Writing Competitions 2023Jan 15, 2023
Writing contests are a great way to practice your skills, hone your craft and get your name out there among fellow fiction writers. They’re also fantastic opportunities for those working in creative non-fiction, poetry, scripts and sometimes even hybrid writing or multimedia projects.
As well as helping establish your name, many emerging writers and seasoned pros alike find writing contests a refreshing way to tackle a topic or theme that’s less familiar to them, or think more laterally about the topics they do like to write about. Plus, there’s often a nice cash prize and/or publication in a literary magazine to incentivise you!
There’s a competition for every kind of writer
Best of all, there are writing contests for all kinds of writing – poets can find many an annual poetry contest to enter, essayists will never be short of a stimulating essay contest, and there is every manner of creative writing contest that fiction writers could hope for.
Maybe you hope to write a short story or flash fiction, or perhaps you’re looking to enter something longer form into a writing contest. Whether you write for a young adult audience or you write more traditional adult fiction, whether your work is in literary fiction, science fiction, mystery or any other genre, you can bet there’s a great literary contest for you.
And it doesn’t matter where you are in your writing career because there are writing contests designed for young writers and emerging writers, others that cater to previously published authors, and plenty that will accept entries from everyone!
If you’re not quite earning a living from writing, don’t worry: there are lots of free writing contests you can enter.
Our selection of writing awards
Of course, all of this variety means that there are hundreds of writing contests you could consider. To try and make it easier for you, we’ve put together this list of writing contests for you to compare so that you can find the one best suited to you.
Because we’re all about novels at The Novelry (the clue is in the name), the focus of this blog will be on competitions centred around short stories and longer-form fiction, but you’ll find a couple of poetry contests and some creative non-fiction gets a mention, too!
Read on for our round-up of awards and competitions, as well as some sage advice on entering writing contests. We’ve included the opening dates and/or deadlines where they have been advertised, but be sure to check any you like the look of throughout the year if the dates aren’t yet published.
Questions to ask yourself before entering a writing contest
If you’re looking into competitions, you’re probably raring to get started. You’re all set to select the writing contests you want to enter and start to put together submission packages. You can already imagine how you’ll feel when you win cash prizes and get published in the literary magazine of your dreams.
But before you scramble to send out your applications, it’s worth pausing to ask yourself some key questions. Here are a few of the ones we ponder before we dive into writing contests.
Should I be entering my novel into writing contests and prizes?
‘It’s not about winning, it’s the taking part that counts’ – how many times did you hear that growing up? And yet, it’s true – often the experience of entering a competition can reap greater rewards than securing a place on the podium.
Entering your work for a writing contest takes courage; you’re putting yourself, and the creation to which you have no doubt dedicated hours of time, out into the world and you have no control over what happens once it’s out there. Is it me, or does that sound like… publishing a novel?
The trusty team of writing coaches at The Novelry have shared their thoughts on entering writing competitions, and we were struck by the various reasons given for (but mainly, for not) submitting. A common thread was interrogating the motive for entering in the first place, and this is something I’d recommend any writer considering submitting to a writing contest should do.
Entering your work for a writing contest takes courage; you’re putting yourself and your creation out into the world and you have no control over what happens once it’s out there.
Why do you want to enter writing contests?
Are you submitting to writing contests for a chance to get feedback? To make early industry connections? For potential prize money? Are you looking for validation?
All of these are completely legitimate reasons but being honest with yourself about why you’re putting yourself forward will help you deal with the (potential) rejection that might come.
How will you feel if you don’t win?
If you aren’t someone who deals well with rejection (*shy wave*) then maybe a writing contest isn’t the right avenue for you to be getting feedback on your work. Consider, too, what stage you’re at with your writing – there’s a reason why here at The Novelry we don’t recommend sharing your writing when you’re at first draft stage.
A competition is also an unknown scenario – you have no control over what happens once you’ve hit send. While this is true of any type of submission, whether for a prize, competition or to your dream literary agent, submitting to agents does come with a degree of control. You research and curate the agents you think will like your work, based on their stated interests or other authors on their lists, and so eliminate the potential bias that comes with submitting your romance novel to someone who lives for political thrillers.
Remember: not winning a writing contest does not mean you’re a bad writer. All it means is that on this one specific day, a specific person decided they preferred what someone else had written.
