Thinking about entering
creative writing contests?

by Victoria Bennion

Winning or being placed in well-respected Creative Writing Contests is a great thing to be able to put on your CV. Heck, it can even land you that agent or publishing deal.

Things to consider before entering creative writing contests

    1. Look at the entry fee and the prizes being offered. For example, I carry out work for the Bridport Prize,  which has over £18,000 in prize money to be won in the different categories. The entry  fees  start at £8 and go up to £20 depending on what you are submitting.  But if the prize money being offered was low you might not want to pay £20 to submit your novel.
    2. Before you enter, make sure the competition is reputable and read the small print to check you are happy with the terms.
    3. Find out who the judges are. Competitions can be a good way of getting your work in front of editors and agents. Two years ago I entered a competition at a conference where the judge was a literary agent. My work wasn’t placed but I met the agent shortly after at an event and she remembered reading my entry and asked me to send it to her when it was finished.

Contests for new writers

Chicken House Publishing, founded by J K Rowling Discoverer, Barry Cunningham holds an annual competition with the Times called the Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction competition for unpublished and unagented writers of children’s fiction.

Nicki Thornton and Barry Cunningham

The first prize is definitely worth having! -  a worldwide publishing contract with Chicken House and a royalty advance of £10,000. And wait for it…. Representation from a top children’s literary agent.

In 2016 the winner was the talented Nicki Thornton with her novel The Firefly Cage which later becameThe Last Chance Hotel (Seth Seppi Mystery)

Nicki spent eight months writing her book. She was at a social event I attended just after she had won and told us that she had entered the competition several years in a row, each time with a different manuscript, which shows the power of perseverance. (Learn more about Nicki Thornton and The Last Chance Hotel.)

The competition usually opens at the end of June each year. You can check the Chicken House website for details. 

Barry Cunningham has the following advice for writers planning to enter the Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction competition.

Bath Children’s Novel Award

Publisher Barry Cunningham with Writer Lucy Van Smit

The Bath Children’s Novel Award was launched in 2015. It is for unsigned novelists writing for children or young adults. The prize is £2,000 and the judge is the well-respected Sallyanne Sweeney of Mulcahy Associates Literary Agency.

Lucy Van Smit won the inaugural award in 2015 with her Nordic Noir YA thriller Hurt’s So Good which was later published as The Hurting. You just have to read her entry to see why. I couldn’t stop thinking about the story after reading the first 5,000 words. (Learn more about Lucy and The Hurting.) Shortly after winning Lucy signed with Sallyanne Sweeney and has since signed a two book deal with Chicken House Publishing (pictured announcing the deal.)

So as you can see this is a contest worthy of your consideration. To find out more visit the Bath Children’s Novel Award website

Undiscovered Voices

Undiscovered Voices is a competition designed to promote unpublished fiction writers and illustrators from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) British Isles.

Photos from the 2018 Undiscovered Voices Launch Event in London

The competition is sponsored by Working Partners and always has an impressive line-up of judges from the industry.

I attended the launch event for the 2018 competition at the stunning Hachette offices in London in May 2017 where two panels of judges answered questions about the competition.

Winning extracts are included in an anthology which is sent to editors and agents in the UK. Simon James Green who was a winner last year signed with his agent, Joanna Moult, at Skylark Literary shortly after winning and subsequently his novel, Noah Can’t Even, was published with Scholastic.

Winning extracts are included in an anthology which is sent to editors and agents in the UK. 

Here Simon talks about writing Noah Can't Even:

Simon is just one in a long line of success stories arising from the competition. Award winning author Candy Gourlay was a winner in 2008 as was Sara Grant who has gone on to publish a number of popular children's books.  To find out more visit Undiscovered Voices 

NB. If you’re not a member already and have a novel ready to go you might want to consider joining SCBWI so you can enter this and the other creative writing contests they offer new writers.

Before you press send

Before pressing send on your entry check and double check the rules. From being on the other side of the fence at creative writing contests, you’d be surprised how many writers forget to, for example, remove their name from their work, or make sure that their entry is within the word limit. 

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