COACHING + PUBLISHING
FORMATTING + DESIGN
40 Free Writing Contests: Competitions With Cash Prizes
by Kelly Gurnett | Aug 29, 2023
Have you ever Googled “writing contests”? Many require reading fees or prizes—like seeing your work in print—that you can only receive if you pay for it.
Some legitimate contests charge small entry fees, but often a fee can be a red flag for a scam, so those might be the ones you want to stay away from.
Besides, there are plenty of free writing contests that encourage and inspire boundless creativity with real cash prizes and career-advancing opportunities! Since it can be hard for a writer to know where to find them, we did the legwork for you.
We found 40 reputable, well-reviewed, free writing contests for poets, fiction writers, essayists and more.
With thousands of dollars in cash prizes and numerous opportunities to secure a publishing contract, you’re sure to find the right free writing contest for your work.
If you don’t mind paying a little money to enter, our friends over at Smart Blogger have rounded up some great writing contests that have small entry fees. And if you’re still hungry for more opportunities, we also have posts on writers grants and writing fellowships .
Table of Contents
Fiction and nonfiction writing contests this year.
Ready to share your novel or personal essay with the world? Whether you’re a newbie or more established writer, you’re likely eligible for a few of these contests.
Here are some fiction and nonfiction writing contests worth considering .
1. L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest
Whatever your feelings about L. Ron Hubbard’s work and philosophy, the prizes for this regular contest are nothing to sneeze at. Every three months, winners earn $1,000, $750 and $500, plus an additional annual grand prize of $5,000.
Submissions must be short stories or novelettes (up to 17,000 words) in the genre of science fiction or fantasy, and new and amateur writers are welcome to apply.
Deadlines: Quarterly on March 31, June 30 and September 30
Website: Writers of the Future
This boutique publishing firm offers cash prizes and promotional packages to winning authors. Submit a novel of 10,000 words or more in any fiction genre (no fanfic or poetry).
Inkitt’s writing contest runs monthly and gives authors the chance to win cash prizes up to $300, exclusive book badges and promotional packages while showcasing their books to Inkitt’s audience of more than 3 million users. Winners are determined by Inkitt’s unique algorithm based on overall reader engagement.
Deadline: See individual contest pages
Disclosure: Inkitt is an advertising partner of The Write Life. We hold our advertisers to high standards and vetted this contest just like others on this list.
3. Drue Heinz Literature Prize
You can win $15,000 and publication by the University of Pittsburgh Press with this prize, awarded for a collection of short fiction.
You may submit an unpublished manuscript of short stories , two or more novellas or a combination of novellas and short stories. Your total word count should be between 150 and 300 typed pages. You must also have already published a novel or book-length work of fiction “with a reputable publisher,” or no fewer than three short stories or novellas in nationally-recognized journals.
Deadline: Annual submissions must be postmarked between May 1 through June 30
Website: University of Pittsburgh Press
4 . Young Lions Fiction Award
This $10,000 award recognizes “young authors,” which the rules define as any author aged 35 or younger. Submit any novel or collection of short stories published or scheduled to be published in the calendar year. Works must be written for adults; children’s or YA pieces are ineligible.
Deadline: Submissions for this year are open through September 8 at 5pm Eastern Time
Website: New York Public Library
5 . Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prizes
One of the best-loved small presses in the creative writing world, Graywolf Press hosts a variety of contests for both established and up-and-coming writers. Graywolf also offers smaller fiction and nonfiction prizes, with genres rotating by year; 2020 was a nonfiction year, so fiction was up in 2021, then back to nonfiction in 2022, and so on. These awards include a sizable advance— $12,000 in previous years—as well as publication with Graywolf.
Deadline: Contest is held annually with rotating genres. The contest next opens for submissions in February 2024
Website: Graywolf Press
6 . The Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans
Hosted by the prestigious Iowa Review, the Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award is offered to U.S. military veterans and active-duty members writing in any genre about any subject. Manuscripts of up to 20 pages will be accepted, and the first-prize winner will receive $1,000 and publication in the Review. A second place prize of $750 is also available, as well as three runner-up prizes of $500 each.
Deadline: Biennially. The next contest will be held in May 2024
Website: The Iowa Review
7 . Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence
For 15 years, this contest has provided visibility for emerging African American fiction writers and enables them to focus on their writing by awarding a $15,000 cash prize. Eligible authors should submit a work of fiction, such as a novel or short story collection, published in the calendar year. (Galleys for publication within the year are also accepted.)
Deadline: Annually. The entry window closes on December 31
Website: The Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence
8. PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction
Honoring the best work of fiction published by an American author in a single calendar year, this award has been given to the likes of John Updike, Philip Roth and Ann Patchett. Novels, novellas and collections of short stories are all eligible.
The winner receives a hefty cash prize—up to $15,000 in the past—and an invitation to read at the award ceremony in Washington, D.C. Plus, there are no submission fees or application forms to deal with; just send a PDF of each book (as many as you’d like) to [email protected] .
Deadline: S ubmissions will be accepted from July 1 to September 30
9 . PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers
This contest requires you to have already published a short story in a literary magazine or journal or cultural website. But if you’ve made your debut (but gone no further), you may be eligible for the generous cash prize of $2,000, which is annually awarded to 12 emerging writers, whose works are then published together in an anthology.
Short stories of up to 12,000 words are eligible and must be published in the calendar year preceding the year in which the award is given. Additionally, keep this in mind: Submissions are only eligible if submitted by an editor. Authors may not submit their own work.
Deadline: Submissions close November 1
Website: PEN America
10. Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards
Fiction and nonfiction writers who have recently published a book that “contribute[s] to our understanding of racism and our appreciation of cultural diversity” are eligible for this award, which offers $10,000 cash as well as media and publicity opportunities. Plus, winners receive their prize at a ceremony in Cleveland.
Submissions must be published in the prior year (so books published last year are eligible for the award this year).
Deadline: Annual submission window is September 1 through December 31
Website: Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards
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11. Marfield Prize (aka National Award for Arts Writing)
Presented by the Arts Club of Washington, this award seeks to honor nonfiction books that deal with the “visual, literary, media, or performing arts.” The prize is $10,000 and may be awarded to works of criticism, art history, memoirs and biographies, and essays.
Deadline: Annually in the last quarter of the year. The submission window in 2023 is October 15
Website: The Marfield Prize
1 2 . W.Y. Boyd Literary Award for Excellence in Military Fiction
If you’re a war buff, this competition is for you. It awards $5,000—and a 24-karat-gold-framed citation of achievement—to the best piece of fiction set during a period when the U.S. was at war (war may either be the main plot of the piece or simply provide the setting). Submissions may be adult or YA novels.
Deadline: Annually on December 31
Website: American Library Association
13. Friends of American Writers Chicago Awards
FAW presents two annual awards: an Adult Literature Award for literary fiction or nonfiction, and a Young People’s Literature Award for a children’s/YA book.
Authors must reside in the state of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota or Wisconsin—or they must set their book in one of those locations. Prize amounts vary from year to year, but you don’t have to bother with an application and all winners are celebrated at the organization’s May luncheon.
Deadline: Annually in December
Website: Friends of American Writers Chicago
14. Hektoen Grand Prix Essay Contest
Hektoen International, an online journal dedicated to medical humanities, offers two prizes annually for essays of no more than 1,500 words: $5,000 is awarded to the winner and $2,500 to the first runner-up. Eligible topics are broad so long as they have a relation to medicine, and many include art, history, literature, education and more.
Deadline: Annually; September 15 is usually the deadline
Website: Hektoen International
15. Biopage Storytelling Writing Contest
There’s no denying it: social media is a huge part of our modern-day lives. It’s easy to get used to limiting our communications to 280-character and emoji-strewn snippets, which is why this marketing firm is hosting an essay writing contest to “remind people of the benefits of writing.”
Essays of up to 5,000 characters (roughly 1,000 words) will be accepted, and right now they’re looking for stories of COVID-19 quarantine life. The grand prize winner will receive $300, and five runners-up will be awarded $100 each.
The contest is free to enter, but you’ll need to register for a Biopage account to be eligible.
Deadline: The current contest ends January 31, 2024
16. St. Martin’s Minotaur / Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition
Writers 18 and older who have never had a novel published (in any genre) are eligible for this prize, awarded to an original book-length manuscript where “murder or another serious crime or crimes is at the heart of the story.” The winner receives a publication contract with Minotaur Books and an advance of $10,000 against future royalties.
Deadline: December 17 each yea r
Website: Edgar Awards
17. ServiceScape Short Story Award
ServiceScape, a platform matching freelance writers, editors and graphic designers with clients (i.e. a great place to look for paid writing work !) offers a yearly Short Story Award of $1,000 to a winning fiction or nonfiction work of 5,000 words or fewer. The winner will also have their story featured on the ServiceScape blog, which sees thousands of readers each month.
Deadline: November 29 each year
18 . Stowe Prize
This biennial prize of $10,000 honors an American author whose adult fiction or nonfiction work has had an impact on a critical social justice issue (as did Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin ). The book must be written by a U.S. author and have been published in the United States during the previous three calendar years.
