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40 Free Writing Contests: Competitions With Cash Prizes
by Kelly Gurnett | Oct 3, 2022
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 do 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 .)
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.
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.
4. 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 two years due to the pandemic and limited campus access
5. 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 as of May; deadline is TBA
6. 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; this year’s deadline is TBA.
7. 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 2022.
8. 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: Submissions for this year will be accepted May 1 to July 31.
9. 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 deadline is August 15, each year
10. 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: Each year , submissions will be accepted from July 1 to October 31.
11. 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: Annual submission window between June and November.
12. 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.
13. 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 is usually between November 16 to December 31.
14. 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 1.
15. 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
16. 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
17. Biopage Storytelling Writing Contest
There’s no denying it: social media is a huge part of our 21st-century 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: July 31, each year
18. 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
19. 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
20. 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 .
21. 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.
22. The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms 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: October 31, each year
23. 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.
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.
25. 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: S ubmission window is usually between January and March.
26. 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.
27. 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.
28. 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
29. 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
30. 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).
31. 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.
32. 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
33. 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
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.
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.
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.
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
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 Sept 1, each year
39. Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest
Now in its 21st 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)
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.
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 Best Writing Contests of 2023
Writing competitions curated by Reedsy
- Flash Fiction
- Science Fiction
- Science Writing
- Script Writing
- Young Adult
Manage a competition? Submit it here
Join our short story competition
Submit a short story based on 1 of 5 weekly prompts. Winners get $250.
Showing 554 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
Narratively's 2023 Profile Prize
Narratively is looking for profile pieces that tell the story of ordinary people or communities doing extraordinary things. The grand prize winner will receive $3,000, and the two finalists will receive $1,000 each. Guest judges are renowned journalists Gay Talese, Lisa Lucas and Rebecca Traister.
$1000 for two other finalists
Deadline: April 14, 2023
Bacopa Literary Review
Bacopa Literary Review is an annual international print journal published by the Writers Alliance of Gainesville. Our Bacopa Literary Review Editors’ blog shows the quality of writing we seek by highlighting work we respect from previous Bacopa issues as well as other sources.
£200 in 6 categories
$100 Honorable mention in 6 categories
Deadline: April 16, 2023
Fiction, Non-fiction, Poetry, Short Story, Essay, Flash Fiction, Humor
Elegant Literature's Contest 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, paying new authors over $50,000 last year. One new writer receives the grand prize. We also choose the best stories, pay the authors above-professional rates, and publish them in our magazine. March head judge is Creag Munroe.
Paid publication, 25 x $20 USD | Free entry to Novelist Accelerator | Now Novel Package
Deadline: April 01, 2023
Crime, Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Humor, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Short Story, Thriller, Young Adult, Flash Fiction, Science Writing
New Deal Writing Competition
Genesee Valley Council on the Arts
GVCA is excited to announce the eighth annual New Deal Writing Competition! This competition challenges writers to use a painting chosen by the staff at GVCA as inspiration for a short story. This year’s painting is “Small Town” by Edmund Yaghjian, an oil painting.
2nd: $100 | 3rd: $50
Young Sports Journalist Competition 2023
Pitch magazine is pleased to announce the launch of the Young Sports Journalist competition 2023! We are seeking well-argued articles from students aged 14-24 for this competition.
£150 in each category
Publication | Work experience at The Times and FIPP
💰 Fee: FREE
Deadline: April 07, 2023
Geminga: $250 for Tiny Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, or Art
Geminga is a neutron star so small it was difficult to detect. It was named, in part, for a transcription of gh’è minga, meaning “it’s not there.” With Geminga: $500 for Tiny Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, or Art, Sunspot Lit honors the power of the small. No restrictions on theme or category. Word limit is 100 for fiction and nonfiction. Micropoetry is limited to 140 characters. Graphic novelsshould be 4 pages or less.
Publication in digital and print
Deadline: March 31, 2023
Crime, Essay, Fantasy, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Horror, Humor, Memoir, Mystery, Non-fiction, Poetry, Romance, Science Fiction, Script Writing, Short Story, Thriller, Young Adult
New Writers Poetry Competition 2023
The New Writers Poetry Competition 2023 is open to published and unpublished poets from around the world. There is no specific theme but poems should be no longer than 40 lines. NewWriters.org.uk will donate £1.00 from each entry to First Story (a creative writing charity in the UK).
2nd: £300 | 3rd: £200
Deadline: July 12, 2023
King of Essay
To all TV shows nerds: we're incredibly excited to announce a competition for the best essay based on the TV series you are keen on. This is a new challenge for folks who may be under budget and interested in winning subscriptions on streaming services (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Disney).
Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, or Disney+ subscription for 6 months
Deadline: May 15, 2023
Crime, Essay, Fantasy, Horror, Humor, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Short Story, Thriller, Young Adult
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!
Deadline: May 14, 2023
Fiction, Flash Fiction, Short Story
First Pages Prize
This international prize is open to unagented writers anywhere in the world for the first five pages (1,250 words) of a longer work of fiction or creative nonfiction. This year we will award three prizes in BOTH fiction and creative nonfiction! In addition to cash awards, winners receive developmental mentoring, consultation with a literary agent, and publicity.
Developmental Mentoring & Agent Consultation
Deadline: April 10, 2023
Crime, Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Humor, Memoir, Mystery, Non-fiction, Novel, Romance, Science Fiction, Thriller, Young Adult
Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize
Exceptionally international in scope, the prize supports writers who have not yet published a book-length work, with no limits on age, gender, nationality, or background. The winners of each category (fiction, poetry and life writing) will receive a £1,000 cash prize and publication, and will be published in Wasafiri’s print magazine. Shortlisted writers will have their work published on Wasafiri’s website.
Mentoring & Publication
Deadline: June 30, 2023
Fiction, Poetry, Memoir, Non-fiction
The Mysterious Case
The theme of this contest is "The Mysterious Case". The main character or characters of your entry must have a suspenseful investigation with a mystery in the plot. This change must occur in the story before the end of the fourth chapter and must be mentioned in your book description.
2nd: €250 | 3rd: €100
Deadline: April 02, 2023
Crime, Fiction, Novel
The 2023 Ink Across Borders Prize
The European Society of Literature
This competition is seeking out literary talent in Africa, Asia, and other typically underrepresented parts of the world. We want to build bridges between the West and the East, the North and the South. To ensure writers from these places have the opportunity to gain international attention, we’re launching The 2023 Ink Across Borders Prize.
The Synopsis Skirmish—a contest for querying authors
Darling Axe Editing
Summarize your novel in 500 words for a chance at a $1000 CAD prize pool! Our judge, Michelle Barker, will be asking herself one question: "Does this synopsis convince me that I'm in the hands of an adept novelist with a unique and engaging story to tell?"
2nd: $200 CAD | 3rd: $100 CAD
Deadline: May 31, 2023
Crime, Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Humor, Memoir, Mystery, Non-fiction, Novel, Novella, Romance, Science Fiction, Thriller, Young Adult
Nature and Place Poetry Competition
The Rialto working in association with the RSPB, BirdLife International, Cambridge Conservation Initiative and The University of Leeds Poetry Centre. Poems are invited that deal with any aspect of nature and place – these terms will be given a wide interpretation by the judge Ian McMillan.
2nd: £500 | 3rd: £250
Deadline: March 01, 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
Adrienne Rich Award for Poetry
Beloit Poetry Journal
Submit 1-3 unpublished poems on any subject in any style up to a maximum of 10 pages per entry. (We enjoy long poems!)
Deadline: April 30, 2023
The Bath Novel Award
The Bath Novel Awards
The Bath Novel Award is a £3,000 international prize for emerging writers of adult fiction. Submit the first 5,000 words plus a one page synopsis of your novel for adults or young adults. Shortlisted entries will receive manuscript feedback and literary agent introductions.
£1800 for one longlistee
Fiction, Novel, Young Adult
North Street Book Prize
Submit a self-published or hybrid-published book, up to 200,000 words in length. One grand prize winner will receive $10,000, a marketing analysis and one-hour phone consultation with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, a $300 credit at BookBaby, three months of Plus service (a $207 value) and a $500 account credit from Book Award Pro, and 3 free ads in the Winning Writers newsletter (a $525 value)
$1,000 for top winner in each category | $300 for honorable mentions
Fiction, Memoir, Non-fiction, Poetry, Children's, Fantasy, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Thriller, Young Adult
Write By The Sea Writing Competition
Write By The Sea
Flash Fiction (700 words), Short Story (2,500 words), Poetry (40 lines) Memoir/Personal Essay (1,000 words). The winner of each category will receive a cash prize of €500, a beautiful hand-crafted WBTS 2023 Writing Competition trophy and a free weekend pass to Write By The Sea festival 2023. All four winning pieces will be published on the Write By The Sea website.
2nd: €200 | 3rd: €300
Deadline: June 04, 2023
Essay, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Memoir, Poetry, Short Story
Dave Williamson National Short Story Competition
Manitoba Writers' Guild
Open to writers across Canada. Short prose in English, 2,500-5,000 words in any fiction genre. We actively encourage submissions from all writers who are 18 years of age or older.
