Contests

There are some good reasons to enter writing contests and reasons not to live or die by the results.

Pros Cons Carolyn Says
Impartial opinion. Judges don't know you or your MS. The judges might be total idiots. All of them? And just the ones who judged your entry? How likely is that, really?
Feedback. Most, if not all, judges return scoresheets and commented entries. The judges might be total idiots. All of them? And just the ones who judged your entry? How likely is that, really?
Final round judges are often acquiring editors. If you final, you may get your MS in front of an editor ready to send you a contract. Is there one? Should be obvious.
There are a lot of contests for romance novels They cost money. True enough. If you can afford any, at least choose a contest with acquiring editors judging the final round.

So, why shouldn't you live or die by the results? Well, I entered a contest not so long ago. About a month later, my agent sold the MS. So, how did I fare in the contest? Not very well, actually. Of course, the opening pages of the MS sent to my agent had been altered based on critique group feedback. The contest feedback reflected the lack of change. I followed my own rules when I made those changes. They weren't huge changes, but they made a huge difference. Interestingly enough, I also entered a work that is not yet complete and it did much better (but did not final!) than the MS I sold.