For many budding writers, writing competitions offer you the chance to begin making a name for yourself in the literary world, whilst honing your skills. Irish literary sensation Sally Rooney scooped the Costa Novel Award in 2018 for her novel Normal People. Other big names, including Eavan Boland, Gail Honeyman and Kate Atkinson, have also previously won the coveted prize. But it’s not all about battling it out for the most prestigious writing competitions. Whilst the likes of the Costa Awards, The Bridport Prize and the Alpine Writing Fellowship provide fantastic opportunities for authors to establish themselves in the literary world, for many new or unpublished writers trying to get their foot in the door, such competitions might be intimidating.
Luckily, there’s plenty of other options out there. Whether you’re already a full-fledged novelist, or have yet to put pen to paper, let’s take a look at some of the most interesting (and accessible!) writing competitions running in 2021. All links are highlighted in blue.
What You Need To Know:
Entry fee: £5 for one piece and £2.50 thereafter
Deadline: 1st of March 2021
Word-count: 1500-1800 words
Besides entry fees, one of the things that puts new writers off entering writing competitions can be the rigidity surround the themes or genre. If your favourite genre to write is gothic fiction, you’re unlikely to be tempted by a competition demanding a 10,000 word-piece on historical fiction. So if you prefer to choose your own genre, the Bridgend Writers’ Circle 2021 competition might be the perfect one for you.
Whether you opt for sensation fiction, romance or a whodunit thriller, you will have complete autonomy over the themes and genre. Your piece must be between 1500-1800 words and can be submitted here. Although there’s an entry fee of £5, this is relatively low compared to many other competitions, and if you want to enter multiple pieces, each subsequent piece only costs £2.50 thereafter. If you are selected as one of the winners, you’ll receive between £30-£100 for your efforts.
If you’re keen to enter, you’d better be quick, as the competition closes on the 1st of March 2021, with winners set to be announced via email on the 1st of June 2021.
What You Need To Know:
Entry fee: £5 for one story; £8 for two
Deadlines: March 31st, 30th of June, 30th of September, and December 31st.
Word-count: Up to 500 words.
Flash fiction is a rapidly growing genre, with magazines ranging from Brevity to Mslexia regularly publishing pieces written in this form. Sometimes called ‘micro fiction’ – a perfect example of flash fiction came from the inimitable Ernest Hemingway in: ‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn.’ Although writing up to 500 words might seem much simpler than churning out an entire novel, flash fiction requires a completely different talent – the art of brevity. Flash 500 is a fantastic opportunity for those of you who love this genre and – unlike many of the contests listed here – it is a quarterly competition, with the deadlines for each quarter being March 31st, 30th of June, 30th of September, and December 31st.
There’s an entry fee of £5 for one story or £8 for two stories – and you can opt to receive feedback on your story for £15. Whilst this may seem pricey, receiving feedback from a professional judge may be invaluable, helping you to become more aware of the strengths of your writing, as well as identifying any weaker points to work on. If flash-fiction isn’t your thing, you might also want to check out their short story and novel opening competitions.
What You Need to Know
Entry fee: FREE
Prize: £30 Waterstones’ book voucher and work published in How To Change The World magazine.
Deadlines: February 5th-March 5th
Word-count: Up to 500 words for written responses
If the fate of the world was in your hands, what would you wish to change about it? This is precisely the question that the Stellar Quines Theatre Company is asking young women aged 14-24. Through a series of weekly video prompts, participants will be invited to respond in whichever art form they choose: be it a piece of poetry, a monologue, or even visual art. This immersive and interactive competition is the perfect way to get young women communicating on the issues that really matter to them. With national lockdown restrictions ongoing, it is also an innovative way of maintaining an (albeit virtual) dialogue on issues that are important to young women.
The competition will run for five weeks – and every week three creatives will be selected, winning themselves a £30 Waterstones’ book voucher and the opportunity to be featured in their magazine, How To Change the World, set to be published on International Women’s Day (8th of March, 2021!) If you’re worried about producing perfect prose, fear not – the Stellar Quines Theatre Company is solely interested in your creativity and interests, so even if you’ve never written until now, it’s the perfect opportunity to flex your creative muscles. In the words of Gandhi, you can: “Be the change you want to see in the world” – and the Stellar Quines Theatre Company is providing the ideal stepping-stone to empower young women to do exactly this.
