in a short period of time).
d) I put myself out there to be judged against my peers. Believe me, this was a big one; I proved to myself that despite my competitive nature, I can handle losing. This is a valuable trait for a writer to have.
e) I made myself write in a genre that I had, to that point, avoided as being “Too hard” to write in.
No doubt, there were other benefits that I received that I’m not considering right now, but the point is, I think I grew as both a writer and a person by entering the contest. I think it is time to do so again.
The contest in question is “The Writing Show’s” Halloween Short-story contest. I’m really looking forward to writing this because I love Halloween. I also haven’t written anything that has a supernatural bent to it. So it has the benefits of being something I haven’t done much of on a topic that I like. It should be fun.
A couple things have occurred of note. The first is a panel discussion that I participated in for “The Writing Show”. The discussion can be heard at: http://www.writingshow.com/podcasts/2009/06072009.html.
I also queried the publisher to whom I sent my YA novel. She requested it March 12 (at which time I sent it) so it has been almost three months. I tried to be respectful of her time so I hope the query doesn’t come back to bite me, but darn it, waiting is HARD!