Writing Contests a way to get fiction published

05 Jun link to Sharon A.'s short story collection link to Sharon A.’s short story collection

The real contest is always between what you’ve done and what you’re capable of doing. You measure yourself against yourself and nobody else.

– Geoffrey Gaberino

Short Story Writing Contests are a good way for fiction writers to break into getting published. Some of you may think it is a catch-22 situation but hear me out.

There are many short story writing contests – online or in print. They are run by writing organizations, magazines (particularly literary magazines), newspapers (the Toronto Star annual short story contest is well known), libraries, corporate organizations (such as airlines), etc. Most are open to any writer, although some are age specific (not discriminating, but more as an outlet for youth or younger and/or budding writers).

Which brings me to submission rules. Ah, here is the catch. You can’t just submit any old story of any old length in any old form. Some entries will accept electronic and even have an online form to insert your story. Some, including the Toronto Star, want hard copies. For the latter the entry date is the mailing date. And for some (I have done this for Toronto Star entries) you can roar down to their address at the last minute to hand it in. The Toronto Star has a convenient closed bin with a slot for this purpose. Keep the contest deadline in mind.

Most contests have maximum lengths for their stories. That doesn’t usually include your name and address. But for print it is usually double-spaced and what you put at the top for your running head can vary. If the stories are being blind-judged (judges don’t know the writers’ names with the stories) you better not have your name anywhere in the story itself – including the running head – or it will be disqualified. Don’t worry. They’ll keep track of you as you do a title page with your name and story title. And you do put the story title with your story entry and in the running head. Don’t forget to number your pages and double-space them or whatever the entry requirements are.

One more big rule. Many contest rules state this but even if they don’t – NEVER enter the same story in the more than one contest at the same time. I know of one case where one writer did – one to the Toronto Star and the Canadian Authors Toronto Branch contest. She won (not necessarily first place) for both, but the organizations involved did not take kindly to it. I don’t think she was disqualified, but that could happen. At the very least it could blacklist the writer, at least with the two contest organizers. The rule here is – once you get word from the contest organizer that you didn’t win, place or show, then you can enter your story elsewhere. Often the notification isn’t a blunt “sorry, but you didn’t win,” but a list of those who did win.

Some writing contests have an entry fee; some don’t. Many writers go by the rule of not entering unless they can do for free. My take is maybe pay a fee of up to $30 if the contest organizer is a literary magazine. Most literary magazines give any entrants (winners or not) a “free” one-year subscription to their magazine. The yearly cost is usually around the contest-entry fee. Outside of that you might want to give yourself a limit in what you will pay – especially if you are a prolific story writer and want to enter several contests.

Just visit Mr. Google for short story contests worldwide. For those in Canada writing instructor and editor Brian Henry offers for sale a calendar of all the writing contests (not just short story) in Canada. Go to Brian’s blog at You can email him to subscribe to a monthly e-newsletter and to purchase the calendar at Brian Henry

I’m attending the dinner at one writing conference (MagNet) and also the big she-bang at Bloody Words Mystery Writing conference, both in downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada. At the latter, I will be moderating a panel on short stories at Bloody Words. Fodder for another post.

Meantime, you can read about my characters and their stories in my short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012). Click on the book at the top and it takes you to Sharon A. Crawford’s profile – including book reviews – at The book is available there in print and Kindle. For Kobo e-book go to or go to any bricks and mortar store and order in a print copy. Spread the word.

More info on Sharon A.’s upcoming gigs, workshops, guest blog posts, etc. at
Sharon A. Crawford’s prequel novel Beyond Blood, featuring the fraternal twins will be published fall 2014 by Blue Denim Press. Stay tuned.
Sharon A. Crawford


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