10 free-to-enter writing competitions


When Covid-19 first hit much of what we knew and how we lived changed. Cinemas were closed, eating out harshly curtailed and most forms of socialisation cancelled. A silver-lining, to a very dark period in history, has been a return to traditional hobbies, such as cooking, gardening and craft-making. Writing too has seen a resurgence in popularity, with the annual RTE competition receiving 1773 more entries than the previous year. With a seemingly endless amount of online sites promoting competitions and writing opportunities, it can be difficult to find one that fits. The following is a list that goes some of the way to showing the different free writing competitions the internet has to offer. Hopefully making a world made smaller by covid, that much bigger, even if it is only your imagination. 


Hennessy New Irish Writing

The Hennessy New Irish writing competition is a competition run by The Irish Times. Authors have the option of emailing their work or sending it via the post to Ciaran Carty, Hennessy New Irish Writing, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2. The piece has to be a short work of fiction but can be on any topic. Entrants must be Irish or a resident in Ireland. Accepted stories will be printed in the Irish Times and have the potential to be considered for the Hennessy Literary Awards. Entry is free and digital submissions can be emailed too https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/hennessy-niw 

Hennessy New Irish Writing


53 Word Story Competition

The 53 Word Story Competition does exactly what it says on the tin. You sign up for free to the websites email updates and receive a prompt. You then write your story based on that prompt and you guessed it, it has to be exactly 53 words. It is a fun, interesting concept and surprisingly more difficult than you think it is going to be. It is a monthly competition, with the winner announced around the first of each month. It is free to enter and the winner gets published in Prime Number Magazine and receives a book from Press 53. You can find more information here. 53 Word Story Contest


Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest

This title is as fun to type as it is to say out loud. The Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest is an American based website but entry is open to most EU and non-EU countries. The concept is simple, the best, funniest poem wins. All submissions must be in English, however, there is an exception for “inspired gibberish.” The first prize is $2,000 and a two-year gift certificate courtesy of Duotrope. Second prize is $500, ten honourable mentions receive $100 and the top 12 entries are published online. The deadline for entry is April 1st 2021 and more information can be found at the Winning Writers website. Wergle Flomp Poetry Contest (no fee)


Merky Books New Writers Prize

This free-to-enter competition is for the aspiring authors amongst us. Open to UK and Irish residents between the ages of 16-30, Merky Books aims to give a voice to young, under-represented and unpublished writers. Entrants are asked to compose a 200 word synopsis of their manuscript, be it fiction or non-fiction and also a 1,500 word extract. The winner will receive a publishing contract with Merky Books and longlisted entrants will be invited to a writers camp. Any genre, except children’s books, is welcomed. You can enter by filling out the application form on the website and the deadline to do so is October 30th 2020 at midnight. Merky Books New Writers Prize


Jane Austen’s House Writing Competition

Inspired by Jane Austen’s memorable quote “little matters they are, to be sure, but highly important,” the competition urges you to look at how Covid has made all of our lives that bit smaller.  The goal is to write either a letter, poetry or fiction exploring the “little matters” that make up the everyday. The maximum word count is 500 for letters or fiction and 30 lines for poetry. The prize is publication, free entry to the Jane Austen house and publicity. Anyone can enter, there is no fee and the deadline is October 30th, 2020. Writing Competition 2020


The Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award

With a cash prize of £30,000, the Sunday Times competition offers perhaps one of the largest sums for a short story. Entry is free, however, it must be in the English language and the entrant has to have had a creative work previously published in either the UK or Ireland. Previous winners and shortlisters include Emma Donoghue, Kevin Barry and Junot Diaz. The piece can be 6,000 words or less and submissions open on October 11th. Closing on December 4th.  The Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award: The 2021 Short Story Award

Manchester Irish Language Competition

 For all the fluent Irish speakers out there, this one’s for you. The Manchester Irish Language Competition aims to promote the Irish language and culture and is seeking submissions from gaeilgeoirs. Writers can submit either a short story or a poem within the theme of “change.” There is a cash prize of either £25 or £50 and the deadline for entries is October 23rd. 2020 Writing Competition is Open



Erewash is another themed, free-to-enter competition and while the prize is nominal, only £10, it is still a great opportunity to write competitively. The prompt is “course” and entrants may enter a story of up to 500 words or a poem no more than 40 lines. Entrants must fill out a form and submit their work online as there is no postal submission. The deadline is November 26th and a full list of rules and regulations can be found on the following link.  2020 Free Entry Course Themed Writing Competition

Secret Attic

Secret Attic is a website that offers monthly, typically free-to-enter, writing competitions. There is presently no monetary prize for the poetry contest, however, the work will be published and if the contest is popular it will match the £30 prize given to the winner of the short story competition. There are no prompts so writers can create their own narrative. Short stories should be no more than 1,500 words max and the deadline is October 31st. Secret Attic


Writers’ & Artists’ Short Story Competition

This competition is open to people of all nationalities, simply register for free on the website and submit your entry. For the first year since the competition’s inception there is no prompt so writers can choose the theme of their story. Entries must be no more than 2,000 words and first prize is publication and a week on the Arvon residential writers course, which is valued at £1,000. The deadline is February 12th 2021 and more information can be found at Writers & Artists latest writing competition


If you’re interested here are some related links,

The Favourite Pubs of Dublin’s Irish writers: A Guide – Babylon

Ireland: The Country of Writers – Babylon

Best Irish Authors – Babylon

Laura Varley
Laura Varley

Laura is a graduate of NUIG, writes freelance and is an avid follower of Mayo football, the Arts and current affairs.

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