Genre Writing Contests -- Why Not Try Them?
By Grace Tierney
Copyright © 2007 by Grace Tierney, All Rights Reserved
you ever dreamt of picking up that golden statue of Oscar and declaring
your gratitude to everybody from your pet hamster to your mailman? Well
if you have, you may want to try entering a writing contest. The statues
are in shorter supply but you do get the joy of tagging "award-winning
writer" after your name and most of them pay out in hard-cash, always a
good thing in my book.
There are no Contests for Me
Oh yes there are! If I could find more than 200 for my fiction contest
book, then you can find a handful for you to enter. Start locally -
check for a local writing group, the arts column in local newspapers,
library, writing magazines, college notice-boards, and the Web site of
your region's arts authority. Then think laterally, but still keep it
local - are there any history festivals, literary festival, or theatre
festivals anywhere near you? You may discover there’s a writing contest
being run in your own town and it is always nice to support your local
arts, isn’t it?
Afterwards, it's time to go national and international. Genre e-zines
are great sources for contest information. The web sites of publishers
sometimes use contests to find new writers amongst their loyal readers
(and the pay can be particularly good on these). A good 80% of contests
I've uncovered in five years of research on the topic were open to
entries from countries other than their own, so remember to look beyond
your own borders for possible competitions. Your being "foreign" in
outlook or style may be just the edge you need to win.
The Web is a great place to search too and check out yahoo groups for
Why Should I Bother?
To respectfully borrow a theme from Monty Python -- apart from providing
publication, prizes, and deadlines -- what have writing contests ever
done for us?
They give us clearer guidelines than many publications.
They raise our profile at magazines and presses who take daily
submissions as well as run contests.
They give us something impressive for our writing resume, blog, book
cover, or query letters - if we win.
Sometimes we get a shiny trophy for our bookshelf.
Some contests are judged by prestigious writers, editors, agents, or
publishers. Getting your name recognized by those people is never a
Most of all they're fun. Quirky rules will force you to stretch your
writing. I once entered a contest purely because I had to use the word "hornswaggle"
(go on, look it up) in my short fiction. I won. The more unusual prizes
are great - I've won everything from coffee to luxury weekend breaks.
Cash is enjoyable too and more likely to impress your bank manager,
mother or teenage children.
How Do I Enter a Contest?
Find a contest that appeals to you and your style of writing. Write your
best work, follow the entry guidelines carefully and submit your entry
on time. You won't win every contest, nobody can do that, but contests
make you write and all writing improves your skills. Sooner or later
you'll get short-listed or win.
How Long is a Piece of String?
Twice the distance from the middle to the end (think about it). As for
genre fiction contests - that piece of string can be almost any length,
which is good news if you specialize in shorts, novellas, or novels.
Just check the word count details at the contest's Web site.
A Selection of Genre Contests
Dark Tales eContest (http://www.darktales.co.uk)
Short fiction - horror and dark fantasy
Entry Fee: 1.25 UK sterling
Prize: 50 sterling plus publication
Mary Shelley Prize (http://www.rsbd.net/mary_shelley_award.htm)
Short fiction - fantasy, horror, sci-fi
Entry Fee: ten US dollars
Prize: 1,000 US dollars and publication in "Rosebud"
Misfits Writing Contest (http://misfit.org/writingcontest/)
Short science fiction, fantasy, horror or supernatural fiction for
writers aged up to 16
Entry Fee: free
Prize: 75 US dollar gift certificate
The Fountain Award (http://speculativeliterature.org)
Speculative short fiction
Entry Fee: free
Prize: 1,000 US dollars
SpecficWorld Writing Contest (http://www.specficworld.com/contest.aspx)
10,000 words fiction - science fiction, fantasy and horror
Entry Fee: Six US dollars
Prize: 150 US dollars (1st), 100 (2nd), 50 (3rd), 25 (4th), and
SFWoE Contest (http://home.flash.net/~sfwoe/)
Short science fiction or fantasy short fiction
Entry Fee: five US dollars
Prize: 200 US dollars and Web site publication (1st), 100 (2nd), 50
Firebrand / SF Reader Fiction contest (http://www.sfreader.com/story_contest.asp)
short fiction in horror, slipstream, fantasy, sci-fi, steampunk,
alternate history etc
Entry Fee: free
Prize: 400 US dollars, publication, and online interview (1st), 200
(2nd), 100 (3rd)
Novel Contests Open to Genre Novels
Innermoonlit First Chapter Award (http://www.brianagincourtmassey.com)
First chapter of a novel - all genres welcome
Entry Fee: free
Prize: 100 US dollars (1st), 50 (2nd), a signed novel (3rd)
Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards (http://www.writersdigest.com/contests)
self-published book in almost any genre or non-genre style
Entry Fee: yes, at least ten US dollars (check Web site when 2008
Prize: 3,000 US dollars
Abilene Writers Guild Contest (http://www.abilenewritersguild.org/contest.html)
Various categories including novel in almost any and no genre
Entry Fee: ten US dollars for novels
Prize: 100 US dollars (1st), 65 (2nd), and 35 (3rd) in each category
Bards and Sages Contest (http://www.bardandsages.com)
Sci-fi, horror, and fantasy. Categories include novella
Entry Fee: five US dollars for novella
Prize: 150 US dollars (1st), 75 (2nd), 50 (3rd), and anthology
Now, once you get that "congratulations, you've won our contest" letter
in the mail, just remember to let me know and consider it part of your
acceptance speech. I just love knowing I helped someone to win. And if
you get invited to the Oscars ™, you better let everybody at FM Writers
know because we're going to be cheering at the red carpet.
Tierney can usually be found in the Rejection Slip and Good News
forums at Forward Motion and has recently published her second
e-book “The Writing Contest Expert's Guide to Fiction Contests”
- more than 200 contests for all fiction genres from flash to