Arts & Writing

45 Writing Competitions for 2020

Dozens of writing competitions to submit your work to in 2020

So, 2020 is here and the new decade has started with a continent on fire and the threat of World War III, and that means this could maybe be the last chance writers have to get their writing recognised and published before the world actually ends.

For our part here at Nothing in the Rulebook, we’re here to help writers do just that – and hopefully get their work out there before the ice caps melt, the food runs out, and the air raid sirens start. We’ll also aim to distract you from all the catastrophic climate breakdown by making sure your 2020 is filled with a multitude of writerly insights and discussion, and (just for you) we’ve compiled a list of upcoming writing competitions scheduled for the year ahead.

So, in addition to our list of places that are always open for submissions, as well as places to submit flash fiction, and a long list of independent publishers you can submit your manuscripts to, we are thoroughly chuffed to bring you this valuable writing resource you can use to get your writing into the right places.

Included below are details about word counts, deadlines and direct links to each event.

If you’d like to add a writing competition to our list then please feel free to contact us!

1. The Fresher Writing Prize

This year’s Fresher Writing Prize invites you to send in poems and short stories inspired by their theme of Peace.

There is an entry fee of £7 and a maximum word limit of 3000. Winners receive a £200 cash prize and feedback on their work.

The closing date for entries is January 27th 2020.

2. The Caine Prize for African Writing

For published African authors of fiction. Must be over 3000 words in length and written for adults. Advisable length for the stories is between 3000 and 10,000 words. There is a cash prize of £10,000 and works must be written in or translated into English.

Deadline for submissions is January 31st.

3. Annihilation Radiation – STORGY writing competition

The team behind STORGY are all about discovering awesome new writing talent and are committed to doing so through running some seriously cool writing contests and projects. Their Annihilation Radiation contest is no different – they’re looking to put together an anthology consisting of the best irradiated stories involving the Annihilation of the world. Think Mad Max, The Road, The Book of Eli, Snowpiercer, World War Z, I Am Legend, The Hunger Games, Stake Land, 12 Monkeys and Escape from New York all rolled into one gigantic apocalyptic burrito. We’ll be looking to slice the anthology into THREE sections: BEGINNING, DURING and AFTER. We’re looking for original stories that inspire YOU based on the genre of Annihilation.

Further details on their website – key things you need to know are that the contest deadline is 31st January 2020 and there is a £500 prize for the winning entry! Go get submitting!

4. Masters Review Winter Short Story Award

The Masters Review Winter Short Story Award is prize that recognises the best fiction from today’s emerging writers. The winning story will be awarded US$3000 and publication online. Second and third place stories will be awarded publication and US$300 and US$200 respectively.

There is an entry fee of US$20 and a maximum word count of 7000. Deadline for entries is January 31st.

5. The Screw Turn Flash Fiction Contest

This contest seeks the finest work that incorporates the uncanny. Ghost stories are welcome, of course—but your submission may involve any paranormal or supernatural theme, as well as magic realism. What they’re looking for is superb writing, fresh perspectives, and maybe a few surprises.

The maximum word count is 1000 and there is a US$10 fee to enter for your chance to win US$500. Deadline is January 31st.

6. The Cambridge Flash Fiction Prize

International flash fiction competition, sister contest to the Cambridge Short Story competition (which opens in April – see further on down this list). It costs £8 to enter (before February) and £9 thereafter. There are also a number of free entries available to writers from low income backgrounds. First prize is £1000 and the contest runs from January 15th until March 15th 2020.

7. Fiction Factory short story competition 

All types of writing are welcome for this writing contest with prizes up to £150 for the winners. 3000 words max and a fee of £6 to enter.

8. Newcastle Short Story Award 2020

One for Australian writers. First prize is AU$2000. The deadline for submissions is  3rd February 2020 and the entry fee is AU$15. The maximum word limit is 2000 words, which includes both titles and any subheadings.

9. Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2020 Short Story Competition

First prize receives £500 and a place on an Arvon residential writing course of your choice, as well as publication of your story on the W&A website. Closing date for writing submissions is February 13th 2020 and all submissions must be unpublished prose of 2000 words or fewer.

10. Bumblebee Flash Fiction Award

These fine folk are looking for short, sweet, and sassy fiction – in return, you have the chance to win $300 and publication in Pulp Literature.

Deadline is 15th February 2020. There’s a US$15 entry fee and a US$300 prize available. Max word count is 750.

