Posted by: Diane Curran | July 12, 2009

To compete or not to compete?

Competitions have been good for me. And not because I’ve walked away with prizes (though there have been a couple of local writing competitions that I’ve done well in.) No, the reason I like competitions is that they have a non-negotiable deadline.  Unlike the ones that I determine (and then re-negotiate) for myself.

Competitions have got me into action when I could have been watching television or surfing the net. Competition deadlines have made me produce words and stories out of the ether. Competitions have made me reach into the dark recesses of my mind and soul and come up with something, often unexpected.

A competition led me to Romance Writers of Australia.  The Mid North Coast Writers Association held a short story competition and a writer friend was encouraging me to enter. I was dubious – other than short fiction exercises in my writers’ group, I had not written a short story for around nine years. I was not even sure I was capable of thinking in short story terms. All of my ideas wanted to play out in longform. I was convinced that I couldn’t come up with a beginning, middle AND ending in less than 2000 words.  The random thought about beginning, middle and ending sent my mind off on a trajectory that I did not predict. I wondered what had happened to Cinderella after the happily ever after. And a few days later, I found out. I wrote her story. Sent it off to the competition and Cinderella waltzed away with second prize.


I used part of the prize money to join Romance Writers of Australia. When a fellow romance writer announced that she was to be published in Wet Ink magazine, I decided to send Cinderella off to them, and they liked her and published the short story in the Spring issue of 2008. Once again, Cinderella came back from the ball all cashed up.

I loved spending time with Cinderella, Snow White and the two Princes so much that I decided to turn the story into a novel, as much to satisfy my curiosity about why Cinderella’s Prince Charming was not so charming after all.  I spent the 2007 Nanowrimo challenge working on the story. I’m currently editing the novel length version, and Cinderella is about to do another round of contests. Meanwhile her fairy-dust snorting fairy godmother has hopped into another story, and I have a storybook prince transported to the 21st century.

But competitions can be hard to pick.  Last year, I wrote another short story for my writers group competition, and though the judge awarded seven prizes, my story didn’t get a look in. I was very suprised as I’d received good feedback from readers. So this year at the presentation for the latest writers group competition, my expectations were low, and I knew only three prizes had been awarded as I had printed the blank award certificates. I came 2nd! And it was with a performance piece that was very personal and had sat in the file for 14 years, not looked at.

I plan to enter a few more competitions this year. Though my experience has been varied so far, the deadlines are motivating and the opportunity for feedback is valuable. And you never know, my story might just resonate.



  1. I’ve never thought about that. Contests do sort of train you to adhere to deadlines. I started entering for some feedback. I kept entering to add wins to my writing resume. But to be honest, I like to final. I love to win. I love to have something to look forward to. I put each contest on my calendar.

  2. I agree that contest deadlines are a good way of keeping motivated. I do have to make better use of my calendar, though, ’cause I always end up sending entries at the last minute.

    Good luck with your Cinderella story – it sounds fantastic!

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