Friday, August 31, 2012

Ten Time, Energy, and Sanity Saving Tips For Writing Contests

Three contest deadlines are due tonight, my half-finished novel needs its daily contribution, and my two-year-old son is pleading for me to play. What would you do? (I’ll let you know my choice at the end)

Writers are busy. I won’t attempt to cover the vast body of knowledge on time management here. However, I will offer tips on how to submit quality entries into writing competitions when there are a thousand things going on.

 10 Tips to Save Time, Energy, & Sanity and Still Submit Contest Entries

  1.  Keep several works in progress - Sketches, outlines, drafts, and character profiles are all good source material for inspiration and contests. Save time and creative energy by only focusing on editing and proofing.
  2. Reuse and repurpose old material - This is my biggest time saver. I have one piece on its third tour. It is a different creature than it was when it started, but I enjoy it and like watching it evolve. Just pay attention to contest rules about prior publication.
  3. Enter nano/micro/short-short contests. These types of contests keep things small. While these little buggers can take more work than you'd think, you only have to come up with a sentence or at the most a couple paragraphs. I recently published a 13 word story.
  4. Allow yourself to skip deadlines. Deadlines can feel like life and death. I ask myself, is it worth staying up all night? Is it worth the stress? Most of the time, the answer is no, which leads me to the next point.
  5. Stay grounded. Contest entries should be a luxury item. I keep family high on my priority list and try not to bend. An hour spent reading to my kids beats any prize.
  6. Write every day. This is scripture in the writing world. In this particular application, use your daily writings to help with the very first point about creating material. 
  7. Outsource your editing – I do this through online writing groups. It's great having a group of writers to critique your work and find quirks and typos. It takes time to develop that community, but once you do, you can get a dozen edits in a day. Writing communities I have joined include and
  8. Subscribe to contest databases - I get emails that detail upcoming contest deadlines. They help me stay organized. and Poets and Writers ( have good ones. Of course, FFW has a great list too!
  9. Start early. Especially for annual, monthly or quarterly contests when you know the topic in advance. We all know life happens. The earlier you begin, the less likely you'll scramble at the end.
  10. Double (or triple) your time budget. Think that 500-word essay should only take an hour or so? In my experience, my writing always takes longer than I anticipated. When I look ahead to future projects, I keep in mind that things have a way of swelling. Often, I'll put a mark on a contest to come back to it when it comes around again.
What did I choose to do? After spending an hour with my son, he gave me a great idea for my book. I just made a note to add it somewhere. Then, I took one last glance through my contest entries. Happy with two of them, I sent them in. The last one I saved for another time. Then I had drink and went to bed, relaxed and content.

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