If you're writing commercial fiction, you can jumpstart your career by judging writing contests.
Many aspiring authors already know the benefits of entering writing contests. These days, even the larger regional contests have celebrity judges. Why would these professional book editors and literary agents take time from their busy careers to judge writing contests?
Because they are hunting for new authors. I personally know 10 aspiring authors whose first book contracts were awarded because they caught the eye of an editor through Romance writing contests. Each of these writers went on to become bestsellers and are now recognized as household names.
Clearly, the question of ENTERING a contest is a no-brainer. But why would you volunteer to judge one?
Here are my top 6 reasons for both published and unpublished authors:
Reading contest entries is like a shot of adrenaline. Whether the writing delights or frustrates, you'll be inspired to stop procrastinating and write your own material.
Reading a new writer's unpolished prose will help you spot flaws in your own story.
As you grow your skills as an analytical reader, you will improve your ability to edit your own manuscript.
You'll glean a better understanding of how your writing compares with the writing that acquisitions editors review on a daily basis.
You’ll be reading the future of your genre, so you'll be among the first to spot emerging trends.
You’ll have the opportunity to "pay forward" the wisdom you've learned from your writing mentors. That means you'll be helping someone reach the next milestone in their career.
If you choose to volunteer in a writing contest as a judge, keep in mind that you are impacting lives. Be gracious. Be patient. Offer specific suggestions rather than vague numerical scores.
Even if the writing is not perfect, remember that somebody put their heart and soul into that story. In every manuscript, there is something worthy of praise. Find that thing, and praise it.
When you judge a writing contest, let your role be to nurture a spirit rather than crush a dream.