How to take part in a writing contest

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Writing contests are these super amazing things that have existed since people could write, but they're made even more magical by the internet. Words are read, things are judged, sometimes agents and published swing by and offer you things. What sweet joy! What succulence!!

I'm here today to tell you how to take part in these motherflipping things because

a) nobody told me how to when I started out and that terrified me and

b) I think how-to guides bolster confidence and I love seeing confident writers.

So:

1 Mark Your Calendar

Some contests happen on a semi-regular basis, or annually at certain times of the year, for these it's a great idea to mark your calendar and plan accordingly. Maybe you're not ready for the contest this month. That's okay! Hold off on submitting something that's not ready and check your calendar instead. I know it's frustrating to sit things out but... I don't think there's anything more scary that submitting something you know isn't 100% your best is there?

2. Be Supportive

Not just of your friends, or yourself. Be genuinely supportive of everyone taking part! Writing contests are weird and uniquely amazing because although I think writers are all a little tiny bit super competitive they're also willing to get genuinely excited over other peoples' successes.  Marvel at these people's ability to be so uplifting to each other and then jump in! When the going gets tough, being able to not just see your own happiness and sad times makes things so much more fun. If you want to be in writing and to benefit from the strong community we have online I think you got to make room for others and appreciate them too.

3 Give back

If the rules of a contest dictate you critique four things and you do that but only that and tbh everyone can tell it was half hearted and even you think you put in less than fifty percent effort... that's not v cool. Put some effort in yah? Give back as much as you get okay? There's nothing worse than a new buddy who, it turns out, won't give back as much as you're giving them. I've met critique partners through contests and blogfests over the years and we don't pay each other to read things but what we do instead is show our appreciation in-kind by giving back as much as we ask for.

4 Read the Rules

I cannot stress this one enough. Maybe you're obsessive like me and will read rules until the words blur on the screen in front of you and then re-read just before you submit something but... if you're not this is the one time you need to actually pay attention okay? Not just to ensure you get judged and not immediately thrown out! But also because some contests, sometimes, occasionally, have weird rules about copyright and what not and as a writer your copyright is important okay? Protect yourself! Read the rules!

5 Have Fun

I know maybe you want to roll your eyes at me right now but sometimes people forget that these things are meant to be fun! Sure, there are prizes. Yes, often they are particularly excellent prizes and people get publishing deals and agents and you name it from contests.  Don't forget to have fun though. Don't forget to celebrate the fact you got this far. You're here, submitting something you wrote to be read by other people. You're amazing. Have fun while you're taking part. Make jokes. Make people smile. Make the world a little brighter.

What do you do when you take part in writing contests?