For once, I'm not talking about the challenges of being a writer. These writing challenges are the kind that crop up everywhere on the internet. You stop by your favorite blog or website and see the announcement of a writing contest. You have three days to write 200 words involving some random object, like a crooked barn. Of course you want to enter! With a prize like a free query critique, who could pass it up? Now you just have to come up with a fantastic entry that's sure to come out on top...
You enter your masterpiece, then scroll through the other entries and sob. How on earth could you possibly have thought your entry was great? You're certain you have no chance of winning.
Before you go and delete your entry, keep one thing in mind: all those other writers probably feel the exact same way you do. Very few people look at their work next to the work of others and think, "Hey, this contest is a cinch! I am a way better writer than any of these hacks." To be perfectly honest, I've never come across any writer who thought this way, but I've met people with that attitude about other things.
Did you catch the word I used? Attitude. That's what it's all about. If you have a positive attitude, not only will you feel better, it will come through in your writing and interactions with others. What does attitude have to do with writing challenges, you ask? Everything. If you take the attitude of, "Well, I could enter, but I know I'm not going to win. So, what's the point?" you're probably right about not winning. Not because your writing is as bad as you think it is, but because you probably won't enter. The whole point of these challenges is to take the plunge and enter just to get your writing out there and join the community of whatever blog or website you submitted to. It's also a great way to get used to working on a deadline, a useful skill once you have an editor who wants revisions on your 300-page manuscript in a month.
Another thing these challenges provide (other than the opportunity to have fun) is the chance to get your creativity going. Last night, I entered A Teensy Weensy Story Challenge on agent Rachelle Gardner's blog. I found out about it an hour and a half before the deadline. Normally, that would have stopped me dead in my tracks and left me lamenting a missed opportunity. But the twist with this challenge is that you had to write a complete story in 100 words or less and use the posted photo as a prompt. That photo got my creative juices flowing with the force of an adrenaline rush. Planning, writing, and revising took half an hour. I posted my story with just under an hour left in the contest. Unless you thrive on pressure like that, I don't recommend pushing the deadline that much. If it hadn't been for a busy schedule eating my blog reading time, I would have known about that contest much sooner. Would I have written a different 100-word entry? Beats me, but I sure had fun trying to beat the deadline last night.
"How do I find these entertaining writing challenges?" you ask. If you use my method, it's pretty hit or miss. I have a few agent blogs I try to read regularly (although I seldom achieve that goal), and I find out about most of their contests a day or so before the deadline for entry. I've also learned about challenges through writer message boards and e-groups. One challenge that happens on a weekly basis during most of the year is the FaithWriters Writing Challenge. Unfortunately, when I went to the site this morning, I discovered they won't have a new challenge until July 3.
Do you know of any writing challenges that happen regularly? Or that have deadlines closing in? Post a link in the comments section and I'll list it in a post even if it's not my day to blog. We can't let these great opportunities for writing fun pass, now can we?