I’ve written before about coming runner up in a writing competition. I was eleven. The competition was organised by An Post. I won a luminous yellow t-shirt with a green dinosaur on it. And I made sure that everyone knew I’d won the prize because I wore the t-shirt everywhere. To school. To mass. To bed.
I LOVED that t-shirt. Because it meant something. It was the first acknowledgement that I’d ever gotten that I might be good at something – like writing. It gave me the confidence to enter other competitions and more than anything, the confidence to keep writing. Because out there, someone, a real proper grown –up thought I was good enough.
Entering writing competitions as an adult is a bit like that now. To be placed on a longlist or a shortlist is like winning a mini-lotto. That’s how I feel. Nothing makes me happier than having someone assess my work and tell me they like it or think it’s good enough.
So I keep entering them. And you should too. If you’re a writer, or thinking about being a writer, then you have nothing to lose. Particularly if there’s no entry fee.
Below I list
- Three things I’ve learned from entering writing competitions
- Top resources for finding out about writing competitions
- Seven writing competitions I plan on to enter in 2016
Good luck scribblers!
Three things I’ve learned from entering writing competitions
- It’s worth it
Back in the summer I read in Vanessa O’Loughlin’s Writing to Get Published that it was a good idea to enter writing competitions while you were working on a novel or other projects. Whaaaaaat? I thought. How could I POSSSIBLY have time for that? Well guess what suckers, you do have time. And it’s great for the brain to take a break from a project you’re majorly stuck into and just write for fun. Just scribble, edit and send off to competition. Easys. And maybe, just maybe, you might get highly commended or win a fiver. And this will give you the confidence to keep going!
- Competitions are a fantastic way to meet other writers
I’m a bit of networking fiend, so when I spy a list of winning writers everyone gets a little Twitter search from me and probably a follow. And sometimes a stalk on Linked In. Forming relations with other writers is a way to get encouragement, support and to share with others who understand your passion. And it’ll probably save the ear of your better half who just might not get it. (He does, but you know, I bore!)
- You will learn about publishers and agents
Many competitions are run by publishing houses or offer the chance to meet with a literary agent. If you’re investing the time to enter these competitions, you’ll likely learn a lot about who is behind the business, their successes and find out about (
stalk)other agents, editors or literary experts. I love to read success stories and about the people who got them there. And then wait outside their window with chocolates. What, what’s wrong with that?
There are hundreds of writing competitions out there. I always go with what appeals to me. I don’t enter poetry or children’s fiction or genres that I’m not very interested in. I like memoir, flash fiction and competitions that are theme led.
The other two things I consider are entry fee and location. I will pay a fee for a very prestigious competition or something that gives me work a good chance of getting in front of the right people. I tend to stay away from competitions that charge a fee and have a very low prize, unless it includes publication in something I’d like to be printed in. I stick with Ireland and the UK. Yes, I’m a writing racist.
Another thing to consider is your body of work. If you have one or two pieces you are proud of, you should probably save them for the bigger competitions, as you will be prevented from entering the piece if it has been placed in another competition elsewhere. That’s nothing against the smaller, local competitions, it’s more to save your portfolio, if it’s only small. (Like mine).
This Irish website is a fabulous resource for all writers. The site is easy to navigate and the competitions are presented really well. It also lists writers’ news, writer experiences, workshops and more. Love.
This is an amazing little site, packed with honest information and links to lots of wonderful and wacky competitions. Don’t be put off by the web site design straight out of 2003. It’s the information you want. And the site author Michael, provides plenty of that and lots of background info.
I’ve discovered lots of useful writing bits and bobs from this magazine and I always turn to the back pages where they list writing competitions closing soon. Deadline! It’s out monthly and I usually pick it up in Tescos or Easons.
The Irish Writers’ Centre is one of my favourite places to go to. Back in the day when I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go job wise, I used to refresh its website just checking to see what was new in the writing world and dreaming about working in a publishing house a la Bridget Jones (less the giant knickers. And the love life.) Their competition list isn’t as prolific as others but still worth checking in to.
The following are other links I’ve found while researching writing competitions which you may find useful:
This is a great prize and best of all, free to enter. I did my internship at the Business Post and loved it – lovely people to work with and a great foundation in journalism.
Entry: Short stories up to 5,000 words, Irish residency only
Top Prize: €2,000
Fee to enter: Free!
Closing date: 23 Dec, 2015 (ok this one missed the 2016 deadline a bit)
This competition is described as a Dragon’s Den for writers. I LOVE Dragon’s Den, mostly because I enjoy studying the different personalities that come through (and then fail abysmally). If you would like to fail abysmally in front of a load of literary agents then this is the comp for you! Think speed dating for writers. Quick sell book blurb. Great. Opportunity.
Entry: Synopsis and first 10,000 words of novel
Top Prize: 12 finalists selected to spend a day pitching to agents and publishers
Fee to enter: €45
Closing date: 2017 competition opens in spring 2016
Fish are a well known publishing house that run various competitions throughout the year. I like the memoir contest because we all have a story to tell and this challenges you go get it down on paper. I don’t know about you, but when I’m reading other people’s writing, I love when the most mundane moments of life are turned into the most poignant. No stories about what you had for breakfast please. Unless you can describe cornflakes in a really interesting way.
Entry: Memoir up to 4000 words
Top Prize: €1000 and publication in anthology
Fee to enter: €16
Closing date: 1 April 2016
I saw this competition on a poster in the Irish Writers’ Centre in the summer and by the time I looked it up again, I’d missed the closing date by a day. So don’t do the same! Good prize and receives a great standard of entries.
Entry: Stories up to 3000 words
Top Prize: €2000
Fee to enter: Free!
Closing date: Opens May to July 31st annually
I treated myself to a copy of this cannot live without bible after I got my manuscript finished. I was like a child on Christmas day opening it and squealing. The possibilities; your publishing future could be in your very hands. The book is full of great tips and articles from industry professionals and they run various competitions throughout the year. I’m thinking of entering the short story category competition.
Entry: Stories up to 2000 words
Top Prize: £500 plus place on writers’ retreat
Fee to enter: Free!
Closing date: 15th February 2016
The Telegraph run a weekly Travel Writer competition. Even as a new Mum and busy working / writing / cleaning up dog doo lady, I still manage to get away somewhere within the year and I always like to write about it and record it. It’s inspiring to visit new places. If you have a short piece think about this competition – it’s not too onerous to enter.
Entry: Travel story up to 500 words
Top Prize: £200
Fee to enter: Free!
Closing date: Ongoing, published weekly
Ok so this one is more about myself as this is the genre I write in, but if you too like to write in a certain theme or genre such as crime, science fiction, fantasy, possibility is there’s a unique competition for you too. This competition runs annually and all going well, I’ll have another couple of manuscripts by then. Sure why not?
Entry: First 5,000 words of novel
Top Prize: £2000
Fee to enter: $35
Closing date: April 2016
I love to hear from other writers and since I’ve stared posting more about writing I’ve been contacted by lots of people who face the same struggles and go through the same emotions. Do you plan on entering any competitions this year? And have you ever been shortlisted or published in anything?