Check here to see the first prompt. You can submit your response in a word document format, or JPEG for illustrations, to email@example.com – And remember to include:
• Your name
• Contact information (email address will do)
• Your age
What You Need to Know
Entry fee: FREE
Prize: Up to £5000 to support your writing, professional development and mentoring for NWA and publishing contracts; up to £150 for YNWA.
Deadline: 18th of February 2021
Word-count: Please check the specific category for details
Ages: 18+ for NWA, 7-9 or 10+ for YNWA
The North of England certainly boasts a lot of talent – with writers from Alan Bennett to Angela Carter hailing from the region. Despite this, northern writers and artists are often under-represented in mainstream publishing.The Northern Writers’ Award is trying to change this. Much like northerners, the Northern Writers’ Award is incredibly versatile, with categories ranging from the Hatchett Children’s Novel Award to Northern Writers’ Awards For Poetry and Channel 4 Writing For Television Awards, as well as many more. The main stipulation is that you must be a permanent resident of the north, or intending to live in the North for at least the next twelve-months, to enter – It may be added that you should check the small print to see where The North “begins”!
Although the competition provides a financial award of up to £5000 to support participants’ writing journeys, this competition is also a great opportunity to develop as a writer, as some winners are invited to professional-development sessions, with the independent publisher Oneworld and the Madeleine Milburn Agency, as well as receiving a mentoring session from the Society of Authors.
The deadline for this competition is fairly imminent, closing on Friday the 18th of February 2021, with all winners slated to be announced on the 8th of June 2021. Winners in the fiction category will be invited to New Writing North’s Pitching Workshop and Talent Party. With strict social distancing measures currently in place, it’s unknown whether this will be of a virtual nature or in-person. Either way, you’ll have the opportunity to celebrate your success alongside many of your talented peers!
The Northern Writers’ Award also acknowledges that you don’t have to be over 18 to be the next big thing. Are you or do you know a talented young writer between the ages of 7-9 or 10+? All genres are accepted, but entrants must have been 18 or under on Thursday 26 November 2020 when the competition opened. Writers can apply through direct application themselves or via nomination from an adult. Like The Northern Writers Award, this competition closes on Friday the 18th of February 2021.
What You Need to Know
Entry fee: FREE
Prize: Various cash prizes, in addition to professional coaching and mentoring
Deadline: See website, by clicking here.
Word-count: Poetry – 42 lines, fiction – 2,000 words.
There are thousands of talented writers out there, but sadly due to certain circumstances – be it poverty, mental health issues or disability – many struggle to be recognised as the extraordinary creatives they are. Founded in 2013, Creative Futures is the only national writing competition and award ceremony for under-represented groups. Winners receive various cash prizes, as well as unparalleled support, coaching and mentoring provided by esteemed publishers and literary agencies. Winning submissions will also be published in Creative Futures’ Anthology and participants will have the opportunity to read their winning submissions at the Showcase Event: a celebration of their hard work and perseverance.
This competition doesn’t open until the spring, but you can sign up to Creative Futures’ mailing list to stay up-to-date on all the key dates for your diary. Typically, a theme or ‘creative prompt’ is chosen by the Creative Futures’ team, and you can respond by submitting one piece of writing in one category (poetry or fiction) or one in each category. Poetry must not exceed 42 lines and fiction should be a maximum of 2,000 words (subject to change – please check the guidance when the competition re-opens in the spring).
How do I enter?
You can enter online – here.
By completing the entry form and sending to firstname.lastname@example.org
Or by completing the entry form and posting to:
Creative Future Writers’ Award
113 Queens Road
Brighton BN1 3XG
Please remember, you must be over 18 and from an under-represented group to apply. Please see the full eligibility criteria.
Taking the first step to becoming a writer – and potentially a published author – is a brave one. But one of these writing competitions may just be the first step towards beginning to fulfil your potential.
Jessica is a freelance copywriter and content writer based in Richmond-Upon-Thames. With a degree in English Literature from University College London, she has experience as a private tutor for 14-18 years olds and adult learners. She has also worked in Widening Participation as a Mentor, Student Ambassador, and Student Leader. As someone who achieved A-Levels through distance-learning, Jessica has first-hand experience of the unique challenges and rewards that distance-learning offers. She regularly contributes content to educational websites including eNotes and Tutorful. In her spare time, she also enjoys writing for her own website for literature-lovers, catnapsandcappuccinos.co.uk