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Short Story Competitions

I'm thinking about maybe entering a few short story competitions.

Any experience of entering these things? Any advice?

Any good ones, or ones to avoid?

There are deadlines coming up for The White Review's Short Story Prize (27 Feb) and the BBC National Short Story Award (9 Mar), so, I'm thinking I'll start with those. I'd love to hear the thoughts and opinions of anyone who's been through the process a few times already.



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Replies (7)
    • Hi Paul, 

      There isn't much to say apart from make sure you send your best story and follow the submission guidelines and word count limit. If you can get some beta readers to give you feedback before you submit the better so you can polish your entry. It's good to research the competitions to see what kind of stories they are after (literary, commercial, genre, etc...), what won previously, etc...

      Just bear in mind that competitions are very subjective and not being placed doesn't mean your story wasn't strong enough. A lot of competitions use readers to make the selection of stories for longlist as entries can run into the several hundreds so there is a part of luck in ending up in the pile of the right reader that will connect with your story and send it forward.

      IIRC you need to have been published to enter the BBC National Short Story Award, so if you have had short stories published in anthologies and/or literary magazines with an ISBN number you're good.

      Compared to other competitions that allow other multiple entries you can only enter once for The White Review's Short Story Prize. Their taste is very literary and they like innovation.

      There are a lot of others competitions around such as The Bath Short Story Award, Bridport Short Story Competition, The Bristol Short Story Prize. There are also a few websites that list all competitions which is a good resources.

      Good luck and let us know how you get on!

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      • Thanks, L. Sounds like you've entered a few of these. I come from the world of screenwriting, and there are more than a few scams out there in terms of screenwriting competitions, but it sounds generally more respectable over here.

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        • I have. I'm sure there must be a few scams in short story competition too. If you are on social media Twitter has quite a large writing community where people share competition details among other things.

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        • I've entered a few short story comps and there are highs and lows. 

          The obvious lows are not winning (or even getting short-listed), no feedback whatsoever and, I suppose, the small but significant fees once you add them all together.

          The highs are quite positive though. They certainly forced me to sit down and be creative, sometimes on a topic I never would have tackled. And the skill is quite different from a novel you're working through bit by bit. Sometimes it's quite refreshing. I also think that there might be a whole book in one of my stories which I'd like to go back to at some point.

          So I would say go for it. ;-)

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          • Thanks, Sarita. I think the "forcing me to sit down and write" is the main attraction!

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          • If anybody is interested, I created a group about short story competitions as I thought it might be a good idea to have a dedicated place where we can gather all information about that subject.


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            • Hi Paul / Hi All, 

              My experience is that is pays off to find a journal or competition that suits your writing subject and style and ethos.  When I just submitted without spending time reading about them, I didn't make the cut; but when I searched and found something that felt like a fit, I was taken up (so far two short stories, a poem and a piece of flash - so enough to weather the less welcome rejections that are a regular part of the landscape). For some of them they offer feedback for a bit of money - this can be quite useful.  

              That said, do submit to some known names. I got an honourable mention by a good journal once, and that also helps.  Being long or short listed is a roller coaster. But alas, that's what we sign up for. 

              Good luck.


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