15 Best Writing Competitions That You Can Enter and Win

Vector graphic of a trophy displaying the title "A guide to the best annual writing competitions"

If you’ve been looking for writing competitions, then you’ve probably come across several giant lists of contests, prizes and awards, with very little to help you tell any of them apart.

Sound familiar? It should: writers on our courses are constantly asking us which competitions we’d recommend they enter.

Well, luckily, a number of these contests do actually stand out from the rest due to the rewards, prestige and opportunities that they present for the winners:

So read on, as we bring you the curated list of the very best writing competitions you can enter, and the prizes you could scoop up if you do…

Writing Competition Deadlines

The 15 competitions below are the ones we’ve picked out as the year’s best – but there are far more writing contests taking place month to month than we could hope to list here.

You can though, sign up for Writers’ Academy updates and have upcoming competition deadlines dropped into your inbox every month, along with links to enter:

That way, you never have to miss out on a writing contest again, big or small!

And now, the cream of the crop…

Costa Short Story Award
Image of the webpage for the Costa Short Story Award
Costa’s long-running book awards are incredibly popular

Probably the biggest competition on this list purely in terms of the amount of exposure that awaits any winner…

An offshoot of the massively popular Costa Book Awards, the coffee giants introduced the Short Story Award in 2012, allowing unpublished writers to get in on the act.

The lack of an entry fee, a sizable cash prize and the publicity that Costa can bring makes this an obvious starting point for any award-chasing author.

Entry Fee: Free     Word Count: 4000 word limit     Prize: £3000

Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize
Image of the webpage for the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize
Winners of the Wilbur Smith prize also enjoy advice from literary agents at Tibor Jones & Associates

Feeling adventurous?

Brought to you by famed South African novelist Wilbur Smith’s charitable foundation, this prize seeks to find the best unpublished adventure manuscript of the year.

At 50,000 words, this is not a competition to complete in your spare time, but instead a fantastic chance for aspiring adventure writers to spread their unpublished novel.

The unique prize involved is sure to appeal to adventure lovers too: a large grant to fund travel and research for your next novel!

Entry Fee: Free     Word Count: 50,000 word minimum     Prize: £15000 

Commonwealth Short Story Prize
Image of the webpage for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize
English and translated entries, as well as those written in Bengali, Kiswahili, Portuguese or Samoan, are all eligible for the Commonwealth prize

If you’re a Commonwealth citizen, you’ll want to take advantage of the free entry to this prestigious short story competition…

The Commonwealth Writers initiative offers a substantial prize fund to the writer of the best piece of unpublished short fiction by a commonwealth writer.

Regional winners are awarded a nice £2500 sum too, so there’s still a tasty incentive if you don’t win the overall prize.

Entry Fee: Free     Word Count: 2000 – 5000 words     Prize: £5000

American Short(er) Fiction Contest
Image of the webpage for the American Short(er) Fiction contest
Winners of the Short(er) Fiction contest will be published in ASF’s tri-annual magazine

As the name suggests, this competition will appeal to those writers who like to keep it brief…

The Short(er) Fiction award from American Short Fiction promises its winner publication in a future issue of their national magazine, along with the usual cash bonus.

The combination of financial incentive, publicity and a very modest word count has competitive short story writers everywhere flocking to submit entries!

Entry Fee: $17     Word Count: 1000 limit     Prize: $1000 and publication

CDS Documentary Essay Prize in Writing
Image of the webpage for the CDS Documentary Essay Prize in Writing
The CDS panel “will consider nonfiction of any kind, from journalism to essays to wilder forms of creative nonfiction”

If fiction writing isn’t your thing, you’ll want to know about this competition from Duke University:

Their Center for Documentary Studies Essay Prize honours the best piece of literary non-fiction (in alternating years from its prize for documentary photography).

As well as receiving a handsome cash sum, winners will also be featured in one of the CDS’ digital publications, and their work will take pride of place in the university’s Archive of Documentary Arts.

Entry Fee: $40    Word Count: 4000 – 6000 words      Prize: $3000 and publication

Reader’s Digest 100-Word-Story Competition
Image of the webpage for the 2016 Reader's Digest 100-Word-Story Competition
This original contest from Reader’s Digest is highly successful

Being paid £20 a word is an arrangement most writers would be more than pleased with…

Before you rush off to submit a 300,000 word manuscript though, note that this fantastic little competition is strictly limited to entries of exactly 100 words – no more, no less!

This unique challenge from Reader’s Digest is for UK and Irish residents only –  but if that happens to be you, get involved in this fun and rewarding competition.

Entry Fee: Free     Word Count: Exactly 100     Prize: £2000

Gotham Writers Past-Year Memoir Contest
Gotham Writers Past-Year Memoir Contest
The Memoir Contest seeks “a personal story from your life, which can be hilarious, heartbreaking, puzzling, uplifting, or just plain strange”.

If you thought 100 words was short, how about 16?

This memoir writing contest from Gotham Writers invites you to tell a story from the last year of your life within this tiny little word limit, in the hope of finding the most captivating entry.

