Friday, 6 November 2020

Story competitions - an experiment

This January I won £100 for a story. Rather than become a tax exile I thought I'd re-invest the windfall by entering more story competitions.

In the past I've won a few hundred pounds, but I don't enter many nowadays because my chances of winning are too small. However I've noticed that on acknowledgement pages, authors mention short-listings, so I decided to treat being short-listed as a worthwhile outcome. Some competitions print short-listed stories in an anthology, which is better still. Having read a Bristol anthology, I knew that the best stories were excellent, but I felt I had a chance to creep in among the lesser works. I hoped to be in at least one short-list.

I only entered competitions that I felt were worth winning (perennial competitions that other writers have heard of). I know that some competitions raise money for worthy causes but I didn't enter a competition where the 1st prize was less than 100 times the entry fee - I wasn't going to pay £5 for the chance of winning £100. I was also hesitant about entering the "V.S. Pritchett Short Story Prize" - £1000 first prize for a £7.50 fee, but no other prizes, and 3 judges get paid.

I had several stories ready to send off. I tweaked them especially for competition purposes, and tried to choose pieces appropriate to the particular competition/judge. I think that I improved some of the stories significantly under competitive pressure. I sent the best pieces to the biggest competitions, and the worst to the smallest (though maybe I should have sent the best to the smallest, to give me a better chance of at least winning something).

Here's a list of the competitions I paid to enter, and how I fared -

  • Exeter £8 - Long and Short lists published. No success.
  • Bath £8 - Long and Short lists published. 1000+ entries, 20 in the anthology. No success.
  • Bristol £9 - 2,705 entries. Long-list of 40. No success.
  • Bridport story £12 - No success
  • Bridport Flash £9 - No success
  • Brick Lane Bookshop £10 - Long long-list of 50. No success.
  • Yeovil £7 - No success.
  • Wells £6 - 376 entries. Shortlist of 25. No success.

I'm disappointed to get no mentions. Two of the pieces have already been accepted elsewhere so the polishing hasn't been in vain. All the same, I don't think I'll be repeating the experiment next year.


  1. Hi Tim, I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed Matters of Life and Death in Postbox Issue 4. I was particularly impressed by the way you take the reader through time transitions and the ease and fluency of your prose. One of the most enjoyable stories I've read this year. Thank you! All best, Mike Fox

  2. Thanks. It disappeared without trace in the Bath competition mentioned above - maybe because it has a literate first-person narrator, and is a bit essayish. Neither trait is that fashionable nowadays. But getting it in Postbox is as good as being in the competition antho, so I'm not complaining.