Posted in competitions, critique, literary festival, writing

BeaconLit Fourth Year 500-word comp Round 7 – March 2021 winners announced

We are delighted to announce that the top three stories from March’s entries are (in alphabetical order):

  • Crowning glory
  • No going back
  • The Shadow Boxer

March’s theme was ‘The Insider’. The three top stories will now go through to the final judging and the top ten prize-winning authors (not necessarily the same as the top ten stories as no author can win more than one prize) will be announced at the 2021 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 10th July (fingers crossed!). The results will also be listed here and on the main website (link below) and the winners contacted.

There are often more than three stories that could have made the top three but those that did were either closer to the theme or stronger (provoked more of a reaction after reading) so don’t be disheartened if yours hasn’t been mentioned.

If your story for this month isn’t listed in the above three, you are welcome to do whatever you like with your submission hereon in. If your story is listed, it’s possible that it could be placed in the ultimate top ten* which will be published on this website (and on http://www.beaconlit.co.uk) in July so please do not send it elsewhere until after the final results are announced.

If you have requested, and paid for, critique, this will be with you in the next few days if not already.

This month, May, with the theme of ‘Last chance’ is your last chance this year to submit your <500-word story. Make it count. 🙂

*

Gareth’s feedback on the stories received this month:

Good to come across examples of crisp, convincing dialogue. When, for example, there are two people talking, and the writer has dispensed with the laborious “said A”, “answered B” pattern.

One person wrote nine lines of dialogue without so much as a “she said”, “he said”. Generally you don’t need to point out who is speaking, especially when the conversation is between just two people.

Sometimes a comma does help in the middle of a long sentence, particularly when the second-half complements or comments on what’s going in the first half.

Several writers describe situations, locations and storylines with, it seems to me, a good understanding of a particular job, or place.

This might have come from research (and you can find all sorts of honest, authentic material to support your story online.) Or is part of the writer’s personal experience. Do use this personnel knowledge if you have it – a stakeout, perhaps. It’s invaluable for a story.

It’s satisfying to read that authentic voice. And better still when the writing and scene setting is so good.

Some evocative lines stand out this month –

‘He’s a wee bad man, Lomax McMahon. Shootings, bombs, drugs. Which do you want?’.

And authentic sounding police dialogue – just listen to any 10 minutes of Line of Duty,  or The Unforgotten if you want to check that you are getting it right.

“Banty made it sound like Lancashire Police organised holidays for terrorists.”

I like crisp, short and economical sentences – where appropriate of course, in short stories. Such as “ …”she fired sarcastically at him”.

…”the whispers that were like screams to her,”

And 11 word, four sentence intros such as this –

“Has she missed Jason? No. Now she has a dilemma. He’s back.”

Beware of labouring a story with clause after clause separated by commas, where a full stop and the new sentence would be better.

And don’t be afraid to use the comment section at the end of the story. Not obligatory, but sometimes it amplifies what you’re trying to say.

*

Although Gareth judges on the impact of the stories and the quality of the writing, it’s always disappointing when there are simple spelling mistakes or even simpler errors that should have been picked up during the editing process. Please do read your stories carefully before submitting and ideally show them to someone you trust for their opinion.

*Should you get through to the longlist of 30 stories (three per month over ten months), it doesn’t necessarily mean that your story won’t be chosen if it slips out of the top ten. No author will appear in the top ten twice so a story that came eleventh (or twelfth, thirteenth…) could be bumped up where there are author duplications.

You can also receive feedback on your story / stories at £5 per story with the optional critique service (given by the judge, Gareth Davies). This option is detailed on the main 500-word Competition page with an option to select critique within the entry form.

N.B. ALL the profits (fees minus PayPal charges) from this competition go to BeaconLit funds for the local libraries. No one involved in the competition charges for their time (including the judge!). Good luck!

Posted in competitions, critique, literary festival, writing

BeaconLit Fourth Year 500-word comp Round 6 – Feb 2021 winners announced

We are delighted to announce (belatedly – sorry, my fault!) that the top three stories from February’s entries are (in alphabetical order):

  • Mark Time!
  • Next!
  • Somewhere to Have a Good Cry

February’s theme was ‘Better to Have Loved and Lost’. The three top stories will now go through to the final judging and the top ten prize-winning authors (not necessarily the same as the top ten stories as no author can win more than one prize) will be announced at the 2021 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 10th July (fingers crossed!). The results will also be listed here and on the main website (link below) and the winners contacted.

