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2020 Writing Contests: The Ultimate Guide

August 23, 2018 | 9 min read

Finding the right writing contest for you can be a difficult and time-consuming process. I googled the term “writing contests” and got 126,000,000 results. For that reason, we compiled a comprehensive and up-to-date list of the best writing contests in 2020.

You’re here because you’re looking for credible writing contests that offer cash prizes and/or the ability to get your work in front of more people. Discover the best essay, poetry, novel, and short story writing competitions for fiction and non-fiction writers.

Disclaimer:The majority of the descriptions of each contest were taken directly from the most relevant contest website.

We did the leg work and we’ll continue to curate and update this list throughout the year. If you want to receive updates when we update this list, sign up for updates!

Submit your work to these competitions for a chance to win notoriety, rewards and of course, cash prizes.

Related: Struggling to get your piece finished before the competition deadline? UseSprinter, our online, distraction-free writing tool. Produce your best work by staying productive and creative.

Did we miss a writing competition? Let us know in the comments or by tweeting at us, @astrohaus.


20 Writing Contests in 2020

1. 100,000,000 Words Writing Contest

The Freewrite community is filled with so many talented authors and writers who have published novels, screenplays and more. This year we'll be crossing 100 million words written on Freewrite - an incredible milestone. To celebrate, we're launching a writing contest to showcase the talented members of the Freewrite family who helped us get here.  

Deadline:June 18, 2020 Fee: Free Prize: $250 gift card + surprise collectors item View Contest

2. Inkitt Midsummer Mystery Contest

We’re on the search for stories that keep readers hooked with suspense which means this contest is open to submissions of multiple genres, such as: mystery, thriller, crime, fantasy, paranormal urban, horror and any other genre that keeps your readers on the edge of their seats.

Deadline: August 31, 2020 Fee: None Prize: $650 and Badge for book View Contest

3. 2019 Accenti Writing Contest

The annual Accenti Writing Contest has an open topic. Multiple entries are welcome. The contest is open to prose works of fiction, non-fiction or creative non-fiction with a maximum length of 2000 words. Winners are chosen by blind judging. Four finalists make the shortlist, from which the judges choose the winner. The popular vote winner is the submission from among the four finalists that receives the most votes by Accenti readers. Winners' names, bios and submissions will be posted on Accenti in May and reported in the Accenti Newsletter. Top prize: $1000.00 (CDN) and publication in Accenti. Two runner-up prizes: $100.00 (CDN) each and publication in Accenti. Popular Vote prize: $100.00 (CDN) and publication in Accenti.

Deadline: February 3rd, 2020  Fee: $30  Prize: $100 - $1,000 View Contest

4. AFSA National High School Essay Contest

USIP partners with the American Foreign Service Association ((AFSA) on the annual National High School Essay Contest. The contest engages high school students in learning and writing about issues of peace and conflict, encouraging an appreciation for diplomacy's role in building partnerships that can advance peacebuilding and protect national security. Now in its 22nd year, the contest encourages students to think about how and why the United States engages globally to build peace, and about the role that the Foreign Service plays in advancing U.S. national security and economic prosperity.

Deadline:April 6, 2020 Fee: None Prize: $2,500 + Trip to Washington D.C. View Contest

5. Storyathon

Storyathon is an exciting free online event where students are challenged to write a story that is EXACTLY 100 words. This online event is for grades 3 to 6 in US and Canada.

This is more of a creative writing event than a contest. Our aim is for every child to develop a passion for writing and storytelling. Storyathon has already proved unbelievably popular with over 3,000 classrooms participating and over 40,000 stories created to date.

Deadline: 3 March 2020 (7PM Eastern Standard Time, 6PM Central Pacific Time and 4PM Pacific Standard Time). Fee:None Prize: A Storyathon trophy for the National champion. A Storyathon Top 10 Certificate for the top 10 stories and these will also be published in the Storyathon Chronicle. Finalists will receive a digital certificate. View Contest

6. WOW! Women On Writing 2019 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest

Seeking creative nonfiction essays on any topic (200 - 1000 words) and in any style--from personal essay to lyric essay to hybrid and more! The mission of this contest is to reward bravery in real-life storytelling and create an understanding of our world through thoughtful, engaging narratives.

Electronic submissions via e-mail only; reprints are okay; simultaneous submissions okay; multiple submissions are okay as long as they are submitted in their own individual e-mail. Open internationally.