Because remember: not winning a writing contest does not mean you’re a bad writer. All it means is that on this one specific day, a specific person decided they preferred what someone else had written. That does not mean no one will ever prefer your work. Even the most beloved bestselling writers get 1-star reviews.
Benefits of entering writing contests
A grand prize winner can often hook an agent’s interest. Being placed in a competition, particularly a well-regarded prize, can be a great way to ‘jazz up’ your writing CV, though it’s not a requirement – no agent or editor worth their salt is going to discard your novel because it hasn’t won, or been shortlisted for, a prize. The novel manuscript is always the most crucial part of any query package.
From a craft perspective, entering a competition can be a productive process, because it will make you review your work in a different light – you know your work is going to be read by strangers, which forces you to consider it with a third party in mind. As we often say – a first draft is for you, the second draft (and third, fourth etc) is for your reader. Polishing up a competition entry with a new reader in mind is no bad thing.
From a craft perspective, entering a competition can be a productive process, because it will make you review your work in a different light.
It’s also great for shifting your mindset. Getting your novel ready for a writing competition is a step towards seeing your novel as one among many. This is only ever a good thing! (Think about walking into a bookshop and being confronted with shelves upon shelves of beautiful books! Your novel will be one among many.)
When drafting, the writer is often (and quite rightly) solipsistic; your novel is the only story in the world that matters, you think about it upon waking and dreaming... But putting it amid a competitive field reveals the unvarnished truth: you may love your story, but you might not have given readers a reason (yet) to love it, too.
There are hundreds of legitimate writing contests out there – always read through the fine print carefully to confirm eligibility and to check the terms and conditions around copyright before applying.
Writing Competitions 2023
This is a great novelist award if you have a completed book to submit! The Bath Novel Award is an international annual prize for emerging novelists, open worldwide. Entry closes on 31st May, and for a chance to win you must submit a single document which includes the opening of your novel up to a maximum word count of 5,000 words (the entire novel must be at least 50,000 words long), along with a one-page synopsis.
Unlike many competitions, entries aren’t limited to unpublished work: the novel you enter may be unpublished, self-published or independently published. However, if you have accepted an offer of publication with an advance for either the novel you’re submitting or any other novel then sadly you’re not eligible.
This award also includes a cash prize of £3,000, along with manuscript feedback and literary agent introductions for those on the shortlist. The entry fee is £29 per novel, with sponsored places available for writers on a low income.
With annual prizes for novels, flash fiction, short stories, memoir and poetry, The Bridport is one of the most prestigious.
For the Peggy Chapman-Andrew First Novel Award, they ask for 5,000–8,000 words plus a 300-word synopsis. The novel does not have to be finished, though if you’re shortlisted you’ll need to submit 30,000 words.
Winners receive a cash prize of £1,500 with mentoring and literary agent introductions. The entry fee is £20 per novel.
This competition is open to any woman over the age of 18 who’s writing a novel. They welcome entries that are literary fiction or genre fiction, and are open to novels written for a young adult audience or even children’s literature, as long as they aren’t picture books.
The great thing about entering this competition is that you’re not just in with a chance to win the grand prize, you receive a valuable half-hour one-to-one consultation with competition sponsors PFD (subject to not already having an agent) if you make the shortlist! During the consultation, professional agents will give editorial feedback and discuss the marketability of the work you’ve submitted. In addition, the winner receives £1,500 in prize money.
To be considered, you need to pay the £12 entry fee (although there is a low-income option) and submit the first 40–50 pages of your novel along with a synopsis (3–5 pages long). Your novel need not be completed at the time of submission. However, here it does need to be entirely unpublished: having posted even one chapter on a public blog, for example, disqualifies you.
The college also has other writing awards including an environmental essay contest, although several of the awards are only for students enrolled on courses at the college.
The SI Leeds Literary Prize is a biennial prize for unpublished fiction by UK Black and Asian women. To enter, you need to submit your full manuscript with a 500-word synopsis and a £10 entry fee. Both published and unpublished writers are eligible, but the manuscript submitted cannot have been published.
There is a cash prize and the opportunity for a manuscript assessment through The Literary Consultancy. Shortlisted entrants are supported through the Prize Plus programme of writer development.
This is a great collection of writing contests, comprising:
The Book Award for authors with a published book (mainstream or independently published)
The Screenplay Award for screenwriters with a completed script
The Writing Award for unpublished, completed manuscripts
The Young Writer Award for writers aged between 18 and 25
The Writing Mentorship Award for uncompleted manuscripts
Plus, there are lots of great subcategories, boosting your chance to win!
