15 Best Writing Competitions That You Can Enter and Win
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:
And now, the cream of the crop…
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of the massively popular Costa Book Awards, the coffee giants introduced the Short Story Award in 2012, allowing unpublished writers to get in on the act.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
Brought to you by famed South African novelist Wilbur Smith’s charitable foundation, this prize seeks to find the best unpublished adventure manuscript of the year.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to complete in your spare time, but instead a fantastic chance for aspiring adventure writers to spread their unpublished novel.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
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The Commonwealth Writers initiative offers a substantial prize fund to the writer of the best piece of unpublished short fiction by a commonwealth writer.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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Quarterly magazine Mslexia is all about helping women writers progress and succeed, and their annual writing competitions are a big part of that.
New to the line-up are their two Short Fiction competitions, for short stories and flash fiction, and both offer tantalising rewards for their female entrants:
Generous monetary prizes and magazine publication await both winners, and the Short Story winner also enjoys a week’s writing retreat and a day with an editor!
(Details below are for the Flash Fiction and Short Story competitions respectively)
Entry Fee: £5/£10 Word Count: 300/3000 word limit Prize: £500/£2000
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
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!
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