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.

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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

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    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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    There’s an age-old debate about the superior version of a story: Is it the book or the movie? Most readers and far too many writers will default to the idea that “the book was better.”

    But was it? Was it really?

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    Talking to Alex Kazemi doesn’t feel like talking to the guy who wrote 2023’s “most dangerous book of the year,” a book Ellen Hopkins calls “raucous, raunchy, and sure to offend.” And it certainly doesn’t feel like talking to Bret Easton Ellis’s “favorite millennial provocateur.”

    It feels like talking to a friend I haven’t caught up with in a while. And my friends just aren’t that cool.


    We’re chatting because Kazemi lives a ruthlessly offline lifestyle, a philosophy at the core of Freewrite and which Kazemi sees as necessary to being the best artist he can be. Having garnered a book deal at the tender age of 18, he knows a thing or two about life as an artist.

    Kazemi released his first book, Pop Magick, an occult book about how to manifest, in 2020. “Madonna helped me launch that,” he says, casually mentioning one of the biggest pop stars of the twentieth century. “So, yeah, that was insane.”

    But it wasn’t until the release of his first novel, New Millennium Boyz, nearly a decade in the making, that things got truly wild.

    Kazemi’s unflinching look at Y2K culture and teenage boyhood reads like a horrifying screenplay — or the transcript of a violent AIM conversation between bored, lonely teenagers. Even before publication, the book faced criticism calling it dangerous, prompting the publisher to splash a content warning across the front matter, to Kazemi's extreme annoyance. Conservative American moms later flagged it for book bans, leaving the Canadian author baffled.

    Was an honest look at the 90s and early ’aughts really worth all that uproar?

    We sat down with Kazemi to discuss the driving force behind his portrayal of this often-glamorized time period, why he felt compelled to present this reality to modern audiences, and how in the world he lives an offline lifestyle in the year 2024.

    The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

     

     Mirror selfies without a smartphone

    ANNIE COSBY: First things first. Are you a millennial?

    ALEX KAZEMI: Yes. I was born in 1994, which means I’m on the cusp. I do not identify with any Zoomer qualities or tendencies at all.

    COSBY: In general cultural discourse, millennials tend to get a bad rap – very infantilizing, even though some of us are 40. What's your take?

    KAZEMI: I think it's pretty insane because we were dealt a really bad card, with the recession, jobs being lost, the digital age booming… Many of us still have memories of going to Blockbuster and, you know, AOL chat rooms and the early web. But then we watched everything go chronically online and digital through the 2010s. We watched technology and the information age replace a lot of skillsets. So we became a weird bunch, for sure.


    COSBY: I do find it interesting that people glamorize that period specifically because it was the beginning of everything being online — so everybody's mistakes and drunken pictures are out there.

    KAZEMI: Right? And we did it willingly.

    COSBY: Oh God, the things I said to strange men in chat rooms.

    KAZEMI: Me as well. And it’s so, so dark, because the internet has always been and will always be, even as we're adults and growing older, a mirror of our subconscious vomit. The frequencies we vibrated to when we were coming of age were more about exploration, and that's why there was so much stranger danger. There were so many scary scenarios that kids could get themselves into with the early web because of how unregulated it was, as well.

    COSBY: Would you say New Millennium Boyz is a defense of the way we Millennials are? Or is it a commentary on how misremembered that era is?

    KAZEMI: It's definitely a commentary. And it's supposed to be historical fiction, educating younger folks and also older generations about how, you know, this beautiful picture that you see of Rachael Leigh Cook from She's All That on TikTok? There was actually a lot of darkness and chaos going around, especially when it comes to very normalized racism, misogyny, and homophobia.

     

     

    I find it very ironic that this new generation that is so fixated on social justice and evolution and freedom would fetishize the aesthetics of an era of true debauchery and chaos and cruelty — like really — which was mirrored in the art in that period. Look at 2000s teen movies! I just wanted to write a satire of that extreme teen genre, like Catherine Hardwicke's Thirteen, Larry Clark's Bully, Spring Breakers...

    My second motivation was to really look at boy culture in the post-Columbine era and how this was very much a prescient, predictive time of where we would end up with the alt-right and 4chan and “incels,” and how it's all connected.

    And then of course exploring the romanticized aspect of Y2K — going to the mall, people wearing Marilyn Manson shirts, and the aesthetic obsession with it. I wanted to create the book I wanted to see in the world that I didn't feel existed yet.

    COSBY: I’ve heard you talk about the misogyny of the “teen girls are bitches” trope. It's like, have you met boys? Have you been a teen boy talking to other teen boys?

    KAZEMI: Oh, they're the biggest bitches. They're so cruel. You see the “mean girls” trope in tons of movies, like Jawbreaker, but it’s so strange how we don't ever look at the cruelty teenage boys face. And not just the cruelty but also the misguidedness and the culture that feeds that.

    Especially in the 90s and 2000s, boys were so encouraged to be testosterone-driven and hyper-masculine. Woodstock 99 was such a great example of the chaos of too much of something – and it’s being talked about now because of the documentary.

    COSBY: New Millennium Boyz really explores this violence inherent to 90s culture for boys, and because of that, it got a content warning, right?

    KAZEMI: Yes. During the final cuts of the book, when we were in edits and copy edits, I got the call from my publisher that “So-and-So is not going to stock it without a content warning because they're really worried about how teenagers are going to react to the work and if they're going to reenact the behavior.”

    And I was like, this is a cultural critique. It's not anything to be glamorized. I think anyone who reads it would understand that.

    COSBY: Do you think we as humans always look back on past time periods with rose-colored glasses, or is there something special about Y2K?

