There are hundreds of writing competitions out there, both in printed magazines and in online magazines.
There are also the literary competitions, such as The Bridport Prize, Exeter Writers Short Story Competition, and the Fish Flash Fiction Competition. All have varying levels of prizes and some are free to enter.
You may not have the confidence to enter the most prodigious competitions with the most sought-after prizes, but you can always try your hand at the smaller ones. You never know, you might just win some prize money and get your story published.
Why should I enter?
Because people will read your stories. Because you will get noticed – more than if you do nothing with your stories. Because you might win some prize money. And because being shortlisted or winning is a great confidence booster.
Try entering smaller competitions first and see how you get on. You can always enter larger ones with the bigger prize money as your confidence grows. Or just go straight for the top if you think you’re good enough.
How do I find these competitions?
There is a very comprehensive list of short story competitions on Christopher Fielden’s website, which seems to be updated regularly. He details the country, closing date, max word count, prize money if any, and entry fee. It’s well worth a look.
Writing magazines, such as Writer’s Forum and Writing Magazine run competitions with decent prize money and they publish the winning entries in their magazines. Writing Magazine also keeps you informed of other competitions.
A search on the internet will bring up results. Simply type in ‘Writing Competitions’ and you’ll find a whole raft of them. Filter out those in countries that might not apply to you; for instance competitions in the USA don’t always accept entries from the UK – investigate first though, you never know.
Online Writing Forums
Search for ‘Writing Forums’ (online communities) and join a couple. They often list writing competitions with details of deadlines, prize money, and maximum word counts. You could also find it useful to join a community of writers who will be keen to give advice and to read your work.
It is very important to read the competition rules — carefully. I can’t stress this enough. If you haven’t read the rules and send in something they’re not looking for you may not even get a response. They will reject you outright.
Make sure you get the word count, the layout, and the format right. This will be detailed in the rules. Some competitions will ask for your name and the title of your entry to be on every page and others will ask that you only include it on a cover page.
Don’t expect immediate replies either. Sometimes they can take up to a few months to read through entries and reply to the ones they shortlist.
Submitting your entry
Submit your entry using the method they request. Sometimes you’ll find there’s an ‘upload’ button to attach a Word document, PDF, RTF, or text file from a web page. Others request that you simply attach your document to an email. Sometimes you will be asked to submit the old-fashioned way – by post. Again, take note of the format required. They will all tell you how they want you to send in your entry.
Entering competitions usually costs money, but not always. Entry costs can be as low as £5 but unless you put your hand in your pocket you’ll never put your work out there to find out whether you might have won.
As they say, “You’ve got to be in it to win it!”
Have you ever won a competition? What was your experience of submitting your story and did you win?