40 Writing Contests in June 2018 - No entry fees

Animals as Symbols

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May 27, 2016
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Litopians! Arise and compete! I've gathered 40 free writing contests in June. (No entry fees!) Every genre, form, and style is covered, from short stories, to poetry, to published works. As always, read the guidelines carefully. Many contests have geographical and age restrictions. If you want to get a jump on future contests, look at the Free Contests tab on my blog. You'll find a month-by-month listing there. (Most are offered annually.)

Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity: 40 Writing Contests in June 2018 - No entry fees
 
Oh, exciting. I've never thought about a writing contest before. Has anyone entered any contests before?
 
Oh, exciting. I've never thought about a writing contest before. Has anyone entered any contests before?

I spent most of 2016 entering writing competitions. One problem I immediately found, was that 99.9% of contests only accept work that hasn't been previously published anywhere, including as an eBook. As I'd uploaded most of my poetry, short stories and novellas to Smashwords and Amazon in 2013-2014, I had to write fresh material to enter competitions.

Many stipulate a theme that they want the story to be about, and I reckon that most organisations running the competitions take a very literal view of that theme. For example, I entered one short story competition with the theme of Exit Earth. I'd written a horror story featuring a soil demon, the amalgamated souls of slaughtered English Civil War soldiers, which had been snatching people from fields for 400 years—literally exit earth! The competition winner and all of the shortlisted entries were about ecology, with some describing off-Earth colonies due to the planet being ruined.

It really pays to investigate who is judging a competition, and also look at previous winners—how they interpreted the theme, what's happened to them since they won, such as did they lever a publishing contract out of winning and have they had a successful career since? I came across several writers who'd won more than one competition, but had never published a book, not even online. Some writers appear to specialise in entering competitions, their names appearing time and time again on longlists. Judges are usually published authors, so see what sort of stuff they write, what their views are from their social media posting.

Also, if you're thinking of entering a foreign competition, check who's won before. There are many more competitions based in America, some claiming to be international in scope, but after entering a couple of them, I looked at the winners—and there wasn't one who wasn't an American citizen.

Lastly, don't wait on tenterhooks for the result. Like submitting to literary agents, get on with more writing and forget about your submission.
 
Oh, exciting. I've never thought about a writing contest before. Has anyone entered any contests before?

I currently have short stories in for the Bath, Bristol and Brighton contests, and am thinking about the Bridport (only its way too competitive)...maybe there's some rule that all senior writing contests have to be based in a town whose name starts with a 'B'?

All of the above competitions (indeed, most competitions) charge fees - so Erica is doing us a huge social service by collecting together information on free contests (though do note all the caveats that Paul has posted). The hardest thing to judge (other than whether hugely competitive contests are worth the money, given our chances of even getting long-listed) is timing: I have one story (a post-modern ghost story called "Gone to the shops" which is definitely the best thing I have ever written) in for 3 contests, and one of them is relatively small scale, and is judged first. So, if I got placed in that (and, of course, even that is unlikely, but...) then I'd have to choose whether to accept the award or refuse it and hope to get placed in the later, more prestigious contests.
 
I've entered a couple of competitions, which were/are essentially submission exercises for a UK agency (Bath Literary Agency) and a UK publisher (Chicken House) respectively. In both cases, a publishing contract was the main prize. Worth a punt.

Thanks for the list, @Erica Verrillo
 
I’ve entered quite a few, including the rather expensive Debut Daggers, with not so much as a nibble. I think they’re worth doing though - good motivation to throw a short together, fire and forget. Just treat them like agent queries - assume they’re going nowhere and you might get a nice surprise!
 
I've done Writers of the Future--one of my stories got an honorable mention. It's cool. It's free. And there's one every quarter. Go for it!
 
Speculative Fiction NZ runs a short story contest in conjunction with their annual Con, which I've entered twice (and won twice)--small contest in a small country, so the exposure from it was minimal, but there was a monetary prize along with it which was better than many professional magazines pay. I've also done the Wishing Shelf Book Award. There's a fee for that one, but your book gets judged by real readers within your target market, and you get the feedback from them. I found it well worth the cost. Did SCBWI Spark award, too--like throwing a pebble into a lake--my book vanished without a trace. Not even a 'thanks for entering, but no thanks' e-mail.
 
I've done Writers of the Future--one of my stories got an honorable mention.
That gives me some hope then. I wasn't sure whether my entry (as yet incomplete) would just disappear into the ether. It's brilliant that you've had some success with the competitions, especially since there must be so many entries!
 
That gives me some hope then. I wasn't sure whether my entry (as yet incomplete) would just disappear into the ether. It's brilliant that you've had some success with the competitions, especially since there must be so many entries!
From what I've seen of the types of stories they tend to like, they're partial to ones that address issues of current importance in some way. Not that the story needs to be set in the modern day, but that it should somehow address current events.
 
From what I've seen of the types of stories they tend to like, they're partial to ones that address issues of current importance in some way. Not that the story needs to be set in the modern day, but that it should somehow address current events.

Oh, interesting. I shall bear that in mind.
 
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