2nd: $600 CAD | 3rd: $400 CAD
Chapter One Prize
Gutsy Great Novelist
The Gutsy Great Novelist Chapter One Prize is awarded for an outstanding first chapter of an unpublished novel. The prize is open internationally to anyone over 18 writing a novel in English in any genre for adult or YA readers. Winners will be announced March 31, 2023.
2nd: $500 |3rd: $250
Fiction, Novel, Young Adult, Crime, Fantasy, Horror, Humor, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Thriller
Romance on the Road
Write an original, factual, first-person travel story about a time you experienced romance while traveling. Feel free to explore romance in all of its manifestations, but ensure that your travel story builds itself around the context of a place or experience. Editors will be looking for originality, voice, and a satisfying story arc that captures attention and makes use of imagery to pull the reader along at every step.
Deadline: March 19, 2023
Non-fiction, Romance, Travel
Aurora Polaris Creative Nonfiction Award
Trio House Press
We seek un-agented full-length creative nonfiction manuscripts including memoir, essay collections, etc. 50,000 - 80,000 words.
Deadline: August 31, 2023
Essay, Memoir, Non-fiction
100 Word Writing Contest
100 words per entry. Submit as many entries as you’d like. All ages. All genders. All nationalities. All writers welcome. This year's theme is the power of words. The words we write, the words we say, the words we keep to ourselves. They make a difference in the lives of those around us. How can you use your words to instill a sense of calm, of hope, of community? To remind one another of the beauty of diversity. To encourage us to support, love, and inspire one another.
2nd: writing coach package 3rd: developmental or diversity editing package.
Essay, Fantasy, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Humor, Memoir, Mystery, Non-fiction, Science Fiction, Science Writing, Thriller, Young Adult
Southword Literary Essay Competition
Munster Literature Centre
The competition is open to original, unpublished, personal essays between 2500 ‒ 5000 words. We’re looking for personal, confessional essays which border on memoir ‒ gripping essays full of memories and feelings. The best indicator of the kind of thing which interests us is what we have published in past issues; essays by Kim Addonizio, Sandra Beasley, Simon Van Booy, Carlo Geblér, Thomas Lynch, Anthony Walton, Helen Mort and Kim Moore.
8 Runners-Up: €500
Deadline: February 28, 2023 (Expired)
This is our third exclusively-for-women-writers story-writing international contest. ‘Cos life is all about celebrating womanhood and surviving through various challenges it brings along! Theme: Separation. Word count: 1000 – 2500 words. Author eligibility: Writers of age 16 and above, from all across the globe. All entries must be in English. Only original works that have not been published in print, digital or online publications will be considered.
Deadline: February 20, 2023 (Expired)
International Welsh Poetry Competition 2023
International Welsh Poetry Competition
The first Welsh Poetry Competition was set up by poet & writer Dave Lewis in 2007. The aim is to inspire people to capture life in the present day and to give a voice to a new generation of poets and writers. We are not interested in purely academic types of literature but would much rather see pure raw passion burst onto the creative writing scene in Wales.
2nd: £250 | 3rd: £125
International Poetry Book Awards 2023
Poetry Book Awards
The Poetry Book Awards is an annual, international book award given to the best poetry books produced by indie writers, self published authors or books published by small, truly independent presses. We are proud to be a Welsh based international awards programme, open to all indie authors and self published poets globally.
2nd: £200 | 3rd: £100 | Publication
Deadline: July 31, 2023
NextTribe Short Story Contest for Women (Over 45)
Next Tribe Inc
We believe women age 45+ have much fuel to write good stories, so our contest is exclusively for this demographic.
2 runners up: $100 | Publication in NextTribe
Deadline: May 08, 2023
Desperate Literature Prize for Short Fiction
The aim of the Desperate Literature Short Fiction Prize is both to celebrate the best of new, boundary-pushing short fiction and to give winners the most visibility possible for their writing. This year, the stories of 2000 words or fewer will be judged by Ottessa Moshfegh, Tiffany Tsao, and Mariana Enriquez.
€1,500 + a 7-day stay at the Civitella Ranieri artist’s residency in Umbria, Italy
2nd and 3rd place: €750
Eco Friendly Writing Contest
Howard's New Beginnings
The aim of the contest is to share eco-friendly ideas. Tell us something you think helps make the planet become more eco-friendly such as an eco-friendly product or packaging, a recipe for a natural product, or a waste-management tip. Up to 500 words. Any writer from anywhere can submit an entry. Contest deadline is April 22 2023, Earth Day.