Deadline: Contact the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center for this year’s deadline .
Website: Harriet Beecher Stowe Center
19 . The Diana Woods Memorial Award in Creative Nonfiction
Creative nonfiction essays of no more than 5,000 words on any subject are eligible for consideration for this award, whose winner receives $250 and publication in Lunch Ticket , the literary and art journal produced by the MFA community of Antioch University Los Angeles.
Works must not have been published elsewhere. Award winners are required to submit a 100-word biography, recent photo and a short note thanking the Woods family for their generosity and support.
Deadlines: Biannual reading periods are in February for the Summer/Fall issue and in August for the Winter/Spring issue
Website: Lunch Ticket
20 . The 2023 Brandon Langhjelm Memorial Essay Contest
Each year, this Canadian organization offers three prizes, ranging from $500 to $1,500, to the essay with the most thoughtful, well-reasoned arguments around a specific human-rights theme. (For example, 2022’s prompt was, “ Canadian governments are making Digital ID technologies a precondition of access to essential services and goods. What can Canadians do to protect their Charter rights and freedoms against the dangers of these technologies? ”
The contest is open to Canadian college and university students, and essays should be 2,500 words or less in length.
Deadline: November 5
Website: Justice Center for Constitutional Freedoms
21. Write the World
For young writers ages 13-18, these cool contests also serve as mini workshops. Recognizing that “a first draft is never perfect,” submissions actually receive peer review by authors, writing teachers and other experts and writers are given the chance to revise their pieces based on this feedback before submitting them for final prize consideration.
Contests vary each month, but there’s a $100 prize for the winner and $50 for the runner-up (plus $50 for the best peer-reviewer). All three are featured on Write the World’s blog alongside comments from a guest judge. And since each month’s prompt is from a different genre, developing writers get a chance to test out different styles.
Website: Write the World
Stuck with writer’s block and looking for a way to jumpstart your escape? Prose offers weekly challenges meant to spark your creativity; many are just for fun, but look for the weekly numbered challenges posted by Prose (rather than community members or sponsors) for a chance to win money.
Prizes are typically between $100 to $200 and word counts are low—some as low as under 150, some as high as 500. So even if all you get from the prompt is a chance to flex your brain, it’s not a bad deal.
Deadline: Weekly and monthly
23. The Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing
First-generation immigrants have a chance to win $10,000 and publication by Restless Books for telling their stories (real or imagined). The contest alternates annually between fiction (novel or short story collection) and nonfiction (memoir, essay collection, narrative nonfiction). In 2021, it went to a work of nonfiction of at least 25,000 words; 2022 will be fiction.
Deadline: Submission window is usually between December and March
Website: Restless Books
24. AFSA National High School Essay Contest
The U.S. Institute of Peace and the American Foreign Service Association sponsor this annual high school essay contest, where the winner receives a $2,500 cash prize, an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., and a full-tuition paid voyage with Semester at Sea upon the student’s enrollment at an accredited university. Essays should be between 1,000 and 1,250 words and have to answer all aspects of the prompt as well as demonstrate an understanding of the Foreign Service.
Runners-up get a pretty sweet deal too, a $1,250 cash prize and a full scholarship to participate in the International Diplomacy Program of the National Student Leadership Conference.
Deadline : April each year
Website: American Foreign Service Association
25. Science-me a Story
Born in 2018, the Society of Spanish Researchers invites talented and original writers to write a 100-word blurb for a hypothetical novel. This might sound really easy, but your blurb has to quickly hook readers and make them want to read more. Open to anyone over 18 anywhere in the world, your real or fictional short story for this competition must be either in English or Spanish and “conceived from the objective of scientific dissemination to primary school” to qualify for the cash prizes: £150, £100 and £50.
Website: Society of Spanish Researchers in the United Kingdom
26. VCU Cabell First Novelist Award
Virginia Commonwealth University sponsors this award that honors an outstanding debut novel published in the preceding calendar year. While you may have published previous books in a different form, the submission must be your first published book marketed as a novel.
The award is a $5,000 cash prize, and the winning author must agree to attend the award event, usually scheduled for November.
Deadline : Annually; the submission window runs from July 1 through December 30
Website: Virginia Commonwealth University
27. Daisy Utemorrah Award
The Daisy Utemorrah Award is for an unpublished manuscript of junior or YA fiction written by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples currently living in Australia. Generously supported by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund and the State Government of Western Australia, the winner of the award receives $15,000 and a publishing contract with Magabala Books.
Deadline : Submission window usually opens at the beginning of each year
Website: Magabala Books
28 . Short Fiction Prize
If you’re an undergrad at a college in the U.S. or Canada, this writing competition is for you. (Traditionally, this contest has encouraged applicants with an Asian background, but anyone is invited to apply.) Submissions should be no more than 7,500 words.
One winner will get a $1,000 prize as well as a scholarship to the next Southampton Writers Conference .
Deadline : Submission window is usually between March 1- July 14
Website: Stony Brook University | Lichtenstein Center
29. Bacopa Literary Review Contest
The Bacopa Literary Review is an international journal published by the Writers Alliance of Gainesville. Each year, it opens submissions for pieces in four genres: fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry and prose poetry. Find detailed guidelines for each genre on its website. First place gets $300, and the second prize in each of the four genres gets $100.
Deadline: May 30 each year
Website: Writers Alliance of Gainesville
30. Insecure Writer’s Support Group Annual Anthology Contest
As long as you stick to the guidelines, The Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s annual contest welcomes your 5,000- to 6,000-word (previously unpublished) creative story. But before you send it off, make sure your story is polished and formatted! Plus, the prizes aren’t too shabby—winning stories will be edited and published, authors will receive royalties, and the top story will even get to give the anthology its title.
Deadlines: September 1 each year
Website: Insecure Writer’s Support Group
31. Ultimate Meal Plans Nutrition Scholarship
College students studying nutrition, kinesiology or exercise-science fields: you’re going to be all over this one. Twice per year, the Ultimate Paleo Guide (aka the best paleo resource on the internet) awards $500 scholarships to two deserving students who meet all eligibility requirements—as well as write an 800-word essay about why you chose your field, an impact you’d like to make in your career, a challenge you’ve faced and more.
Deadlines: January 30 (awards in March) and July 31 (awards in September)
Website: Ultimate Meal Plans
32. New Voices Award
Presented by Lee & Low Books, an award-winning children’s book publisher, this award is given for a previously unpublished children’s picture book manuscript of no more than 1,500 words written by a writer of color or Indigenous/Native writers who’s a resident of the U.S.
The winner receives $2,000 cash and a standard publication contract, and an additional Honor Award winner will receive a cash prize of $1,000. You may submit up to two manuscripts.
Deadline: The contest is on hiatus for 2023, check the website for a follow-up announcement in 2024.
Website: Lee & Low Books
33. St. Francis College Literary Prize
Since 2009, this biennial literary award has honored mid-career writers who have recently published their third, fourth or fifth work of fiction. The winner receives $50,000 and may be invited to the St. Francis College campus in Brooklyn, New York, to deliver a talk about their work or teach a mini fiction workshop to St. Francis students.
Deadline: Biennially. The contest was not offered the last three years due to the pandemic and limited campus access
Website: St. Francis College
Poetry contests this year
Curious about opportunities for poets? Your stanzas—rhyming or not—could be worth a fair amount of money in these poetry competitions.
Check out these poetry writing contests.
34. Black Voices in Children’s Literature Writing Contest
This contest is open to Black writers who are over the age of 18 and residents of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota or Wisconsin. It’s hosted by Strive Publishing and Free Spirit Publishing and seeks to fill the need for Black representation in children’s and young adult books. Original board and picture books for children aged 0-4 and picture books for ages 4-8 are eligible, provided they feature contemporary, realistic Black characters and culture and focus on character development, self esteem, community and other aspects of positive childhood development.
Three prizes, ranging from $250 to $1,000, will be awarded, and the first-place winner will be “seriously considered” for publication, though it’s not guaranteed.
Deadline: Usually late July, each year
Website: Free Spirit Publishing
35. James Laughlin Award
If you’re already a published poet, this is the award for you; it’s given for a second book of poetry due to come out in the forthcoming year. The winner receives $5,000 and an all-expenses-paid week-long residency at The Betsy Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida. In addition, copies of the winning book are distributed to 1,000 members of the Academy of American Poets.
Deadline: Annual submission window is January 1 through May 15
Website: Academy of American Poets
36. African Poetry Book Fund Prizes
The APBF awards three prizes annually for African Poetry. The Luschei Prize for African Poetry gives $1,000 for a book of original African poetry published in the prior year.
The Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets gives $1,000 and a publication contract for a book-length collection of poetry by an as-yet-unpublished African author.
The Brunel International African Poetry Prize is a new prize that grants £3,000 to a poet who was born in Africa, or has African parents, who has not yet had a full-length book of poetry published. (U.S. citizens qualify.) To submit, you’ll need 10 poems.
