|Charles Dickens looking for some inspiration|
Winning a writing contest is a huge boost to the ego. Nothing makes a writer feel more confident than having a group of judges (who are also writers) find your work to be worthy of a prize.
But contests can serve another purpose. They are one of the best ways to get us off our duffs and locked to a keyboard, especially flash fiction contests.
Unlike journalists, fiction writers compose in a vacuum. There we are, alone in a room, typing away for nobody but ourselves. Sometimes, it's hard to get up and running. My advice is to use contests as a writing prompt!
These contests are recurring, so you will have plenty of opportunity to fail before you succeed. (Each failure is a step toward success.) None of them charge entry fees. Good luck!
Reader's Digest 100-Word-Story Competition wants true story about you, in 100 words. Prize: $100.
Hennessy New Irish Writing. Restrictions: Open to writers who are Irish or resident in Ireland. Prize: The winner of each category will receive a Hennessy trophy and €1,500. Winners drawn from published stories in The Irish Times on the last Saturday of each month.
Zero Flash. Flash fiction contest, 300 words max. Enter from the 1st to the last day of every month. Prize: £10.
Write the World Competitions. Restrictions: Young writers ages 13-18. Genre: Essay. Prize: Best Entry: $100; Runner up: $50.
Writing District. Genre: short stories up to 3,000 words. Open theme. Prize: $50.
53 Word Story Contest. Genre: Flash fiction of exactly 53 words based on monthly theme. Prize: Publication and a free book. Deadline for entry is the 21st day of each month. Stories sent after the 21st will not be considered.
The Writing Quarter Competition. Genre: Short stories of up to 3,000 words (open theme). Prize: $30.
Furious Fiction. Genre: Flash fiction. Prize: $500AUD. "On the first Friday of every month, a new set of story prompts will be revealed. You will have 55 hours to submit your best 500-word (or fewer) story."
Prose. Genre: Stories of at least 15 words (length varies) responding to prompts. Prize: $100. Registration required.
Life of Writers holds a weekly contest. In order to enter, writers must register. (It's free.) Writers must also agree to reply to comments. Prize: (Nominal ?)
Poetry Nook offers a free weekly contest. Prize: $100, with $10 for honorable mentions. You must register to enter, but registration is free. (Thanks to John Reinhart for this tip.)
Ad Hoc Fiction is a weekly free flash fiction contest. Prize: Winning will give you free entry into the Bath Flash, a contest with a top award of 1,000 pounds.
Microcosms is a weekly, microfiction contest, the primary goals of which are to inspire creativity, get writers in the habit of writing, and entertain readers! Prize: They aren't sure yet!
Reedsy runs a weekly short story contest based on prompts. Prize: $50 and publication.
Just Back is a weekly competition run by the Daily Telegraph (UK). Restrictions: Open to residents of the UK, Channel Islands Isle of Man and Republic of Ireland aged 18 years or over. Genre: Travel writing. Prize: £1,000 as the 'Just Back' article of the year. The weekly prize is £250 in currency from the Post Office.
Camera Obscura awards a $1000 prize to the writer of a story selected for publication in each issue as determined by the editors. There is no fee for this award. All stories are eligible.