Deadline: April 22, 2023
Essay, Non-fiction, Science Writing
WriterAdvice seeks flash memoir, a personal life story running 750 words or less.
Publication in our e-zine
Deadline: March 02, 2023 (Expired)
Booksie 2023 Poetry Contest
Booksie is looking to crown its 2018 Poet Laureate. The poetry can be of any type, length, or content, but it must be your own. The poetry can be serious or whimsical, fact or fiction, but it should strike a chord that makes us sit up and take notice. We're looking for poems that say something and make a reader sit up and think. You may submit as many entries as you like.
$150 to two runners-up
Deadline: June 15, 2023
Discover the finest writing contests of 2022 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 2022 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 2022
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 2022
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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Essay Writing Contests for Students
- Writing Essays
- Writing Research Papers
- English Grammar
- M.Ed., Education Administration, University of Georgia
- B.A., History, Armstrong State University
Are you a great writer? You may be able to win cash, scholarships, trips, and other awards with your essay-writing abilities. There are many contests out there that cover a wide variety of topics. Why not enter a competition today?
Contest rules vary significantly, and some may contain important information about possible restrictions, so be sure to read all rules carefully. Please note that most of these competitions require that participants be citizens of the United States.
Alliance for Young Artists and Writers: Scholastic Art & Writing Awards
This competition offers young scholars the opportunity to earn national recognition, publication opportunities, and scholarship awards. Students in grades 7-12 who reside in the U.S. or Canada are eligible to participate in this highly regarded competition.
AWM Biographies Contest
In order to “increase awareness of women's ongoing contributions to the mathematical sciences,” the Association for Women in Mathematics holds a contest requesting biographical essays of “contemporary women mathematicians and statisticians in academic, industrial, and government careers.” Submissions are accepted from December 1 to February 1, with judging beginning in February.
EngineerGirl, an entity of The National Academy for Engineering, holds an essay contest every year for aspiring young engineers. Entrants are required to evaluate one of their own engineering designs in a short essay. Instructions for applying and details about the essay requirements are posted in September and applications are due February 1st the next year.
EPIC New Voices
The goal of this competition is to improve student literacy through traditional modes of learning as well as through new technology. Applicants between the ages of 11 and 14 make up the junior division and applicants between the ages of 15 and 18 make up the senior division. You can receive cash or an ebook reader if your original essay or short story wins. Students from around the world are eligible.
NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund: The Second Amendment to the Constitution
The NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund (NRACRDF) holds an essay competition to encourage students to recognize the Second Amendment as an integral part of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The theme for the essay is “What Does The Second Amendment Mean to You?” Students can win up to $1,000 in savings bonds.
Holocaust Remembrance Project
The Holocaust Remembrance Project invites high school students to do the following in their essays: “analyze why it is vital that the remembrance, history, and lessons of the Holocaust be passed to new generations; and suggest what you, as students, can do to combat and prevent prejudice, discrimination and violence in our world today.” Students can win scholarship money up to $10,000.
JASNA Essay Contest
Fans of Jane Austen may be delighted to learn about the contest offered by The Jane Austen Society of North America. The topic of the annual essay contest changes each year based on themes covered in the Annual General Meeting for that year.
AEL Collegiate Essay Contest
If you are a U.S. citizen enrolled at a four-year college or university, Pepperdine Libraries has a scholarship contest for you. The contest requires a five- to eight-page essay, approximately 1,500–2,000 words, with a first-place prize award of $2,500, a second-place prize of $1,500, and a third-place prize of $1,000. The essay asks students to discuss the ways in which liberal arts degrees are advantageous.
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The 2023 Bloom Writing Contest accepts submissions of all types, whether it be an essay, a poem, a short story. Top prize $500 Additional prizes Publication Entry requirements 💰 Fee: $3 Deadline: May 01, 2023 Genres Essay, Fiction, Memoir, Novel, Poetry View contest Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest Ayn Rand Institute
Enter the Writer’s Digest Personal Essay Awards for your chance to win $2,500 in cash, get published in Writer’s Digest magazine, and a paid trip to our ever-popular Writer’s Digest Conference! Preparing Your Entry. Pricing and Deadlines. Judging and Notification.
Writing Contests - Poetry, Short Story, Essay, Screenwriting & More. On this page, you’ll find the web’s best and most updated selection of writing contests. If you’ve got a way with making your words come to life, try your hand at a poetry contest. If you’re a teen, there’s a special category of teen writing contests just for you.