Before I published Hiding, my suspense romance novel, I entered several contests sponsored by various chapters of Romance Writers of America. The early contest entries helped me improve the first chapter so that it grabbed the reader's attention. The comments from various judges were really helpful in the revision process. Then I placed in the SOLA Contest which boosted my confidence.
Finally, I won the Daphne du Maurier Award for Suspense. Without these contests, I might not have gained the self-assurance to submit the manuscript for publication. You can always check current contests at the RWA website. Good luck with your submissions!