Arts & Writing Professor Wu's Rulebook

41 Writing Competitions for 2021

Dozens of writing competitions for you to get stuck into during 2021.
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When we put out our annual compendium of creative writing contests, we were worried it might be the last chance for some of us writers to see our writing win some excellent prizes – what with the threat of total climate collapse and World War III seemingly around the corner. COVID-19 wasn’t even on our radar!

Still, while these existential threats haven’t gone away, and with so many millions of us still under some form of Coronavirus-related lockdown, we are – at the time of writing – still here (and still writing).

So, perhaps 2021 is the year for some new creative talents 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 so, (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. First Pages Prize

A perfect competition for unagented writers, this. The First Pages Prize wants to read your first 5 pages of a longer work of fiction or creative non-fiction. Open worldwide, your pages must be unpublished. Judging criteria are writing craft, a sense of a bigger story emerging and how hooked reviewers are by your writing. This year’s judge is Iowa Writers’ Workshop director, Lan Samantha Chang. Entry is via Submittable.

Visit the First Pages Prize website to enter – there’s a US$20 submission fee and the deadline is 7th February 2021.

2. Creative Scotland (‘Our Voices’)

‘Our Voices’ aims to develop the writing of emerging writers from under-represented communities who might not otherwise be able to access this kind of professional support as they work towards a full draft of their first book and consider their next steps in building a career as a writer.

There is no application fee; just submit an application form to apply before the 12th February 2021.

3. 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.

4. The Ambroggio Prize

The Ambroggio Prize is a US$ 1,000 publication prize given for a book-length poetry manuscript originally written in Spanish and with an English translation. The winning manuscript is published by the University of Arizona Press, which is nationally recognised for its commitment to publishing the award-winning works of emerging and established voices in Latinx and Indigenous literature, as well as groundbreaking scholarship in Latinx and Indigenous studies.

Established in 2017, the Ambroggio Prize is the only annual award of its kind in the United States that honors American poets whose first language is Spanish.

Submissions will be accepted from 15th September, 2020 to 15th February, 2021. The 2021 Ambroggio Prize will be judged by Rigoberto González.

5.  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 2021. There’s a US$15 entry fee and a US$300 prize available. Max word count is 750.

6. 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 2021.

7. The Puchi Award

The Puchi Award is a publishing project held by La Casa Encendida and Fulgencio Pimentel.

The Puchi Award seeks for the most innovative, groundbreaking, vibrant book proposals in any genre, focusing entirely on their boldness and their links with present-day art language.

This competition is open to literary and graphic projects of any kind that stand out by virtue of their premise, literary and graphic quality, originality, unconventionality or mould-shattering conception. A book can contain everything and anything, and that is precisely what this contest wants: fiction and non-fiction, essays, informative literature, poetry, illustration, comics, cookbooks, geography books, combinations of the above or any other type of work.

There is no fee to enter and the deadline for submissions is 18th February 2021.

8. 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.

9. The Margery Allingham Short Story Competition

The Margery Allingham Short Story Competition is open until 26th February, 2021.

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

10. 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 28th February 2020.

11. 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 the last weekend of February 2021.

12. The Rialto’s Nature and Poetry Competition

The Rialto working in association with the RSPBBirdLife International and the Cambridge Conservation Initiative on this lovely offering that is sure to attract poets and nature lovers.

Poems are invited that deal with any aspect of nature and place – these terms will be given a wide interpretation by the judge Daljit Nagra. The closing date is 1st March 2021. There is a £7 submission fee and winning entries can receive between £250 to £1000 in prize money.

13. 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 5th March 2021.

14. 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 2021.

15. 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 12th March 2021 and there is a £5 fee to enter.

16. Nelligan Prize

International writing prize for writers of all stripes and nationalities. Deadline is March 14th, 2021 for submissions of 12,500 words or less. Entry fee is US$15 and first prize is US$2000.

17. New Welsh Writing Awards 2021

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 a leading literary agent. Subsequent prizes include residential courses and weekend breaks.

Entries close at midnight on 16th March 2021.

18. Short Fiction Journal 2021 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 2021 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.

19. 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 2021.

20. 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 “100 Years Past” by James Guy.

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 for entries is 1st April 2021 (the portal will open in March).

21. Newcastle Short Story Award 2021

One for Australian writers. First prize is AU$2000. The deadline for submissions is  14th April 2021 and the entry fee is AU$15. The maximum word limit is 2000 words, which includes both titles and any subheadings.

22. 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 April 2021.

23. The Bath Short Story Award

An award for local, national and international writers. Closing date for submissions is 19th April, 2021. 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.

24. Adventure Writers Short Story Competition 2021

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 2021.

Adventure is out there!

25. 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 3rd May 2021.

26. The Bristol Short Story Prize

Entries are welcomed for unpublished stories written in English. The deadline for submissions is 5th May 2021 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. 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 7th May 2021.

28. 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 February 15th until May 14th 2021.

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. Smokelong Grand Micro Competition 2021

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 ‘Grand Micro’ fiction competition for 2021 is certainly one writers should have on their radar.

There is a grand prize of US$1500 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 400 words for entries of micro fiction submitted before the final deadline of May 16th. Submit up to two stories for a fee of US$6.

Brush up on some tips for writing smokelong fiction by reading this crackin’ article by Smokelong Quarterly’s own Christopher Allen right here on Nothing in the Rulebook.

31. 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 and 2021 is no different; so make sure you submit by 31st May 2021.

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

32. 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 the end of May 2021.

There is an entry fee of £25.

33. The Cambridge Short Story prize

Sister writing competition to the TSS flash fiction prize. Deadline is 14th June 2021 for submissions no longer than 3000 words. There is a prize of £1000 available to the winner. Entry fees vary depending on when you submit your work (the earlier; the cheaper!) – so get submitting early if you can.

34. 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 15th June 2021 and there is no entry fee. Maximum word counts of 2000 and prizes of up to US$4000 available.

35. The HG Wells Short Story Competition

You may have heard of this feller called HG Wells. He’s inspired countless authors; and now he has a writing competition to get them excited, too (in fairness, this competition has been around for a little while, now).

The annual HG Wells Fiction Short Story Competition offers a £500 Senior and £1,000 Junior prize and free publication of all shortlisted entries in a quality, professionally published paperback anthology.

All entries must relate to the theme for this year’s Competition: MASK.

You can if you wish enter more than one story: please complete a separate entry for each story entered.

Your story can be set anywhere, feature any characters, and be written in any style. The length is 1,500 to 5,000 words. Entries must be in English.

The deadline for submissions to the HG Wells competition in 2021 is 12th July.

36. 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 €18 per entry and the deadline for submissions is 31st July 2021.

37. Manchester Writing Competition

There are two prizes available in this annual award – one for fiction and one for poetry. Both competitions offer a £10,000 first prize. Deadline for entries is usually around mid-late 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 has usually been £17.50.

38. 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.

39. 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 2021.

40. 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.

41. Austin Film Festival competitions

Austin Film Festival 2021 is offering a number of different writing contests for you to sink your teeth into. In well over two decades, 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


See a competition that we’ve missed? If you’d like to add a writing competition to our list then please feel free to contact us!

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