Writers have so many opportunities to enter a variety of competitions nowadays that we're really spoilt for choice.
Over the last few years I've started to enter more competitions, not just those at my writers club.
Actually making that move to outside competitions was a big step for me- it meant I felt my writing was now good enough to be inflicted on strangers. :-)
Last year I entered the Mail on Sunday novel competition. I didn't actually need a complete novel, just the first 150 words with the word 'row' in it. The results are due sometime in the next few weeks.
It was a free competition, so I expect a large number of entries were received-they have in previous years. Only the best entries will get shortlisted, and like any competition, one judge's preference is not going to be the same as another's, so not getting into that top percentage doesn't necessarily mean my writing is bad.
But the positive aspect, is that I've got a start to a story or novel that can be worked on in future.
At the moment I'm trying to come up with a short story for a club competition that has a deadline of next week. Hmmm, this isn't going very well, and it's not that it needs to be long- only a maximum of 1500 words but it has to fit a criteria. I know the setting, but my character/s are being reluctant.
The only downside of competitions in the outside world is that sadly there will always be the occasional rogue, a competition that is badly run, or worse, designed only to part writers from their money, and it can be difficult to spot them.
I follow this strategy: Does it have clear contact details given- a postal address, or is there just an anonymous contact form? I print out the competition details or note them down, so if the page or the rules change or the site disappears I have the relevant information. And check, have there been any adverse comments from writers or other groups about their previous competitions mentioned on the internet.
(Writers share the news about bad things, as well as good stuff.)
Competitions can help you improve your writing and develop your style, as while you're writing you're learning what works for you- and hopefully you will then go on to win, and that is one feeling you can't beat...