Deadlines: See individual prize pages
Website: African Poetry Book Fund
37. Tufts Poetry Awards
Claremont Graduate University presents two awards each year to poets they deem to be “outstanding.” The Kate Tufts Poetry Award grants $10,000 for a published first book of poetry that shows promise.
The Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award grants a mammoth $100,000 for a published book of poetry by an established or mid-career poet.
Deadline: Submission window is July 1 to June 30 each year
Website: Claremont Graduate University
38. Graywolf Press Walt Whitman Award
The Walt Whitman Award is a $5,000 prize awarded, along with publication, to an American poet with a winning first book manuscript. He or she also receives an all-expenses-paid six-week residency at the Civitella Ranieri Center in Umbria, Italy.
Graywolf Press is also one of the publishers of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize , “a first book award dedicated to the discovery of exceptional manuscripts by Black poets.” Winners receive $1,000 and Graywolf publishes every third winner of the prize.
Deadline : July 1 to September 1 each year
39. Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest
Now in its 23rd year, this humor contest wants your best published or unpublished work for a grand prize of $2,000; runners-up are awarded $500 and 10 honorable mentions will receive $100 each. Writers of all ages from eligible countries can submit an original, humorous poem with 250 lines or less, and it must be in English.
Deadline : April 1, each year (and no, this isn’t an April Fools joke)
Website: Winning Writers
40. The Alpine Fellowship Writing Prize
This writing competition is looking for the best piece of unpublished, themed writing. For example, one year, the theme was “Untamed: On Wilderness and Civilization.” Submissions may be prose, poetry or non-academic essays. Maximum word count is 2,500, and this is open to all nationalities and to anyone 18 or older. The winner gets a £10,000 cash prize, second place gets £3,000 and third place gets £2,000.
Deadline : Applications open at the beginning of each year. Follow the Alpine Fellowship on Instagram for updates
Website: The Alpine Fellowship
Where to find more legitimate, free writing contests
Looking for more opportunities to submit your work? Here are a few great sites to keep an eye on for writing contests.
A number of the contests found on our list came highly recommended by this site, which compiles some of the best free literary contests out there. Along with a wide range of recommended contests for writers of all stripes, Winning Writers also lists some contests and services to avoid , which is just as useful!
They also offer a handful of contests themselves , including the North Street Book Prize.
Poets & Writers
Another fantastic source for legitimate writing contests we consulted when compiling this list, Poets & Writers vets competitions, contests, awards and grants to make sure they’re following legitimate practices and policies. It’s worth checking out regularly as it features both annual and one-time contests.
This listing contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase through our links, you’re supporting The Write Life—and we thank you for that!
The original version of this story was written by Kelly Gurnett . We updated the post so it’s more useful for our readers.
Photo via Viktoriia Hnatiuk / Shutterstock
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The Writing Contests, Grants & Awards database includes details about the creative writing contests—including poetry contests, short story competitions, essay contests, awards for novels, and more—that we’ve published in Poets & Writers Magazine during the past year. We carefully review the practices and policies of each contest before including it. Ours is the most trusted resource for legitimate writing contests available anywhere.
Friends of American Writers
A prize of $2,500 is given annually for a book of fiction or creative nonfiction published during the current year that is set in the Midwest or by a writer who is a resident...
Troubadour international poetry prize.
A prize of £2,000 (approximately $2,548) is given annually for a single poem. A second-place prize of £1,000 (approximately $1,274) is also given. Both winners receive...
Story Foundation Prize
A prize of $1,500 and publication in Story is given annually for a short story. Using only the online submission system, submit a short story of no more than 10,000...
Center for Book Arts
Poetry chapbook contest.
A prize of $500 and letterpress publication by the Center for Book Arts is given annually for a poetry chapbook. The winner will also receive 10 copies of their chapbook, an...
Three prizes of $1,000 each and publication by Willow Books are given annually for a book of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction by BIPOC writers. Using only the online...
A prize of $1,000 and publication by Gival Press will be given biennially for a book of poetry. Beverly Burch will judge. Submit a manuscript of at least 45 pages with a $20...
A prize of $1,000, publication by Longleaf Press, and 25 author copies is given annually for a poetry collection. The winner will also be invited to give a virtual reading in...
Pauline uchmanowicz poetry award.
A prize of $1,000, publication by Codhill Press, and 25 author copies is given annually for a poetry collection. James Sherwood will judge. Submit a manuscript of 48 to 70...
Virginia Commonwealth University
Cabell first novelist award.
A prize of at least $3,000 is given annually for a debut novel published during the current year. The winner will also receive lodging and travel expenses to attend the First...
Poetry Society of America
Robert h. winner memorial award.
A prize of $2,500 and publication on the Poetry Society of America website is given annually to a poet over 40 who has published no more than one book. Nathan McClain will...
Short Fiction Contest for Emerging Writers
A prize of $1,500 and publication in Boulevard is given annually for a short story by a writer who has not published a nationally distributed book. The editors will...
Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry
Griffin poetry prize.
A prize of $130,000 Canadian (approximately $96,748) is given annually for a poetry collection published during the current year and written in, or translated into, English....
A prize of €6,000 (approximately $6,572) and online publication in the Irish Times is given annually for a single poem. Three runner-up prizes of €1,000 (approximately...
A prize of $3,000, publication by Tupelo Press, and 20 author copies is given annually for a poetry collection. The winner also receives a two-week residency at Gentle House in...
Baton Rouge Area Foundation
Ernest j. gaines award for literary excellence.
A prize of $15,000 is given annually to an emerging African American writer for a book of fiction published in the current year. The winner also receives travel and lodging...
Ohio University Press
Hollis summers poetry prize.
A prize of $1,000 and publication by Ohio University Press is given annually for a poetry collection. Using only the online submission system, submit a manuscript of 60 to 95...
Hub City Press
C. michael curtis short story book prize.
A prize of $5,000 and publication by Hub City Press is given biennially for a short story collection. Writers who have not published more than one book in any genre and who...
A prize of $1,000 and publication in Crosswinds is given annually for a single poem. April Ossmann will judge. Submit up to three poems of no more than 60 lines each...
Plentitudes prizes in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.
Three prizes of $1,000 each and publication in Plentitudes will be given annually for a single poem, a short story, and an essay. Mahtem Shiferraw will judge in poetry...
Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award
A prize of $1,000 and publication on the Poetry Society of America website is given annually for poetry from a manuscript-in-progress. Lucy Ives will judge. Using only the...
Before Columbus Foundation
American book awards.
Awards are given annually for books published in the United States during the current year to recognize “outstanding literary achievement from the entire spectrum of America’s...
Four Quartets Prize
A prize of $20,000 is given annually for a unified and complete sequence of poems published in the United States in a print or online journal, a chapbook, or a book during the...
Award for Short Fiction
A prize of $1,000, publication by Press 53, and 53 author copies is given annually for a story collection. Claire V. Foxx will judge. Submit a manuscript of 100 to 250 pages...
Lascaux prize in short fiction.
A prize of $1,000 and publication in Lascaux Review is given annually for a short story. Previously published and unpublished stories are eligible. Using only the...
Tartt fiction award.
A prize of $1,000, publication by Livingston Press, and 60 author copies is given annually for a first collection of short stories by a U.S. citizen. Submit a manuscript of 160...
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The Best Writing Contests of 2023
Writing competitions curated by Reedsy
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- Short Story
- Young Adult
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Showing 639 contests
The reedsy prompts contest.
Every Friday, Reedsy sends out five writing prompts. Enter your response within a week for a chance at $250. Winners may also be included in a future issue of Reedsy’s literary magazine, Prompted.
$25 credit toward Reedsy editorial services
Deadline: December 31, 2023
Fiction, Short Story
First Chapter + Synopsis Competition
Why not enter the Fiction Factory First Chapter Competition? Send us your first chapter + a 1 page synopsis (if your first chapter is more than 5000 words, send it with the 5000 word point clearly marked). First Prize: £500 + an appraisal and a reading by a top London Literary Agent. All short-listed entrants will receive a free appraisal. Appraisals: For an extra fee, £20, we will write a comprehensive appraisal of your chapter. Results will be published in July, 2024
A reading by a top London Literary Agent plus publication
Deadline: March 31, 2023 (Expired)
Fiction Factory Flash Fiction
This is an international competition - we welcome entries from around the world. Maximum Word count: 1000. Stories may be on any theme. Entries must be previously unpublished. The deadline is 31st January, 2024 and results will be be announced by April 2024. Discounts for multiple entries - see website for details. Minimum age: 16 years. Children's and YA cannot be accepted sadly Each entry will receive acknowledgement and all contestants will be informed of results.
Deadline: January 31, 2024
Fiction, Flash Fiction, Crime, Horror, Humor, Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller
FFF Competition 19
Free Flash Fiction
The Bi-monthly Free Flash Fiction Competition promotes the work of flash fiction authors. The winner of the current competition will be invited to be the judge for the next competition. Submit a flash fiction piece between 100 and 300 words, on any theme.