    KAZEMI: There's something really freaky about what we're doing with the 90s and 2000s. I don't think we've ever before been in a place, as humans, where corporations like Meta and TikTok can just algorithmically feed into us all the time.

    A teenager in the 90s could fetishize the 70s or the 60s, but they could close the book when it was done or finish the movie and turn off the TV. But with Gen Z, and every generation now, we're just inundated every day with memes, photos, videos, and other people’s thoughts.

    And I guess this 90s nostalgia is partly because it represents familiarity for people of a certain age, but even for the people who didn't live during that time, it seems to represent a kind of order, a sense of quietness — “Oh, 90210 is on at 9 p.m. and that's all there is.” No choices to make. There weren’t one billion options like kids today have.

    COSBY: So you think people are viewing that period as a time of simplicity and unplugging, which we’re all kind of yearning for now?

    KAZEMI: Yeah, and you certainly could unplug then, but you can unplug today, too — we're just brainwashed into thinking that we have no choice, that we have no free will. But it's totally not true. You could simulate Y2K if you wanted to! You just have to set a lot of boundaries.

    COSBY: Like writing on a Freewrite.

    KAZEMI: Yes! That’s why I write offline. Over the years, I’ve had different cool ways to do that. For a lot of my teenage years, I wrote in Apple Notes. Then, I ordered a BlackBerry off eBay and used it as a word processor for a while. I have a dead AlphaSmart here — rest in peace.

    I feel like what's so crazy about Freewrite is a lot of people don't know that these products exist, which is a problem.

    COSBY: It's also super polarizing. Without even trying it, some people are like, “What is this hipster thing?” Meanwhile, we get so many messages from new users saying, “What is this magic? I'm actually writing for the first time in years!” It's really interesting to see people's reactions. Tech is such a weirdly touchy subject.

    KAZEMI: And a Freewrite is way better than a typewriter. I'm not fucking doing the ribbon, there's no time for that.

    COSBY: Some people do though, right? Aren’t you friends with Matty Healy?

    KAZEMI: Yes, yes. I told him about Freewrite. I love his songwriting. I love the 1975's lyrics. I love him as a literary mind.

    COSBY: Alex. [heavy pause] Is he the one being referenced in the song?

    KAZEMI: [rolls eyes] Honestly, I'm not really interested in all the gossip. I don't think great artists should be reduced to that.

    COSBY: OK, that's fair. I think they're both great storytellers, too. And it would be so hard to live a creative life under that kind of microscope. On that note, your offline approach to life goes beyond writing, right? How does that work?

    KAZEMI: Well, it definitely includes a lot of conscious boundaries that annoy a lot of people.

    I’ve had a flip phone for a few years now, and I have a landline. When it comes to the internet and iMessage and emails, I try to do regulated “office hours” of screen time.

    It's a very privileged position to be in, because a lot of people have to be on call all the time for work. But being disconnected definitely gives me more time for my mind to be free and creative and to write more.

    COSBY: And this annoys people?

    KAZEMI: Yeah, it drives everyone insane. It's a huge boundary I put in my life. People have to go through loopholes to contact me. But it's the only way that I can have a life as an artist and as a writer.

    All of this technology can be a tool. There's nothing inherently bad with the tools that exist on the Internet. It's just the compulsivity and the addictive mentality we have with it that creates this chaos for us as writers and artists.

    COSBY: You've mentioned being on Tumblr before, back in the day — are you on social media now?

    KAZEMI: No, I'm not. Sometimes I have to look at it on friends' phones to get a person's email or something like that, but no, I don't have social media. It's so scary, the pressure of having to perform or turn my most personally valuable things into currency — to monetize it. It just feels weird. I'm not into it. I'm not into it.

    And when you're online so much, you're like, “I don't have to be doing this. Why am I doing this?” That's where that punishing feeling of addiction comes in. A lot of us, when we are in those spirals, we don't even really even want to be there. There isn't a sense of agency or control.

    It's a loss of control.

    And I think that submission of when you are looking at other people's work, what they’re doing, and you're scrolling, scrolling, it just creates a huge sense of inadequacy and darkness.

    COSBY: It's interesting to me because time goes so much faster when I’m scrolling — and I feel the same way when I get really into something I'm writing.

    KAZEMI: Like a flow state.

    COSBY: Exactly! It’s complete absorption. But scrolling doesn’t make me feel good after, the way creating does.

    KAZEMI: It’s like a black market, counterfeit flow state. A heroin flow state.


    So I guess the question is: How can we induce positive, offline flow states?

    COSBY: Isn't that the question. How do you do it?

    KAZEMI: I find that just setting boundaries is so important. You have free will over your boundaries. This idea that we have no sense of agency and have to give all of our energy and life force to these corporations zapping us is just so crazy and unfair.

    But when you bring up these things to certain people, they can't even fathom living without their online habits.

    COSBY: Yeah, it has to be a conscious choice.

    KAZEMI: You have to ask yourself:

    "OK, am I going to just sublimate myself to be a consumer of everyone else's content? Or am I going to be a creator and produce?”

    COSBY: Most of us know which one we want to be.

    KAZEMI: You have to know which one you want to be.

    COSBY: Any last words for the creators out there?

    KAZEMI: For creators and artists and writers who are overwhelmed by information overload and the prospect of putting your work out there, just know there is an audience for your work. Just stay focused and don't be discouraged. You’ll find your place in the weird world.

    --

    Annie Cosby is the Marketing Manager at Freewrite, a former fiction editor, and the author of seven books — and counting. Her work deals with Celtic mythology and has twice won the YA Indie Author Project in Missouri. See what she's writing on Freewrite.

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