There are often more than three stories that could have made the top three but those that did were either closer to the theme or stronger (provoked more of a reaction after reading) so don’t be disheartened if yours hasn’t been mentioned.

If your story for this month isn’t listed in the above three, you are welcome to do whatever you like with your submission hereon in. If your story is listed, it’s possible that it could be placed in the ultimate top ten* which will be published on this website (and on http://www.beaconlit.co.uk) in July so please do not send it elsewhere until after the final results are announced.

If you have requested, and paid for, critique, this will be with you in the next few days if not already.

*

Gareth’s feedback on the stories received this month:

There have been some genuinely moving stories this month, inventive, imaginative and crisply told. Writers are eschewing cliches, and keeping the exclamation mark count low. Writing is to a high standard, with a lot of convincing dialogue, and brisk and efficient plot development.

Writers turned out some very competent stories of love, longing and loss. Several in particular may or may not have been based on real events.

Some people write as if they have personal experience of a setting, although it could equally well be good research  – “the sergeant has spent the night bulling parade boots, polishing buttons, and knifing creases with an iron”. But if you know these details, do use them. It adds authenticity.

There are a number where I feel there were few words I would change. In a few I would query punctuation.

Even in the best-turned story, a comma, where there should be a semi colon, can be confusing. So even when you think you’ve done a good job, there’s no harm in checking again to make sure the punctuation is right. Be your own critical reader.

And a few cases of the possessive apostrophe (‘) in the wrong place with a plural noun eg “parent’s evening”. Always worth triple-checking. People can easily correct errors themselves by checking online.

Not everyone writes up to the full 500 words, and nor should they. Some stories this month are much shorter than that, yet they are complete and perfectly rounded. However, if you are willing to forfeit your word allowance, make sure you leave no confusion in the reader’s mind that could have been eliminated with another sentence or two of explanation.

Good things I noticed this month include sentences that tell me all I need to know about a person in seven snappy words – this is a short story after all.

A small point. Some people repeat the same word or combination of words in successive sentences – or even the same sentence.  I think they usually do it as an oversight, when, on reflection, they would use  another word. Sometimes, of course, words can be repeated deliberately, to good effect, to give emphasis.

There was one achingly sad story about two people who meet during a speed dating session, be can’t get their contact details in place at the end. They are apart again as the chairs revolve. No game of musical chairs ever brought such pain.

Another, a touching story of the night visits of a spirit lover.

There’s been been some excellent descriptive writing.

Some lines stand out –  macs “clinging like bats to the coat-hooks”, for example.

“She could twist in mid air like a burnished salmon”

There was a breathless passage describing a girl fleeing from her literary fraud of a two-timing boyfriend, through “the city groaning with people and buildings and roads and traffic and shops and homes until she, heart sore with pumping and burning lungs, stopped.”

It is good example, incidentally, of using commas only sparingly – as a hectic, free-flowing sentence it sums up the urgency of her flight.

Then –

“They sat back and looked at each other, managing to be both present and in a smoke filled memory at the same time.

“In one instant Amy had taken in the crumpled bed, the fetid air and the surprising size of Margot Goodacre’s bottom. ”

“The words came rushing out and heat rose from his neck to his cheeks.”

“The sergeant continues to stare straight ahead, his eyes locked on a map pin behind and slightly to the left of the RSM’s ear in this who-blinks-first moment.”

Not so many last paragraphs providing surprises this month, and this device is not obligatory. Done well, where the reader is drawn in one direction, only to be sidestepped by the plot at the end, they are quite satisfying. Even better when it’s done obliquely, and not spelled out. But springing a late surprise is just one way of telling a story.

*

Although Gareth judges on the impact of the stories and the quality of the writing, it’s always disappointing when there are simple spelling mistakes or even simpler errors that should have been picked up during the editing process. Please do read your stories carefully before submitting and ideally show them to someone you trust for their opinion.

*Should you get through to the longlist of 30 stories (three per month over ten months), it doesn’t necessarily mean that your story won’t be chosen if it slips out of the top ten. No author will appear in the top ten twice so a story that came eleventh (or twelfth, thirteenth…) could be bumped up where there are author duplications.

You can also receive feedback on your story / stories at £5 per story with the optional critique service (given by the judge, Gareth Davies). This option is detailed on the main 500-word Competition page with an option to select critique within the entry form.

N.B. ALL the profits (fees minus PayPal charges) from this competition go to BeaconLit funds for the local libraries. No one involved in the competition charges for their time (including the judge!). Good luck!

