Writing Contests and Why You Should Consider Entering

Entering writing contests is good practice for writers. And the cash prizes and publication are nice too.

Writing Contests

While you may not feel like you have time to be dallying around entering writing contests there are some good reasons to do so, aside from money and publication. First, if it’s the right contest, it can give you exposure to your future agent, editor or publisher. Second, writing to deadline and according to a set of guidelines keeps you sharp. Third, if you win you can say “award-winning writer” on stuff. I mean, isn’t that worth the entry fee alone?

Of course there are scams out there so you do need to vet each contest and check things like the rules and who’s judging. You also want to make sure the entry fee is reasonable and you’re not signing away all your rights by entering the contest. But once you feel like it’s on the up-and-up then enter with abandon!

Where to Find Writing Contests

Here are a few of my favourite stops when looking for new writing contests to enter.

  • Poets & Writers has a searchable database of writing contests, which includes any creative writing contests they’ve published in their magazine during the past year. These contests are vetted before being entered into the database so it’s a trustworthy resource
  • The Writer is a wealth of resources for writers and keeps an up-to-date contest listing on their website. You can even join their mailing lists where they’ll send the contest details to you so you don’t miss a thing
  • Submittable has a great weekly roundup of publishing and journalism news (Called Submishmash Weekly) and, of course, up-to-date contest listings. I find a lot of great opportunities here. And you can sign up for their weekly round up too, which saves you having to remember to check for updates
  • Writer’s Digest has an updated contest listing for any Writer’s Digest Contest. They’re listed from soonest submission deadline to latest and cover a wide range of writing contests
  • If you’re looking for Canadian writing contests Heather McLeod has a nice roundup of listings organized by date. These are recurring contests so check the links for updated details
  • Speaking of Canadian writing contests, CBC Books also put together a guide to writing prizes for Canadians. Organized into fiction, non-fiction and poetry, there are tons of recurring contests listed and this is a post worth bookmarking
  • Writers Write has a small list of upcoming contests for fiction and poetry writers. Listings go till the end of the year so it’s worth checking out
  • Reedsy has a robust contest search, which is updated each week. Search by genre, location and sort by entry fee or prize money

While you may not feel like you have time to be dallying around entering writing contests there are some good reasons to do so, aside from money and publication. First, if it's the right contest, it can give you exposure to your future agent, editor or publisher. Second, writing to deadline and according to a set of guidelines keeps you sharp. Third, if you win you can say "award-winning writer" on stuff. I mean, isn't that worth the entry fee alone?

I hope you can find awesome writing contests to enter this year! But if checking out websites is still too much to ask I have one more place you can go to find great contests—I’ve created a Writing Jobs and Contests Twitter List. All you have to do is follow the list and check it every now and then. I mean, you’re on Twitter, right?

Health Tips for Writers

This quick list of health tips for writers is the result of an instrumental change I made, which has made a huge difference in my life and career. I reached a point in my writing life where I realized being good at writing wasn’t going to be enough to have a substantial career if I wasn’t healthy enough to sit at the computer to, you know, write all day.

Health Tips for Writers

If you’re anything like me you spend a lot of time sitting in front of your computer. And, if you’re anything like me, living this sedentary writer lifestyle can lead to some unwanted health issues like weight gain, headaches, eye pain, joint/back pain and more.

For a long time I thought I had a pretty active lifestyle—until I got a Fitbit and learned the harsh truth. I learned I didn’t move much at all and after a few months of denial (the activity tracker must not be tracking all my movement) I decided to do something about it. Because…well, the writing was on the wall. I had gained weight, I was tired all the time, my back and neck had chronic pain and I was overall miserable. I had a feeling I was on the fast track for something much worse health-wise.

So I decided to make some changes. This was about a year ago and I’ve seen nothing but positive results after implementing a healthier routine. And yes, this was inspired by getting up at 4:30 a.m. for 21 days. I learned if I can do that, I can do anything.

Health Tips for Writers

Take a screen break every 60 minutes. The FitBit makes it easy because it buzzes every hour and reminds me to get moving. And, I’ve learned, if I get up and move every hour—walk around, have a stretch, whatever—I am pretty productive. It makes it easy for me to push hard on my work because I know I get to take a quick break soon. It has been a great habit to pick up! Plus I hear not looking at a screen all day is good for you or something.

Get outside. Halfway through my workday I take a walk. I used to think this was such a waste of work time but I’ve learned the exercise combined with the fresh air (and lack of screen time) acts as a reset. It renews my energy and I return to my desk full of ideas. My walks last for about 15 minutes and I find it’s an excellent length.

