So, I'm watching the American Idol finale results show as I write (Go Kris!), and it makes me think what a shame it is they can't have an American Idol for writers. Clearly it would be way too boring! But when you're unpublished and trying to get that break, the idea of having a forum to catch the attention of the right people can make you so envious.
Which is why legitimate writing contests are such a gift to writers who daily attempt to get their foot in that very small crack in the publishing door. I should know. That's how I got both of my high-heels into the publishing industry, and I'm incredibly grateful for the hard work of those who organize, judge and reward efforts in these contests.
Personally, I can only recommend the two I've entered: The Christian Writers Guild's Operation First Novel contest and the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis contest. The latter gave me valuable feedback from the judges, and the former catapulted my writing from an endeavor to a career.
Fortunately, I didn't have to sing onstage, fend off paparazzi or listen to criticism from Simon Cowell. I just had to write - which is what we writers do best anyway - and meet the deadline and criteria of the contest.
So if you can write and you remember what it's like to get your homework turned in on time, you can enter writing contests too. Why not use your summer to give it a try? Pull out those partial manuscripts and finish them up, polish up the complete ones, and take the leap.
You never know where you might land!