2x Highly Recommended £30.00 | 2x Shortlisted £20
Deadline: December 23, 2023
Witcraft Monthly Humour Competition
Send us your skillfully written stories that are brief, humorous and engaging, with the emphasis on wit, word play, absurdity and inspired nonsense. Whether your story is designed to raise a smile or a belly laugh, we want stories that are a refuge from the relentless barrage of negativity, angst, war and climate catastrophe that dominates the web.
2nd: AUD $20 | 3rd: AUD $10
💰 Fee: FREE
Deadline: December 15, 2023
Flash Fiction, Humor
International Essay Competition 2023/24
Welcome to our prestigious International Essay Competition. At Avernus Education, we are thrilled to provide a platform for young minds to showcase their prowess in Medicine, Engineering, Law, Economics, Psychology, History and Politics. These varied subject categories underscore the importance of interdisciplinary study, a crucial foundation for future leaders in our increasingly interconnected world. Winners receive an exclusive Avernus Education Scholarship worth over £5000 - granting them free entrance to our exclusive summer camp at Oxford University! Outstanding Runners Up receive 5 hours worth of Credits for Avernus Education courses, conferences and tutoring services.
100% Scholarship Award to our Oxford University Summer Programme (worth £5995)
Deadline: February 19, 2024
The Summit Series Fiction Book Contest
Summit Series of CMICH Press
Are you or have you ever been a resident of Michigan? Do you have a fiction book manuscript searching for a home? If so, please submit your work to the first annual Summit Series book contest of CMICH Press! This year’s focus is Michigan writers, and the winner will be published by the press in 2024. The deadline is January 1, 2024. Please see our website for more details. We look forward to reading your work.
Deadline: January 01, 2024
The Letter Review Prize for Reprints
We're seeking Stories, Poems, and works of Nonfiction which have been previously published, and are not currently available to read online. Far too often excellent writing experiences a brief moment in the sun, and disappears for good (either out of print, behind a paywall, or to sit on a dusty shelf). As part of The Letter Review's committment to open access, we are here to celebrate these works, and give them a second chance by republishing them online, hopefully assisting them to shine forever.
$1000 (shared by 3 winners)
Fiction, Non-fiction, Poetry, Short Story
Letter Review Prize for Manuscripts
The Letter Review Prize for Manuscripts (Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction) is open to writers from anywhere in the world. Three Winners are awarded and have extracts published. 20 entries are Longlisted. Winners receive letter of recommendation for publishers.
Crime, Essay, Fantasy, Fiction, Mystery, Novel, Poetry, Romance, Science Fiction, Science Writing, Short Story, Thriller, Young Adult
Letter Review Prize for Nonfiction
The Letter Review Prize for Nonfiction (0 - 5000 words) is open to writers from anywhere in the world. Accepting most forms of Nonfiction. Three winners are published and every entry is considered for publication. 20 entries are longlisted.
Essay, Memoir, Non-fiction, Humor
Letter Review Prize for Short Fiction
The Letter Review Prize for Short Fiction (0 - 5000 words) is open to writers from anywhere in the world and has no theme or genre restrictions. Three Winners are published and every entry is considered for publication. 20 entries are longlisted.
Flash Fiction, Short Story, Fiction
The Letter Review Prize for Poetry
The Letter Review Prize for Poetry (up to 70 lines) is open to writers from anywhere in the world and has no theme or style restrictions. Three winners are published and every entry is considered for publication. 20 entries are longlisted.
Letter Review Prize for Short Stories
The Letter Review Prize for Short Stories (1000-3000 words) is open to writers from anywhere in the world and has no theme or genre restrictions. Winners are published and every entry is considered for publication. 20 entries are Longlisted.
$1000 prize pool
2nd: $250 | 3rd: $150
Oxford Flash Fiction Prize 2024
Oxford Flash Fiction
Write yourself into history and become one of the greats with the Oxford Flash Fiction Prize. For centuries, the greats have come to Oxford to ink masterpieces. Now, in one of the oldest towns, where the history of the English language can be traced back to its ancient streets, we are celebrating one of the newest forms in literature – flash fiction.
2nd Prize: £200 | 3rd Prize: £100 | New Voice Prize: £200
Flash Fiction, Fiction, Crime, Fantasy, Horror, Humor, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Thriller, Young Adult
Centre for Quantum Technologies
Complexity and uncertainty are part and parcel of the quantum world. Plot a tale inspired by quantum physics to enter the Quantum Shorts flash fiction competition. Entries must include the phrase “nobody said this was going to be easy” and be no longer than 1000 words. Enter by the deadline for a chance to win prizes!
Certificate and engraved trophy
Deadline: January 08, 2024
Crime, Fantasy, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Horror, Humor, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Short Story, Thriller
LGBTQIA+ Literary Success Grants
Georgia Writers Association
The LGBTQIA+ Literary Success Grant will be awarded annually in the categories of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and screenwriting. The purpose of the grants is to elevate, encourage, and inspire the voices of young queer writers in Georgia.
Scholarship to the annual Red Clay Writers Conference
Deadline: January 12, 2024
Fiction, Non-fiction, Poetry, Script Writing
Elegant Literature's Award For New Writers
One of the largest awards open to unpublished writers, and the only one closed to professionals. We are the first magazine to pay pro rates and only accept submissions from new writers, putting over $100k into the hands of emerging talent around the globe. One new writer receives the grand prize. We also choose the best stories, pay the authors professional rates, and publish them in our magazine. November's guest judge is award-winning author A.C. Wise.
Paid publication, 25 x $20 USD | Free entry to Novelist Accelerator | Now Novel Package
Deadline: November 30, 2023 (Expired)
Crime, Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Humor, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Short Story, Thriller, Young Adult, Flash Fiction, Science Writing
Trio Award for First or Second Book
Trio House Press
The Trio Award for First or Second Book includes $1,000, publication, and twenty books. The Trio Award for First or Second Book is only open to poets with less than two books published.
Deadline: April 30, 2023 (Expired)
The Pinch Literary Awards & Page Prize
The Pinch Literary Journal
The 2023 Pinch Literary Awards accepts poetry and fiction. The 2023 Page Prize accepts non-fiction.
$2000 for poetry & fiction winners
$1000 for Page Prize winner
Fiction, Poetry, Short Story, Non-fiction
NOWW 25th International Writing Contest
Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop (NOWW)
A Canadian contest with an international flair. As part of our 25th anniversary celebration, we have increased the prize total to $1800 over six major categories: poetry, short fiction, creative non-fiction, crime fiction, literary critical writing, and The Bill MacDonald prize for prose (A Northwestern Ontario setting must be central to the work).
Publication in NOWW magazine
Deadline: February 28, 2023 (Expired)
Crime, Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Humor, Mystery, Non-fiction, Poetry, Romance, Science Fiction, Short Story, Thriller, Young Adult
Stories Out of School
The Academy for Teachers
A flash fiction contest sponsored by The Academy for Teachers and Electric Literature. The story’s protagonist, or its narrator, must be a K-12 teacher.
Deadline: September 01, 2021 (Expired)
The Rhys Davies Short Story Competition 2024
Swansea University’s Cultural Institute
The Rhys Davies Short Story Competition recognises the very best unpublished short stories in English in any style and on any subject up to a maximum of 5,000 words by writers in / from Wales. Entrants must have been born in Wales, lived in Wales for 2 years or more, or currently be living in Wales.
Publication in short story anthology | 11x Runners Up: £100 and publication in short story anthology
Deadline: February 15, 2024
The Elmbridge Literary Competition 2023-24
The R C Sherriff Trust
"Reputation is an idle and most false imposition, oft got without merit and lost without deserving." - William Shakespeare For some, it is a lifetime’s pursuit, often slipping through their grasp while others see it fall into their hands by mere chance. However achieved, through talent or luck, Fame can be an ill-fated prize. The 19th Elmbridge Literary Competition, run in partnership by The R C Sherriff Trust and Elmbridge Borough Council, is looking for short stories and poems on the theme of the double-edged sword that is ‘FAME’.
Deadline: February 23, 2024
Fiction, Poetry, Short Story
Literary and Photographic Contest 2023-2024
Hispanic Culture Review
As we move forward we carry our culture wherever we go. It keeps us alive. This is why we propose the theme to be “¡Hacia delante!”. A phrase that means to move forward. This year we ask that you think about the following questions: What keeps you moving forward? What do you carry with you going into the future? How do you celebrate your successes, your dreams, and your culture?
Publication in magazine
Deadline: February 07, 2024
Essay, Fiction, Memoir, Non-fiction, Poetry
True Love on Tapas
Get ready to ignite your passion for storytelling! Tapas is thrilled to announce our first novel contest for romance writers: The True Love Webnovel Contest. Up for grabs: $150,000 in minimum guarantees for 15 winners!
Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
ReadWrite Strategies Funny Workplace Anthology Contest
Please submit funny, creative nonfiction stories 300-1200 words in length, set in or relating to work. If it makes us laugh, it works. No entry fee and submit as many times as you want before December 18th deadline. Prizes are: $500 and a print copy of the book for first place, $200 and a print copy for second place, and $100 and a print copy for 3rd, 4th, and 5th places. All featured stories will receive a digital copy of the book on publication. The best submissions will be featured in an anthology of funny workplace stories.
