Entering contests means a lot of preparation. Your synopsis and manuscript entry need to be flawless. Every word needs to sing.
I’ve edited out pieces of my manuscript I thought were important, but decided they weren’t as important in the eyes of the contest. In the first 25 pages of your manuscript, you must be able to grab the judge’s attention and keep it there. That may mean cutting details that aren’t pertinent to the entry. You can leave the details there for the manuscript’s full body, but make sure what you’re turning into the contest is succinct and at its best.
Bringing your work to this level requires time and patience. It requires outside help – that means you need to email your work to your critique group, or meet your writing group each week. Don’t get mad if the results aren’t what you expected.
Contest feedback can be brutal. Even if the judge doesn’t intend to be harsh, when we first read our scores, we are hurt. They weren’t a perfect score as we expected. The judge says we need to work on showing or telling, or advises us on grammar and points out where we went wrong. None of this is easy, but must be met head on if we are to survive as a writer. When a writer becomes published, the criticism comes in the form of reviews that are published across the Internet for all eyes to see. You have to have a strong backbone to prepare for that, when the reviews aren’t what you expected.
Enter contests where the final round judge is an editor you’re interested in pitching. If you final, that judge will see your work. Great things can come of him/her seeing your work, or maybe nothing. The point is, get your name out there. When you meet the editor at conference, you have something to talk about besides how sweaty your palms and pits are.
Don’t waste your time entering contests if the final round judge is of no interest to you, unless you simply want practice entering contests. And have the extra dough to shell out. Entering contests – multiple entries – several a year, can get costly.
All of this is just my advice. And since it’s free, you can take it or leave it.