If you’re anything like me, it’s easy to vaguely say that you’d like to do something one day—devote more time to creative writing, for example—and then never get around to finding time in your busy week to actually sit down and do it. I’m the kind of person who has to have deadlines and expectations attached to my goals to get anything done.
For years now, I’ve been taking notes about a novel idea that I am excited about in a beautiful leather bound notebook and on scraps of paper/tickets/paper napkins as and when inspiration strikes, but I haven’t managed to get anywhere significant with the idea. Last autumn I decided to start smaller, and just try fitting in short but regular creative writing sessions into my busy week via my online creative writing club, The Writing Habit. Since then, I’ve been able to start building up my creative writing muscles, and have produced three short stories that I’m relatively proud of over the months. That may not sound like a lot, but hey—we all have to start somewhere. If we wouldn’t expect to be able to run a marathon without training, why should creative writing be any different?
One thing that I’ve found really helpful, other than scheduling in regular time to write and also using a weekly prompt to get my ideas flowing, has been to pick a few creative writing competitions to enter. Putting some regular deadlines in my diary has helped me to actually see a few stories through to the end, polish and edit them, and send them out to be read by strangers. It’s not about winning (although, winning would obviously be lovely)—it’s about pushing yourself to meet a deadline and actually finish a piece.
So, in case you’re also hopeless without a deadline and need a little extra creative writing motivation, here’s a list of competitions I’ve been building up. I really encourage you to try entering a few; not only will it motivate you to finish a few more stories, it will also empower you to share your work with others and toughen up to potential rejection. (A HUGELY important skill for any writer.) And, if you eventually do win a competition, that’s a really great addition to your creative CV that could help you eventually land an agent.
A quick note: I’ve chosen competitions that are open to unpublished authors (amateurs, unite!). Also, being from the UK myself, this is naturally a very UK-centric list at the moment, but I’ll keep updating it as I find other great annual short stories or creative prose competitions to enter, so please do leave me a comment if you know of any that you think I should add to this list.
A Beginner’s List of Creative Writing Competitions
- The Mogford Short Story Prize for Food & Drink Writing // January // Short stories on the theme of food & drink
- Spread the Word Life Writing Prize (note: only open to residents of the UK) // February // Creative non-fiction (“life writing”), either a self-contained piece or an extract of a larger work
- Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Award (note: only open to women who are residents of the UK and Ireland) // February // Novels
- Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook Short Story Competition // February // Short stories
- Alpine Fellowship Writing Prize // March // Writing on the topic of “childhood”
- White Review Short Story Prize (note: only open to residents of the UK and Ireland) // March // Short stories
- The Bath Short Story Award // April // Short stories
- The Bath Novel Award // April // Novels
- The London Magazine Novel Writing Competition // April // Novels
- The Bridport Prize (note: multiple categories) // May // Poetry, short stories, flash fiction, novels
- Bristol Short Story Prize // May // Short stories
- The Moth Magazine Short Story Prize // June // Short stories
- Costa Short Story Award // July // Short stories
- Manchester Writing Competition // September // Poetry, short stories
- Bare Fiction Competitions (note: multiple categories) // October
- The London Magazine Short Story Competition // November // Short stories
- The Bath Children’s Novel Award // November // Children’s novels
- The Magic Oxygen Literary Prize // December // Poetry, short stories
- The Moth Magazine Poetry Prize // December // Poetry
- V. S. Pritchett Short Story Prize // December // Short stories
PS If you haven’t joined my creative writing club yet, find out more, here!