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The Why, How, and Which of Writing Contests


by Kim Olgren

Why Enter a Writing Contest

Humans have been creating contests since the dawn of time. Olympic athletes, your local sports teams, and every game show on TV are all forms of contests. However, the competitors in these contests all have one thing in common. Some kind of action. Writing contests are really no different even in requiring an entry fee, but more on that later.

What Can a Writing Contest Do for You?

  • Help you gain confidence as a writer through practice
  • Help you hone your writing skills
  • Critical acclaim when you win
  • Maybe even a cash prize

How to Enter a Writing Contest

Although entering a writing contest is pretty simple and straightforward there are some things to be considered:

  • Keep an eye on your favorites. Most writing contests are held one or more times per year, but you need to keep an eye on them so you don’t miss them. Just because they’re not accepting submissions at the moment doesn’t mean they won’t be in days, weeks, or months.
  • Turn in your best work. Well well-written and well-edited.
  • Use what you know. Don’t enter contests that aren’t in your wheelhouse/genre.
  • Don’t enter blindly. Research the publication or organization sponsoring the contest. Read past issues and/or winners. Google for negative reviews.
  • Don’t submit the same piece to multiple contests at the same time.
  • If you win, great! Don’t forget to share your success and the organization/publication that gave it to you.
  • If not, try again. Whatever you do, don’t go badmouthing anyone. This is never a good look for anyone. Be professional.

A Few Words About Entry Fees

Although there are some writing contests out there that don’t require an entry fee most writing contests do from the weekly ReedsyPrompts to the nycmidnight flash fiction contest to Writers Digest Magazine to the Bookfest Awards.

Some of the most reputable writing contests that don’t require an entry fee include Writers and Illustrators of the Future, and Inkitt.

In fact, here is a list of more legitimate writing contests:


Writing Battle

The Letter Review Prize for Short Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Unpublished Books, and Art

The League of Utah Writers

Colorado State University offers more than one writing contest. Including this one for short stories.


Owl Canyon Press

Press 53, 53-Word Contest

Emily Dickinson First Book Award

The Young Lions Fiction Award

The Writer Games

Tadpole Press 100-Word Writing Contest


Queer Sci Fi Contest

Cranked Anvil Press Prompt Competition

Red Hen Press Ann Petry Award

Contemporary Voices of Indigenous Peoples Series

All the links above are a mere sampling of the many contests looking to connect with writers. A few last things to keep in mind:

  • Know your genre
  • Know exactly what your goals are. If you win, are you looking for recognition? Cash? Both?
  • Always, always, always follow the guidelines (yes, it bears repeating)
  • Don’t be too upset over rejections. It’s okay to be disappointed for a minute, but then shake it off, learn the lesson, and try again.
  • Now, get writing and editing and get to submitting.

Write On!

Book Fest award-winning and internationally-selling author Kim Olgren writes cozy mysteries under the name Kimberly Olgren. Her debut, novel Flipped – A Jillian McElroy Flipping Mystery has garnered a number of positive reviews.

When not writing characters into precarious predicaments, Kim can be found in her local community renovating and reselling (flipping) houses with her husband, volunteering with her favorite writers’ organization, camping somewhere in the Rocky Mountains with her family, riding around on Izzy the Wandercyle with her hubby, or pursuing her latest arts, craft, or educational endeavor.

Kim is a voracious reader and is a sucker for a good story of just about any kind. For her, writing grew naturally out of her love of story and all the possibilities it presents.

Look for Kim on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram or on her blog

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