Lots of publications, both online and print, source content using open competitive submission methods. Magazines publish guidelines as to the length and kinds of content they are seeking, and what date it should be sent by.
Competitions advertise for short story entries and often charge a small fee. Competitions also vary greatly in how they are organised and judged, and the financial or other rewards they offer.
Some competitions can be pricy to enter. If it is simply the cash prize you’re after, you might be better off just buying a lottery ticket. But sending off a piece of work to a magazine or a competition can be a useful impetus to dust it off and get it finished.
So how do you find out about writing competitions? Several websites (see below) collate and update this info. Or you can sign up to lists run by the competition organisers. The relevant site for you will vary depending on where you live. The sites below collate things in date order, which makes it easy to find out what is on when.
In the US:
- Freelance Writing – list of contests
- Poets & Writers Magazine – Writing Contests, Grants & Awards database
In the UK:
Some prizes have very particular rules that are best checked by visiting the website of the organiser – among these is the Commonwealth Short Story Prize
If you do send out your work, keep a note of decision dates and have a Plan B of other possible places where you can send that piece of writing, if not successful first time around. Don’t let one rejection make you miserable.