"I want you to be the first to know that I won the writing competition at The Grantham Writers Club and the prize was a gift voucher for £5. Its the first money I have ever made with my writing and I couldn't be happier; not even for a million pounds. The subject was the worst day in my life. When I had to read it out I had the group laughing, it is funny now but it wasn't in June 1966. But it is good to know we can see the funny side of things later."
Five pounds might not sound much, but it's clear from Lee's email that she is absolutely delighted with the win - and rightly so.
Winning a competition means that:
- YOUR writing was judged to be the best out of all of the entries submitted,
- It doesn't matter how many entries there were, it may have been 2000, or 20, YOUR writing stood out above everyone elses,
- You have also sat down and done some writing, and completed it. You can't enter a competition and send in your opening paragraph. You have to write the whole thing, work on it, and then when you are happy, submit it. Many people who claim to be writers don't send anything off. Entering a competition proves that you have the courage to send work off.
Some of my students target magazines that don't pay for work published inside it's pages. Whilst I wouldn't advocate anyone writing for nothing, there is a time at the start of your writing career when a small piece of published work can do wonders for your ego. It can also help you to achieve more sales. An editor may like your idea but doesn't want to risk commissioning you if you have no track record. Suddenly that published-for-free piece becomes your track record. That editor doesn't know (or need to know) that you weren't paid for the text. But what he does know is that you can write with a specific reader in mind and to a fixed wordlength.
And entering competitions can help you to achieve this too. Just as a published article is worth noting on your writing CV, so is a competition win. It's a SUCCESS!
So don't forget the smaller writing projects in life. They can give you just as much a boost as your larger projects. If anyone happens to read the Spring 2008 issue of PhotoPlus magazine (for Canon camera users) you might spot that yours truly has the Star letter in that issue. I might be a best-selling and an award-winning writer, but I still get just as big a morale boost from the smaller projects, as I do the larger ones!