"A word after a word after a word is power" - Margaret Atwood


A blog for readers and writers

A blog about the stories we tell each other and how we tell them...

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The website we all need....

Writers and would-be writers and day dreaming writers owe Sally Quilford big time. She contributes a monthly column to Writers Forum magazine but, more importantly, she runs a website that gives writers a reason to get up in the morning and face the cruel blank screen.
She lists writing competitions in order of their closing date. I have no doubt that represents a lot of hard work. Why I think her efforts are worthwhile and she should be recognised for services to the writing community is that we all need a deadline. If someone hasn't given us one we need to manufacture our own...
...I must finish this chapter, novel, short story, poem before Christmas, next pay day, the kids' coming home from school...
OR by the competition deadline because this time I'm actually going to send it off into the wider world and allow it to be read, to be judged.
Careers have been forged by writing competitions: by winning of them of course (poet and novelist Tobias Hill began his career this way and every rejection, every time he wasn't short listed he sent out more on the Hydra principle - every time the serpent's head was cut off she grew two more.) But even if you never win, never see your name among the list of honourably mentioned, you will have written something.
And the only way to learn how to write is to write (and to read obviously).
Writing in the head does not count. It needs the hard finality of paper.

And the Competitions we shouldn't enter...

Sally doesn't list every competition she hears about. Here she explains why she turns down some - and I think what goes for her should go for the rest of us. There are not that many writing scams out there, but they do exist. Follow her guidelines and you should be able to avoid them...

Reasons a competition might not be listed, include (but are not limited to):
a) a comp or event run by an obvious vanity publisher who charges entrants for expensive anthologies or tries to force entrants to spend money on other goods and services.
b) the 'winners' have to spend money in order to claim their prize (e.g. if the prize is a percentage off a writers holiday, or any other writers' service, I don't consider it a prize at all, so won't list the comps),
c) I may refuse to list a comp if I feel that the organiser is only doing it to sell books. For example, I've had self-published writers contact me about their comps, which stipulates that entrants must buy their book in order to enter, either because there's some codeword or because the story must be based on something in the book. I may do it for a bigger publisher, because they generally offer much better prizes.
d) If there is no real prize to speak of, and the prize only involves being published on a website, or publication in a book which the 'winners' have to buy.
e) if I find out that a competition has taken money from entrants but not paid out prizes, or has not played fair with its entrants in other ways.
f) The details have been submitted too late to take into account postal times etc.
g) If I feel the entry fees charged are disproportionate to the prizes on offer. An example is a comp that charges £20 per entry, yet offers prizes totalling less than £100.
h) The competition does not have a proper closing date, only some nebulous idea of when the organiser thinks they've 'got enough entries'. Comps without a closing date will not be listed.


Effie said...

I agree 100% with this article and have so much to thank Sally for. I enter quite a few competitions and use Sally's calendar regularly. She helps to make it easier. Invaluable information and Sally always gives great advice.
Thank you!

BRIDGET said...

Unfussy with no whizz or bangs, it's the kind of website that only a real writer would create. Must take a lot of time effort...