Second Thoughts on Entering a Contest

You think I wouldn’t be contest adverse after a successful contest experience this past weekend, but I am wondering if there’s a particular one I’d identified I should just skip. It’s the New Letters Literary Award, with entries due by May 17. Yep, Friday. The kicker is the short story to be entered should not exceed 8,000 words.

New Letters is the literary journal for the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and you get an actual monetary prize for a winning entry, and all entries will be considered for publication in the journal.

I don’t have any 8,000-word stories in the works right now. Everything I have is around 2,000 – 3,000. Yes, it says “not to exceed” 8,000, but I’m wondering if anything at the lower end of that number would even be considered. I did pull a chapter from a work in progress, which would make a decent stand-alone story, and it comes in at right around 3,000 words.

And, yes, I know I could write something original, and that’s usually not a problem for me to sit down and thrown out 5,000 or 6,000 words in a couple days’ time. But with five days left to refine and edit it until it’s presentable? I don’t know.

Over-analyzing much? Probably so, and mostly my fault for not paying attention to the deadline until May actually rolled around. However, you don’t win or get your entry read unless you roll the dice and enter. I’ve given myself until Thursday to decide if the entry I had in mind is in good enough shape to submit.

The next time someone says to me, “Oh, writing. What an easy job,” I’ll restrain myself from exploding. Still, if the process weren’t challenging, if it didn’t make you question yourself and your writing daily, hourly even, it really wouldn’t be worth it.

4 thoughts on “Second Thoughts on Entering a Contest

  1. Love that you’re giving it til Thursday to see if you can make a go. Sometimes stories simply don’t cooperate! I’ve submitted stories before that I’d rushed to write, and most of the time I wound up regretting it. But then–sometimes–it comes together despite my hurry. Welcome to Writer Mind Games, the Vegas version!

  2. I understand your dilemma. I see the same thing. Many of the “stock” stories I have right now are each at 800 words. Sometimes that is all you can get out of the plot because it was written for a specific prompt. My recent track record makes just want to stop submitting and focus on different avenues.

  3. I entered a few literary contests and submitted to literary publications before discovering that my writing style does not fit the literary mold–it’s more mainstream fiction. However, I do enjoy contests and have been relatively successful. Even though contest judging is very subjective, it still gives you a feel for how your work might be received by a larger audience.
    Good luck. I’ll be pulling for you.

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