Roundup of September Writing Competitions


Autumn is rushing towards us like a frieght train. Thank goodness we still have September and those Indian summers as a buffer. Hopefully everyone is all fired up and inspired because there are some great writing competitions for this month.

Mslexia Women’s novel competition 2015

The competition from Mslexia magazine is open to any genre of writing, if not every gender of writer. Only unpublished novelists are able to enter, although the rules do show that self-published manuscripts (and presumably novelists) are eligible. Winning does not guarantee a publishing deal, but the winner from 2011, Rosie Garland had her novel The Palace of Curiosities published by Harper Collins. This is an international competition.

Word limit: at least 50,000 words

Prizes: 1st – £5000

Entry fee: £25

Closing date: 21st Sept

Just submit the first 5000 words of your novel, no synopis is needed. Plus “The winner and four other finalists will receive manuscript feedback from The Literary Consultancy.” Those five will also be offered a chance to attend “a special networking event with literary agents.”

This year’s judges will be Maria Lewycka, Juliet Mushens and Di Speirs.

Manchester Fiction Writing Competition

After The Sunday Times Prize this is the largest UK prize for short fiction and, as far as I’m aware, the largest annual prize for poetry. It is not cheap to enter, and hotly contended, but the kudos and the cash make it a very tempting competition to enter. The competition is also, notably, open to any writing geniuses of 16 or over, rather than the usual 18. This is an International Competition.

Short Story Category

Word limit: 2500 words

Prize: £10,000

Entry fee: £17.50

Poetry Category

Word limit: three to five poems, combined maximum of 120 lines.

Prize: £10,000

Entry fee: £17.50

Closing date: 25th September

The Manchester Competition has being going strong since 2008 and should certainly be on the map of anyone writing top notch poetry or short fiction.

The fiction prize judges this year will be: Nicholas Royle, Stuart Kelly and Leone Ross. The the poetry prize judges will be: Adam O’Riordn, Olivia Cole and Kei Miller.

The competition is run annually by Manchester Metropolitan University.

Literature Works First Page Writing Prize

I like this competition. It’s original, exceptionally cheap to enter, the prize money is good and the agent thing is a bonus rather than just the prize alone. On the downside, however, despite being a web-based organisation, entries must be printed on A4 and sent via the post. This also necessitates payment by cheque or bank transfer, which is a bit of a faff these days. The competition is open to UK residents only.

Word limit: 350 word first page, plus a 150 word synopsis

Prizes: 1st – £1500, 2nd – £400, 3rd – £200 

Entry fee: £6

Closing date: 30th September

The winning entry will also receive a report from Clare Wallace, an agent with the Darley Anderson Literary Agency. Not only this but, according to Literature Works, the winner should be ready with a manuscript.  “You should have completed at least the first three chapters of your novel at time of submission. If you were to win the First Page Prize your three chapters will be read by a professional agent, and if that agent likes your work they may ask to see the full manuscript within the next month or so with a view to representing you  – so please be prepared to take up that opportunity!”

Carried in Waves

From UCC 98.3FM at University College Cork in Ireland.

I’m a big fan of hearing short stories read out. Even better if the reader is a trained actor. It demonstrates how words can have a richness and texture in their pronunciation. It also turns all those tiny marks that litter our sentences from a dry and mutable legalese into real guidance for the performance –a map of pauses and emphasis, not so different to a musical score.

This competition not only offers the winners the opportunity to have their work broadcast, but also offers cash prizes on top. What is not to like.

There are two categories available. The standard short story prize and the George Boole special category for young adults. This is an international competition.

Main category

Word limit: words 3000

Prizes: 1st –€300, 2nd – €200, 3rd – €100

Entry fee: €10

George Boole special category for young adults

Word limit: words 3000

Prizes: 1st –€200

Entry fee: €10

Closing date: 30th Sept

Stories submitted to the main category “can be on any subject, in any style, by a writer of any age and of any nationality, living anywhere in the world. The themes explored may be of any nature but keep in mind that a shortlist of forty stories will be recorded for broadcast”. In other words the content shouldn’t be too shocking or dirty.

Stories for for the George Boole category must in some way explore “themes such as history, science, technology, entrepreneurism and digital thinking”. I asked what the age limit would be for entrants in this category, but haven’t yet had a reply.

Twitter @carriedinwaves

Flash 500 Competition

This is a great competition for those concise little pieces. Being quarterly, it comes up often enough that you have no excuse for missing it.

Word limit: 500 words

Prizes: 1st – £300, 2nd – £200, 3rd – £100 

Entry fee: £5

Closing date: 30th Sept

The fist prize winner will also be published in Words With Jam. If you miss this round (dog ate your homework), don’t worry, it will come up again in December.

Aeon Award 3rd round

This is one of the few genre based competitions out there, though the genres covered are fairly numerous, covereing any speculative fiction: fantasyscience fictionhorror, crossovers and anything else that doesn’t yet have a shelf set aside. The word count is amongst the most generous, though I worry about those shorter stories geeting a look-in. This is an international competition

Word limit: 10,000 words

Prizes: 1st – €1000, 2nd – €200, 3rd – €100 

Entry fee: €7.50

Closing date: 30th Sept for this round

The competition is run by Albedo One Magazine over four rounds during the year with a shortlist from each round going into the long selection at the end of the year. Six stories will be chosen from this list followed by the three finalists. Complex? Nonsense! Perfectly simple. I’m guessing some of the finalists will also end up being published in Albedo One.

Bedford Writing Competition

Bedford is one of the smaller, but no less worthy, competitions. A competition that only kicked off properly in 2014. This is an international competition.

Word limit: 3000 words

Prizes: 1st – £200, 2nd – £300, 3rd – £50

Entry fee: £5

Closing date: 30th Sept

The competition will be judged by author, Leigh Russel. Winners and shortlisted stories will be published in anthology as well as on the competition website.

Erewash Writers’ Group Short Story Competition

This competition originates from the Erewas writers’ Group, it is on a smaller scale than most, but if you find some of the big competitions daunting, or frankly too high falutin’, Erewash could be your shot.

Word limit: 2000 words

Prizes: 1st – £100, 2nd – £50, 3rd – £25, 4th – £25

Entry fee: £3

Closing date: 24th Sept

Winning entries will be published on the website. Judging will be by Simon Whaley. Writers can list themselves in ‘Open Category’ or as a ‘New Writer’. A fourth place prize automatically goes to a New writer if first and second places go to Open Category stories. Basically, they like to support new writers. To that end they also offer a very affordable critique service starting from only £3.


About Simon Cornish

Always a storyteller, both in words and visually, I have worked as a professional animator, scriptwriter and illustrator for most of my career. I’ve directed commercials, short films and plenty of dubious corporate miscellany. A number of my short films have been shown at festivals and I’ve produced a couple that have won awards. I have also created illustrations for industry magazines and children’s publications. Wanting to explore my writing in more depth I undertook an MA in Professional Writing at Falmouth University, graduating in 2011, and have been working on script and prose writing since.

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