In an effort to resume my writing on a more regular basis, I have entered one writing contest and am working on an entry for a second one. In doing so, I've been reminded just how helpful the act of preparing a contest entry can be.
Case in point - the contest I want to enter this month has a word count limit, rather than a page limit. This fact has forced me to edit even more closely than before. After going over and over this manuscript I was certain it was as tight as it could be, yet without too much trouble I managed to cut at least 20 words. Which left me wondering why they were there in the first place. How had they slipped through so many other times?
I realize that most likely I was editing for other reasons - not strictly for word count. Does that make sense? And it's not as though the words I removed were serving as padding, they were just, in the end, superfluous. But I didn't see that before because I wasn't focussed on making my prose tight - I was focussed on story, dialogue etc.
Do you still enter writing contests? If so, how do you find they help you with your writing?