Over the past year or so, online writing contests have exploded in popularity. Twitter—one of the forerunners for these events with its easy-to-search hashtags and communication-friendly timeline—has attracted an extensive list of contests geared toward new talent yet to be published: PitchWars, PitMad, P2P17, Sun vs. Snow, Son of a Pitch, Own Voices, and Query Kombat are only a few created to connect writers with editors and agents eager to polish and perfect their unpublished manuscripts.
This guest post is by Kaitlyn Johnson. After receiving a BA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College, Kaitlyn Johnson refused to leave the concept of nightly homework behind. Centering her life around everything literary, she started her own freelance editing company, K. Johnson Editorial, as soon as her diploma came in the mail.
Kaitlyn is proud to be an apprentice agent with Corvisiero Literary Agency, as well as the Muse and the Marketplace Conference Assistant for GrubStreet, Boston.
Check out her Twitter, @kaitylynne13, for #mswl listings and writerly life thoughts.
There are two styles of online writing contests that dominate this space. One has a mentor/mentee format that stretches over a few months, while the other is a one-day burst of writers pitching their manuscripts in 140 characters or less to editors and agents using the contest hashtag. Both contests require fully-completed manuscripts.
The mentor/mentee contests are broken into sections: a submission window for writers, mentor selections, an editing segment, and the agent round. The pitch contest, on the other hand, usually allows writers to post a different logline up to three times a day under a specific hashtag that agents can search—hoping to find a great idea to request. Both types of contests are ideal for authors who think they are ready to query, but could use some assistance in realizing a polished final product.
Benefits of Twitter Contests
Besides potentially finding an agent or publisher, there are other benefits of entering these contests:
Advice From Industry Professionals and Established Freelance Editors
Most of the mentor/mentee events hold sessions under the #askagent or #askeditor hashtags so writers can ask questions about the craft or marketplace of writing and publishing. And anything goes! Want to ask what genres they’re tired of seeing? Go for it. Curious why some want to see a synopsis while others couldn’t care less? Fire away. This is your chance to pick apart the industry like never before.
Invaluable Feedback on Your Pages
Not every contest asks for pages. For those that do, many agents/editors will send custom feedback to those that enter, even if that writer doesn’t end up being chosen as a winner. As most writers know, agents and editors don’t often have time to share their thoughts on a submission. That’s where contests come in handy. Win-win, right? Either writers are selected and get full, in-depth assistance, or they could potentially get some tips for going forward.
Connections Within the Writing Community
Personally, I find this to be the biggest reward. Making connections with both contestants and moderators is by far one of the most important things you can do. When I participated in PitchWars, I met a group of writers who shared similar interests , from reading and writing to everyday life. A few of us created a smaller group from this—a chat where we could share ideas and hold each other accountable for writing quotas, as well as just talking about life in general. It was through this group I found my opportunity to intern for Corvisiero Literary Agency—which, in turn, led to my current agent apprentice position.
In addition to making general connections in the writing community, contests are perfect for discovering beta readers. There’s even an event, #CPmatch, specifically designed to bring readers and writers together.
As many of you know, beta readers are invaluable to a writer; they not only help gauge how the public may view your story, but they also serve to point out what works and doesn’t work in your manuscript. In addition, the best readers aren’t just focused on the enjoyment gained from an unpublished manuscript. They look for plot holes, places where line edits may be needed, moments when your protagonist suddenly acts out of character, and so on. Every writer should send their manuscript to multiple beta readers before submitting to any agent or editor. This is just as much a part of the editing process as the second and third (and sometimes fourth and fifth) draft is. If you’ve ever wondered how to cultivate a group of beta readers for your manuscript, this is a good starting point.
Knowledge of Genre Saturation
The kind of knowledge you can glean from these contests is not always obvious. I’ve noticed that paying attention to what others are pitching also helps you in regards to future projects. Does it seem like mermaids dominate the feed? Or perhaps there’s a copious amount of vampire and werewolf stories? Don’t throw that information away. If it seems like everyone is suddenly writing about a particular topic, it might be a good idea to put aside that Under the Sea work-in-progress until the market calms down a bit.
Getting the Most Out of Contests
So how can you personally make sure you get all there is to be offered? One word: participate. Agents and editors know you work, they know you clearly take lot of time to write, and they know you try to have a life that isn’t predominantly digital. But checking into the feed every so often and jumping in only when you’re ready to submit will only get you so far. You need to put the work in. Say hi to agents, editors, and other writers. Post a question during the group question sessions about your specific piece. Industry professionals enjoy getting to know you just as much as you want to know us.
In addition, talk to other contestants, start threads on genres or categories, play games like “Which Hogwarts House Would Your Main Character Be Sorted Into?” You never know who could click with you. And don’t forget to read! So many authors, agents, and editors donate time to be a part of these events, and they can introduce you to stacks and stacks of new, wonderful novels you’ve yet to discover. Reading can only help you voice creative ideas.
What are you waiting for? Start researching your next contest! Learn about submission guidelines and see who will be involved. Here are a few upcoming contests:
March 23: #PitMad
April 5: #AdPit
April 5: #KidPit
April 7: #P2P17
April 15: #TeenPit
May TBA: #QueryKombat
June 8: #PitMad
June TBA: #SFFpit
August 2: #PitchWars
September 7: #PitMad
October TBA: #NoQS
December 7: #PitMad
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