11. Writers Online – Dialogue Only short story contest

No attribution, no description – just tell the folks at Writers Online what was said. You’ll need to use all your narrative skills to paint a scene, define a character and tell a story, while still keeping your dialogue realistic and flowing. The only restriction is a 1,500-1,700 word count.

The winner will receive £200 and publication in Writing Magazine, with £50 and publication in Competition Showcase for the runner-up.

Deadline for entries is February 15th 2020.

12. The Margery Allingham Short Story Competition

The Margery Allingham Short Story Competition is open until February 29, 2020.

Submit stories up to 3,500 words. Your story should fit into crime writer Margery’s definition of what makes a great story: “The Mystery remains box-shaped, at once a prison and a refuge. Its four walls are, roughly, a Crime, a Mystery, an Enquiry and a Conclusion with an Element of Satisfaction in it.”

Prize: £500 plus two weekend passes to Crimefest 2021 and a selection of Margery Allingham books.

Entry Fee: £12

13. Scottish Arts Club Short Story Prize

First things first; you DO NOT have to be Scottish to enter this writing contest. Stories should be 2,000 words or less and may be on any topic.

There’s an entry fee of £10 and a maximum word limit of 2000. Winners receive £1000.

Deadline 29th February 2020.

14. The Crime Writers Association – Debut Dagger award

The international competition is for the opening of a crime novel not exceeding 3,000 words and a synopsis of up to 1,500 words.

Winners receive £500 and consideration by Literary Agents.

There’s a £36 entry fee and deadline for entries is February 29th 2020.

15. The Stella Kupferberg Memorial Short Story Prize

The Stella Kupferberg Memorial Short Story Prize is a writing competition sponsored by the stage and radio series Selected Shorts.

Submissions must be no more than 750 words long and there is a US$25 fee to enter.

The deadline for entries is March 1st 2020.

16. Kenneth Brannagh Award for new drama writing

Amateur playwrights world-wide are invited to submit unpublished one-act plays.

Three winning scripts will be selected for fully staged performances during the Fringe Festival in October. One of the three scripts will be chosen for the £500 prize, judged purely on the writing. Plays must be no longer than 30 minutes long.

Submission deadline March 5th 2020.

17. Nelligan Prize

International writing prize for writers of all stripes and nationalities. Deadline is March 14th, 2020 for submissions of 12,500 words or less. Entry fee is US$15 and first prize is US$2000.

18. Desperate Literature

The aim of the Desperate Literature Short Fiction Prize is both to celebrate the best of new short fiction and to give winners the most visibility possible for their writing.

Max word count is 2000 and there is an entry fee of €20 to enter. Winners will receive €1000.

The deadline for submissions is 15th March 2020.

19. New Welsh Writing Awards 2020

The New Welsh Writing Awards, run by New Welsh Review in association with Aberystwyth University and AmeriCymru is open for entries.

The awards have been set up to champion the best short-form writing in English

Each category winner will receive £1,000 cash, e-publication by New Welsh Review on their New Welsh Rarebyte imprint and a positive critique by leading literary agent Cathryn Summerhayes at Curtis Brown. Subsequent prizes include residential courses and weekend breaks.

Entries close at midnight on 17th March 2020

20. Evesham Festival of Words short story competition

All genres and styles of short fiction are welcome in this international competition.

Stories must be no more than 2500 words if you’re entering the adult contest (there are shorter word counts in the junior categories).

The winner receives £150 and the two runners up will also receive £50 and £30 for 2nd and 3rd placed stories.

Deadline for submissions is March 20th and there is a £5 fee to enter.

21. Short Fiction Journal 2020 writing contest

This is an internationally-renowned competition, now in affiliation with the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies at the University of Essex. 

Submit your short fiction (of no more than 5000 words) by March 31st 2020 to have a shot at scooping the £500 awarded to the winning story (or £250 awarded to the runner up).

There is an entry fee of £7 until March, at which point it increased to £9. There are also a number of free entries available – for more information about these, check out the website using the link above.

22. The Killer Nashville Claymore Award

Every year, the Killer Nashville Claymore Award assists new and rebranding English-language fiction authors get published, including possible agent representation, book advances, editor deals, and movie and television sales.

The contest is limited to only the first 50 double-spaced pages of unpublished English-language manuscripts containing elements of thriller, mystery, crime, or suspense NOT currently under contract.