Really, there’s no reason not to give this one a go – let’s face it, it’s a fun exercise whether you win or not!

Entry Fee: Free    Word Count: 16 word limit     Prize: Writing course entry

Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest
Image of the webpage for the Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest
The Wergle Flomp contest is one of several from Winning Writers

If you consider yourself both a comedian and a poet, then Winning Writers have got just the contest for you:

The memorably-named Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest seeks the best humor poems of today, with no restrictions on age or country and a very accommodating line limit.

As well as first and second prizes, there’s also $100 in it for 10 honourable mentions – so plenty of chances to have your humor recognised and rewarded!

Entry Fee: Free     Word Count: 250 line limit     Prize: $1000

ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize
Image of the webpage for the Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize
The Australian Book Review’s Short Story Prize honours Aussie writing great Elizabeth Jolley

Fancy being published in a gigantic nation’s leading arts and literary review, and taking home an impressive cash sum to boot?

The Australian Book Review’s short story prize is open to anyone too, provided their submission is written in English – so no excuses even if you don’t live down under!

There is a modest $25 fee for entry, though it should be pointed out that the second and third place prize funds ($2000 and $1000, respectively) are more than many writing competitions will offer to winners.

Entry Fee: $25     Word Count: 2000 – 5000 words     Prize: $7000 and publication

National Flash Fiction Youth Competition
Image of the webpage for the National Flash Fiction Youth Competition
The University of Chester organises this competition alongside the International Flash Fiction Association.

Youth writing competitions are a great way for young writers to cut their teeth in the publishing game:

Given that, the National Flash Fiction Youth Competition from the University of Chester is a great option for UK-based students – with winners having their work published in Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine.

The prizes may be smaller for his age group, but the chance to have your work recognised by a prestigious institution at such a tender age is one that no junior writer should pass up!

Entry Fee: Free     Word Count: 360 word limit     Prize: £100

Keats-Shelley Prize
Image of the webpage for The Keats-Shelley Prize
The Keats-Shelly Memorial Association aims “to promote an awareness and enjoyment of Romantic poetry and scholarship”

Those with an interest in the Romantics will want to get involved in these dual essay and poetry competitions from the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association.

The winner of each will enjoy a £3000 reward, but all shortlisted candidates will still see their work published either online or in print…

…and as an added sweetener, you’ll get to attend a swanky awards ceremony at London’s Royal Festival Hall, if you weren’t already convinced.

Entry Fee: Free     Word Count: 3000 word/30 line limit     Prize: £3000 and publication

The White Review Short Story Prize
Image of the webpage for The White Review's annual writing competitions
The White Review’s prize launched in 2013 with support in the inaugural year from Jerwood Charitable Foundation

Now expanded to include a US and Canada counterpart to the usual UK & Ireland contest, The White Review’s Short Story Prize really is a great one:

Open to all genres, with no restrictions on theme or subject, the emphasis here is on rewarding “ambitious, imaginative and innovative approaches to creative writing”.

Aside from the prize fund, if shortlisted you’ll also receive feedback from editors of The White Review – an invaluable experience for any emerging writer.

Entry Fee: £15    Word Count: 2000 – 7000 words     Prize: £2500 or $3000

Bristol Short Story Prize
Image of the website for the Bristol Short Story Prize
The Bristol Prize is very inclusive, with minimal restrictions on submissions

Don’t let the name fool you, the Bristol Short Story Prize is open to all writers – UK based or non-UK based, published or unpublished.

20 submissions in total (the top 3 and a remaining 17 shortlisted entries) will receive prizes and be published in an anthology – so you’ve got a great chance at some recognition with this one.

Take a look here to see the form that your published work could take.

Entry Fee: £8     Word Count: 4000 word limit     Prize: £1000

Mslexia Women’s Fiction Awards: Short Story Competition
Image of the webpage for Mslexia's various women's writing competitions
Previous winners of Mslexia’s writing competitions have gone on to secure agents and publishing deals

Quarterly magazine Mslexia is all about helping women writers progress and succeed, and their annual writing competitions are a big part of that.

Mslexia recently refreshed their writing competitions and introduced a new Novella competition for 2018, and all offer tantalising rewards for their female entrants:

Along with a generous monetary prize and magazine publication, the winner of the Short Story Competition also enjoys a week’s writing retreat and a day with an editor!

(Details below are for the Short Story competition)

Entry Fee: £10     Word Count: 300 – 3000 words     Prize: £5000

Nature and Place Poetry Competition
Image of the webpage for the Nature and Place Poetry Competition
The Rialto’s poetry competition stands out for its theme and rewards

Nature loving writers should be all over this one…

This competition from The Rialto invites poetry submissions dealing with any aspect of nature and place, and offers some unique additional prizes:

Winners will enjoy personal tours with celebrated nature writer Mark Cocker and leading ecology professor Nick Davies – a treat for any naturalists out there.

Entry Fee: £6     Word Count: 40 line limit    Prize: £1000

More Writing Resources
Our Writing 101 page houses all our posts & tips on the craft of writing

That’s it for the best writing competitions, but what about the best websites to do freelance writing for? Or advice for writing dialogue, or characters?

