Entering competitions is a useful way to practise writing to a deadline, theme and word count.
Judges have different preferences for style and content, some expect a strong narrative, others want precise and evocative description.
Not all winning pieces are good. Judging by committee can lead to mediocrity, and some winning entries can be quite pedestrian. It has even been known for organisers to run competitions as a way to fill up their website with free content. Which might explain why, on occasion, winners seem to have been drawn out of a hat on a Friday afternoon. So don’t take the results too seriously, and have some fun. Go on, make the judges sit up and notice you.
Have a look at the calendar for deadlines. The box can be found in the right-hand column, or below if you are reading this on a phone. The dates in red are deadlines, click on one for competition details.
Here are some of the best contests out there.
The standard of writing in this weekly competition from the Daily Telegraph is astonishing. In under 500 words you must describe a holiday experience which will catch the attention of the newspaper’s travel team. There’s a £200 prize every week in the currency of your choice and at the end of the year a chance to win the grand prize of £1,000.
One of the best, this annual competition (open to UK residents only) from Bradt Travel Guides and The Independent on Sunday newspaper is judged by specialists in the travel industry. Every year it produces assured and engaging writing.
But don’t worry, you don’t have to be a gap yah kid, the competition’s open to any age. The winner has a chance to write for a professional outfit and £2000 to spend on travel.
Transititons Abroad focuses on volunteering and interaction with local communities, running competitions for ex-pat travel, narrative travel writing and student travel. Keep checking the website for the latest contest announcements. Writers are encouraged to add photos to their entries. $500 first prize for each competition. The quality of writing is consistently high.
Esoteric US travel website/magazine, Nowhere, holds seasonal travel writing competitions. But this isn’t any old writing contest. Original description, ‘telling’ not ‘showing’ and solid structure are a given. This is a competition for literary writers. You have to pay an entry fee, but the organisers are genuine and the standard is high.
If you join the myWanderlust forum you’ll find regular writing (and photography) competitions and opportunities to express yourself. And a chance to get your name in print in this prestigious travel magazine.
Keep an eye on the website for occasional writing competitions
This annual competition is always an important date in the competition diary. In 2014 the wordcount was reduced to 200, but I’m pleased to report it’s gone back up to 400 in 2015.
Seasonal writing competitions from this sprawling US travel blog. Cash prizes of $500 for the winner, to $50 for runners up.
Winning competitions can be hard, and there is always an element of luck. But there are other ways to find out if your writing cuts the mustard, and to win prizes. Try uploading stories, experiences and tips to the more reputable websites.
In the Your Travels section of The Daily Telegraph you will find prizes for Readers’ Tips and Travel Views of the Week.
Travel Guardian asks for Readers’ Tips every week. Half a dozen or so pieces are printed in the newspaper on Saturday. Sign into Guardian Witness to upload your tips and be in with the chance of winning a prize. Sadly, the Guardian have told me they will no longer be running the travel writing competition.
I like Wanderlust Magazine‘s website as it has an active forum where readers and staff share stories, pics and opinions. To receive feedback from the professionals is precious, and knowing that Lyn Hughes and her editorial team regularly trawl myWanderlust is an incentive to try your best.
To increase your chances of winning a travel writing competition, consider becoming a member of the Itinerant Writers Club. We have nine Daily Telegraph wins between us. We’ve also had wins, been finalists or highly commended in the following writing contests: Bradt, The Guardian, We Said Go Travel, Wanderlust, Go Walkabout, The Good Life France, Pure, Daily Mail, BGTW, MCoS, Transitions Abroad, Sheldrake Press, Walkopedia and more. We’d love to read your stories.