Deadline: October 31, 2019 Fee: $12 Prize: $500 and publication View Contest

7. WOW! Women On Writing Fall 2019 Flash Fiction Contest

Guest Judge: Literary Agent Cari Lamba with the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency

Seeking short fiction of any genre between 250 - 750 words. The mission of this contest is to inspire creativity, communication, and well-rewarded recognition to contestants.

Electronic submissions via e-mail only; reprints are okay; simultaneous submissions okay; multiple submissions are okay as long as they are submitted in their own individual e-mail. Open internationally.

Deadline: November 30, 2019 Fee: $10 Prize: $400 and publication View Contest

8. BeAnimal Autumn Writing Competition

The aim is to get participants to think deeply about nature and sustainability. Our NGO works with environmental education and preservation of nature in India.

  • First prize - Valley of Flowers tour (16 days) worth 599 euros
  • Second prize - The Himalayan experience (10 days) worth 499 euros
  • Third prize - The Gaia experience - Mountain retreat in Kookal (5 days) worth 399 euros

    Deadline: December 16, 2019 Fee: None Prize: See Above View Contest

    9. The Restless Books Prize For New Immigrant Writing

    The ethos of the modern world is defined by immigrants. Their stories have always been an essential component of our cultural consciousness, from Isaac Bashevis Singer to Isabel Allende, from Milan Kundera to Maxine Hong Kingston. In novels, short stories, memoirs, and works of journalism, immigrants have shown us what resilience and dedication we’re capable of, and have expanded our sense of what it means to be global citizens. In these times of intense xenophobia, it is more important than ever that these boundary-crossing stories reach the broadest possible audience.

    With that in mind, we are proud to present The Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing. We are looking for extraordinary unpublished submissions from emerging writers of sharp, culture-straddling writing that addresses identity in a global age. Each year, a distinguished panel of judges will select a winning manuscript to be published by Restless Books. We can’t wait to read and share what the new voices of the world have to say.

    Deadline: March 31, 2019 Fee: None Prize: $10,000 View Contest

    10. Sarton Women's Book Awards

    The Sarton Women’s Book Awards are given annually to women authors writing chiefly about women in memoir, nonfiction, contemporary fiction, historical fiction, and young adult. The awards are limited to submissions originally written in English and published by small/independent publishers, university presses, and author-publishers (self-publishing authors). The award program is named in honor of May Sarton, who is remembered for her outstanding contributions to women's literature as a memoirist, novelist, and poet.

    Deadline: July 1, 2019 (Early Bird Entry) Fee: $90 (Early Bird Fee)  Prize: $100 + commemorative medallion and advertising considerations View Contest

    11. 6th Ó Bhéal Five Words International Poetry Competition

    The O Bheal Five Words Poetry Competition is one of the more unique competitions on this list. Instead of opening yearly or even quarterly, this contest is held weekly. Every Tuesday around noon (UTC), from the 16th of April 2019 until the 28th of January 2020, five words are posted on the competitions page. Entrants have one week to compose and submit one or more poems which include all five words given for that week. One winner is selected from all the weekly winners.

    Five words poetry competition logo

    Deadline: Weekly, through January 28, 2020 Fee: €5 Prize: €500 View Contest

    12. L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest

    Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest is an opportunity for new writers of science fiction and fantasy to have their work judged by some of the masters in the field and discovered by a wide audience.

    Deadline: March 31, 2019 Fee: None Prize: Up to $5,000 View Contest

    13. Writer's Digest Annual Writing Competition

    Writer’s Digest has been shining a spotlight on up and coming writers in all genres through its Annual Writing Competition for more than 80 years. Enter our 88th Annual Writing Competition for your chance to win and have your work be seen by editors and agents! Almost 500 winners will be chosen. The top winning entries of this writing contest will also be on display in the 88th Annual Writer’s Digest Competition Collection.

    Deadline: May 6, 2019 Fee: $25 Prize: $5,000 View Contest

    14. Drue Heinz Literature Award

    The Drue Heinz Literature Prize recognizes and supports writers of short fiction and makes their work available to readers around the world. The award is open to authors who have published a book-length collection of fiction or at least three short stories or novellas in commercial magazines or literary journals.

    Manuscripts are judged anonymously by nationally known writers. Past judges have included Robert Penn Warren, Joyce Carol Oates, Raymond Carver, Margaret Atwood, Russell Banks, Rick Moody, and Joan Didion.

