You’d love to enter writing competitions, but they’re so expensive. And what are the chances of winning? It doesn’t make good financial sense. You shake your head firmly, close the window on your screen, and sigh a little.
And then, I hope, you remember that not all writing competitions charge a fee, and you have some fun entering the free ones below.
You literally have nothing to lose – not even a few dollars – and there are some excellent prizes out there, just waiting to be yours.
I’ve done pretty well by entering these myself. Who doesn’t love accolades and money for their creative work?
1. Open internationally, this contest asking for a funny poem is a firm favourite in the writing comp world. It has twelve prizes ranging from $100 to $1000, and there’s no fee to pay. Entry is simple via a form on the site. Disclosure: I won this in 2015 and it’s just glorious. I got a shirt and a certificate as well as the money. Money is useful for grown-ups, but my inner child loves a fancy certificate. https://winningwriters.com/our-contests/wergle-flomp-humor-poetry-contest-free
2. Again open worldwide, this comp from ThinkGeek is for techie haiku. Surely if it’s funny, as most entries are, then it’s a senryu? Either way, you could win a $50 ThinkGeek voucher. If a friend or relative does your tech support, as in my case, then giving them the voucher would be a great way to say thank you. Or, you know, you could actually pay them, though that seems a bit extreme. After all, they’re IT people and we’re writers. They have all the money already. http://www.thinkgeek.com/haiku/#details
3. Another international competition, the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award has a delectable £30,000 prize and is a must-enter in your comp list. This year’s has already been won – congratulations to the winners! – but the next should be open early in 2016. Get writing short fiction now! How often do we writers see a prize that big, without having to pay a hefty entry fee? http://www.booktrust.org.uk/prizes/5/
4. The prizes for the regular themed fiction comps at On the Premises are small, but they host several comps and mini-contests per year, so it’s worth having a go. The themes make great prompts, too. The easiest way to stay informed is to sign up to their newsletter. I never win these but I find the prompts useful, and I usually place my work elsewhere eventually. http://onthepremises.com/index.html
5. This comp is USA only, and monthly. You can send poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction or children/ young adult material up to 1000 words for the chance to win $50. The rather odd judging system – that of reading until an entry ‘knocks his/her socks off’ and then awarding that entry the prize – mean that you should get your entries in early, and resubmit them for the following month, as they might not have been read. It’s an odd way of doing things, and might put people off – which is why you should enter it. The fewer the entrants, the better your chance of winning. http://whidbeystudents.com/penn-cove-award/submit-for-the-penn-cove-award/
6. If your primary residence is in the UK or Ireland – you don’t need British nationality – then you could win a cheque for a delicious £3500. The runner up gets £1500, and third place £500. Not bad for a short story up to 4000 words. My tip: watch the formatting in the T&Cs. It’s always a bit kooky
7. With a deadline of 1st May every year, this poetry and fiction comp offers prizes of $150. It’s quick and easy to enter and not to be missed! http://www.barton.edu/crucible/
8. Amazon vouchers are practically cash, aren’t they? So this is very nearly a cash comp, for poetry or fiction. It’s monthly, too, and you can re-submit entries that came close in a previous month. Well worth it if you have a poem or story that hasn’t found the right home. http://creativewriting.ie/cwi-writing-competition/
9. The James White Award brings £200 plus publication in the prestigious mag Interzone, for a story up to 6000 words by a non-professional writer. It’s over for 2015, but will reopen early next year. http://www.jameswhiteaward.com/
10. If you write SF, Fantasy or dark fantasy then you could have a go at entering this quarterly comp. Only those who haven’t had a novel, short novel, more than one novelette, or more than three short stories professionally published are eligible, and the prizes go up to four figures. http://www.writersofthefuture.com/Contest-Rules-Writers/
11. Blue Mountains Arts runs a biannual poetry contest offering three cash prizes, with the top gong being $300. It’s open worldwide and they prefer non-rhyming poetry. http://www.sps.com/poetry/index.html
12. Another Brits-only comp is the Just Back travel writing comp from The Telegraph, which could win you £200 in the foreign currency of your choice. All you need is to write a feature of up to 500 words about your travel experiences. If only they’d give me the money in advance then I could afford the holiday to write about. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/4207858/Telegraph-Travel-Just-Back-competition-terms-and-conditions.html
13. $20,000 is up for grabs in this annual international micro fiction contest. Entries can be written in English, Spanish, Arabic or Hebrew, and there’s a different theme every year. http://www.museodelapalabra.com/en/short-tales-contest
14. You only need to write up to 12 words for this monthly comp – just tell them what you’d like on your tombstone. With a $10 prize, that’s a pretty good cents-per-word rate. https://vestalreview.submittable.com/Submit
15. The website of The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest doesn’t tell you whether or not there’s a monetary prize. All I can tell you is that when I won it in 2012, I got $250. Not bad
for a single sentence – it ‘s $3.84 per word, and the resulting publicity boosted sales of my first poetry collection, Contains Strong Language and Scenes of a Sexual Nature, to a very respectable level (with poetry, this means making more than a dollar profit). At last, our bad writing is rewarded. Time to dig out those terrible first drafts you wrote years ago. http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/contact.html
16. We ‘ve already established that Amazon vouchers are worthwhile prizes, so you could win a $50 one by entering the monthly short story contest at Daggerville. The theme changes every time and may be found on Facebook. https://www.daggerville.com/competition/