P-O-S-T-U-R-E. Yes, sitting with proper posture has been something I’ve worked on as is making a big difference to my back and neck. As in, I don’t have such issues with pain. Which allows me to focus and concentrate on my work. Of course I have moments where I slip back into slouching and hunching but as soon as I realize it I adjust. And it’s working.

Snacks should be vegetables. Ugh I know! But if you’re wondering where that sneaky 10 pounds came from take a good look at your snack cupboard. I’m making a deliberate effort to have more vegetables in my life and it’s making a difference.

Hydrate. All day, e’ry day. I’ve loved coffee for a long time (speaking of coffee, here’s a great oldie I dug up from the archives on the time I reheated my coffee and found a fly floating in it) but as I changed up my nutrition habits I realized my relationship with coffee had to change. We could still see each other but I needed water to be the primary liquid in my life. Staying hydrated helps me stay focused and clear-headed. And I don’t seem to have many headaches anymore.

Have a strong morning routine. I think this is the most important of my health tips for writers because this is where everything started for me. I get out of bed and tackle the things most important to me first, before I do anything else. This helps me set up my day for success and I’m so glad I found something that works. It helps me arrive at work with a clear head, ready to dive into the day.

Exercise first thing in the morning. Speaking of morning routines, allow me to suggest adding exercise to it. Working out first thing isn’t easy but it makes a remarkable difference to the rest of your day. I used to try and hit the gym after work but there were so many times where other plans or meetings came up or I found convenient excuses to skip out. Adding exercise into my morning routine means it’s something I do—not something I think about doing or debate about doing.

So those are my health tips for writers. Walk around, drink lots of water, get outside, build an awesome morning routine. You know, do healthy things! Author Joanna Penn published a book on this topic as well, so if you’re looking for a deep dive on building a healthy writing lifestyle check out The Healthy Writer: Reduce Your Pain, Improve Your Health, And Build A Writing Career For The Long Term.

If you're anything like me you spend a <em>lot</em> of time sitting in front of your computer. And, if you're anything like me, living this sedentary writer lifestyle can lead to some unwanted health issues like weight gain, headaches, eye pain, joint/back pain and more. Here are some health tips for writers I hope you'll find helpful.

How to Write a Case Study

If you know how to tell a story you can write a case study. However, if you’ve never done it before you might be wondering how to write a case study. So here we go. By the way, a case study is a success story told about a client you’ve helped. Simple, right?

How to Write a Case Study

Maybe before I get into how to write a case study I’ll talk about what makes something a case study. In essence, it’s a study analysis where you overview a business problem, outline options for solving the problem and what happened in the end. The fact that you’re telling your client’s story from beginning to end, and including twists and turns along the way, makes this different than an advertisement or a sales page because you’re keeping the twists and turns in the story. The fact that it’s not just “I decided to do this thing and then it worked and now I’m successful yayyyyy,” makes it a case to study. Case study. Right!?

Something to keep in mind is although this isn’t a traditional sales page, a case study is a tool in your sales and marketing arsenal. It’s something you want prospective clients to read and become convinced to hire you—so make sure it’s targeted to people who are on the fence about working with you and tell client success stories that will help them see how you’ll help them reach their goals.

How to write a case study

Here are a few sections to include:


In one or two sentences present your reader with the problem or issue and a quick summary of the outcome.


Think of this section like setting the scene. You don’t want to spend too much time here but your reader should learn what has brought your client to this point in his or her business.


I know this might seem like overkill but you want to list ideas you or your clients entertained/tried in order to build your narrative arc. Overview what alternative solutions you considered and explain why they wouldn’t/couldn’t work or were not possible.

Proposed Solution

This is your moment! Highlight your one and only amazing solution to your client’s problem or issue. Make sure it’s relevant, specific and realistic, explain why you chose it and support your solution with evidence. Your evidence can contain either research or anecdotes or both.


Here you’ll overview the steps you took to accomplish your proposed solution. This should be specific, strategic and relevant (are you sensing a theme?).

When writing a case study make sure you tell it from beginning to end, following this outline as much as possible. Use as much data as you need to frame your point but keep your reading in mind—too much data = dry and boring. Don’t be dry and boring.

A case study doesn’t have to feel like a case study—your reader doesn’t even have to realize they’re reading one. If you share a client’s success story from start to finish in a compelling way and help potential clients decide to do business with you…then you’re case study has done its job.

The question of how to write a case study is a great one. But maybe you're wondering what a case study is and why you should care about it. I get that.

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How Long Should My Book Be?

Have you ever asked how long should my book be? Did you know what a great question it is? GREAT question! Many debut authors dive into their manuscript with wild abandon and with little thought to structure, plot or word count.

How Long Should My Book Be Guide to Word Count

When you’re planning a book (even if you’re a pantser) it’s important to know a few things about your genre ahead of time—things like, well, what genre it is. And what the theme is. And how many words it will be. Yeah. Even word count should be pre-planned.

