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Entering competitions is probably the best way to keep those hopes of publication going. Having a deadline does wonders for your productivity. Being longlisted is incredibly encouraging. And being shortlisted tells you that you’re not only talented, but very nearly there.

No excuses allowed, then. And in case you think we don’t practise what we preach, we hope you’ll be encouraged to learn that our very own Sarah attended the Exeter Novel Prize award ceremony last Saturday as one of the five talented runners-up. (Third from the right, in the spotted dress.) And this was the second time she has made off with an Exeter Novel trophy…

The London Independent Story Prize is inviting entries for its next quarterly competition for 300-word flash fiction. The competition has a first prize of £200 and there is an entry fee of £7, payable via PayPal. Closing date is 6 May. Details: http://www.londonindependentstoryprize.co.uk

The Bridport Prize. Flash:250 words max. Poem: 42 lines max. Short Story: 5,000 words. Novel: 5,000-8,000 words. Fees: £9; £10; £12; £20; Prizes: flash £1,000; £500; £250; 3 x £100. Poem and short story: £5,000; £1,000; £500; £250; 3 x £100. Novel £1,000 plus mentoring, written report and potential agency representation. Deadline 31 May. Details: http://www.bridportprize.org.uk

One of the most exciting competitions to open this month is a newcomer – the inaugural Curtis Brown First Novel Competition for manuscripts, both finished and unfinished, across all genres of adult fiction. To enter, all you need is the opening (up to 10,000 words, including any prologue) and a one-page synopsis of up to 400 words. You must be 18 or over and not represented by a literary agent. The winner will be offered representation by Curtis Brown plus a prize of £3,000, while the first runner-up will receive a place on a three-month novel-writing course. Find out more: https://curtisbrowncreative.co.uk/first-novel-prize. The closing date for this competition is not until 1 August – but this long notice will provide extra time to hone that entry.

The Frome Festival Short Story Competition is looking for 1,000-2,000 words on any theme. Entry fee: £8 plus optional critique. Prizes: £400; £200; £100; plus various local prizes. Deadline 31 May. Details: http://www.fromeshort-storycompetition.co.uk

Poetry London Clore Prize for a poem of 80 kines max. Entry fee: £3 to subscribers; £7 to non-subscribers. Prizes: £5,000; £2,000; £1,000; 4 x £500; publication in Poetry London magazine. Details: poetrylondon.co.uk/competition

The First Novel Prize. 50,000 minimum length, but you must submit the completed novel. Entry fee: £25. Prizes: £1,000; £500; £100. Judges: literary agent Emma Paterson and Little, Brown’s editorial director Ed Wood. Details: http://www.firstnovel.co.uk

The Big Issue magazine has a competition to find the UK’s next great crime writer, with the winner receiving a two-book publishing deal with the HarperCollins imprint Avon. Entry – which is FREE – requires the full manuscript, plus a synopsis of no more than 100 words. Closing date is 31 May. Details: http://www.bigissue.com/tag/crime-writing-competition/

The Bristol Short Story Prize for stories on any theme up to 4,000 words. Prizes: £1,000; £500; £250; 17 x £100 shortlisted. All published in prize anthology. Entry fee is £9. Closing date is 1 May. Details: http://www.bristolprize.co.uk

Colm Toibin International Short Story Award for stories between 1,500 and 2,000 words. Prizes: 700 Euros; 500 Euros; 300 Euros. Entry fee: 10 Euros. Closing date 4 May. Details: http://www.wexfordliteraryfestival.com

Nick Darke Award for full-length stage plays. Prizes: £6,000. FREE ENTRY. Closing date: 21 May. Details: http://www.falmouth.ac.uk/nickdarkeaward

Bluepencilagency First Novel Prize. The first chapter of an unfinished novel up to 5,000 words. Prizes: £1,250 in prizes, manuscript review, introduction to judge literary agent Nelle Andrew. Entry fee: £20. Closing date: 31 May. Details: http://www.bluepencilagency.com

Yeovil Literary Prize for novels (opening chapters and synopsis up to 15,000 words), short stories (max. 2,000 words), poems (up to 40 lines), writing without restrictions. Prizes: Novel: £1,000; £250; £100; Short Story: £500; £200; £100; Poetry: £500; £200; £100. Writing without restrictions: £200; £100; £50. Entry fee: Novel: £12; Short Story: £7; Poetry: £7 for one, £10 for two, £12 for three; Writing without restrictions: £5. Deadline 31 May. Details: http://www.yeovilprize.co.uk

Do please, as usual, check all details on the respective websites before entering, just in case. There are lots of opportunities above for longlisting and for shortlisting, as well as making off with the first prize. There are two glass trophies in the vicinity of Royal Tunbridge Wells to prove it.