2nd: 200 and print copy | 3rd, 4th, & 5th: $100 and print copy
Deadline: December 18, 2023
Not Quite Write Prize for Flash Fiction
Not Quite Write Podcast
A flash fiction competition with a twist! Entrants will be given two writing prompts and one "anti-prompt" and will have 60 hours to write and submit a 500-word piece of flash fiction. Open to all ages and abilities.
Publication on podcast and website
Deadline: January 21, 2024
Crime, Fantasy, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Horror, Humor, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Thriller, Young Adult
Askew's Word on the Lake Writing Contest
Shuswap Association of Writers
Whether you’re an established or emerging writer, the Askew’s Word on the Lake Writing Contest has a place for you. Part of the Word on the Lake Writers’ Festival in Salmon Arm, BC, the contest is open to submissions in short fiction (up to 2,000 words), nonfiction (up to 2,000 words), and poetry (up to three one-page poems).
Fiction, Non-fiction, Poetry, Essay, Memoir, Short Story
Clash of the Query Letters
Darling Axe Editing
Our judge, Michelle Barker, will be asking herself one question: does this query letter convince me that I'm in the hands of an adept novelist with a unique and engaging story to tell?
CAD $200 for 2nd place, $100 for 3rd place
Fiction, Memoir, Non-fiction, Novel, Crime, Fantasy, Horror, Humor, Mystery, Novella, Romance, Science Fiction, Thriller, Young Adult
Wild Atlantic Writing Awards (WAWA)
Ireland Writing Retreat
Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, is quoted as saying “change is the only constant in life” - and he was right. And change comes in many shapes and forms, some planned but some unplanned and totally unexpected. Events happen, often beyond our control, leading us to change our views. Of ourselves, of life, of others, irrevocably. Sometimes for the better. Sadly, sometimes for the worse. So, ‘change’ is a key word in everyday life. Perhaps even more so in the fast-paced, modern, post-Covid world in which we all live. As such, ‘Ireland Writing Retreat’ is delighted to announce ‘change’ as the buzzword for our latest ‘Wild Atlantic Writing Awards.’ Our competition has two categories - flash fiction and creative non-creative.
Flash Fiction, Non-fiction
World Historian Student Essay Competition
World History Association
The World Historian Student Essay Competition is an international competition open to students enrolled in grades K–12 in public, private, and parochial schools, and those in home-study programs. Membership in the World History Association is not a requirement for submission. Past winners may not compete in the same category again.
Deadline: May 01, 2023 (Expired)
Put Your Heart in a Book Contest
New Jersey Romance Writers
Submissions will consist of a FIRST chapter, not to exceed 30 pages, and a PROJECTED WORD COUNT of the completed manuscript. A prologue may be included as part of the first chapter, if within page total guidelines. An UNJUDGED SYNOPSIS must be included at the end of the submission, clearly defined with a page break and titled "SYNOPSIS". The synopsis will not count toward the page count.
Social media promotion, feedback from 2 published authors
Deadline: August 01, 2021 (Expired)
African Diaspora Award
Kinsman Avenue Publishing, Inc.
Submissions are open for Kinsman Quarterly’s African Diaspora Award. Top winners receive prizes up to $500 USD and publication within the Black Diaspora anthology. No entry fee required. Those eligible should submit an original, unpublished work in English that features themes of the African diaspora by July 15, 2023.
2nd: $250 | 3rd: $100 + Publication
Deadline: July 15, 2023 (Expired)
Crime, Essay, Fantasy, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Horror, Memoir, Mystery, Non-fiction, Poetry, Romance, Script Writing, Short Story, Young Adult
Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award
The Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award is committed to discovering new writers, as well as superlative books by established authors and, upon discovery, sharing those writers and their works with new readers. There are a large number of both fiction and non-fiction categories you can enter.
Deadline: June 15, 2023 (Expired)
Crime, Essay, Fantasy, Fiction, Humor, Memoir, Mystery, Non-fiction, Novel, Poetry, Science Fiction, Script Writing, Short Story, Thriller
7 Day Story Writing Challenge
Register now for our next 7-day story writing challenge. A secret theme, a randomly assigned genre, and just 7 days to write a story of no more than 2,000 words. Our 7-day story writing challenges take place throughout the year. The challenges are free and you can even get feedback on your story. Take part in one challenge or take part in all of them!
Publication on website
Fiction, Flash Fiction, Short Story, Crime, Fantasy, Horror, Humor, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Thriller, Young Adult
Discover the finest writing contests of 2023 for fiction and non-fiction authors — including short story competitions, essay writing competitions, poetry contests, and many more. Updated weekly, these contests are vetted by Reedsy to weed out the scammers and time-wasters. If you’re looking to stick to free writing contests, simply use our filters as you browse.
Why you should submit to writing contests
Submitting to poetry competitions and free writing contests in 2023 is absolutely worth your while as an aspiring author: just as your qualifications matter when you apply for a new job, a writing portfolio that boasts published works and award-winning pieces is a great way to give your writing career a boost. And not to mention the bonus of cash prizes!
That being said, we understand that taking part in writing contests can be tough for emerging writers. First, there’s the same affliction all writers face: lack of time or inspiration. Entering writing contests is a time commitment, and many people decide to forego this endeavor in order to work on their larger projects instead — like a full-length book. Second, for many writers, the chance of rejection is enough to steer them clear of writing contests.
But we’re here to tell you that two of the great benefits of entering writing contests happen to be the same as those two reasons to avoid them.
When it comes to the time commitment: yes, you will need to expend time and effort in order to submit a quality piece of writing to competitions. That being said, having a hard deadline to meet is a great motivator for developing a solid writing routine.
Think of entering contests as a training session to become a writer who will need to meet deadlines in order to have a successful career. If there’s a contest you have your eye on, and the deadline is in one month, sit down and realistically plan how many words you’ll need to write per day in order to meet that due date — and don’t forget to also factor in the time you’ll need to edit your story!
For tips on setting up a realistic writing plan, check out this free, ten-day course: How to Build a Rock-Solid Writing Routine.
In regards to the fear of rejection, the truth is that any writer aspiring to become a published author needs to develop relatively thick skin. If one of your goals is to have a book traditionally published, you will absolutely need to learn how to deal with rejection, as traditional book deals are notoriously hard to score. If you’re an indie author, you will need to adopt the hardy determination required to slowly build up a readership.
The good news is that there’s a fairly simple trick for learning to deal with rejection: use it as a chance to explore how you might be able to improve your writing.
In an ideal world, each rejection from a publisher or contest would come with a detailed letter, offering construction feedback and pointing out specific tips for improvement. And while this is sometimes the case, it’s the exception and not the rule.
Still, you can use the writing contests you don’t win as a chance to provide yourself with this feedback. Take a look at the winning and shortlisted stories and highlight their strong suits: do they have fully realized characters, a knack for showing instead of telling, a well-developed but subtly conveyed theme, a particularly satisfying denouement?
The idea isn’t to replicate what makes those stories tick in your own writing. But most examples of excellent writing share a number of basic craft principles. Try and see if there are ways for you to translate those stories’ strong points into your own unique writing.
Finally, there are the more obvious benefits of entering writing contests: prize and publication. Not to mention the potential to build up your readership, connect with editors, and gain exposure.
Resources to help you win writing competitions in 2023
Every writing contest has its own set of submission rules. Whether those rules are dense or sparing, ensure that you follow them to a T. Disregarding the guidelines will not sway the judges’ opinion in your favor — and might disqualify you from the contest altogether.
Aside from ensuring you follow the rules, here are a few resources that will help you perfect your submissions.
Free online courses
How to Craft a Killer Short Story
The Non-Sexy Business of Writing Non-Fiction
How to Write a Novel
Understanding Point of View
Developing Characters That Your Readers Will Love
Writing Dialogue That Develops Plot and Character
Stop Procrastinating! Build a Solid Writing Routine
Story Editing for Authors
How to Self-Edit Like a Pro
Novel Revision: Practical Tips for Rewrites
How to Write a Short Story in 7 Steps
How to Write a Novel in 15 Steps
Literary Devices and Terms — 35+ Definitions With Examples
10 Essential Fiction Writing Tips to Improve Your Craft
How to Write Dialogue: 8 Simple Rules and Exercises
8 Character Development Exercises to Help You Nail Your Character
200+ Short Story Ideas
600+ Writing Prompts to Inspire You
100+ Creative Writing Exercises for Fiction Authors
Story Title Generator
Pen Name Generator
Character Name Generator
After you submit to a writing competition in 2023
It’s exciting to send a piece of writing off to a contest. However, once the initial excitement wears off, you may be left waiting for a while. Some writing contests will contact all entrants after the judging period — whether or not they’ve won. Other writing competitions will only contact the winners.
Here are a few things to keep in mind after you submit:
Many writing competitions don’t have time to respond to each entrant with feedback on their story. However, it never hurts to ask! Feel free to politely reach out requesting feedback — but wait until after the selection period is over.