The entry fee is US$40 and the deadline for submissions is April 1st 2020.

23. New Deal Writing Competition 2020

The New Deal Writing Competition is a short story competition where the writer is asked to use a painting chosen by the staff of GVCA as inspiration for their short story.

This year’s painting is “Down and Out” (1937) by Barnet Braverman

There is an entry fee of US$5 to enter and a maximum word limit of 10,000. Top prize receives US$200.

The deadline foe entries is April 10th 2020.

24. The Bath Short Story Award

An award for local, national and international writers. Closing date for submissions is April 20th, 2020. Short stories of up to 2200 words in all genres and styles are welcome – there is no minimum word limit. First prize receives £1000 and there is also a local prize for Bath residents, as well as The Acorn Award of £50 for unpublished writers of fiction. Entry fee is £8.

25. Adventure Writers Short Story Competition 2020

This is an international competition and there is just one category: Adventure. The organisers accept traditionally published, e-published and manuscript novels. There is a US$1000 cash prize. A $25 entry fee is charged, and all proceeds go to promoting the contest, the finalists and the winner.  The deadline for entries is 30th April 2020.

Adventure is out there!

26. The Bristol Short Story Prize

Entries are welcomed for unpublished stories written in English. The deadline for submissions is 20th April 2020 and stories can be on any theme or subject. Maximum length of 4000 words. An £8 entry fee and first prize is £1000. There are also 17 further prizes of £100 for all shortlisted writers.

27. Leapfrog Press Story Contest

Adult, young adult (YA) and middle grade (MG) novels, novellas, and short story collections are accepted. Minimum word count: 22,000. Individual stories in a collection may have been published in journals. Books that have been self-published will be considered “unpublished” if fewer than about 200 copies were printed.  

We look for literary fiction and mainstream fiction, including science fiction. Generally we are less interested in strict genre fiction, but if a manuscript is good and grabs our attention, we don’t care what the genre is.

There is a US$33 fee to enter and you could win US$150 and publication of your finished manuscript. The deadline for entries is May 1st 2020.

28. Writer’s Digest Competition

The winner of this annual award will receive US$5000 and an interview in Writer’s Digest. There are a variety of different award categories so it’s best to check the website for details. Deadline is May 4th 2020.

29. Raymond Carver Contest

The Raymond Carver Short Story Contest is one of the most renowned fiction contests in the world. Featuring prominent guest judges and offering US$1500 across five prizes, the contest delivers exciting new fiction from writers all over the world. The contest opens each year April 1 – May 15 and prizewinners are published in their annual fall issue in October. Usual entry fee of US$17.

30. Brick lane bookshop short story contest

This prize, run by Brick Lane Bookshop, is open to all UK residents for original short stories between 1,000 and 5,000 words. Its aim is to celebrate short stories and to give emerging writers encouragement and a little financial space to write. Winners are published in an anthology in addition to receiving prize money.

There’s a £1000 prize available and submissions close on May 15th 2020.

31. Lorian Hemingway Short Story Prize

Writers of short fiction may now enter the 2019 Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition. The competition has a thirty-nine year history of literary excellence, and Lorian Hemingway and her small judging panel are dedicated to enthusiastically supporting the efforts and talent of writers of short fiction whose voices have yet to be heard.

Deadline is 15th May 2020. Max word count is 3500, entry fee is US$15 and a prize of US$2500 is available.

32. Smokelong Award for Flash Fiction

Smokelong was one of the original names for flash fiction (read a story in the amount of time it takes to smoke a cigarette), and Smokelong Quarterly are one of the all time literary big hitters in this field. So, their flash fiction competition is certainly one writers should have on their radar.

There is a grand prize of US$2000 on the table, with monetary prizes also available to all finalists – who’ll be published in the June edition of the journal.

There is a limit of 1000 words for entries of flash fiction submitted before the final deadline of May 24th. Submit up to two stories for a fee of US$13.50 before April 26th or US$15.50 thereafter.

33. Bridport Prize

International open competition founded in 1973. Four categories in poetry (max 42 lines); short story (max 5,000 words); flash fiction (max 250 words) and the Peggy Chapman-Andrews Award for a First Novel (max 8,000 words from opening chapters plus 300 word synopsis).

Deadline usually looms towards the end of May each year.

Entry fees and prizes vary depending on category. Full information about this world-renowned competition can be found online.