    Winners receive a cash prize of $15,000, publication by the University of Pittsburgh Press, and support in the nation-wide promotion of their book.

    Deadline: June 30, 2019 Fee:None Prize:$15,000 View Contest

    15. Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize

    Established in 1981, the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize is administered by the
    University of Pittsburgh Press. Named in honor of Agnes Lynch Starrett, the Press’s
    first director, the prize is awarded for a first full-length book of poems.

    The prize carries a cash award of $5,000 and publication by the University of
    Pittsburgh Press as part of the Pitt Poetry Series. The series is edited by Ed Ochester, who also serves as final judge in the Starrett competition.

    Deadline: April 30, 2019 Fee: $25 Prize: $5,000 View Contest

    16. Miami Book Fair/ De Groot Prize

    The Miami Book Fair, the nation’s finest and largest literary gathering, presented by Miami Dade College, has partnered with The de Groot Foundation to launch the Miami Book Fair/De Groot Prize to be awarded to an author for an unpublished novella.

    Deadline: April 30, 2019 Fee:None Prize: $6,000 and publication by Melville House  View Contest

    17. Write The World

    Founded in 2012 by David Weinstein, Write The World is a program dedicated to the development of high school aged writers. They’ve created a global community and a guided interactive process that’s subscribed to by thousands of youth writers and educators.

    Write The WorldImage via: Write the World

    Their current competition is a food writing competition. Writers aged 13-18 may submit a 600 - 1,000 word essay about food. Along with cash prizes of up to $100, youth writers will receive recognition from the global Write The World community.

    Deadline: Monthly Fee: None Prize: Up to $100 View Contest

    18. ServiceScape Short Story Award 2019

    Calling all short story writers: Are you a short story writer interested in gaining more exposure and a bigger audience for your creative work? Would an extra $1,000.00 USD in your pocket be a great thing right now?

    If so, the ServiceScape Short Story Award is the perfect way to achieve both. For this award, any genre or theme of short story is accepted. All applicants should submit their original unpublished work of short fiction or nonfiction, 5,000 words or fewer, to be considered. Along with receiving an award for $1,000.00 USD, the winner will have his or her short story featured within our blog, which reaches thousands of readers per month. Rules and exclusions apply.


    Deadline: November 30, 2019 Fee: None Prize: $1,000 View Contest

    19. Narrative Prize 2019

    THE $4,000 NARRATIVE PRIZE is awarded annually for the best short story, novel excerpt, poem, one-act play, graphic story, or work of literary nonfiction published by a new or emerging writer in Narrative.

    The winner is announced each September, and the prize is awarded in October. The award, citing the winner’s name and the title and genre of the winning piece, is widely publicized, and each winner is cited in an ongoing listing in Narrative. The prize will be given to the best work published each year in Narrative by a new or emerging writer, as judged by the magazine’s editors. In some years, the prize may be divided between winners, when more than one work merits the award.

    Deadline: June 15, 2019 Fee:None Prize: $4,000 View Contest

    20. Architecture of Power: Short Story Contest

    Welcome to 2019; polarizing political views are an ever-present reality and it doesn't seem to be improving. Whether you live in the US or on the other side of the globe our environments are actors in the theater of influence. What happens when design becomes part of the equation?

    Write a short story that puts into narrative how architecture and the built-environment affect the lives of the people in power and those on the fringes of society.

    Deadline: February 28th, 2019  Fee: $25 Prize: $500 + Bonus View Contest


    There are many good reasons to enter writing contests. First and foremost, there is the possibility of winning a cash prize. Secondly, having your name attached to a popular literary magazine or writing organization can help get your work seen.

    With that said, before taking the plunge, be sure to read the contest guidelines thoroughly. Some writing contests have regional, age, gender, ethnicity, and word count restrictions.

    If you’ve found what you’re looking for, don’t delay, get writing! Writing competitions are one of the best ways for writers to get their work in front of a broad audience.


    Carlton ClarkCarlton Clark loves to write about business, baseball, and popular culture. A writer, marketer, and entrepreneur. At the age of 14, he founded the media company ballplayerplus.com. Currently, Carlton helps businesses share their stories through social media and blogging. When he’s not writing or creating content, Carlton coaches youth baseball at his local high school and plays guitar. You can find him online on Instagram @itscarltonclark, and on Twitter @carlton_mukasa



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