Free-to-enter writing competitions

[Updated 16/9/19] Writing is a funny old game that you can easily spend more money on than you earn from it. To make progress, you need to get your work out into the world and hopefully build a reputation as a writer. But regularly entering competitions is costly, and you can run up quite a tab with little return for your money.

When I compile my lists, I try to include as many free and reasonably priced competitions as I can find, and I thought it might be an idea to do a post specifically focusing on free-to-enter Ireland and UK competitions. So whether you’re writing flash fiction, short stories, drama or a novel, hopefully there’s something of use for you here. And if you hear of any free opportunities, do please let me know and I’ll add them to the list (thanks to Laura Besley for some excellent additions). Good luck, as always!

Flash Fiction

  • 2019 FlashBack Fiction Summer Microfiction Competition
  • Closing date: June 16
  • Prizes: 1st place £25, 2nd place £15, 3rd place £10. The three prize-winning stories and selected runners-up will be published in the excellent FlashBack Fiction historical literary journal during the lead up to the anniversary of the Moon Landing, with the winning piece revealed on July 19
  • Word limit: 100 words
  • Theme: ‘The Moon’, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon Landing. Do read the guidelines for what they are looking for
  • Entry details: the first entry is free, £3 per entry thereafter. Open internationally
  • Ad Hoc Fiction
  • Closing date: June 18 (4pm) for the next round. This is an ongoing micro-competition run by the Bath Flash Fiction Award, with a new round every fortnight
  • Prize: a free entry to the Bath Flash Fiction Award, where you get to write a 300-word story to be in with a chance of winning £1,000, £300 or £100 plus publication in an anthology. Longlisted Ad Hoc flashes are published on the site and put to a public vote
  • Word limit: 150 words
  • Theme: stories must include the word ‘Flint’ for entries up to June 18. Check website for future prompts
  • Entry details:  free to enter, one entry only per round. Open internationally
  • Morgan Bailey 100-word Competition
  • Closing date: next deadline June 30, though this is a monthly-run competition
  • Prizes: 1st place a choice of three online courses (or a 2,000-word free edit by UK editor, author and competition judge Morgan Bailey), 2nd place two courses (or a 1,500-word edit), 3rd place one course (or a 1,000-word edit). Up to three highly commended entrants per month win either a free entry coupon code to a entering writing competitions course or a free 1,000-word edit
  • Word limit: 100 words
  • Theme: ‘The wrong card’ for June entries. Check website for future themes
  • Entry details: free to enter, three flashes permitted. Open internationally
Lennox Robinson
  • 2019 Lennox Robinson Award
  • Closing date: EXTENDED to August 31
  • Prize: €100. The prize will be presented at a special event in Douglas Library, Cork, in October
  • Word limit: 100 words
  • Theme: must relate in some way to the work of Cork playwright and Abbey Theatre artistic director Lennox Robinson
  • Entry details: free to enter. Open internationally
  • Writer’s HQ Flash Quarterly Contest
  • Closing date: September 30 (but there are rolling quarterly deadlines)
  • Prize: A year’s Writers’ HQ membership with access to over £1,000’s worth of online writing courses and 3 one-day UK writing retreats
  • Word limit: 500 words 
  • Theme: none
  • Entry fee: free (but donations to the WHQ ‘sponsor a writer’ bursary scheme are very welcome). Open internationally
  • A Story for Daniel Flash Fiction Competition
  • Closing date: October 31
  • Prizes: 1st place £100 and story published on the website. One runner-up will receive a bundle of writing-related goodies including feedback (see website for details), and have the option to have their story published  on the website
  • Word limit: 500 words
  • Theme: stories with a joyful, hopeful or uplifting theme. This competition is held annually in memory of 21-month-old Daniel Farbrace and to raise awareness of blood stem cell donation
  • Entry details: free to enter (or entrants can make a donation to one of three good causes in Daniel’s name), one entry only. Open internationally