If you’ve submitted the same work to more than one writing competition or literary magazine, remember to withdraw your submission if it ends up winning elsewhere.
After you send a submission, don’t follow it up with a rewritten or revised version. Instead, ensure that your first version is thoroughly proofread and edited. If not, wait until the next edition of the contest or submit the revised version to other writing contests.
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Looking for a Writing Contest to Enter?
Writing contests can be a useful way to send your work out into the world. With a strong submission and a bit of luck, you can win publication, recognition, and even cash prizes.
This article will give you the inside scoop on the most high-quality writing contests to enter.
Are Writing Contests Worth Entering?
What are some writing contests that are free to enter, how can i increase my chances of winning, where can i find more writing contests.
Entering writing contests can be useful for several reasons:
- They give you a deadline and often even a prompt to write about , which many writers find motivating
- The results can help you get a sense of where you are on your writing journey and how you can improve your craft
- Winning a contest can be a fantastic boost to your journey as a writer
On the other hand, it’s important to keep in mind that it takes a lot of luck to win a contest, since there are usually only a few winners chosen from among hundreds of strong contestants.
If your goal is to get your writing published, you’ll likely fare better by submitting to magazines and anthologies than by entering contests.
Download our free eBook on how to publish your writing
If your goal is to make money, you should prioritize freelance writing jobs instead.
With that being said, there are many incredible writing contests out there that can absolutely be worth your while, as long as you enter with realistic expectations.
Many writing contests cost fees to enter, since they give out cash prizes and hire guest judges that they need to pay for their time.
Charging an entry fee doesn’t necessarily mean the contest is a scam. It does mean, however, that you need to be judicious about which contests to submit your work to.
Free writing contests are more accessible to all writers, and there’s nothing to lose from giving them a shot.
We’ve compiled a list of legitimate, high-quality writing contests that charge no entry fees.
Prose Weekly Challenge
Prose, a social network for readers and writers, offers weekly challenges meant to spark your creativity. This is a fun, low-stakes challenge, with a small cash prize to sweeten the deal.
Prize: Each week’s winner receives $100. Guidelines: Submit a short piece of writing (up to 500 words) related to the weekly prompt. Deadline: Weekly.
Prime Number Magazine 53-Word Story Contest
Press 53’s Prime Number Magazine hosts a monthly micro-fiction contest based on a theme.
All stories must be exactly 53 words long. There’s no cash prize, but this can be a fun and low-stakes contest to participate in if you’ve got some spare time and are looking for a writing prompt.
Prize: Publication, a free book from Press 53. Guidelines: Submit a 53-word story based on a monthly prompt. Open to writers around the world who write in English. Deadline: Monthly on the 15th of each month.
Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction
The Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction is an annual short story contest co-hosted by Comma Press and the University of Central Lancashire.
If you live in the UK and are interested in crime stories, this is a great contest to consider, with a £500 for the winner and publication for the runners-up.
Prize: £500 ($692) for first place, and publication for 10 shortlisted authors. Guidelines: Submit a short story (between 2,000 and 6,000 words). The theme for the 2022 Prize is "Crime Stories." Only residents of the UK age 18 or older are eligible. Deadline: October 29, 2021.
Commonwealth Short Fiction Prize
The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is an annual short fiction contest administered by the Commonwealth Foundation.
If you’re a short story writer and a citizen of a Commonwealth country, this contest is a fantastic option, with a generous £5,000 cash prize for the winner.
Prize: £5,000 ($6,922) for the overall winner and £2,500 ($3,461) for regional winners. Guidelines: Entrants must be citizens of a Commonwealth country and age 18 or over. Submit a short story (between 2,000 and 5,000 words). As well as English, stories are accepted in the Bengali, Chinese, French, Greek, Kiswahili, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Tamil, and Turkish languages. Translated entries from any language into English are also eligible. Deadline: November 1, 2021.
ServiceScape Short Story Award
ServiceScape is a platform that matches freelance writers, editors, and graphic designers with clients. They offer a yearly Short Story Award with a $1,000 prize.
Prize: $1,000 for first place and publication on the ServiceScape blog. Guidelines: Accepts original, unpublished work (5,000 words or fewer) in any genre, fiction or non-fiction. Writers must be age 18 or older. Deadline: November 29, 2021.
The Roswell Award
The Roswell Award is an annual science fiction contest with a $500 prize, co-presented by Sci-Fest L.A. and the Light Bringer Project.
This is a great option if you like using your writing to unite the worlds of science and art.
Prize: $500 for first place, $250 for second place, and $100 for third place. Guidelines: Submit a science fiction story. Open to writers around the world age 16 or older. Writers are encouraged to explore scientific, social, technological, environmental, and philosophical themes in their writing and always, at the core, to master the art of great storytelling. Deadline: December 21, 2021.
L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest
The Writers of the Future Contest is the most enduring and influential contest in the history of science fiction and fantasy.
The contest is held once every three months, with a generous $1,000 prize.
Prize: $1,000 for first place, $750 for second place, and $500 for third place. Guidelines: Submissions must be short stories or novelettes (up to 17,000 words) in the genre of science fiction or fantasy. Open to new and amateur writers around the world. Deadline: Quarterly on December 31, March 31, June 30, and September 30.
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Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award
The Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award is an annual contest, co-hosted by the National Space Society and Baen Books, for stories about manned space exploration.
If you’re interested in the role that science fiction plays in advancing real science, this is a great option that pays professional rates.
Prize: Professional paying rates (8 cents per word). The winner’s story will be published as the featured story on the Baen Books main website. The winner will also receive free entry into 2020 International Space Development Conference and a prize package with various Baen Books and National Space Society merchandise. Guidelines: Submit a short story (up to 8,000 words) that shows the near future (no more than about 50-60 years out) of manned space exploration. The judges want to see moon bases, Mars colonies, orbital habitats, space elevators, asteroid mining, artificial intelligence, nano-technology, realistic spacecraft, heroics, sacrifice, and/or adventure. Open to writers around the world who write in English. Deadline: TBD 2022 (the previous year’s deadline was February 1, 2021).
The Fountain Essay Contest
Fountain Magazine holds an annual contest for essays related to the personal challenges you’ve faced in your life.
Challenges can span from moving across the country and starting at a new high school or getting out of bed in the morning while undergoing depression. There are generous cash prizes for the winners.
Prize: $1,000 for first place, $500 for second place, $300 for third place, and $150 each for two honorable mentions. Guidelines: Submit a personal essay (between 1,500 and 2,500 words) on the annual theme. All writers worldwide are eligible. Deadline: TBD 2022 (the previous year’s deadline was March 1, 2021).
The Alpine Fellowship Writing Prize
Every year, The Alpine Fellowship awards writing, visual arts, and theater prizes related to an annual theme.
This is an extremely competitive fellowship, with global recognition for the winner and a whopping £10,000 first place prize.
Prize: £10,000 ($13,840) for first place, £3,000 ($4,150) for second place, and £2,000 ($2,770) for third place. Guidelines: Submit a piece of writing related to the annual theme (2021’s was "Untamed: On Wilderness and Civilization"). Entries must be unpublished and a maximum of 2,500 words. Poetry, prose, or non-academic essays welcome. Deadline: TBD 2022 (the previous year’s deadline was April 1, 2021).
Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest
The Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest is a contest for humor poems. This is a really fun contest if you like wordplay and witticisms, and you might even win $2,000.
Prize: $2,000 for first place, $500 for second place, and $100 each to 10 honorable mentions. Guidelines: Writers of all ages can submit an original, humorous poem with 250 lines or less. The poem you submit should be in English. Inspired gibberish is also accepted. Deadline: April 1, 2022.
Parsec Short Story Contest
Parsec Ink holds an annual contest for science fiction, fantasy, and horror short stories from non-professional writers, with a small cash prize for the winners.
Prize: $200 for first place, $100 for second place, and $50 for third place. Guidelines: Submit a short story (up to 3,500 words) based on the annual theme. The 2022 theme has not yet been announced. (The 2021 theme was "Still Waters, Deep Thoughts"). Deadline: TBD 2022 (the previous year’s deadline was April 15, 2021).
Bacopa Literary Review Contest
Bacopa Literary Review is an international journal published by the Writers Alliance of Gainesville. They hold an annual contest that welcomes fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction.
Prize: $300 for first place and $100 for second place in each of four genres: Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Poetry, and Prose Poetry. Guidelines: Submit a piece of writing in one of the four genres. You can find detailed guidelines for each genre on the website. Deadline: TBD 2022 (the previous year’s deadline was May 31, 2021).
Stony Brook Southampton Short Fiction Prize
The Stony Brook Southampton Short Fiction Prize is a short story contest specifically for college students.
If you’re an undergraduate and want to try a writing contest, this is a fantastic option because you have a smaller set of competitors.
Prize: $1,000, a scholarship to the 2021 Southampton Writers’ Conference, and consideration for publication in TSR: The Southampton Review . Guidelines: Only full-time undergraduates in United States and Canadian universities and colleges are eligible. Submissions must be short fiction (7,500 words or less). Deadline: June 1, 2022.