A panel of literary agents and publishers chooses a winner in each category in September, and entries open in January. You can win mentorship, editing support, manuscript evaluations and much more, making this an invaluable writing competition for those looking to develop their craft. The entry fee is £30.
This is another writing competition with an array of opportunities, awarding prizes in several categories of creative non-fiction and fiction. It’s open to un-agented writers worldwide and invites you to enter your first five pages (1,250 words) of a longer work of fiction or creative non-fiction.
The winners receive cash prizes (1st place gets $2,000, 2nd get $1,500, 3rd gets $1,000, and 4th and 5th each receive $750 in US dollars), a tailored edit up to the first 100 pages to support the completion of their full manuscript (must be completed before the end of the prize year) and a consultation with an agent.
Entries open on 1st March 2023.
The Debut Dagger is a competition for the opening of a previously unpublished crime novel by a writer who:
isn’t represented by an agent by the time the competition closes
has never had a traditional contract for any novel of any length
has not self-published any novel of any length in the last 5 years
Entries from shortlisted writers are sent to UK literary agents and publishers. Every year, authors find representation this way. There’s also a £500 cash prize!
Entries open on 1st October and close on the last working day in February, and there is a £36 entry fee.
And if you’re looking for a short story award, you can also consider the Short Story Dagger – although rather than celebrating previously unpublished short stories, this one identifies the best crime short stories that have been published in the UK in English during the Judging Period, whether as standalones or within an anthology or short story collection. To be considered, short stories must have been for sale to the public, either in print or e-book.
Founded by Ben Aaronovitch in conjunction with publisher Gollancz, this prize aims to find the best new talent for writers of colour in the fantasy and science fiction genres. Not only is this one of the best free writing contests, but here we have another of our honourable mentions for short story competitions, because this award allows you to enter either a novel or short story as long as it’s science fiction, fantasy, dystopia or broadly speculative fiction. Whatever you submit, you must provide a 5,000–10,000 word extract along with a covering letter/personal essay and a synopsis of your work (no more than 1,000 words).
The winner receives a prize of £4,000, while a runner-up gets £2,000. All those shortlisted, as well as the runner-up and winner, receive mentoring from the prize’s publishing partners.
Submissions close on 6th February, so don’t delay!
This is an annual contest from Morley College and Rachel Mills Literary Agency for previously unpublished writers of colour. There are two award categories: one for a novel and the other for life writing/creative non-fiction.
The dates for 2023 have not yet been released, but in 2022 entries closed on 29th July. Shortlisted entrants get feedback from Rachel Mills Literary Agency (RML) and the winners receive £500 plus editorial consultations with an agent from RML. It is a fantastic opportunity for new writers!
Mslexia also offers a range of opportunities in the world of creative writing competitions, so whether you’re looking for a flash fiction contest or want to submit some poetry – and of course if you’re working on a novel – you’ll want to look over these amazing writing prizes.
The awards are:
Two annual poetry competitions (for single poem and poetry pamphlet)
Two annual short fiction competitions (for short story and flash fiction)
Two biennial novel competitions (for adult novels and novels for children and young adults)
One biennial memoir competition
To be eligible, you must self-identify as a woman, but there aren’t really any other criteria: Mslexia accepts entries from women of any nationality and age, including under-18s – making this a great opportunity for young writers and even high school students.
If you submit short fiction (i.e. a short story or flash fiction), other works you have written can be published, but you can only submit previously unpublished short stories/flash fiction.
However, for the novel and memoir prizes, any authors who have had a novel/memoir published in any country by traditional means are ineligible. Authors who have self-published can submit their work as long as it has not sold more than 500 copies.
For the poetry contest in the pamphlet category, the manuscript may include previously published individual poems and individual poems that have won or been placed in previous competitions, but the poet cannot have a full-length collection (of over 48 pages) published.
2023 dates haven’t been announced, but in 2022 entries were open until December, so you may have a bit longer to prepare for this one.
There is a sponsored entry scheme for low-income women. As well as generous cheques, the prizes include publication, career mentoring, manuscript feedback, pitching workshops, and personal introductions to agents and editors.
