There seem to be a lot of fiction contests lately. I’m getting my new novel in shape to enter the James Jones Contest, and I have a well-travelled and oft-revised short story going out to Passages North and Pinch. Passages North also has a short-short story contest, and I’ve got exactly one of those critters under my belt. Might as well send it in.
I don’t have the stomach to write to any more agents, but hope springs eternal, and right now it’s perched on that slender reed – the literary contest. Since it seems that most agents want to go out and find writers and don’t want writers approaching them, I’m focusing on getting the attention of these shy and elusive creatures by winning a literary prize.
Sure, these contests are a long-shot too, but at least you can be fairly certain your stuff will get read. After all they are charging $15 or $20. Unless they are total crooks, the contest organizers have to take a look. Another advantage of entering a contest over hunting agents is that the people running the contest can judge a piece of writing by its merits, not its money-making potential. I’m sure some of the literary types who run the contests have goofy standards, but at least they have standards a writer can accept as such. An agent above all else has to make a living, and we all know that crap sells.
If you are writing something that varies at all from the usual formula, if your hero or heroine dies at the end, for example, or you are a bit too fond of black humor, you’re better off with contest judges. If you manage to win a contest, maybe an agent will come looking for you, and that seems like it would be a much better way to start the relationship.