I've been wondering whether I should enter a few more writing competitions. I have to say I have a love/hate relationship with the idea and up to now have entered only a handful, one of which was the Bridport Prize (well I can dream, can't I?).
I think for me a competition needs to have a prize element which might enhance my writing CV, eg publication in a reputable magazine or in an anthology published by a good indie publisher, or simply be a 'big name' competition. Entry fees to competitions can mount up, particularly important in our current difficult financial circumstances, and for me entering lots of smaller competitions would just be a financial lottery. You might be lucky enough to win a small cash prize, but would you ever recoup the total outgoings?
Sally Quilford is the queen of all things to do with competitions in the UK and I regularly take a look at her useful competitions calendar. I was also interested to see that she is the judge in the current Slingink Prize competition and to read her views on what might catch her eye as a judge. I'm not sure whether I felt encouraged or put off by reading so much detail, including her dislikes (sorry, Sally).
Personally, I think that trying to tailor an entry for a named judge can be quite difficult and take away from a writer's natural style. After all, a judge doesn't want to see a clone of their own writing and may enjoy reading many other types of story, a point made here by Tania Hershman a judge on the Bristol Short Story Prize this year and by Sally Quilford herself.
I have to admit that all my own competition entries so far have been either work rushed out at the last minute, just before the deadline, or pieces already written during my Open University creative writing courses. I've not put too much agonised thought into them. I'm not sure if that is a good thing or not, but I have had some success. So if I carry on entering competitions, I suspect I will continue in the same haphazard way...