If you want a short story competition, this is one of the best. This annual international writing competition is open to all published and unpublished, UK and non-UK-based writers. The 1st prize for the short story award is £1,000, 2nd prize is £500, and 3rd prize is £250.
Twenty stories will be shortlisted and published in the next volume of the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology, which is circulated to agents. The remaining shortlistees receive £100.
The entry fee is £9, though there are 250 free online entry places available. The closing date is 26th April 2023.
The maximum word count is 4,000 words, and there is no minimum length. Stories can be on any theme or subject and are welcome in any style including graphic, verse, prose poetry or genre-based (e.g. crime, science fiction, fantasy, historical, horror, romance, children’s).
Organised by the University of Southampton, Green Stories is a free writing competition project with a range of categories for novelists and short story writers. They have quite unique entry criteria – chiefly that in place of an entry fee, entrants have to read at least one of the books from the project that provide an example of entertaining fiction showcasing green solutions (not just problems). They even discount the e-books by 25% for entrants!
Unsurprisingly, the entries themselves should also conform with positive visions of more sustainable futures and/or the inclusion of green solutions, but needn’t have an explicitly green theme.
To enter, you should submit three chapters (4,000–10,000 words, though they do allow you to submit more than three chapters if necessary to reach 4,000 words).
In a single document, you should submit:
the first chapter
another chapter that best showcases how your novel meets the green stories criteria
a third chapter (the final chapter if possible)
a synopsis between 500 and 1,000 words that covers genre, plot, characters, and details of how it meets the green stories criteria of showcasing positive visions of a more sustainable society or incorporating green solutions into the context of an otherwise mainstream story.
The Newfound Prose Prize is an annual prize for chapbook-length works of exceptional fiction or creative non-fiction. You can submit work in the form of a long story or essay, or a collection of short pieces (60 pages max).
Other than the page limit, the only requirement is that writing should somehow explore the effect of place on identity, imagination and understanding.
These rather generous requirements mean that simultaneous submissions and previously published work are acceptable.
The entry fee is $15, although you can get in touch to arrange a waiver if necessary. The deadline to submit is 15th March 2023.
This novella prize for short fiction – longer than a short story, but shorter than a novel – was established in 2001. The winner receives a cash prize of $500, a standard royalty contract and 20 copies of the published book.
Submissions open each year on 1st January and close on 31st March.
For poetry writers who hope the next contest they enter has a big grand prize to get excited about, the Tufts are an excellent option.
Each year, two outstanding poets are chosen to win the Kingsley and Kate Tufts awards, awarded for poetry volumes published in the preceding year.
Not only are they highly prestigious prizes, they also come with hefty cash prizes: $100,000 for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and $10,000 for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. This makes the Kingsley Tufts award the world’s largest monetary prize for a single collection of poetry.
The Kingsley Tufts is generally for more experienced writers, while the Kate Tufts poetry contest is for the first book of poetry published by a writer.
This is a great competition for new writers who have published a novel – the submission must be the author’s first novel, and it must have been published in this calendar year. If you’ve published previous books in a different form (e.g. poetry collections or short stories), you’re still eligible.
The award is co-sponsored by Virginia Commonwealth University, which also sponsors the Rebecca Mitchell Tarumoto Short Fiction Prize if you’re looking for a short story contest!
Submissions close at the end of 2023, with winners announced in the summer of 2024.
This is another great short story competition with a sizeable cash prize. The award is open to writers who have published a book-length collection of fiction or at least three short stories or novellas in commercial magazines or literary journals. The award is open to any writers working in English – you needn’t be a citizen of the United States.
Manuscripts are judged anonymously by nationally known writers. Past judges include Joyce Carol Oates, Margaret Atwood, Raymond Carver, Russell Banks, Robert Penn Warren and Joan Didion.
Winners receive a cash prize of $15,000, publication by the University of Pittsburgh Press, and support in promoting their book.
The submissions window runs from the start of May until the end of June.
If you love to work with short fiction, this biennial flash fiction contest is a good bet!
It offers the grand prize winner $2,500, second place $1,000 and third place $500, as well as $100 for all other finalists. On top of that, all finalists and placers get to be published in the SmokeLong Quarterly!
Entrance is fairly accessible: it’s open to anyone on the planet aged over 18, as long as the flash fiction you submit is previously unpublished. You can write in any language – you just need to make sure an English translation accompanies your entry.