34. Bath Novel Award

The Bath Novel Award 2018 is an international prize for unpublished and self-published novelists. The winner will receive £2,500, with manuscript feedback and literary agent introductions for those shortlisted. In addition, the writer of the most promising longlisted novel will receive a free place on an online editing course with Cornerstones Literary Consultancy.

Submit your first 5000 words along with a one page synopsis by May 31st 2020.

There is an entry fee of £25.

35. Narrative Prize

The Narrative Prize is awarded annually for the best short story, novel excerpt, poem, one-act play, graphic story, or work of literary nonfiction published by a new or emerging writer in Narrative.

Deadline is mid June 2020 and there is no entry fee. Maximum word counts of 2000 and prizes of up to US$4000 available.

36. The Cambridge Short Story prize

Sister writing competition to the TSS flash fiction prize. Deadline is 15th June 2020 for submissions no longer than 3000 words. There is a prize of £1000 available to the winner.

37. Impress Books prize for new writing

This is a manuscript contest for unpublished writers. Winners receive a print and eBook publishing contact with Impress, as well as a £500 advance.

The deadline for entries is usually around the end of June each year.

You need to submit 6000 words of your manuscript, along with a synopsis and publishing proposal, as well as an author bio.

38. The Sean O Faolain Short Story Prize

The competition is open to original, unpublished and unbroadcast short stories in the English language of 3,000 words or fewer. The story can be on any subject, in any style, by a writer of any nationality, living anywhere in the world. Translated work is not in the scope of this competition.

First Prize: €2,000, a week-long residency at Anam Cara Retreat and publication in the literary journal Southword.

There is a fee of €15 per entry and the deadline for submissions is 31st Jul

39. Woven Tree Press annual literary competition

The Woven Tree Press hosts its annual literary competition, with this year’s category being fiction (including creative non-fiction), judged by award winning novelist Ann Beattie. Submissions must be no longer than 6000 words.

Winners receive cash prizes, with first place receiving a one-week stay in the organiser’s 1909 charming retreat house in the legendary Hamptons, New York.

Submissions for the contest open on August 15 and run until October 15 2020. There is an entry fee of US$25.

40. PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

For American citizens with books published in the calendar year (or scheduled to be published) – no self-published books will be accepted. No submission fees, with a deadline of October.

41. ServiceScape short story award

For this award, any genre or theme of short story is accepted. All applicants should submit their original unpublished work of short fiction or nonfiction, 5,000 words or fewer, to be considered. Along with receiving an award for $1,000.00 USD, the winner will have his or her short story featured within the ServiceScape blog, which reaches thousands of readers per month.

There is no entry fee and the deadline for entries is 30th November 2020.

42. Manchester Writing Competition

There are two prizes – one for fiction and one for poetry. Both competitions offer a £10,000 first prize. Deadline for entries is September and the competition generally opens in February each year. The fiction prize will be awarded to the best short story of up to 2500 words, and is open to international writers aged 16 or over. The poetry prize will be given to the best portfolio of three to five poems (maximum length: 120 lines). The entry fee for each competition is £17.50.

43. F(r)iction contest

Literary publisher and resource for writers Brink Literacy project (formerly Tethered By Letters) run this tri-annual publication, F(r)iction, – an art and literature imprint that is distributed around the world. It features short fiction, flash fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and even a selection of graphic stories. It also showcases amazing artwork.

First prize for the short story contest is US$1000 and there is an entry fee of US$18. The first prize for both the poetry and flash fiction contests is US$300 and there is a US$10 entry fee.

Visit the website for information about upcoming deadlines

44. Reedsy Short Story Contest(s)

Every Friday, Reedsy kicks off a weekly short story contest by sending out a newsletter that includes five themed writing prompts. Subscribers have one week (until the following Friday) to submit a short story based on one of the prompts. The winner receives US$ 50 and publication on Reedsy’s Medium blog.

There is no entry fee.

45. Austin Film Festival competitions

Austin Film Festival 2018 is offering a number of different writing contests for you to sink your teeth into. In their 25th year, the Austin Film Festival (AFF) have helped many writers break into the industry of film and television.

AFF currently offer writing competition categories for screenplays, teleplays, short screenplays, digital series scripts, stage plays, and fiction podcast scripts.

Deadlines for the competitions vary, with some differences in entry fees depending on whether you enter before, early, regular, or late/final deadlines.

Prizes include cash awards and the opportunity to meet famous figures from the industry. Check out their website for information

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