With all the writing I'm sure you have to do, entering contests can seem like a frivolous waste of time and resources. But there are some amazing rewards if you take that time and use it wisely. Here's why you should enter literary contests.
1) They give you a break from your old projects. Sometimes a project can get tedious. You look at it as more of a chore than a pleasure, or you have writer's block. You just can get that scene to flesh out quite right, no matter how many hours you spend with the page. Writing contests will give you fresh material to work with. They can revitalize your drive so that you come back to your manuscript with new eyes and ideas.
2) They stretch your abilities and comfort level. When you're given specific instructions and prompts, you need to work within that framework. Having to create something new within known boundaries can sharpen your skills. Perhaps the contest you are interested in involves a different genre than the one in which you write. Or it forces a nonfiction story out of you. Or gives you a scene you'd never have come up with on your own. Whatever the case, it can become a way to cover new ground.
3) They provide networking opportunities. A whole host of new people, people that follow the site where the contest is being hosted, or follow the prize-givers or are interested in slightly different literary tastes than you are. You're all brought together through a love of the written word in a way you might not have been otherwise. Read the other entrants' pieces, comment, make friends. You never know who could stick with you in the long run.
4) You increase your platform. Even if you don't win and don't talk to anyone, even if you simply submit your writing, that piece is now available for others to read, and hopefully like. They'll associate your author name with this avenue and maybe branch out to look at your other stuff. You'll end up with more recognition than you would simply staring at a word document.
5) Sometimes...you win. I entered a competition to win a publishing contract through No Boundaries Press. It was hosted by After Dark Online. They do this contest every few months. I came across it on my Twitter feed, quite by accident. And that morning, I wrote a thousand words for them and posted it up.
And I won.
So now I have a book under contract before it's even been completed.
For a brand new author with only one piece under my belt, that's some good news!
Enter contests. You never know when you'll win.