I am at a point in my writing where if I’m going to improve it’s going to need to be an active process. One of the ways I’m trying to do this is by building challenges for myself.
Entering contests is fine, but what's your goal beyond winning? The chances you'll win are slim, so what are you getting if you don't? — heavyliftingind (@heavyliftingind) January 30, 2015
I’m dubious about the value of competitions. It’s largely a money sink for hopefuls and doesn’t tend to provide much back. Given the way most competitions are run, the only way you get feedback is if you win a prize or pay for it. With that in mind, I don’t see the point and would rather just pay for coverage by itself.
Further, because it’s rare to be able to read the winning scripts it’s really hard to gauge your work against the winner’s.
How are you supposed to grow without feedback?
That said, I don’t think these are entirely worthless. Even if you don’t win. The approach then is to have an alternative goal. What are you going to get from a contest you are nearly certain not to win?
I have an immediate and personal answer for this in a specific context. This answer leads me to the intention to enter this contest. To get something out of this I need to set explicit goals for what I expect to achieve.
Working Against a Schedule
I’m a big fan of schedules. They force us to continue working forward. In this context you can’t change the date. All you can do is continue moving and trying to find creative solutions whenever you get stuck.
This is my most important goal for this project. I’ve had a feature length idea that has been sitting around for a long time. While I like the idea, other projects have taken priority. I’d really like to get this project out of the way. Given this is a short script competition, at a maximum of 35 pages, I’m going to have to write very lean to make this work.
I’m going to have to figure out how to get the story in 35 pages without turning the project into a frenetic mess. This will take careful excising of the right content. Trimming out as much as possible while maintaining the core story in a way that maintains all the important points I want to hit.
This is going to be a massive challenge, but it’s going to help me improve at putting together clean, well paced content.
This is one of those projects that, like I said, I’ve had around forever. I don’t like having these uncompleted things laying around. I don’t mind abandoning projects that aren’t speaking to me, but I really like this one. It’s been more a matter of pushing other projects ahead of it.
Pushing this to the top of the stack with the restrictions of a contest forces me to get it down to page. The worst case scenario here, barring absolute failure to get it done, is that I realize I can’t do it in 35 pages and write the full feature length project it was initially intended to be.
No matter what happens with this competition, I will walk out of it having gained something. That’s a good reason to enter. A better reason than a blind hope of winning.