Check out our Writing 101 page – home to all of this and a whole host of other useful resources, and practical tips aimed at helping you become a better writer.

We’d love to know about your own experience of entering competitions. Have a favourite not listed here? Planning on submitting to any of those above? Let us know below!

Share these great writing competitions:

34 thoughts on “15 Best Writing Competitions That You Can Enter and Win

  1. A very interesting list so thank you for that. I am new to competitions so it was a great starting point. The submission dates were difficult to find, but I managed.

    1. No problem Cristina, glad you found it useful! You make a good point about the missing submission dates – we hadn’t included these initially as the list was meant as a round-up of the best annual competitions in general, rather than specific to this year (some dates will have passed already), but on reflection we should probably at least add the month that each of these tend to take place as a guide. Did you go ahead and enter any of the contests listed here?

      1. Thank you for the kind reply. I am thinking of entering a couple (Bristol, Mslexia) so I am very grateful for the list. The dates would save readers time… not the author though. I know, I am a blogger.

    1. Hi Paul, thanks for the comment! Info on each of the individual deadlines can be found by clicking through to each competition’s website (via the image or subheading) – the reason we didn’t include the dates within the article is that these competition’s run every year often on different dates, and we wanted the article to be accurate beyond 2017. Are there any you’re planning on entering?

  2. This list was very helpful for me because I saw all the other websites which has tons of writing competition but it was so confusing with the incomplete information and now I managed to find a proper competition that suit me. I hope there will be more updates on upcoming writing competitions.tq

    1. Glad you found the post helpful Vigneeta! We will indeed be updating this list going forward so be sure to check back for the most up to date information.

    1. Hi Kate, in many cases the rules will specify that the submission not be published elsewhere, but it’s best to consult each competitions’ individual websites about this. In many cases, you can submit to multiple contests on the understanding that, should you win one, you may have to withdraw your submission from another. In our opinion, best to submit to as many as possible at first to give yourself the best possible chance of seeing your work recognised – not to mention the benefit of maximising the potential feedback you’ll receive on your writing!

  3. Could you clarify: Does word limit (4000, e.g.) mean it should not surpass that number or it should at least be that? Thank you.

    1. Hi Terry, for those with a word limit, this means that the word count shouldn’t surpass that number – so no more than 4000 words using the number you gave. By comparison you’ll notice that the Wilbur Smith award, for example, specifies a 50,000 word minimum (at least that amount), while a few others specify a word range (e.g. between 2000 and 7000 words for The White Review). Hope this helps, and good luck with your entries!

  4. Useful list – I’ve entered the Costa Short Story Award already this year after finding it on another list (so it was good to see it listed here too!), but I’d not seen Mslexia listed anywhere and may well end up submitting something. Thanks for putting it together 🙂

  5. Should my short story be near the word count they specify? For example, if I have a story that works at 2600 words is it inappropriate to submit it to a competition specifying a 4000 max limit?

    1. Hi Lucy, is there a specific competition you’re asking for or just in general? Generally speaking, we’d say that unless the competition specifies a minimum count then submitting an entry that sits well within the word limit should be perfectly fine – if you’re still unsure about a particular competition though, you could get in touch directly or check if they have any available examples of previous winners. Hope this helps! – Danny

  6. I need a competition in the Uk where I can submit a Novella, so it’s not a short story at all its a real novella, I’m also just 17 years old so a young authors one would be brilliant… If you can find something please let me know
    Thank you!
    – Katherine

  7. This has been very helpful to me! Even though I did not enter most of the contests due to the closing dates and my lack of time, I find the writing prompts very amusing to help sharpen my skills during my free time.

  8. Fabulous list, I am going to enter the Wilbur Smith Adventures competition later this year with my soon to be self published book CURE. It is a roller-coaster adult adventure thriller, those that have read it have all been amazed, so here’s hoping! Fingers crossed it does something in the competition. It is my first novel, and at 107,500 words, it has taken lots of work, not only writing but research too. I might even enter my next novel, FUEL, into the unpublished section of the competition! It is all very exciting.

    1. Hi Clive,

      From what we can see, the Wergle Flomp competition is indeed free – but since the submission date for the most recent edition has now passed, the ‘Submittable’ link on the Wergle Flomp competition page takes you to listings for some of their paid contests that are currently active.

      They haven’t made this especially clear on their site though so the confusion is understandable. You’ll see from the page that the Wergle Flomp competition is next open for submissions from August 15, 2018.

      Danny, The Writers’ Academy Team

  9. Thanks for the competition list. It is very helpfull, I shall enter at least 2 of them and that will improve my writing skills as I am doing my Auto-biography at the moment. So watch this space guys. 😊

  10. Hi! I noticed that the entry fees were listed in pounds, does that mean that American money won’t be accepted or are these strictly British competitions?

  11. This article was very helpful. Can you also include a list of writing competitions for young authors since I’m only sixteen years.

  12. This may sound dumb but hope someone can answer this question. If I’m writing a short story, can it be written in the 1st person? (I’m very new to writing, so taking my very 1st trepidatious steps.)

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