Insecure Writer’s Support Group Annual Anthology Contest
The Insecure Writer’s Support Group holds an annual contest for short stories based on a theme.
There’s no cash prize, but all winning stories are published in their anthology, and you can receive royalties from sales.
Prize: Winning stories will be edited and published, and authors will receive royalties from the anthology. Guidelines: Submit a short story (between 5,000 and 6,000 words) related to the annual theme. Deadline: TBD 2022 (the previous year’s deadline was September 1, 2021).
Hektoen Grand Prix Essay Contest
Hektoen International, an online journal dedicated to medical humanities, holds an annual contest for essays related to medicine, with a generous $5,000 cash prize.
Prize: $5,000 for the winner and $2,500 for the runner-up. Guidelines: Submit a short essay (up to 1,500 words) on any topic so long as it has a relation to medicine. The essay can include art, history, literature, education, and more. Writers must be age 18 or older. Deadline: TBD 2022 (the previous year’s deadline was September 15, 2021).
Owl Canyon Press Short Story Hackathon
Owl Canyon Press holds an annual “ hackathon ” for 20-paragraph stories, with a $1,000 prize.
The contest provides the first and last paragraph and the short story writer crafts the rest.
Prize: $1,000 for first place, $750 for second place, and $500 for third place. Publication in a short story anthology for 24 finalists. Guidelines: Writers are invited to create and submit a short story consisting of 20 paragraphs. The contest provides the 1st and 20th paragraphs, and the short story writer crafts the rest. There is no entry fee for submissions received during the first month of the contest. Deadline: TBD 2022 (last year’s deadline was September 30, 2020).
Transitions Abroad Expatriate and Work Abroad Writing Contest
The Transitions Abroad Writing Contest is an annual contest for essays related to your experience abroad. If you’ve ever lived and worked abroad, this is a great contest with a $500 cash prize.
Prize: $500 for first place, $150 for second place, $100 for third place, and $50 for all finalists. Guidelines: Submit a practical and inspiring essay or mini-guide (between 1,200 and 5,000 words) that provides in-depth descriptions of your experience moving, living, and working abroad (including any form of work such as teaching English, internships, volunteering, short-term jobs, etc.). The contest is open to writers from any location around the globe. Deadline: TBD 2022 (last year’s deadline was October 15, 2020).
Writing Battle Summer Flash Fiction
Writing Battle is a quarterly contest where writers are assigned prompts and have 2 days to write 1000 words. You are guaranteed feedback from you writing peers, plus you can win some money
Prize: $5,000 split between the four winners and publication.
Guidelines: Accepts original, unpublished work that matches the prompts and genre assigned. Writers must be aged 18 or older.
Deadline: August 7, 2022
Atlas Shrugged Novel Essay Contest
The Atlas Shrugged novel essay contest is open to all students globally. Atlas Shrugged is a heroic mystery novel written by Ayn Rand. Choose a prompt and write a 800-1,600 word essay in English. First prize: $10,000; 3 second prizes: $2,000; 5 third prizes: $1,000; 25 finalists: $100; 50 semi-finalists: $50.
Prize: First prize: $10,000, 3 second prizes: $2,000, 5 third prizes: $1,000, 25 finalists: $100, 50 semi-finalists: $50.
Guidelines: Choose a prompt and write an 800–1,600 word essay in English. All students globally can apply.
Deadline: Annually on November 6
Each of these contests has different requirements. What works for one probably will not work for another.
But what will increase your chance in every contest is good grammar and a solid structure. This is where ProWritingAid can help.
We may not be able to write your story for you, but we can help you submit your best work.
ProWritingAid’s 25 reports provide personalized, in-depth feedback on everything from grammar and spelling to pacing, word choice, passive voice, and more.
Sign up for a free account to see how ProWritingAid can help you.
There are many resources for writers that compile lists of writing contests. You should check these regularly, as different writing contests have different submission periods.
Some of my favorite resources include:
- Poets & Writers
- Winning Writers
With many writers’ sites, you can filter for free contests specifically, and you can also filter by the type of work you want to submit.
I usually check these sites once a season (fall, winter, spring, summer) to compile a list of the contests I want to submit to.
Do you have a favorite writing contest? Let us know in the comments.
FREE WEBINAR: How to Improve Your Chances of Winning the Debut Dagger , Nov 11, 2pm ET / 7pm UK
Have you been thinking about entering your story for the CWA Debut Dagger this year? The deadline isn’t until the end of February but we want to help you prepare.
We’ve invited Dea Parkin, Secretary of the Crime Writers’ Association, and Leigh Russell, Chair of the Debut Dagger judges, to come and share their insider information. Learn what the judges are looking for and how to give your story the best shot at winning.
Be confident about grammar
Check every email, essay, or story for grammar mistakes. Fix them before you press send.
Hannah Yang is a speculative fiction writer who writes about all things strange and surreal. Her work has appeared in Analog Science Fiction, Apex Magazine, The Dark, and elsewhere, and two of her stories have been finalists for the Locus Award. Her favorite hobbies include watercolor painting, playing guitar, and rock climbing. You can follow her work on hannahyang.com, or subscribe to her newsletter for publication updates.
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Free writing contests, free writing contests is your source for a listing of 2023 writing contests that you can enter. the largest collection of free creative writing contests - hand-picked for writers of all skill levels. your online location for an updated list of writing contests from around the world delivered daily., flash fiction writing contest, horror writing contest, dialogue only writing contest, dribble flash fiction, non-fiction writing contest, erotic writing contest, write a rant, the storm writing contest, western writing contest, a first book chapter, this sentence starts the story, 75 words flash fiction, hershey story writing contest, write a script, science fiction writing contest, future flash fiction, share your story, fantasy writing contest, l ron hubbard writing contest, true story contest, 100 word flash fiction, flash fiction, about the writing contests.
Writing contests are carefully reviewed by our staff to help ensure that only the very best make it to our website. We understand and appreciate that entering writing contests is often a leap of faith. Our goal is to provide writing contests from reputable companies. These are companies that provide a panel of judges (a committee) to judge the contests. The winners are announced shortly after the deadline is reached. Deadlines are solid and do not change. The fiction writing contests should contain clear guidelines of the type of writing that is accepted. Free fiction writing contests sometimes require a specific genre such as science fiction. The free online writing competitions listed are clear on what type of writing is required. If there are any restrictions on word count you should be aware of this. If there are this will be stated in the contest announcement. Contest announcements will contain any requirements that an author should be aware of. Pay careful attention not just to the word count rqruirement but also the genre requirements, deadline and format requirements for your submission. We post free writing competitions that we believe have a fair and easy submission and judging process. You will find it easy to enter the contests above. Your writing contest will be judged in a fair matter. Prior to entering a contest we recommend reading our latest blog which explains how to write for a contest and what steps to take.
Length Of Your Entry
The most common question we hear is how long should your contest entry be. Flash fiction is a popular form of writing. For these contests your goal is to tell a complete story using a specific amount of words. You'll see a number of flash fiction contests on this listing. For those your word count must be exact (in most cases). So if the free fiction writing contest requires 100 words that should be the total in the body of your work (no more, no less). Normally the title of your work is not included in the count. Some writing contests do not have a word count requirement. For these contests we recommend keeping the word count to 5,000 words or less. The judges for free online writing competitions are not going to want to read a novel when a short story is requested. So keep in mind the number of words when writing your contest piece. Understand longer pieces may not be as well received. But most contests will have guidelines.
Have fun with the free writing competitions. Be creative. Try new things. Whether you win or lose entering a contest, getting feedback (most of our contests give feedback to the author) and learning is the most important thing you can take away from these contests. So enjoy your free writing contests 2023!
Subscriber Only Competitions
Short story and poetry writing competitions
Do you want to challenge yourself and showcase your work? Enter our creative writing competitions for the chance to see your winning entry in print and win a cash prize!
Improve your creative writing skills, and chances in our competitions, with essential advice and fun exercises from our expert writers, whether you're just starting out or a seasoned winner. Explore our writing advice here
Our open competitions have writing prizes of
- Short stories: £200 first prize; £50 for second
- Poetry: £100 first prize; £50 for second
They are open to all writers, requiring a £7.50 entry fee, or £5 if you are a Writing Magazine subscriber.
The monthly subscriber-only short story competitions are free to enter , but open only to subscribers.
Prizes are: £100 first prize; £25 for second
Visit our Competitions Showcase to see winning entries from previous competitions.
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Writing Competitions – Weekly Updates
Opportunities for aspiring and experienced writers..
Welcome to the most comprehensive list of writing competitions available online. Our list includes short story , poetry , and flash fiction competitions, as well as some events for essay writers, screenwriting , and even entire novel manuscripts. Each item on our list includes basic information about max word count , entry fees , submission deadlines , and the first place prize .
Please do your own research before deciding to enter any event. In case of questions about a particular event, please reach out to the event organizer .
Use our online form to submit a new event to our list.