And I know how weird that sounds if this is the first time you’re hearing it. What!? There’s a word count for novels!? Yup. And it’s kind of one of those things you should abide by unless you’re crazy-famous and/or already a successful author (because obvs these guidelines don’t apply to you) or you don’t care about selling books. Because word count matters. And the rules change for every genre.

So, your first task is to figure out what genre your book is in. After that, check the list below to find the answer to your question how long should my book be?

General guidelines: How long should my book be?


  • Middle Grade—20,000 to 50,000 words
  • Young Adult—45,000 to 80,000 words
  • Novels—50,000 to 120,000 words
    • Paranormal Romance—85,000 to 100,000 words
    • Romance—85,000 to 100,000 words
    • Category Romance—55,000 to 75,000 words
    • Cozy Mysteries—65,000 to 90,000 words
    • Horror—80,000 to 100,000 words
    • Western—80,000 to 100,000 words
    • Light Paranormal Mysteries/Hobby Mysteries—75,000 to 90,000 words
    • Historical Mysteries/Noir—80,000 to 100,000 words
    • Thrillers/Crime—90,000 to 100,000 words
    • Chick Lit—80,000 to 100,000 words
    • Literary—65,000 to 100,000 words
    • Science Fiction—90,000 to 110,000 words
    • Romantic Science Fiction—85,000 to 100,000 words
    • Space Opera—90,000 to 120,000 words
    • Contemporary Fantasy—90,000 to 100,000 words
    • Other Fantasy—90,000 to 120,000 words


  • Devotional—30,000 to 50,000 words
  • Self-Help—40,000 to 90,000 words
  • Memoir—50,000 to 90,000 words
  • Narrative Non-Fiction—50,000 to 110,000 words
  • Biography—50,000 to 110,000 words
  • Prescriptive/How-To—50,000 to 150,000

Of course these guidelines are only just that—guidelines. And there are WAY more genres and sub-genres (e.g. new weird and slipstream…what now!?) so it’s best to do your own research. But do pay attention and at least be aware of publisher AND reader expectations. Because you still have to list your word count in your query letter or book proposal!

Sources: The Swivet, Jerry Jenkins, Books & Such Literary Management

Have you ever asked <em>how long should my book be?</em> Did you know what a great question it is? GREAT question! Many debut authors dive into their manuscript with wild abandon and with little thought to structure, plot or word count.

Other posts relating to publishing (although not answering the question how long should my book be but they’re still relevant!)

Hiring a Writer? 10 Things You Should Know

If it’s your first time hiring a writer or even if you’ve done it before but find it a bit awkward, you’ll love this post.

These 10 tips for hiring a writer were written by Cynthia White who is a freelance writer based on Vancouver Island. I love this topic because I spend time talking to writers and Cynthia had the idea to speak to people thinking about hiring a writer. Love it.

10 Things You Should Know About Hiring a Writer

I’m a freelance writer, just like my friend, Robyn. I asked her if I could write an article on hiring a writer for her blog because she blogs only about writing-related topics, and I blog about anything that strikes my fancy.

When a new client wants to hire me, there are several things that I run into repeatedly, things that the client doesn’t necessarily understand. I thought it would be useful to tell a little bit about what it means to hire a writer and give some insight into the writing process.

So, here are 10 things you should know about hiring a writer:

10 tips for hiring a writer

  1. Most writers don’t work on a per hour basis. We usually price writing work by the word or by the project. We may have an idea what our hourly rate is, but we usually don’t say

    Why do we price our work by the word? I don’t know, but that’s the standard. We never want to be told to “write faster” because we’re being paid a certain amount per hour. So, we just tell you what the job is worth to us, and whether it takes us one hour or 21 hours, that’s our problem.

    If you have an established long-term relationship with a writer, very often writers just work for a monthly retainer. The writer agrees to give you a certain amount of work at previously agreed-upon intervals for a fixed monthly price.

    You want to know what the going rate is for a writer? Here are two articles about that.

  2. Professional writers aren’t cheap. You can definitely find someone on Upwork or elsewhere who will write for $0.01/word. But you won’t find an experienced professional writer to work for that rate. Even $0.10/word is cheap by our standards, but sometimes we’ll do that work if it’s pleasant, and we’re able to do it fast.

    With writing, you get what you pay for. The odds are against you getting a great job done for less than $0.10/word. For less than $0.10/word, you’ll be hiring someone who either doesn’t have English as a mother tongue, or who doesn’t have a degree in English or journalism, or who doesn’t have any experience.

    We’re going to do a better job of writing your articles or your blog, than you will. You may know your company better than we do, but we know how to write effectively. If we’re writing your blog, we know how the articles should look, how many links to include, how to optimize the work for search engine optimization, and how to make the work look polished.

