When it comes to getting your work noticed, there’s very little that’s better than having won or been shortlisted for a writing competition… and the odds of that happening may not be as long as you think. Every competition listed below produces one or more winners each and every year, as well as numerous honourable mentions and shortlisted writers. Being selected isn’t as unlikely a prospect as most people think.
But in order to be selected, your first have to pick a competition to enter. Thus we present our list of excellent writing competitions based in the UK. To appear here a competition must run at least once a year, and must have a prize that justifies its entry fee. Not only that, but we screen out any scams or vanity publishing schemes for you. You can enter the competitions listed here with confidence.
Oh, and just because the competitions listed here are based in the UK, doesn’t mean writers from all over the world can’t enter. If you want more international options, though, we strongly recommend Literistic. Can you think of a competition that we’ve missed? Just get in touch and let us know and we’ll add it ASAP.
Top Prize: £3,000 | Categories: Short Story / Poem | Deadline: March | Fee: None
Awarded for the best piece of previously-unpublished writing on the topic of “Childhood” – the theme of the 2018 Alpine Fellowship Annual Symposium. In addition to the main prize, the winner and two runners up will be invited to attend the symposum in Venice.
Top Prize: £500 | Categories: Short Story / Poem / Flash | Deadline: October | Fee: £5 – £8
A yearly set of competitions administered by the literary magazine Bare Fiction. There are 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes in each category, and the winners are published in an issue of the magazine. Different guest judges are bought in each year to select the winners.
Top Prize: £2,500 | Categories: Novel | Deadline: April | Fee: £25
An award for unpublished or independently-published novelists. Send along the first 5,000 words of a manuscript of a minimum of 50,000 words in length. A large percentage of shortlisted novelists have gone on to secure a publishing deal. There is a separate competition strand for children’s novels.
Top Prize: £1,200 | Categories: Short Story | Deadline: April | Fee: £8
An international competition that welcomes stories of up to 2,200 words on any theme or subject. Stories must be previously unpublished. The prizes available are £1,200 for 1st place, £300 for 2nd place, and £100 for 3rd place, as well as a special award for the best story by a writer who does not yet have any publications.
Top Prize: £15,000 | Categories: Short Story | Deadline: March | Fee: None
One of the most significant short story competitions in the UK, this prize is awarded yearly by the BBC. Entrants must have a prior record of publishing creative work in the UK. Stories up to 8,000 words are accepted, and may be submitted by the author or by their agent. Shortlisted stories are awarded a prize of £600.
Top Prize: £5,000 | Categories: Short Story / Flash / Poem | Deadline: May | Fee: £7 – £8
A prestigous annual competition with different strands for short stories, flash fiction and poetry. As well as the first place prize money there are several supplementary awards, including one for writers based in Dorset. Selected stories are published in an anthology.
Top Prize: £1,000 | Categories: Short Story | Deadline: May | Fee: £8
An international short story competition opened to published and unpublished writers anywhere in the world. In addition to the main prize, all shortlisted writers are published in an anthology distrubuted by Tangent Books, and receive £100 in prize money. Stories must be under 4,000 words in length.
Top Prize: £5,000 | Categories: Short Story | Deadline: May | Fee: None
A competition run by Commonwealth Writers, designed to reward and promote the best new writing from across the Commonwealth. Prizes are awarded for the best stories overall, as well as the best stories from a given region. Stories must be 2,000 – 5,000 words in length and previously unpublished.
Top Prize: £30,000 | Categories: Novel / Short Story | Deadline: July | Fee: None
A series of book and short story awards for authors from the UK and Ireland (previously known as the Whitbread Book Awards). One of the only UK awards open to children’s books as well as adult. The short story strand is narrowed down by judges and then decided by a popular vote.
Top Prize: £10,000 | Categories: Novel | Deadline: November | Fee: None
This prize is awarded annually for the best second novel published in the UK. The organisers say, “The award fills a niche in the catalogue of literary prizes by celebrating the achievement of outstanding second novels, often neglected in comparison to the attention given to promising first books.”
Top Prize: £10,000 | Categories: Collection / Poem | Deadline: March | Fee: None
The largest annual poetry competition in the UK, this prize rewards the best collection, best first collection, and best single poem in the UK each year. All works put forward for the prize will also be considered for publication in The Forward Book Of Poetry, a yearly anthology. Entries must be published works, and individual poets cannot enter their own work.
Top Prize: £1,000 | Categories: Poem | Deadline: January | Fee: £4 – £5
Run each year by the Kent & Sussex Poetry Society, this competition offers a top prize of £1,000 and several runner-up prizes. Poems can be in any form or style, but must be previously-unpublished and under forty lines in length. Postal and online entries are accepted.
