You may be tempted to enter writing contests from time to time. Winners are certainly provided an often-needed mental and emotional lift, exposure of the win on social media (thus giving you a boost in sales), as well as a variety of prizes.
Most importantly, contests can be a valuable tool, especially if they offer constructive feedback.
Most contests are based on samples of anywhere from three to ten pages of writing being judged by contest officials.
When feedback arrives, the writer can use it to adjust their writing, sign up for classes or read books on areas of deficiency, and so on.
I find the most helpful feedback comes in the form of written comments with examples. The least helpful, in my opinion, is a simple checklist.
I would recommend entering contests where you are assured that you are competing against others at your relative skill level (beginning writer, seasoned writer, etc.) AND that your work is looked at by more than one judge who is an expert in the same genre in which you write.
Most contests post comments/reviews of their previous contests. Reading them before entering, will be helpful in deciding just which contest is right for you.
Your goal is to become a better writer, so carefully consider the comments you receive without getting emotional. Weigh them against what you know to be true, while bearing in mind that their opinions—although hopefully based on some measure of expertise—are simply their opinions.
The next reader may feel quite differently about your work. So don’t let just one set of scores discourage you.
Remember to always get a second opinion.