Another great writing competition for first-time novelists working in the crime genre, the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition is open to any writer of any nationality as long as they’re over 18 and have never had any novel published.
The prize is publication of the submitted novel, with an advance against future royalties of $10,000.
If you want short story contests or poetry prizes, look no further. This is a wonderful way to get published, earn some money and be charitable, all at once!
This international competition is open to anybody aged 17 or over and offers prizes totalling £3,000, including special awards for young writers.
All winning and shortlisted entries are published by Ostrich Books, and all proceeds are donated to charities that support literary and literacy skills.
The short story competition is for stories up to 3,000 words. Poems submitted to the poetry competition can be up to 40 lines.
And you have some time to prepare – submissions open on 1st May 2023.
This short story contest is open to citizens of any country in the Commonwealth, and currently receives submissions from nearly all 56 such countries!
There is never any entry fee and stories can be submitted in Bengali, Chinese, Creole, English, French, Greek, Kiswahili, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Tamil and Turkish and the Creole languages of the Commonwealth, as well as in translation into English from any language.
Around twenty unpublished short stories are shortlisted, from which five regional winners are chosen. Each regional winner is awarded £2,500, and they get their short stories published online by Granta, the magazine of new writing. One of the regional winners is then selected as the overall winner. On top of online publication, the winner receives £5,000 – one of the highest amounts for an international prize for unpublished short stories.
Do you hate the idea of having to submit only the opening of your novel? The Masters Review might have the perfect option for you. They welcome excerps from any point in your novel (note they recommend the excerpt should make sense without needing a synopsis to explain) – and the work can be completed or still in progress. What they’re looking for is style and craft in your narrative, characters and plot. Your submission has to be from an unpublished novel and less than 6,000 words.
The winner receives $3,000, publication and consultation with an agent, while second and third place get $300 and $200 respectively, publication and agent feedback.
Globe Soup offer a range of great competitions with prizes ranging from £200 to £1,500. Some are genre-specific, requesting science fiction or historical stories, for example. Others are broader, like their Titles and Book Cover competition, or the Show Don’t Tell prize. Plus, several of them are free to enter!
2023 dates haven’t yet been released, so if this sounds like your cup of tea be sure to check their website.
This prize is open to authors from anywhere in the world, with a focus on providing a platform for emerging authors.
You’re welcome to submit a completed manuscript, or one that’s still in progress. The only stipulation is that you don’t currently have a literary agent – you’re allowed to have had one in the past. And securing representation is something that this competition can help with, as they forward all longlisted works to top UK agencies! If you’ve been traditionally published or self-published, that’s okay too – it doesn’t disqualify you. Of course, the work you submit must be unpublished.
The work should total (or be projected to total) at least 50,000 words, and you’ll need to submit the first 5,000 plus a brief synopsis.
The prizes are £1,000 for the winner, £500 for the runner up and £125 for four shortlisted writers (plus referral to an agency).
2023 dates have not been announced, but in 2022 Super Early Bird submission ended on 1st May (entry fee £16), then there was Early Bird submission until 1st July (entry fee £18), and the final submission deadline was 1st October (entry fee £20), so you likely have some time to put together your material.
Don’t shape your writing life around these competitions
While having your work recognised – and remunerated – is undeniably wonderful, it’s important not to let writing competitions rule your writing life or dictate your sense of self-worth as a writer. Plus, remember that this is by no means even close to an exhaustive list of the countless great prizes out there, so feel free to do your own research to find a competition that better fits your needs; be that in terms of timing, word count, experience, award or anything else!
If you do decide to enter, try not to get too disheartened if you don’t take the top spot (or indeed any spot). Remember that rejection is part and parcel of the life of a creative, as many young artists learn in their fledgling days. Developing resilience is a key part of the writing process, and having a strong community to support and buoy you through the ups and downs is crucial.
Also keep in mind that there are lots of other routes to publication, and other channels to get professional feedback on your work. You can submit fiction to literary magazines even when they aren’t running competitions, and many of them will pay to publish your work. You can also look at online fiction writing courses to get some guidance as you write, or editing courses where professional editors provide feedback and suggestions for your manuscript. Plus, if you opt for The Novelry’s offerings, you also get the benefit of our partnership with leading literary agencies, who love to receive our submissions (and often take on our graduates as clients!)
So while writing competitions are extremely rewarding in all kinds of ways, the most important thing is always your writing, and the joy it brings you.