    One advantage for you of hiring a professional and experienced writer is that some writers have a large and established social media following. Your writer may be happy to promote his or her articles about your business through their own personal social media platforms—especially if the writer’s name is on the article.

  3. It’s OK to ask for revisions. Writers can’t read minds. We may have a good idea what you want, but we can’t give you exactly what you want without some feedback. It’s OK to ask for revisions, and we expect that. The more feedback we get, the closer we will get to giving you the ideal product, just like with machine learning.

    Of course, there’s an old saying in freelance writing that if the client isn’t happy with the third draft, then there’s either something wrong with the client or something wrong with the writer. Three drafts should be plenty. If you’re asking for six, seven, or eight drafts, then the client doesn’t know what he or she wants. I let go of clients like that. I’ve been doing this for years, and I can afford to be choosy about who I want to work with.

  4. It’s OK to ask for photos to accompany articles. Most writers will charge extra for this, especially if they are original photos that we have taken ourselves with our own cameras. It’s extra work for us, and many clients prefer to furnish the artwork themselves, but it’s OK to ask. And if we’re being paid a reasonable rate, we won’t mind looking up a few royalty-free photos for you.
  5. Press releases cost more than regular writing. Press releases are not priced on a per word basis, but as a flat rate. (And the flat rate does not include the price of distribution, which is separate.) Why? Because writing them is a special skill that some of us have spent years acquiring. Press releases have a special format, a special language, and even writing the titles and subtitles is not for amateurs.

    A press release is not the job where you should pinch pennies. Why? Because when someone skilled writes a press release, it will get more “pick-up” or traffic, which is what you want. If you hire an inexperienced writer to write a press release, there may be a delay in the release going out because the company used to distribute the press release may have to rewrite it. Not good. Experienced freelance writers not only know how to write a great press release, but we know all about the pros and cons of including images or videos, and when is the best time to get them out. Most of us also have a relationship with a company that does the distribution. Personally, I use Ereleases if it’s for a press release originating in the US.

  6. It’s a good idea to pay us promptly. I wish I had a nickel for every client that I’ve ever had who was ultra-available when he or she needed me to finish a job and ultra-unavailable when it came time to pay. Cash flow is everything, and it’s not fair to make us chase you around for payment. The time spent reminding you to pay us is time that we could be working on other projects for clients who pay promptly. If you’re a new client, don’t be surprised if we ask to be paid up front or after each little job, just to make sure that we don’t do an enormous amount of work and never get paid for it. Yes, it happens.

    I’m, in fact, running into a problem with a new client right now. The client wants a certain number of blog articles each month. But the client only wants to pay for the published articles. That means I submit X number of articles each month, but they can sit on them as long as they want, and I won’t get paid until they’re published. That’s not right, and that’s not how it works. The writer should be paid upon submission. If the client takes a month to ask for revisions, that’s fine, but the writer should be paid. Otherwise, the writer is always being paid for a subset of what they’ve written for the client. I don’t think I’ll be writing long for these folks unless they change that policy.

  7. Need another freelancer? Ask us. Most of us have a well-established network of freelancers. We know other writers, editors, design people, and software people. If you need to hire someone else, ask us.
  8. We’re going to charge more for ghostwriting. Writers like to have their names on things. This gives the writer credibility, and if there’s a blurb about the writer and a link, this can help drive traffic to the writer’s website. If we’re writing for a client, and we’re not going to get to put our name on anything, for example on your business blog, then we’ll charge you more because we lose those added benefits.
  9. If you need something fast, be prepared to pay extra. Most freelance writers have several clients and schedule of work to be done. Sometimes a schedule may be in place for several weeks or months in advance. So, we can do your work, but we can’t necessarily do it tonight. If you need it instantly, be prepared to pay extra to move to the front of the line.
  10. We have other skills. Ask us. Often clients who hire writers don’t realize that many of us can do more than one type of job. The person who writes for your blog may also be an expert on social media. Your blog writer might also be an expert editor who could proofread your website or edit the text of other freelance writers. Some writers are happy to do ebooks, press releases, or copywriting (like sales copy). Some writers do some design work like for business cards or logos. Some writers have extensive business and marketing experience. So, if you have a writer that you like, and you have other jobs that need doing, ask your writer first.

The idea for this article came to me recently because I started with a new client who seemed very reluctant to ask for revisions. The client was afraid I’d be insulted because he wanted a few more statistics in his blog articles. I wasn’t insulted. I told him, “writers expect to be asked for revisions. It’s OK.”

I hope this is helpful for someone hiring a writer for the first time.

If it's your first time hiring a writer or even if you've done it before but find it a bit awkward, you'll love this post.

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