I’ll never forget my first contest. It was a Writer’s Digest writing contest. I was very naive at the time, not understanding there would be thousands of entries. I had grossly underestimated what I was up against. But truth be known, if I had seen a contest advertised which would only accept 100 fiction entries, I would still have felt I had no chance of winning. So, entering the Writer’s Digest contest was an act of futility – a dash for the pot at the end of the rainbow.

The only reason I took the chance was because I knew I had a unique story about visiting a brothel, and I had developed an interesting angle, so I invested money for my entry fee. Months later, I received a letter congratulating me on getting an Honourable Mention. And there before me was the most beautiful, memorable, frameable, coveted certificate, confirming that I had beaten out 16,000 other entries to capture that spot. I couldn’t believe it. MY story was better than thousands and thousands of other stories! I sat dumbfounded, staring at the Certificate of Honourable Mention, which had suddenly taken on new dimensions.

I had achieved!

I learned a lot that day. I learned that it’s worth investing a few dollars to take a chance, and that taking chances leads to new and exciting adventures. I learned that no matter how the deck is stacked, I still have a chance of coming out on top.

I learned that I would never have had that wonderful moment in my life if I hadn’t thrown caution to the wind and taken the plunge. I have since learned that investing in myself increases my faith in my own writing abilities. Entering that one contest gave me the courage to enter others. And from that contest, I also learned how to find unique angles that light up a story.

When you realise you have a unique story, or a unique angle to a common story, save that story for a contest. Don’t waste it on a magazine submission.

If you haven’t been entering writing (or photography) contests, you’re missing a lot of fun.

There are dozens of writers and photographers groups on the Internet, and most if not all of them have contests. Or you can search for “writing contest” or “photography contest” and come up with zillions of contests to enter.

Always look for three things:

  • reading fee,
  • entry fee,
  • deadline.

There are few things which will give you the confidence that winning a contest will give you. Dig out the best story or story idea you have, refresh it, send it away, and see for yourself what entering contests will do for you. Be aware that most contests have reading fees and entry fees. This is how the organisation pays its costs and funds its prizes. Pay it. You’re worth it.

Go ahead. Take a chance. Jump into adventure.

– Deborah Owen. Reproduced for educational purposes.