Contests: One Perspective

Robert A. Heinlein got his start as a published author when a short story of his, submitted to a magazine, caught the eye of John W. Campbell. I’ve heard and read that the story started as a contest entry, and by submitting it to Campbell instead, Heinlein earned much more than the contest would have paid him for first place. This version is reported on Wikipedia, but is not mentioned on the Heinlein Society web page. So who remains alive who would know?



I love Science Fiction, and I have a fun scifi romance that needs some planet building before I can go forward with it. But I submitted it to a contest, thinking there would be few entries in the scifi category, and it would be the best, perhaps, of those entries.



The judges saw me coming. When they didn’t get the large number of entries required in the scifi category, they combined it with fantasy. My showing was poor and some of the comments from the judges very discouraging. (Although in rereading some of them, the judges are spot on, and the whole experience will be valuable when I get back to that planet)



The bottom line is that the story was far from ready for even a Beta reader, but I thought I could beat the odds. My Regency, The Mouse and Miles, on the other hand, is getting pretty good critiques on Scribophile, and I even have a following of Regency fans. I love Regency because Idon’t have to build this world, and it’s not Star Trek or Babylon 5 or even, gods forfend, Twilight-based. It is an open to the public writing arena.



My first Regency, Emily’s Heart, won a Romance Writers of America San Diego chapter contest 20 years ago. The first 7 pages submitted caught the attention and hearts of the judges. I thrilled to the announcement that I had won, but on the other hand, the rest of the story lacked sexual tension, a plausible plot, and needs lots of work. I still have it in my “Someday” pile.



I thought about submitting M&M to a contest, since the need for more income has gotten urgent, and if I could get the attention of an agent or editor, I might be off and running as a published author. But when the time came ti decide about entering, I found I would rather take an on-line workshop to improve my writing. (I’m also taking Karen Ritter’s class on self-publishing, another good use of available funds!) The decision was not easy, and the contest I had in mind was low on submissions.



This made me wonder why I even bother writing at all if I don’t believe my end product is good enough to win a contest with a high number of entries. Self-doubt and lack of forward momentum are useful story-building elements, but for a writer they steal away your writer’s soul. And that is what has to be in any sotry for it to shine and attract readers.



Writer’s Digest’s web page ( lists a bunch of contests, but they are all pretty niche like Young Adult, Thriller, and Poetry, but they do have a romance competition I will need to check out.



Writer’s Views’ web page ( lists contests that have $0 cost for submissions, so I have to look at that one more closely. Sitcom, screenplay, and poetry all come before the romance story contest.



Chantacleer Book Reviews ( is offering a package of $20,000 in prizes, but if you win one of their contests, you only get part of that. They also announce winners of big contests, and the Women’s Fantasy/SciFi winner, The Maiden Voyage of the Mary Ann, by Linda Reed has my interest.



But I feel more at home with Romance Writers of America chapter-sponsored contests. These members live and breath romance, like I do, and are encouraging no matter what the outcome. I have decided to make a goal, and publish it here so that you can check with me in early January. I pledge to enter the Great Expectations contest for unpublished works, sponsored by the North Texas RWA chapter. It’s only $20 to enter, and I have until December 29th to get a novel polished enough so that the first 5,000 words become the best ever submitted.



The contest judges are published authors, the second round judges will be editors, announced later, and there are cash prizes for First, Second, and Third place. While contests will never take the place of a good critique group, the feedback from any submission is worth the admission price.



The world of books and publishing has change since Robert A. Heinlein’s days, more than most futurists of that century could foresee. There are more routes to being a published author than through contests and magazine submissions. Deciding on the path that is right for you takes serious thought on what you can afford and what you are hoping to get in return. The path you select will require your complete dedication and belief in yourself. May you live long and prosper.





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