National Competitions

by Clare Girvan

Scroll down to find the competition listing

Introductory remarks

'No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money' - Dr Johnson

My personal belief is that if your story is good enough to publish, it's good enough to be paid for. There are competitions that will put your story in an anthology if you are a runner-up, but only 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizewinners will be paid. If you are happy with that, fine, but bear in mind that once a story has been published, very few competitions will want it thereafter and it hasn't earned its keep.

The only exception is play writing competitions, which I go in for a lot. As a rule, they don't pay or give a notification date, but they don't usually charge a fee or seem too bothered if you've touted your play around a bit.  There is, however, one current competition which demands that you pay a submission fee of £30, followed by, if your play is chosen, a further £315 for production expenses and you must provide your own company and technicians.  All I will say about that is that there are plenty more competitions to choose from.  Under normal circumstances, the prize is usually a performance of some sort (and sometimes beyond, depending on the organisation) and it goes on your cv, which the occasional competition wants to see.  But beware - sometimes your play will disappear without a trace, and no amount of effort on your part will retrieve it.  I don't know why this happens. Maybe it's just mine.

This is a very subjective list, and I have not included absolutely every competition that comes out. The poetry listings are few - there are so many poetry competitions! - and occasionally I will miss out a short story competition because I don't think it's worth going in for (one, for instance, would only give you a certificate and an engraved Thing for the mantelpiece. You can do better than that).  I tend to avoid competitions that publish runners-up in their anthology without the benefit of even a small prize, which I think is mean (see 'How to Run a Writing Competition' on my website)., and I've also excluded competitions that charge a fee out of all proportion to the prize. Reluctantly, I have included those that charge £5 for only a £100 prize, because some people might not mind as much as I do. Smaller fee or bigger prize, I say.  Exeter Writers has found that good advertising will bring in enough revenue to make a competition pay, even when the fee is quite modest.  Try other listings if you can't find what you want - see lists at end.

Prize money and word count are maximum. Websites given where I can find them, or Google.

Let me know if you encounter "link rot" (i.e. sites gone dead) or any typos in the links.

Opinions expressed here are my own and not necessarily those of Exeter Writers.

Competition listing 

Words - 4,000
Prize - $400 and publication
Fee - none
Close - any time, but nothing during autumn
Notification - 2 months from submission

Words - 2,000
Prize - £100, £250 annual
Fee - £5
Close - 30th every month

Words - 3,000
Prize - £75
Fee - £3
Close - ongoing 


Bare Fiction
Words - 500 F/F, 3,000 S/S
Prize - £500
Fee - £6 F/F, £8 S/S
Close - 31st October
Notification - spring

Sorry for the delay folks, I've had a bereavement. 

TRY ALSO and Michael Shenton's excellent and entertaining website which covers just about every other competition going: I don't do poetry, but Michael has plenty of poetry competitions