Novel writing competitions 2021

 Novel Writing Competitions 2021

Last updated: 6th January 2021

We have gathered a list of the best Novel Writing Competitions in 2021  for unpublished / unagented authors.

Each of these is handpicked, with all the data checked on a regular basis (see date above for last time it was reviewed). 

Many of these novel writing competitions are very prestigious, and highly likely to lead to agent representation and / or publication. We have not included any competitions that do not present a satisfactory level of credibility and authority.

For each competition we have collated the following information into an easy to access format:

  • Name of competition, with a link to the website
  • Deadline
  • Entry fee
  • Details of 1st Prize 
  • Eligibility - the writer (any limitations placed on who can enter)
  • Eligibility - the submission (details about what sort of work is appropriate for this competition)
  • Genre - which genres are accepted

Please note that as these are annual competitions, those with later deadlines may not have opened for submissions yet.

Entry fees vary from £10 to £20, and 1st prizes average about £1000. There are some exceptional ones, with cash prizes of £20,000. Several offer publication deals and agent representation as their first prize and even for runners up.

Most are open to entrants worldwide, but some have slightly more limited eligibility criteria, such as being only open to UK residents, people of colour, or women.

If you have a novel writing competition that you would like added to this list, please get in touch. Or, if you notice any errors in the data, please do let us know so we can correct them.

We aim to update this post regularly, to add new competitions as we discover them. If a listing is in italics, it indicates that the deadline has passed, so please scroll down past those.

Please leave your comments below and share and bookmark this page if you find it useful!

Name Deadline Entry Fee First Prize Eligibility (writer) Eligibility (submission) Genre
Exeter Novel Prize 1st Jan £18 £500 plus trophy Authors currently without representation, whether or not they have been published.   The competition is for the first ten thousand words (including synopsis) of a novel. All genres excluding children’s, but including Young Adult and New Adult, are acceptable.
Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize 17th January £12 A networking dinner plus editorial consultation Women over 21 resident in the UK, who have not had a full length novel previously published. Unpublished, and must not have been accepted for future publication or self-published. All genres except picture books
First Pages Prize 7th Feb (extended deadline 21st Feb) $20/$35 $2,000, agent consultation and developmental editing

Any writer worldwide over 18 years of age who is currently un-agented

First 5 pages (1,250 words max) of a longer fiction or creative non-fiction manuscript

All genres
Northern Writers Awards 6th Feb FREE Various Writer must be based in Northern England at the time of submission. Various Various
David Higham Open Day for Under Represented Writers 24th Feb Free Attendance at an Open Day meeting industry experts and receiving tailored feedback. Any un-agented writer living in the UK from an under-represented background (see website for details). None Any
Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Award 28th February 2020 £36 Shortlisted entries are presented to publishers and agents Unpublished and unagented writers The opening of a proposed crime novel (up to 3,000 words) and a synopsis (up to 1,500 words) outlining its further development. Crime
Kelpies Prize 29th Feb N/A Win £1,000 plus mentoring and publication, and a week-long writing retreat. You must live or work in Scotland The book must be set mainly in Scotland Children's

The Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize

1st March TBC £15,000 advance and publication Unpublished and unagented writers (self pub okay) Adventure writing only Adventure
Claymore Award 1st April $40 Possible publication and agent representation. Networking opportunities (in the US) No limitations Unpublished novels containing elements of thriller, mystery, crime, or suspense. Self-published manuscripts are not eligible. Action, Adventure, Alternate History, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Suspense, Thriller, Western.
Adventure Writer's Competition 30th April $25 $1000 No limitations Novels in the genre 'Adventure' only Adventure
Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition 4th May £18 Royalty advance of £10,000, publishing contract and agent representation Unpublished and unagented writers over 18 A full-length novel for children/young adults aged between 7 and 18 years. Children's
First Novel Prize 31st May £25 £1,000 Unpublished writers English, unpublished or self-published Adult fiction genres only (no children or young adult)
Bridport Prize Novel Award 31st May £20 £1000 plus mentoring Writers in Britain and the Republic of Ireland Full or part-written novel Any adult fiction genre including fiction for young adults (YA) providing there is a genuine crossover for adult readership. Non-fiction and fiction for children is not eligible.
Impress Prize for New Writers Awaiting announcement of 2021 submission date. £25 £500 advance plus publication by Impress Books 16 years of age and over A book proposal and a sample chapter of no more than 6,000 words Fiction and non-fiction across most genres (excluding poetry and children’s fiction, however we will consider Young Adult submissions)

