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Write From Home
Kim Wilson
P.O. Box 4145
Hamilton, NJ 08610

E-mail: kim @ writefromhome.com

Developing a Writer's Discipline: Using Contests
by Linda S. Dupie

Developing skills as a writer takes discipline. The best way to do this is to set aside time each day and write or set deadlines. However, self-imposed deadlines are easy to wiggle out of. An alternative is to use contests. Using contest deadlines helps to develop your discipline and writing skills.

Finding contests is as easy as browsing your favorite writing Web sites or doing a search through a search engine like Google. To conduct a search using Google you'll need to enter search terms. One that turns up the best results is "writers+contests."

Finding the contests is the easy part of being a writer. The hard part is following through and writing that poem, essay or short story. The possibility of winning is a great motivator. But what do you do when your enthusiasm lessens? Keep writing. This is where discipline is needed. Successful writers write through the rough spots. Freelance writer Peg Loudon of Michigan says, "I was determined to enter a mystery contest, but I found out about it rather late. It meant I had to really push myself to get the story done on timeI worked on it every night whether I felt like it or not! There was no time to wait for the muse or even for some energy if I was going to make the deadline."

Set a Deadline
Plan appropriately; pay attention to the contest deadline and guidelines. If the deadline is six weeks away, schedule a four-week writing, rewriting and polishing deadline. At this point, don't worry whether you've chosen the right words, that's why writers revise. What's important is to get your words down in black and white. Have your rough draft finished within the first week of deciding to participate. Once your draft is finished let it sit a day or two. Then start revising it. By the end of week two you should be closer to what you want to submit. At this point, you still have time for a friend or fellow writer to read through and offer suggestions on your submission. At the end of week three you should have completed revisions suggested by your friend. Week four should be for a final polishing. By setting your deadline two weeks before the deadline, you still have time to make any last minute changes and get your entry in on time. Once you're satisfied mail or e-mail your entry to its destination.

Mind the Details
Make sure the work you're submitting is the best you can make it. Be sure you have followed the contest guidelines. If the guidelines aren't met the entry won't be read. Double check that all the required contact information is included and make sure the finished work is on topic with the contest. Minding the details and learning to discipline yourself to write will help you meet your deadlines and is good practice for when you make the switch to sending your work to an editor.

Linda S. Dupie is a freelance writer. She writes on a variety of subjects including Travel, Kids and Family issues. Linda also publishes the award-winning Web site Rainy Day Corner for the Writing Family.









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