Submit your winning fiction and poetry

Lucent Dreaming’s international writing competitions return in the new year. Submit your best unpublished poetry and short stories on the theme of hope for your chance to win a top prize worth £1000. Our competitions close 31st May 2022.

Frequently Asked Questions

We want our competitions to be productive sources of inspiration and activity. We know from personal experience how entering competitions has given us the impetus and incentive to finish a piece of writing. The Lucent Dreaming 2022 Prize represents an opportunity to have work read, recognised and published. We also have ambitions to challenge some of the issues we find in existing competitions, such as exclusivity, expense and exploitation. 

Existing paid competitions are generally exclusive, and bar entry from writers who can’t afford a fee, ensuring that most are made for middle-class writers. When a fee waiver is available, there is often the additional burden of showing proof; a limited number of free entries available overall and specific time limits; or an individual limit on the number of free entries per person, compared with unlimited entries for a paying entrant. 

We address these discrepancies by limiting all writers to the same maximum number of entries, whether or not they are paid. We also don’t require anyone to prove their income threshold because that generates more work for writers with already limited time and money resources. We know that lots of writers in the UK want to enter big competitions, but they are always structurally priced out and excluded. We want the Lucent Dreaming Prize to be one of (we hope) many that are more accessible. 

Exploitation in writing competitions happens when vulnerable –often new– writers with very little experience in writing, participate in competitions. Some big competitions prey on these vulnerable group of writers. This can mean that someone who might already be financially struggling is paying an expensive fee to enter a competition with skewed expectations about the outcome. We try to address this with a free entry option for those who cannot afford a fee. This year we are also offering opportunities for new writers to help read/judge entries. This means that new writers can accelerate their experience in the writing industry, and gain useful perspective on what a judge or editor might be looking for. Writers who are selected to help judge will then be able to submit their own work in the future with more perspective on their writing. 

Our new prize will also produce an anthology. And unlike some other competition anthologies, where the published contributor might not even expect to receive a copy of the book for free, at Lucent Dreaming, as well as receiving a free contributor copy, we will also pay a token fee of £10 per published contribution. We know that for newer writers, receiving payment upon publication increases a writer’s confidence. 

Each genre round will operate slightly differently, but the competition will primarily be judged anonymously by the Lucent Dreaming team with a panel of new and emerging writers. Once a private longlist is selected by the team and the panel, by July 2022, we’ll email everyone about the status of their entry. We will then whittle down the longlist to a selected shortlist of highly commended and winning entries for August 2022. Again, we’ll email everyone about the status of their submission, and then publicly announce the winners by the end of August 2022. We hope to have named judges for the Lucent Dreaming 2022 Poetry and Flash Fiction Prize who will be selecting the highly commended and winning entries from the longlist.

Everyone who is judging will be using the criteria listed on the competition pages.

We don’t accept simultaneous submissions for our competitions because of the admin. As entries are anonymised, it would be very difficult to pull entries and keep track during a round of judging, especially once judging has commenced. If you want to submit to a competition or publication that allows simultaneous submissions, the Lucent Dreaming Prize is unfortunately not the one for you. However, we do accept simultaneous submissions for our magazine because we are easily able to mark a submission withdrawn. 

All proceeds from Lucent Dreaming’s competitions are split between prizes, judging, publication and marketing costs. 2022 will be the first year our competition has a top prize bigger than £250. Being the first year of a potential £1000 for 1st prize per round, we can’t really anticipate how many entries we’ll receive, nor how many might be free or paid entries; how we use the fees depends on how much we receive. If we don’t reach a certain threshold, we’ll split fees as 50% to prizes, 37.5% judging and 12.5% to publication and marketing costs. If we do reach a certain threshold (for transparency: £3000 of fees per category), we’ll increase funds towards judging, publication and marketing costs. We think at the moment the most likely scenario is that we generate between £500 and £1000 per round; if we receive £1000 in entry fees for a particular genre round, that will mean £500 will go to prizes [£357 1st prize], £375 to judging and £125 to publication and marketing costs. 

We charge entry fees because when we didn’t charge entry fees at all, even when the prizes were of the same value (£50 or £100 in years previous), we received far fewer entries (30 total entries when free-for-all compared with 100 when paid with free entry options). After a certain number of rounds, it wasn’t worth the prize pot to judge so few entries. The reason we host competitions to begin with is because competitions are an entry point, especially for new and emerging writers, and a progress point for everyone else. There are a lot of writers whose first active interaction with the writing industry has been submitting work to competitions. It’s a door we want to keep open. Our own experience in this space has shown us that writers take paid entry competitions more seriously. 

As far as a lottery or gambling goes, it’s capitalism, really, albeit an incredibly truncated model. If a commercial publisher accepts competition entries or submissions for free (through an agent or otherwise), it’s because they’re already resourced enough through big fundings or a large volume of “profitable” sales elsewhere, sometimes at the expense of or through the exploitation of someone or something somewhere down the line. We try to be really thoughtful about how and from whom we take money, but we don’t have qualms about selling to people who can afford to pay. Exchange is the ultimate purpose of money, really, whether for goods, services or time. It pays to be conscious of what value/expense is attached to every exchange, and if it’s worth it to you. 

We think writing competitions, above all, facilitate writing. They are an opportunity for writers to produce work they might not otherwise have created, and to take finishing that work seriously. Entry fees pay for the recognition of that work. 

Broadly speaking, publishing is a part of the attention economy, and in many ways that means for publishers to be successful, they have to operate in a way that services this need for attention. It’s our role as a publisher to figure out how that is executed, and what value is attached when attention is purchased. We try hard to maximise the value to everyone involved. 

And, bluntly, if our fees exceed our costs, it will be a source of income for Lucent Dreaming to do other work, such as publish writers in its magazine and in books. The entrant’s desire for accountability, status, prize-money and all else the competition represents to them is no bad thing, and helps to fuel our work. If other competitions can be dubious and/or exploitative with their entry fees, maybe we can take over at least some of the writing competition world to help redirect fees towards building structures that do more to help writers of all backgrounds progress in their craft, rather than replicating the same problems year after year. We are working to facilitate change and to make traditional publishing better by example.