Page Turner Awards

31st May £30 (£20) Various Over 18 Unpublished, complete fiction or non-fiction Any
Bath Novel Award 31st May £28 £3,000 Writers should be yet to accept a traditional publishing deal.  Novels may be unpublished, self-published or independently published. At least least 50,000 words in length. Any genre for adults or young adult (13+)
The Blue Pencil Agency First Novel Award 31st May £20 £1,000 and agent introduction Unpublished authors without an agent First chapter of your novel up to 5000 words along with a 300 word synopsis and cover letter Any adult fiction genre
North Street Book Prize 15th June $65 $5,000 plus perks Self- published authors 200,000 words maximum. For self-published books
Staunch Book Prize 31st July FREE or £65 with feedback report International publicity No limitations Completed novel - can be traditionally published, self-published or unpublished. A a thriller in which no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered

Kindle Storyteller

31st August Free £20,000 Over 18s You must publish your book through Kindle Direct Publishing on Amazon Any genre
Book Pipeline Adaptation Contest August 31st (early deadline May 20th) $55 - $70 $10,000 + Film/TV Industry adaptation consideration /circulation Self-published authors (and trad published authors) Published (including self-pub) books, graphic novels, short stories (trad published / produced plays also accepted) Any genre
The Query Letter 15th September Free $500 No restrictions 100 words blurb. The novel does NOT need to be written. Any genre
Mslexia Children's and YA Novel Competition 21st September £25 £5,000 Unpublished women writers of any nationality from any country. All entries must be in English, not previously published and not under consideration in other fiction competitions. Childrens and Young Adult

Grindstone Literary International Novel Prize

28th September £16 £1,000 No limitations Previously unpublished completed manuscripts exceeding 50,000 words in total length. All genres, but not middle grade or younger.
The First Page Challenge (The Darling Axe) 30th September $5 CAD $200

No limitations

First page of a novel

Any genre
Pitchwars 4th June / 1st October Free Mentoring for your novel submission Unagented anywhere in the world Unpublished, including self-publishing Middle Grade, Young Adult, New Adult, or Adult
Book Pipeline Unpublished Competition 5th October (Early deadline June 1st) $45 - $60 $2,500 for each of six winners and industry circulation

Any writer worldwide over 18 years of age

Unpublished, full-length manuscripts of fiction and nonfiction

Young Adult, Sci-Fi / Fantasy, Mystery / Thriller, Literary, Outsider / Experimental, and Nonfiction
Flash 500 Novel Opening Chapter & Synopsis Competition 31st October £10 £500 No limitations The only stipulation is that the entry must be unpublished. Any genre
Cinnamon Press Annual Debut Fiction Prize 31st October £16 Book published by Cinnamon Press Open to those who have not had a novel or full-length short story collection previously published through a press. (Those who have self-published novels or collections may enter.)  Unpublished Adult and crossover novels only (no children's fiction)
The Caledonia Novel Award 1st November £25 £1,500 Open to unpublished and self-published novelists over 18 Original work at least 50,000 words Any genre for adults or young adults
William Faulkner – William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition 1st November $45 $7,500 No limitations An original novel, previously unpublished Adults or Young Adults
QuoScript NaNoWritMo Challenge 16th November 2021 (for registration) £30 Publication Contract (all entrants receive a critique) Writers in UK and USA  10,000 words plus synopsis Crime Fiction and Young Adult Fiction
Bath Children's Novel 29th November £25 £2,500 Unpublished and independently published novelists Novel written for children aged 7 to 17. Children's
Betty Trask Prize 30th November Free (as far as we can tell) £10,000 Under 35. British National or resident (see comp page for more details) First novels (published in the last year, or unpublished (see comp for more details) Traditional or romantic but not experimental style
Daisy Pettles Writing Contest for Women 12th December $0-25-45 (sliding income waivers) $1,000 plus a month-long free residency in the Daisy Pettles' Writer's House Women writers, aged 40+, published OR unpublished 20 pages of sample writing Fiction or non-fiction. Not poetry.


 Defunct Competitions

The competitions listed below do not appear to be currently running, but are being kept for our records, and in case they start up again. If your competition is below and it has relaunched, please let us know so we can integrate it back into the main listings.


Katherine Paterson Prize


No information $20 $1,000 No limitations Original, unpublished piece under 10,000 words. May be a short story or a book/novel excerpt. Young Adult and Children’s Literature
Commonword Diversity Young Adult Fiction Prize  (DEFUNCT) TBC (possibly defunct) £10 £1000, professional mentoring, Arvon Course All entrants must be unpublished authors over the age of 16 and a permanent resident in the United Kingdom. Writing or writers must embrace ethnic diversity either through their own ethnicity and culture and/or in their writing. Middle Grade or Young Adult Fiction
HASTINGS Litfest Novel Competition (defunct) TBC £10 £150 plus publication by Crooked Cat Books Previously unpublished authors, or by authors previously published only in other genres None stated Crime


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