Have you ever tried searching for “writing contests” online and in less than two seconds nearly a hundred results pop up and you are left swimming through a whole lot of options that may already be defunct? Sometimes you might notice in your search that some of these writing contests require entry fees. For writers who can’t afford these entry fees, we found and reviewed ten writing contests that are completely free.

Check out the contests and their guidelines below:

1. Commonwealth Youth Awards 2021

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded for the best piece of unpublished short fiction (2,000–5,000 words). Regional winners each receive £2,500 and the overall winner receives £5,000. Entries are accepted in English, Bengali, Chinese, French, Greek, Kiswahili, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Tamil and Turkish languages. Translated entries from any language into English are also eligible. The competition charges no entry fee and is open to any citizen of a Commonwealth country who is aged 18 and above. Submission opens from 1 September 2020 to 1 November 2020. The awards recognize and reward young people whose work has made a major impact on people and communities in their country.

Writers from across the 54 Commonwealth countries can enter any of the five regional categories: Africa, Asia, Caribbean, Pacific, Europe and Canada.

Read more about the prize here.

2. Owl Canyon Press Contest 2020

Owl Canyon Press has announced the commencement of its 2020 short story writing contest. Writers are invited to create and submit a short story consisting of 20 paragraphs. The contest provides the 1st and 20th paragraphs in the submission form and the short story writer creates stories in between. The first prize is $1000, 2nd prize is $750, and 3rd prize is $500 with the winning short stories published in a short story anthology, as well as an invitation to give a public reading at Inkberry Books in Niwot, CO. The 24 Finalists will also have their short stories included in this anthology.

Submission for the first season (August 1 – 31st) is free. Anyone can submit, including outside the USA, but the stories must be in English. There is no maximum word count, but each paragraph needs to be at least 50 words. Dialogues within the story can be included so long as it is in a paragraph of at least 50 words. Authors retain all rights to their short stories. The winning authors agree to permit Owl Canyon Press to publish their stories in an Anthology.

Read more about the guidelines here.

3. L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest

Whatever your feelings about L. Ron Hubbard’s work and philosophy, the prizes for this regular contest are nothing to sneeze at. Every three months, winners earn $1,000, $750 and $500, plus an additional annual grand prize worth $5,000. Submissions must be short stories or novelettes (up to 17,000 words) in the genre of science fiction or fantasy. New and amateur writers are welcome to apply. Deadlines: Quarterly on March 31, June 30 and September 30.

For more information click here.

4. New Voices Award

Presented by Lee & Low Books, an award-winning children’s book publisher, this award is given for a previously unpublished children’s picture book manuscript (of no more than 1,500 words) written by a writer of color and Native nations who are a resident of the United States. The winner receives $2,000 cash and a standard publication contract, and an additional Honor Award winner will receive a cash prize of $1,000. You may submit up to two manuscripts.

For more information click here.

5. Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards

The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards recognizes outstanding works that contribute to our understanding of racism and our appreciation of cultural diversity. Awards are given for fiction, poetry and nonfiction. The entry fee is free and the submission deadline will be on December 31, 2020. A Cash Prize of $10,000 will be awarded to the winner of the competition. Published authors (self-published books excluded) who wish to compete for a generous book award, your book must be written in English, published and copyrighted in the same year that you enter the contest.

Click here for more details about the contest.

6. Young Lions Fiction Award

This literary award was established in 2001. The New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award is a $10,000 prize awarded each spring to a writer age 35 or younger for a novel or a collection of short stories. Each year, five young fiction writers are selected as finalists by a reading committee of Young Lions members, writers, editors, and librarians. There is no entry fee attached. Young Fiction writers up to 35 years old and want to be recognized for their novel or collection of short stories are eligible to enter for this prize.

Click here to submit

7. Reflex Press Novella Award 2021

The inaugural Reflex Press Novella Award is now open to works of narrative fiction of between 15,000 and 40,000 words. Submissions close midnight (UK time) 31 January 2021. The winners will be announced in May 2021. A cash prize of £1000 will be awarded to the winner and publication with Reflex Press. Two runners-up get £500 and publication with Reflex Press. To enter this competition, you must buy a book (print or eBook) from the online bookshop of the organizers.

Click here to read the submission guidelines.

8. The Bergen International Essay Competition 2020

The Bergen International Literary Festival for Non-Fiction and Fiction is held in February every year in the Norwegian city of Bergen and attracts writers from every continent. We are looking for new, excellent writing and are pleased to announce the Bergen International Essay Competition open to everybody under the age of 30. The theme of this competition is ‘MY GENERATION.’ You should be able to tell from your standpoint what characterizes your generation, what encourages you and what enrages you.
The judges give equal emphasis to literary quality and content. The winner and runners up will be announced at the Bergen International Literary Festival between 11 and 14 February 2021.

For more information click here.

9. The Brunel International African Poetry Prize

This is a major annual poetry prize of £3000, aimed at the development, celebration and promotion of poetry from Africa. The Prize is sponsored by Brunel University London. The Prize works closely with the African Poetry Book Fund (APBF). Since its inception, most of the poets who have been nominated and/or won this award have published chapbooks with the African Poetry Book Fund series of ‘New Generation Chapbook Box Sets’.

The Prize is open to poets who were born in Africa, or who are nationals of an African country, or whose parents are African. It is for ten poems exactly in order to encourage serious poets. These poems may, however, have already been published. Only poets who have not yet had a full-length poetry book published are eligible. Poets who have self-published poetry books or had chapbooks and pamphlets published are allowed to submit for this prize. The 8th year of the prize opens for entries from 2nd to 31st November 2020. The shortlist is announced in March & the winner/s in May 2021.

Click here to read the submission guidelines.

10. The Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poetry

This prize is awarded annually to an African poet who has not yet published a collection of poetry. The winner receives USD $1000 and book publication through the University of Nebraska Press and Amalion Press in Senegal. The African Poetry Book Fund Editorial Board, including Kwame Dawes, Chris Abani, Matthew Shenoda, John Keene, Gabeba Baderoon, Bernardine Evaristo, Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, and Aracelis Girmay will judge. A winner will be announced in early January, with notifications sent shortly thereafter. The submission is open annually between September 15 to December 1.

Click here for more information.