Writers of all ages need an audience. And what better way to gain one than to enter a writing contest? It’s so satisfying when a child receives a reward for his writing—whether it’s a cash prize, a special gift, or simply a chance to get published.
So why should you encourage your kids to enter a writing contest? Here are three important reasons.
1. Writing Contests Provide Boundaries
Most students need—and work well within—boundaries. Writing contests provide strict limits in the form of deadlines, word count, and subject matter.
- Deadlines: Students, particularly teens, need to begin the practice of working within time limits, as they’ll face all sorts of deadlines throughout high school and college. Contest deadlines help them pace their writing so they can develop, write, and proofread the piece with time to spare.
- Word count: Writing contests usually have some sort of word limit. Cutting a story or essay down to its most essential core will result in a tighter composition. It takes skill to whittle away excess verbiage in order to make every word count, but it’s a skill well worth developing.
- Subject matter: Because most contests ask for a specific kind of writing—a short fictional story, a patriotic piece, or a poem, for example—students get to fine-tune their skills and focus their writing while practicing with a variety of themes. Writing on a given topic, even if it doesn’t especially interest them, is good practice for future writing assignments. Students won’t always have a choice, and practicing with different genres broadens their base of writing experiences.
2. Writing Contests Provide An Audience
When your child enters a contest, he is writing for two audiences: real and intended.
- Real audience: These are the people who will read and/or judge the poem, essay, or story.
- Intended audience: These are the people your student’s composition aims to address. They could be children, teenagers, elected officials, senior citizens, young mothers, homeschoolers, etc.
Writing with an audience in mind makes the writing clear and concise. Each writing contest requires your student to keep a certain audience in mind, which in turn helps him hone his skills. For practice, encourage your child to enter different contests with varying themes and audiences.
3. Writing Contests Improve Confidence
Your student may not want to enter writing contests because she doesn’t think she’s good enough to win, or she worries that everyone is better than she is. Encourage her to try anyway—it’s a great learning experience! And the more your child writes, the better her writing will become.
Writing Contest Tips
Now that you’re convinced writing contests are great opportunities for your kiddos, take care to guide them in the right direction by finding appropriate contests and steering clear of scams and rip-offs.
Finding Good Writing Contests
It can be a challenge to discern between legitimate contests and crooked or suspicious ones. While contests aren’t automatically legit just because they’re free, entry fees don’t necessarily spell scam, either. Some contests, for example, might charge a fee to help offset the cost of prizes or to help support a literary organization. If a contest looks legitimate, and the fee is low (under $10), you might consider it for your student. Here are a couple of resources for children’s writing contests.
Homeschool Writing Contests offers one-stop information about a number of writing contests, most of which are free.
- The Old Schoolhouse Storytime Contest offers a Stirring Fiction contest for adults 16 and up, and a fiction story contest for kids 15 and under.
Some writing contests are, indeed, scams. Scam contests typically serve as fronts for generating income and are not legitimate outlets for student writing. Here are a few articles that will help you identify and avoid scams.
Finding Story Ideas
Choosing a topic depends entirely on the contest requirements. But if your child simply needs help with story ideas, check out WriteShop‘s fabulous StoryBuilders—printable card decks that make great writing prompts for silly, whimsical, humorous, or serious stories. By picking one card from each category—character, character trait, setting, and plot—she’ll have the foundation for her winning story in no time!