Sometimes the best way to challenge yourself is to take part in a competition. You may win some, and to be honest you may not win most of them but there are advantages of merely participating in them. Writing competitions are no different. There are ever so many of them. You need to keep your eyes open and spot opportunities which may appeal to you and your tastes in writing.
Some call for only short stories, others are more broad-based in scope. Most of them charge a fee, though you do have some competitions which are totally free. Read the conditions prescribed as they vary from competition to competition, some don’t want you to submit work submitted elsewhere; most others don’t want work already published and so on. To my mind these are the advantages of participating in writing competitions:-
- Apart from competing with many others ( often hundreds, sometimes even thousands) you also compete with your self. This helps hone your writing skills. Most competitions do not provide for handing out feedback to participants, though a few do like the NYC Midnight one where I once had the privilege of being on the panel of judges.
- You learn to write keeping deadlines in view. All competitions have schedules which need to be followed scrupulously. You need to budget adequate time to write your piece and have enough time to edit and improve upon it before you submit it within the stipulated deadline.
- The sheer variety of competitions enables you to, over time, develop new networks and social contacts with other writers from all over the world. You get to know many like-minded people even if in all probability you don’t meet them in person.
- You could win a cash prize or at the least have your entry published in a journal or magazine or an anthology of short stories.
For starters, if you have a short story ready, with a word count less than 2000 words, have a shot at the RTE Guide/Penguin Short Story Competition organised by Penguin Ireland.