Short Story

Will you boldly go where no writer has gone before?
  • James White Award Short Story Competition
  • Closing date: June 28
  • Prize: £200 plus publication in Interzone sci-fi magazine
  • Word limit: 2,000-6,000 words
  • Theme: stories should be science fiction, however you interpret that. Fan fiction based on existing series (eg Dr Who, Star Wars etc) will not be accepted. Check out the T&Cs before entering
  • Entry details: free to enter, one entry only. Open internationally
  • Funny Pearls 2019 Short Story Competition
  • Closing date: July 31
  • Prizes: 1st place a £250 Amazon gift card. Two runners up will each receive Amazon gift cards to the value of £100. Presumably the winners will also be published on the site
  • Word limit: 1,200-3,000 words
  • Theme: none, but stories should be intended to bring a smile to the reader’s face (dark humour qualifies)
  • Entry fee: free to enter, one entry only. Open internationally to women
  • Costa Short Story Award 2019
  • Closing date: August 1
  • Prize: £3,000
  • Word limit: 4,000 words
  • Theme: none
  • Entry fee: free to enter. Open to writers resident in UK or Ireland
  • 2019 TU Dublin Short Story Competition
  • Closing date: August 19
  • Prizes: 1st place €500, 2nd place €250, 3rd place €150. The winner and shortlisted stories will be published in an anthology
  • Word limit: 1,500-2,000 words
  • Theme: there is no restriction on theme or style, however the planned 2019 anthology will be called InfinitePossibilities so they are looking for strong stories that (even loosely) reflect this title
  • Entry fee: free to enter, one entry only. Open internationally
  • Perito Writing Prize 2019
  • Closing date: October 1 (opens for entries September 1)
  • Prizes: 1st place £250 and the story will be published on the Perito Prize section of the Perito Ltd website (a UK-based consultancy that specialises in providing accessibility services to businesses, institutions and registered charities). Two runners-up will receive a special mention and have their short stories featured on the website
  • Word limit: 1,000-2,000 words
  • Theme: ‘Accessibility’. The website explains, ‘For some, this [accessibility] conjures up thoughts of wheelchairs, hearing aids, and guide dogs, but we see it as the simple concept that all people should be able to enjoy and have access to opportunity in the world we live in! Issues with access to spaces, opportunities and experiences can happen to anyone at any time, whether physical, mobility impairment or injury, mental health, or less visible neurocognitive conditions. We think there are so many great stories out there to celebrate the diverse world we live in’
  • Entry details: free to enter, one entry only. Although the site says ‘national’ (ie. UK), the organiser tells me that entries from abroad will be considered
  • Nobrow Short Story Competition
  • Closing date: December 9
  • Prizes: 1st place £2,000 and publication in an anthology. Up to 11 shortlisted writers will receive £150, publication in the anthology and two complimentary copies. All the finalists will be invited to attend events including a launch and readings
  • Word limit: 3,000 words
  • Theme: ‘The Censor’, however you interpret that
  • Entry details: free to enter, one entry only. Open internationally


  • Daily Mail First Novel Competition 2019
  • Closing date: June 14
  • Prizes: a £20,000 advance fee, the services of top literary agent Luigi Bonomi and guaranteed publication by Penguin Random House UK. There is also potential for runners-up to be offered book deals and/or feedback. (In my interview here with Cork writer Catherine Kirwan, she describes how she was offered a book deal for her debut thriller Darkest Truth after making the shortlist in 2016)
  • Requirement: the first 3,000 words plus a 600-word synopsis
  • Entry details: free to enter. Open to writers resident in the UK or Republic of Ireland
  • 2019 Fitzcarraldo Editions Novel Prize 
  • Closing date: July 15 
  • Prize: £3,000 advance against publication with Fitzcarraldo Editions. The winner will subsequently be published in Fitzcarraldo Editions’ fiction list
  • Requirement: full manuscript of min 30,000 words, cover letter including a biog, contact details and brief outline of the novel 
  • Entry details: free, one entry only permitted. Open to residents of the UK and Ireland
  • Curtis Brown First Novel Prize
  • Closing date: August 1 (closes 12 noon)
  • Prizes: 1st place £3,000 and an offer of representation by Curtis Brown; 2nd place a three-month novel-writing course at Curtis Brown Creative, and a mentoring session with one of the Curtis Brown literary agent team. Four shortlisted entrants will be offered a place on a six-week online course with Curtis Brown Creative and a mentoring session with one of the Curtis Brown literary agent team. The head judge is Tracy Chevalier
  • Requirement: first 10,000 words plus a one-page synopsis
  • Entry details: free to enter. Open to writers resident in the UK or Ireland
  • Gransnet and HQ Writing Competition
  • Closing date: September 30
  • Prize: a publishing contract with HQ, an imprint of HarperCollins UK. Five shortlisted writers will receive editorial feedback
  • Requirement: a one-page synopsis and the first 20,000 words of their unpublished novel, which needs to be a completed work of at least 85,000 words. Stories must feature a female main character over the age of 40
  • Entry details: free to enter. Open to women writers over the age of 40 resident in the UK or Ireland


  • RTE PJ O’Connor Radio Drama Awards 2019
  • Closing date: August 15 (closes at 5pm)
  • Prizes: 1st place €5,000, 2nd place €4,000 3rd place €3,000. The winning plays will be produced, recorded and broadcast by RTE Radio 1
  • Requirement: a 40-minute radio play. Plays must be written for radio, not stage plays that would need adapting
  • Entry details: free to enter, one entry only. Open to writers who are Irish or resident in Ireland
  • 10 x 10 Minute Plays
  • Closing date: August 16
  • Prizes: 10 selected plays will be staged at the Cork Arts Theatre, Cork, in the autumn (see my post here about my writing group friend Brenda Donoghue, who was one of the winners in 2017)
  • Requirement: a 10-minute stage play. Must have a simple setting, with minimal props, cast requirements etc.
  • Entry details: free to enter. No details on whether it’s open internationally

Pictures:; Maciej Korsan


4 thoughts on “Free-to-enter writing competitions

    1. Hello Barbara, do you mean a mailing list? I don’t send out lists, I’m afraid, I just complie the odd blog post more for my own entertainment than anything else. But I update them and add new ones regularly so do please drop back. Thanks for reading


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