We are keen to encourage quality submissions, so suggest writers to check their stories before submitting using Prowritingaid . They have free and paid versions and are the best writing software we know to help improve grammar, readability and check for repetition, ‘sticky’ sentences and suggest alternatives. We also suggest checking out our article about the Best Apps for Creative Writing .
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mon 04 dec All Day Mslexia Women's Poetry Competition 2023 Category Poetry International Entry Fee £10 Max word count No limit? (confirm with organizer) Top Prize £2,000 and publication
sun 10 dec All Day This event is FREE to enter! Yay! Skobeloff Love and Romance Anthology Category Short Story UK Entry Fee Free Max word count 5000 Top Prize Publication
thu 14 dec All Day The Latin Programme Poetry Prize 2024 Category Poetry International Entry Fee £14 Max word count 40 lines Top Prize £200
sun 17 dec All Day The Masters Review Chapbook Open 2023 Category Chapbook International Entry Fee $25 Max word count 45 pages Top Prize $3000, manuscript publication, and 75 contributor copies
mon 18 dec All Day ReadWrite Strategies Funny Workplace Anthology Contest Category Non-fiction USA Entry Fee Free Max word count 1200 Top Prize $500
sat 23 dec All Day FFF Competition Nineteen Category Flash Fiction International Entry Fee £3.80 Max word count 300 Top Prize £150
sun 31 dec All Day This event is FREE to enter! Yay! The Auroras & Blossoms Magazine Issue 2 Category Multiple categories International Entry Fee Free Max word count 1000 Top Prize Royalties to those who are published and donate
sun 31 dec All Day This event is FREE to enter! Yay! Wiingy Future STEM Leaders Scholarship Category Essay USA Entry Fee Free Max word count 600 Top Prize $1200
sun 31 dec All Day Valorious Awards Category Novel International Entry Fee $35 Max word count No limit Top Prize $500 (US), Valorious Award trophy
sun 31 dec All Day The Letter Review Prize Category Multiple categories International Entry Fee $20 Max word count Depends on category. Check with organizer. Top Prize $333 and publication
sun 31 dec All Day The Moth Poetry Prize 2023 Category Poetry International Entry Fee €15 Max word count No limit Top Prize €6,000
sun 31 dec All Day The 2023 Society of Classical Poets Poetry Competition Category Poetry International Entry Fee $20 Max word count 108 lines Top Prize $2,000
sun 31 dec All Day This event is FREE to enter! Yay! My Writing Journey Competition Category Essay International Entry Fee Free Max word count 600 Top Prize $200
sun 31 dec All Day The Tampa Review Prize for Poetry 2023 Category Poetry International Entry Fee $25 Max word count 100 pages Top Prize $2,000 and book publication
sun 31 dec All Day This event is FREE to enter! Yay! Lilith Magazine Annual Fiction Contest Category Multiple categories International Entry Fee Free Max word count Depends on category. Check with organizer. Top Prize $300 and publication
sun 07 jan All Day The Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Festival Poetry Competition Category Poetry International Entry Fee £4 Max word count 30 lines Top Prize £300 and publication
mon 08 jan All Day This event is FREE to enter! Yay! Quantum Shorts - Flash Fiction Category Flash Fiction International Entry Fee Free Max word count 1000 Top Prize $1500
sun 14 jan All Day The Page is Printed 2024 Category Multiple categories International Entry Fee £5 Max word count one side of A4 paper Top Prize £100
sun 14 jan All Day The 2024 Colorado Prize for Poetry Category Poetry International Entry Fee $28 Max word count 100 pages Top Prize $2,500 honorarium and publication
mon 15 jan All Day Georgia Review Prose Prize Category Multiple categories International Entry Fee $30 Max word count 9000 Top Prize $1500
mon 15 jan All Day Winter Anthology Contest: Compelling First Chapters Category Novel USA Entry Fee $20 Max word count 3,000 Top Prize $1000 and anthology publication. All finalists will receive $50 and anthology publication.
mon 15 jan All Day Rattle Chapbook Prize Category Chapbook International Entry Fee $25 Max word count 30 pages Top Prize $5,000 and 500 author copies of their chapbook
fri 19 jan All Day Not Quite Write Prize for Flash Fiction Category Flash Fiction Australia Entry Fee $25 Max word count 500 Top Prize $1000
mon 22 jan All Day 2024 Calibre Essay Prize Category Essay International Entry Fee $20-30 Max word count 5,000 Top Prize $5,000 and publication
wed 31 jan All Day This event is FREE to enter! Yay! Cheshire Prize for Literature 2023 Category Multiple categories UK Entry Fee Free Max word count Depends on category. Check with organizer. Top Prize Depends on category. Check with organizer.
wed 31 jan All Day This event is FREE to enter! Yay! Story Unlikely's Annual Short Story Contest Category Multiple categories USA Entry Fee Free Max word count 4500 Top Prize $750
wed 31 jan All Day This event is FREE to enter! Yay! Discourse Literary Journal Monthly Writing Competition - February Category Multiple categories International Entry Fee Free Max word count 5000 Top Prize Publication
wed 31 jan All Day Oxford Flash Fiction Prize 2024 Category Flash Fiction UK Entry Fee £7 Max word count 1000 Top Prize £1000
wed 31 jan All Day Clash of the Query Letters Category Multiple categories International Entry Fee $5 Max word count 500 Top Prize $700
wed 31 jan All Day New Writers Flash Fiction Competition 2024 Category Flash Fiction UK Entry Fee £10 (£8 early bird price until 30th November 2023) Max word count 300 Top Prize £1,000
wed 31 jan All Day Magma 2023/24 Poetry Competition Category Poetry International Entry Fee £5 Max word count 10-50 lines Top Prize £1,000
wed 31 jan All Day Kent and Sussex Poetry Society Open Poetry Competition 2024 Category Poetry International Entry Fee £5 Max word count 40 lines Top Prize £1,000
fri 23 feb All Day The Elmbridge Literary Competition 2023-24 Category Multiple categories UK Entry Fee £5 Max word count 1500 Top Prize £250
thu 29 feb All Day Edinburgh Short Story Award Category Short Fiction International Entry Fee $10 Max word count 2000 Top Prize £3,000
thu 29 feb All Day This event is FREE to enter! Yay! THE CANTERBURY TALES WRITING COMPETITION Category Poetry International Entry Fee Free Max word count 500 Top Prize £300
fri 01 mar 1:00 am fri 1:00 am Best Short Stories on the Human Impact of Climate Change Category Short Story USA Entry Fee $10 Max word count 3,000 Top Prize $1,000
sun 31 mar All Day Minds Shine Bright Seasons Writing Competition Category Multiple categories International Entry Fee $5 Max word count Depends on category (check organizer's website) Top Prize $500 and publication
mon 01 apr All Day The Rialto Nature and Place Poetry Competition 2024 Category Poetry International Entry Fee £7 Max word count 40 lines Top Prize £1000
fri 31 may All Day The Bridport Prize 2024 Category Multiple categories International Entry Fee £11-£24 Max word count Depends on category (check organizer's website) Top Prize £5,000
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My Writing Journey Competition
The my writing journey competition is free to enter and open to writers from around the world..
Write us a 600-word essay on the theme: The best writing tip I’ve ever received.
We’ll publish the best piece in our newsletter and on our blog – plus the winner receives $200 (R2 000 or £100).
CLOSING DATE: 31 DECEMBER 2023
The short story writing course, competition rules:.
- Send in your entry in the body of the email, not as an attachment.
- Use the subject line ‘My Writing Journey Competition’ in your email.
- Entries must be no more than 600 words and must be the author’s original work.
- Use Times New Roman size 12 or Arial size 11.
- Entry is free.
- All submissions and enquiries can be sent to Nichola: [email protected]
- The competition is open to any writer living anywhere in the world.
- Only one story per entrant is allowed.
- Prizewinners will be notified via email as well as on our website; please ensure you supply a valid email address with your entry.
- Writers retain full copyright over their work.
- The judges’ decision is final; no disputes will be entered into.
- If your entry has not been acknowledged within three working days, please contact us as your email may have got lost in transit.
- Absolutely no generative AI to be used (ChatGPT etc.). If we deem stories were not written by a human they will be excluded.
- The Writers College reserves the right to extend the competition deadline or cancel the competition should the entries not be of publishable quality or up to the required standard.
Read Past Winning Entries
The best writing tip i ever received was not to write, the best writing tip: cut with a razor, write about things you can drop, how i learned to write garbage, the write a novel course, have any questions, send us a message and we'll get back to you within one working day., subscribe to our newsletter, read past winning entries, download our free e-book.
Here’s an anthology of the 22 best prize-winning essays from our ‘My Writing Journey’ Competition over the past decade. The anthology offers 100 pages of timeless writing advice and heartfelt personal stories from talented writers from around the world.
Edited by our graduate copy-editing student Emma Hager, cover design by Andrea Vanek, and type-setting by Koos Turenhout, this e-book makes a perfect gift. Whether it’s for you, or for your writer friends, download your free copy today.
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