Top Prize: £500 | Categories: Poem / Short Story | Deadline: July / November | Fee: £10
The London Magazine‘s annual competitions seek to recognise new talent, and promote unpublished poems and stories from around the world. Winning entries appear in the magazine, and authors and poets are invited to a London-based networking drinks reception.
Top Prize: £1,000 | Categories: Short Story / Poem | Deadline: December | Fee: £5
This prize awards up to £1,000 to the best story and the best poem submitted. In addition the organisers have pledge to plant a tree in Kenya for every entry received. Stories may be up to 4,000 words and poems up to 50 lines, and entries are accepted from writers anywhere in the world.
Top Prize: £10,000 | Categories: Short Story / Poem | Deadline: September | Fee: £17.50
Each year this competition awards a prize of £10,000 for the best short story and best short portfolio of poems submitted. It is run by the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University. The compeition is open to anyone over the age of sixteen.
Top Prize: £10,000 | Categories: Short Story | Deadline: January | Fee: £10
This annual prize is open worldwide. Sponsored by the Mogford Hotels And Restaurants Group, it seeks to reward the writer of an unpublished short story not longer than 2,500 words which revolves in some way around food. The winner is announced at an annual prize-giving event.
Top Prize: €10,000 / €3,000 | Categories: Poem / Short Story | Deadline: December | Fee: €12
These international prizes are open to everyone over the age of sixteen, and awards a top prize of €10,000 for the best poem and €3,000 for the best short story submitted. It is run by The Moth Magazine, with winners published in the magazine and invited to special prize-giving events.
Top Prize: £10,000 | Categories: Novel / Book / Collection | Deadline: December | Fee: None
An annual award administered by the Royal Society for Literature which goes to the work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry that judges feel best evokes the spirit of a place. All prize winners also receive a paperweight clock, which they are awarded at a celebratory dinner.
Top Prize: €2,000 | Categories: Short Story | Deadline: August | Fee: €12
Winners are published in Southword. Previous prizes have also included a week-long residency and an expenses-paid trip to the Cork International Short Fiction Festival. The organisers say, “The Sean O’Faolain Short Story Competition […] is dedicated to one of Ireland’s most accomplished story writers and theorists, sponsored by the Munster Literature Centre.”
Top Prize: £500 | Categories: Poem / Flash | Deadline: July | Fee: £5
In addition to the main strands of poetry and flash fiction, this competition also has a mainstream fiction category, which seeks a synopsis and extract from a longer work of mainstream fiction. The prize for this category includes a five-day writing retreat.
Top Prize: £30,000 | Categories: Short Story | Deadline: October | Fee: None
One of the most valuable short story prizes in the UK. “The Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Award honours the finest writers of short stories in the UK and Ireland. Worth £30,000 to the winning author, it is open to anyone with a previous record of publication in creative writing in the UK or Ireland.”
Top Prize: £20,000 | Categories: Collection | Deadline: August | Fee: None
Awarded annually for the best collection of verse published in the UK or Ireland that year. One of the most prestigious British poetry prizes. This prize is administered by the Poetry Book Society and supported by the estate of reknowned poet TS Eliot, after whom it is named.
Top Prize: £1,000 | Categories: Short Story | Deadline: December | Fee: None
An annual prize administered by The Royal Society of Literature for the best unpublished short story of the year. Winners are published in Prospect online and the RSL Review. The prize was founded to commemorate writer and critic Sir Victor Sawden Pritchett.
Top Prize: £300 | Categories: Short Story / Poem / Memoir | Deadline: July | Fee: £5 – £6
This newly-established prize (first run in 2009) is administered by British literary magazine Wasifiri, in which the winners of each category are published. The competition is open to anyone worldwide who has not published a complete book in their chosen category.
Top Prize: £2,500 | Categories: Short Story | Deadline: March | Fee: £15
This annual short story competition is aimed at emerging writers. It awards £2,500 to the best piece of short fiction by a writer resident in the UK and Ireland who has yet to secure a publishing deal. “The judges will be looking for short stories that explore and expand the possibilities of the form. We encourage submissions from all literary genres, and there are no restrictions on theme or subject matter.“
Top Prize: Arvon Course | Categories: Short Story | Deadline: February | Fee: None
A free-to-enter short story competition, with a first prize which includes a place on an Arvon Residential Writing Course (valued at approximately £1,000) and online publication. Entries must be original, aimed at adults, and no longer that 2,000 words in length.