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Whether or not you’re an experienced writer, joining a writing contest is a great way to get more exposure for your work and challenge yourself to grow. You might even win a little cash, too!

The good news is that there are many contests out there looking for a variety of genres, so whatever your style, you’ll likely find a match.

Writing Contests to Try in 2020 

Here are some of the writing contests you can enter this year: 

TWF Poetry Contest 

  • First Prize: $1,000
  • Genres: Poetry
  • Entry Fee: $15 
  • Deadline: October 16, 2020 

The Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival hosts this contest for poetry. In addition to the $1,000 cash prize, you get the chance to win a VIP All-Access Pass (valued at $600) for the festival and to have your work published in the print magazine Antenna::Signals and publicly read at the next Festival. 

TWF Short Fiction Contest 

  • First Prize: $500 
  • Genres: Flash fiction, short story
  • Entry Fee: $10 
  • Deadline: October 16, 2020 

This short fiction contest will challenge you to write the best story you can in 1,000 words, and is open for any emerging writer who has not yet published any short fiction in book form, including self-published ones. 

F(r)iction Fall 2020 Literary Contests 

  • First Prize: $300 to $1,000 
  • Genres: Flash fiction, short story, poetry, fiction
  • Entry Fee: $10 
  • Deadline: October 30, 2020 

The Brink Literacy Project hosts this contest that seeks work that actively pushes boundaries and questions traditions and beliefs. Write a strong narrative that takes risks, and take a risk yourself by entering this contest! 

Momaya Poetry Competition 

  • First Prize: $100
  • Genres: Poetry 
  • Entry Fee: $9
  • Deadline: October 30, 2020 

Enter this poetry competition with your poems of up to 1,500 words in any style that fits this year’s theme, “Touch.” 

Pressfuls Go Green Short Story Contest 

  • First Prize: $100
  • Genres: Short story, fantasy, horror
  • Entry Fee: Free
  • Deadline: October 31, 2020

Pressfuls hosts this contest for an original fantasy and horror short story between 2,000–10,000 words.

Flash 500 Annual Novel Opening Chapter & Synopsis Competition 

  • First Prize: $610
  • Genres: Fiction 
  • Entry Fee: $13
  • Deadline: October 31, 2020 

This contest, hosted by Flash 500, is for the best opening chapter, maximum of 3,000 words, along with a one-page synopsis that outlines the story. It can be any genre of unpublished work. 

Red Hen Press Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award 

  • First Prize: $3000 
  • Genres: Poetry
  • Entry Fee: $25
  • Deadline: October 31, 2020 

In honor of the late poet Benjamin Saltman, Red Hen hosts this poetry contest for previously unpublished original poetry collections. Submit a minimum of 48 pages and a maximum of 96 pages, and get a chance to be published by Red Hen Press plus a four-week Residency with PLAYA

PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction 

  • First Prize: $5,000
  • Genres: Poetry 
  • Entry Fee: Free
  • Deadline: October 31, 2020

If you’ve published a book with an academic, commercial, or small press in 2020, join this contest that will give you a chance to be recognized at a Washington, D.C. ceremony in May 2021. 

Walt Whitman Award 

  • First Prize: $5,000
  • Genres: Poetry 
  • Entry Fee: not stated 
  • Deadline: November 15, 2020

Join this poetry contest and get the chance to have your first poetry book published by Graywolf Press, plus an all-expense-paid residency at the Civitella Ranieri Center for six weeks. Established in 1975, the Walt Whitman award aims to encourage emerging poets. Through the financial support of members of the Academy of American Poets, the contest will publish the winning poet’s first book. 

The Jacques Maritain Prize for Nonfiction

  • First Prize: $500
  • Genres: Nonfiction
  • Entry Fee: Free
  • Deadline: November 30, 2020 

In honor of 20th century philosopher Jacques Maritain, Dappled Things is looking for the best essays in a Catholic cultural context and literary journal vibe. To get a feel for the kinds of essays that work best, check the nonfiction articles in the previous issues of the magazine. 

J.F. Powers Prize for Short Fiction 

  • First Prize: $500
  • Genres: Short story
  • Entry Fee: Free
  • Deadline: November 30, 2020 

In honor of novelist J.F. Powers, Dappled Things also has a short story competition. They’re in search of carefully created short stories whose characters find grace in everyday situations: how does it look when someone walks this life with his heart set on the next? 

The Reedsy Prompts Contest

  • First Prize: $50 
  • Genres: Short story, fiction 
  • Entry Fee: Free
  • Deadline: December 31, 2020 

Write a short story based on one of the weekly prompts on Reedsy and you’ll get a chance to win $50 and have your piece published on the Reedsy Blog! 

Devon and Cornwall International Novel Prize

  • First Prize: $2,400
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Entry Fee: $18
  • Deadline: December 31, 2020 

The DCI Novel Prize, judged by international literary agents and writers, is a chance to get an online publishing contract for your adult novel. Authors keep 50% of royalties. 

Pressfuls Crime Mystery Short Story Contest 

  • First Prize: $50
  • Genres: Short story, mystery, crime 
  • Entry Fee: Free 
  • Deadline: January 15, 2021 

Do you like writing mysteries and crime stories? Join this crime mystery short story contest with your story of 3,000–10,000 words. 

Pressfuls Sci-Fi Short Story Contest 

  • First Prize: $50 
  • Genres: Short story, sci-fi, fantasy
  • Entry Fee: Free 
  • Deadline: January 31, 2021 

This sci-fi short story contest is open to original stories between 2,000–10,000 words.

IndieReader Discovery Awards 2021

  • First Prize: Consideration by a top NYC-based literary agency 
  • Genres: Fiction and Nonfiction 
  • Entry Fee: $149
  • Deadline: February 15, 2021 

Enter your book in this contest and get a chance to have it reviewed by an IndieReader reviewer, which you can then use in your blurb or promotional copy. Plus, the judges are professionals in the publishing industry, which gives you a greater chance to be discovered! 

Flash 500 Annual Short Story Contest 

  • First Prize: $610 
  • Genres: Short story
  • Entry Fee: $8 
  • Deadline: February 28, 2021 

Flash 500 is on the lookout for short stories between 1,000–3,000 words. Try your hand at creating realistic characters, a great plot, and engaging dialogue. The good news is that this competition is open-themed and even welcomes stories written for or by children. 

Momaya Short Story Competition 

  • First Prize: $150
  • Genres: Short story 
  • Entry Fee: $9
  • Deadline: April 30, 2021 

Enter this short story competition and get a chance to be published in the Momaya Short Story Review 2021. Short stories of up to 3,000 words are welcome, written in any style, and on this year’s theme, “Harmony.” 

Join a Writing Contest

Writing contests provide excellent opportunities to challenge yourself and gain more exposure for your work, but they’re not the only way to achieve your dreams.

As you start submitting your work to contests or publishers, continue to study the basics of writing a book, as well as how to publish and market your book. This will serve you well in the long term! 

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