Thursday, 3 June 2021

Why Writing Competitions?

 by Jeanette O'Hagan

Have you ever though of entering a writing competition?  Does it sound scary?  

Writing Competitions

Not all writing competitions are the same.  Some major prizes are for published fiction, others are for unpublished works or writers. Omega Writers CALEB prize alternates between published and unpublished each year.  But by far the most competitions are for short stories, flash fiction and/or poetry. The Australian Writers Centre has a monthly writing competition with a maximum of 500 words while Faith Writers challenges are 750 words.  Poetica Christi have annual poetry competition and publishes an anthology of the best entries. 

How can you tell a story in just 500 words or less? A poignant story in six words story (attributed to classic novelist Ernest Hemmingway) goes, "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."  

If you haven't tackled short fiction before, I discuss it in more depth here.

My first serious  sometimes in the lull times between patients. Writing long fiction felt natural to me and ideas for short stories seemed naturally to turn into novels. 

But there's more to writing a novel (or a memoir or a biography) than writing down one word after another. Especially if we want other people to read it (not just family and friends).  Yet the journey to publication can be long and frustrating.  I discovered that writing short stories and submitting them to anthologies and writing competitions helped me towards my bigger goal of finishing and publishing my novels.  To be honest, I struggled (and still struggle) with keeping my stories close to the word count. But I kept at it and now I enjoy writing short fiction and poetry. 

Why enter?

So why enter a writing competitions?

1. Often there's the a prize awarded to place getters. The bigger the prize, usually the greater number of entrants and application fees may be higher too. 

2.  Winning a competition can add kudos and make a writer more visible to publishers and readers. 

3. You can add the win to your bio or C.V.  'Award-winning author (or writer, or poet)' sounds great - though sometimes, like best-selling author, a little overdone these days.

4. Some competitions offer the possibility of publication (in print and/or on the website) for the place getters or those on the long list. 

But there are other benefits even if you don't place in the competition.

5. Some competitions, like CALEB, offer feedback either to the individual writer or as a general comments on all the entries. 

6. Competitions often give a theme or writing prompt to work to and offer a deadline which can provide extra motivation to write. 

7. The discipline of writing to a word limit and making every word count helps hone writing skills that can be transferred to other, longer forms of writing. This is true of poetry too, were each word and sometime each syllable has an impact. 

8. Your short story or flash fiction can become the basis for a longer work. 

9. You can have a satisfaction of finishing something.

10. And you could win! One things for sure, you need 'to be in it, to win it.'

What have you got to lose?

So check that the organisation is credible, that entry fees are commensurate with the prize offered, and, if your work might be published, what rights are requested.

So, now you're all fired up - where to enter.  Writing groups (like QWC, AWC) often list contests. Stories of Life, Faithwriters, Genesis, Poetica Christi, CALEB, Stringybark, state and regional literary prizes etc. There are many and various competitions to enter.  And one more - the OWBF2021 Writing Competition.

OWBF2021 Inaugural Writing Competition

And it just so happens that the Omega Writers Book Fair (Brisbane) is running a writing contest this year - for a short story (up to 1000 words) or poem (up to 50 lines) on the theme of Hope. 

There's a small entry fee ($7 with a discount for Omega Writers members, with the code on the Omega Writers Facebook member group) and prize $50 plus a certificate for the winners of each category. Entrants must be residents of Australia or New Zeland.

Winners will be announced at the Omega Writers Book Fair on 31 July 2021. The deadline for entries is the 1st July 2021

To find out more check out the instructions here and for ongoing information check out the OWBF's Facebook page or email

Jeanette O'Hagan
 has spun tales in the world of Nardva from the age of eight. She enjoys writing fantasy, sci-fi, poetry, and editing. 

Her Nardvan stories span continents, millennia and cultures. Some involve shapeshifters and magic. Others include space stations and cyborgs. 

She has published over forty stories and poems, including the Under the Mountain Series (5 books), Ruhanna's Flight and Other Stories, Akrad's Children and Rasel's Song (now available)

Jeanette lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.

Sign up to the Jeanette O'Hagan Writes 

and receive a free short story. 


  1. Thanks for that, Jenny. I'm a big fan of competitions, especially those that offer some other benefits such as inclusion in a publication. I've yet to actually win a competition, but I've been shortlisted in a number of them which has given me some publications in anthologies. I also got my publishing contract as a result of entering the FaithWriters Page Turner comp a few years ago. I was the runner-up, but the publisher still offered me a contract. That competition is no longer running, but there are lots of other opportunities. Even if you don't win a prize or get shortlisted, you're still honing your skills and you have another manuscript that you can revise and send elsewhere.

    And good on you and the organisers for having a writing comp for the Omega Book Fair. Another great reason to go.

  2. Thanks, Nola. We're hoping the comp will encourage many writers. Like you, I've found participating in competitions and anthologies positive and encouraging and I've enjoyed being in a few anthologies with you :)