Unleash your pen: Writing competitions for the win


Are you an aspiring writer looking to improve your work? Do you want to get those creative juices flowing and hone your skills? Writing competitions help you to unleash your creativity and can be a great way to gain some recognition, get your writing published, or perhaps win some cash. From short stories and poetry, fiction and non-fiction, memoir and essay, there’s bound to be something to interest you.

Is it time to challenge yourself? Let’s take a look at why you should consider entering your work into writing competitions and explore three that might just get you started.

Benefits of entering writing competitions

There are many benefits to entering writing competitions, whether you win or not. For some people, it’s all about the kudos, but for others, it could be the tangible benefits of cash prizes. Whatever your motivation, writing competitions are worthy of exploration. Here are just a few of their benefits to get you thinking.

Get your work published

Winning writing competitions can lead to your words being published both online and in print. Some competitions will create and print a journal of shortlisted or prize-winning entries. Some will publish them online where your family and friends can read them. But, more importantly, you become visible to the gatekeepers of the traditional publishing industry.

Gain recognition for your writing

You don’t have to win a writing competition to gain rewards from the exposure it can give you. The more you write and enter competitions, the more likely it is that your name will start to be noticed by the people judging them. Judges are often the same people working in the publishing industry, so getting your name in front of them will bring you to their attention more often. If getting published by a traditional publishing house is something you’re aiming for, then entering writing competitions can be a great first step to achieving that dream.

As long as you produce good quality writing, your reputation will grow. Sometimes, you just might not be what the judges are looking for at that moment, but when they see your name come across their desk in their ‘day job’ as a publisher, it might be a different story.

Write. Write some more. And when you’re done, enter your writing into competitions!

Win cash prizes or mentorships

Cash is king! Or at least that’s the old catch cry, but sometimes you might be more richly rewarded by winning a mentorship instead of money. Either way, winning creates opportunities for you. Imagine winning a mentorship from Stephen King, J.K. Rowling or John Grisham! Now, that’s a competition I’d enter in a heartbeat. Just to have the opportunity to learn from one of those writers would be amazing, but mentorships from lesser-known successful authors are just as valuable. You don’t have to read their genres to benefit from their experience and guidance. Mentorships could be worth more than any amount of money could possibly buy.

Improve your writing skills

Many of the writing competitions you enter will give you feedback on your writing. This can be invaluable, particularly when you’re trying to improve your own skillset. If you lack confidence or struggle with your prose, then any feedback you receive will be beneficial.

Build your writing portfolio

The more you write, the more you learn, and the more your portfolio grows. Are you a poet? Every poem you write is a potential inclusion in your own book of poetry. Like to write thrillers? Then, your short stories can be the building blocks of your first novel.

Keep writing for competitions, and before you know it, you’ll have a vast array of words to choose from that you can submit to future competitions or include in your own books. It’s a win-win!

3 Australian writing competitions to get you started

Furious Fiction

The Furious Fiction competition is run over the first weekend of every month by the Australian Writers’ Centre. It’s a fast and furious short story competition where you get to really test your writing prowess. Open worldwide to anyone aged 17 and over, you need to power through your story in 500 words or less. And you only have 55 hours to complete it.

The Scarlet Stiletto Awards

This is a competition run by Sisters in Crime. The Scarlett Stiletto Awards are open to Australian women to enter their crime and mystery short stories. Each story can be a maximum of 5,000 words. There is a $25 entry fee per story ($20 if you’re a member of Sisters in Crime). First awarded in 1994, there have been over 4,000 stories submitted, and more than 30 award winners have gone on to publish novels.


If you’re looking for something for a longer form of writing, then Publishable might be the one for you. Run each year by the Queensland Writers Centre, this competition is open to any emerging Australian author and accepts novels, novellas, non-fiction, poetry collections, children’s books, graphic novels, and short story collections. Manuscripts should be between 55,000 and 110,000 words. Prizes include mentoring sessions and an opportunity to pitch your manuscript in person to agents and publishers.

Wrapping it up

As you can see, there are many writing competitions in Australia and around the world. Some are free to enter; some cost a little money. No matter what your writing style or genre, you should be able to find something that fits the bill. Just remember to follow a few simple ‘rules’ when contemplating a specific competition:

  • always check the rules of entry and the terms and conditions before entering
  • make sure you’re eligible and that your manuscript is eligible
  • check that you’re not giving up the rights to your work

Once you’ve done your due diligence, keep on writing and getting those entries in.

While it can be daunting to put your work in front of others, it’s also exhilarating, so get your pens out, sharpen your pencils, or fire up your word processor and write, write, write!

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