10 pay-to-enter writing competitions

I previously wrote an article, which you can find here, about the wide variety of free-to-enter writing competitions. Initially, the plan was to include paid and free examples, but so vast were the options, I decided to write two separate articles.

Like it’s free counterpart, there are numerous pay-to-enter writing competitions currently seeking submissions. Rather than wading through everything the internet has to offer, here is a slightly more comprehensive list of exciting pay-to-enter writing competitions. Hopefully there is something to appeal to everyone’s tastes. 


Wordsmiths Competition 2020

The format of this newly created competition is certainly unique. Rather than creating your own concept, this competition urges its writers to re-imagine an existing piece in a new and innovative way. The first prize is publication on the website, €550 and the return of your entry fee of €11. All shortlisted entries will receive a personal and private critique of their work. The organisers note that this year has been one of restrictions and therefore have lifted all rules regarding colloquialisms, length, genre and the mixing of prose and poetry. However, all submissions must be in the english language and the deadline is November 15th 2020, at 12pm. 


8th Ó Bhéal Five Words International Poetry Competition

Every week, until January 26th 2021, the Ó Bhéal website will post five random words on their page. Entrants have one week to compose a piece of poetry that is under 50 lines and contains all five words. Rules regarding style and poetic licence are of a more standard nature, however, the five word requirement allows for a creative and exciting poetic challenge. First place carries a monetary prize of €750, second place, €500 and third place, €250. All three winners will be invited to read at the Ó Bhéal 14th anniversary event and the individual winner will receive a glass trophy hand-crafted by acclaimed artist Michael Ray. Entry is €5 and international submissions are welcome. 


The Raven Short Story Competition

The creators at Pulp Literature like to say “editors collect stories like ravens in the woods, swooping down on what catches our eye and bringing the treasures, sometimes sparkling, sometimes grisly, but always fascinating, home to our nests.” And those treasures, in the hands of the right person can be very rewarding. A work of short fiction, between 250-2500 words, carries a prize of $300 and will be published on the website. The entry fee is $20 and is open to all nationalities, but must be written in the english language. The deadline is October 15th, with the winner being announced mid-November. 


The Breakwater Fiction Contest

Boasting a prize of $1,000 and publication, the Breakwater Fiction Contest asks writers to breathe new life into an old format. Entrants can submit multiple writing samples and can be a resident of any country. Works must be fiction and between 1,000-4,000 words. The entry fee is $10, submissions must be entered by December 1st 2020 and the finalists will also have their piece published online. Unlike many of the competitions listed here and in the previous article, this publication accepts simultaneous submissions. However, all prose must be previously unpublished and if accepted elsewhere, the Breakwater Fiction Contest adjudicators must be informed. 


2021 Microfiction Contest

River Styx magazine is an acclaimed publication that features poetry, art, fiction, interviews and essays. The order of the day is micro-fiction, all stories must be a maximum of 500 words and writers can submit up to three stories per entry fee. The competition offers two payment options. For $15 entrants may submit up to three pieces and will receive a copy of the magazines winning edition. A fee of $20 includes all of the above and a one year subscription to River Styx magazine. The competition deadline is December 31st 2020 and contest results will be announced in April.

Fanstory.com Horror Writing Contest

Now this one is a little bit different. Unlike the usual competition format, whereby writers pick and choose what to enter, this contest requires a paid subscription to the website. Writers have the option of a monthly fee of $9.95 or paying $69 for the year and are privy to a variety of competitions and prizes. Appropriate for spooky season, the website is currently seeking stories that “put your readers on edge or terrorise them.” The winner will receive $100 and all entrants can expect individualised feedback on their work. The deadline is January 22nd, 2021. 


Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

This annual competition opens for submissions on October 15th and closes on April 30th 2021. Those interested can pen either a fictitious short story or a factual essay of no more than 6,000 words, on any theme imaginable. There are a number of generous prizes, with both the short story and the essay offering $3,000 for first place. The winner will also receive a $100 gift card from Duotrope, 10 honourable mentions will win $200 and the top 12 entries will be published online. Like the majority of contests on this list there are no stipulations on age or citizenship, however four countries are barred due to the US government restrictions Those are, Syria, Iran, North Korea and Crimea. The entry fee is $20 and the result will be announced in October of 2021. 


Hour of Writes 

Hour of Writes offers a weekly peer-reviewed writing competition, judged by a guest adjudicator every week. They envision a free space in which to foster literary creativity and therefore accept works in a number of formats, including journalism, screenplays, fiction and poetry. The entry fee itself is fairly competitive, being only £3, but they operate a credit system, whereby you purchase one credit (£3) to enter. As bundles tend to be cheaper to buy, regularly entering competitions on the site works out to be fairly inexpensive. Particularly if you win the first place prize of half the total sum of all the entry fees. The more people who enter means more money in the prize pot, but the website states £50 would be a typical minimum prize value. Writing for the contest itself is similarly unique. 

A theme is given and an entrant has one hour to create their masterpiece. The competition runs from Monday 12am to Friday 11pm and welcomes people from all over the world. The timely manner in which you have to collect your thoughts and write with skill and certainty, whilst also showing creative flair, really tests your ability. But it is also a lot of fun and in a climate where one minute you are out and about and the next you can’t leave your house, it’s convenient to have a weekly event to look forward to. 


Wild Atlantic Writing Awards

When you think of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, images of chaotic, magnificent waves crashing against Ireland’s coast come to mind. You can see the green of the mountains blend into the darker tones of the cliff faces, so clearly in your imagination. So it is only appropriate that such a trail should inspire a writing competition. Ireland Writing Retreat are running their contest for the second year in a row and urge writers to think about their apt theme, nature. In the form of either flash fiction or creative non-fiction entrants should write a piece, of no more than 500 words, with nature at its core. The entry fee is €10 and first place nets a healthy €500. The contest is open worldwide and closes December 10th 2020. 


IndieReader Discovery Awards 2021

At first glance, entry into this particular competition may seem a little steep, however, on further reflection the rewards you reap could be invaluable. Starting at $149, entrants submit a self-published or independently published book and have the chance to win a first look consideration by a New York based literary agent and exposure in mainstream media outlets. Second prize offers $500, a tailored consultation with a publicist and a custom author website. Those who place third and a number of runner ups receive cash prizes, promotion opportunities and recommendations from IndieReader. Though the competition is tough, it is a fantastic opportunity to have your novel published and distributed to a wider audience. Entry closes on February 15th 2021. 


For more articles about writers and writing, check out these links.

10 free-to-enter writing competitions

Dublin Writers Museum

15 Wonderful Irish novels you should be reading

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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