Posted in competitions, writing

BeaconLit’s 500-word comp is open for April

Hello everyone. Yes, March’s theme of ‘The Insider’ has closed and April’s is now live. The theme is ‘No Fool Like A…’, to be used in any way you would like within the 500-word maximum. Rules, prizes, entry form etc. via https://beaconlitblog.wordpress.com/500-word-competition.

The results for February’s competition will be announced shortly.

NB. If you have stories ready for future themes, please don’t submit them until the relevant month as the entry will be disqualified with no refund given, and you won’t be able to submit it in the correct month (because we will have seen it). It’s rule number four. 🙂

Posted in competitions, writing

BeaconLit’s 500-word comp is open for March

Hello everyone. Yes, February’s theme of ‘Better to Have Loved and Lost’ has closed and March’s is now live. The theme is ‘The Insider’, to be used in any way you would like within the 500-word maximum. Rules, prizes, entry form etc. via https://beaconlitblog.wordpress.com/500-word-competition.

NB. If you have stories ready for future themes, please don’t submit them until the relevant month as the entry will be disqualified with no refund given, and you won’t be able to submit it in the correct month (because we will have seen it). It’s rule number four. 🙂

Posted in competitions, critique, literary festival, writing

BeaconLit Fourth Year 500-word comp Round 6 – Jan 2021 winners announced

We are delighted to announce the top three stories from January’s entries are (in alphabetical order):

  • Did you have a good holiday?
  • Piece by Piece
  • The Real Mrs Chapman

January’s theme was ‘A New Me’. The three top stories will now go through to the final judging and the top ten prize-winning authors (not necessarily the same as the top ten stories as no author can win more than one prize) will be announced at the 2021 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 10th July (fingers crossed!). The results will also be listed here and on the main website (link below) and the winners contacted.

There are often more than three stories that could have made the top three but those that did were either closer to the theme or stronger (provoked more of a reaction after reading) so don’t be disheartened if yours hasn’t been mentioned.

If your story for this month isn’t listed in the above three, you are welcome to do whatever you like with your submission hereon in. If your story is listed, it’s possible that it could be placed in the ultimate top ten* which will be published on this website (and on http://www.beaconlit.co.uk) in July so please do not send it elsewhere until after the final results are announced.

If you have requested, and paid for, critique, this will be with you in the next few days if not already.

*

Gareth’s feedback on the stories received this month:

There were some thoughtful interpretations, ranging from facial and even full body makeovers, to dropping out of, or into, lives of crime. Surprisingly only one person chose the ongoing pandemic lockdown as the backdrop. Some stories were rooted in the practical and real-life experience, both in the classroom, as teachers (with scarily well-observed pupils). One teacher, helped by her therapist, was finding a new way to negotiate the class, and making clever use of a banana at a key point in the story. As well as clapping for carers, we should be cheering for teachers once a week.

People are taking on difficult subjects. One was a touching story about a boy applying make-up, confidently redefining his sexuality, with a neat twist in the last paragraph. Another person struggles with contact lenses, an important part of the makeover.

Another writer outlines the practical details of her going-green plan, complete with making donations to green charities.

Lockdown can still be a fertile subject, and we all have something to say about our domestic situation. One person told a very good jigsaw story, for instance. And clearly based on the person’s own experience, with lots of practical detail on how to deal with those 2000 thousand pieces, while coming to terms with one’s partner.

One or two ventured into science fiction. When you imagine the future, of course, anything goes. But in other real-life locations, it’s always worth checking the details online. If you have a plausible story why spoil it by introducing a jarring plot detail?

Quite a number of good stories, and I urge people not to be discouraged if they weren’t in my top three. I could easily have put another three there. Please keep trying.

Some general observations…

It’s tempting to be lyrical and pile on the adjectives. But do be self-critical. Look again and see if you can cast that sentence more simply, while keeping the strong adjectives. Or maybe just one vivid piece of description to set the scene. You’ve made your point about that stunning landscape, or sunset. Now get on with this story.

The wonderful thing about writing on a computer (or phone or iPad) is you never need to misspell again. I came across one or two wrong spellings, and they can be rather jarring. Do check.

And watch out for cliches. Think of new ways to describe the person serving you coffee, and the effect it has on you. Think: has what I’ve just written been said before in this way 1 million times, with these same qualifying adjectives? If the answer is yes, spend some time thinking of a new way to say it.

A simple comma can make all the difference. Amplifying a clause, when, if a sentence simply runs on unbroken, readers could be left confused. Again, no end of trustworthy help on the Internet. And do read pieces through yet one more time to pick up those stray words or letters that get overlooked and stranded in a piece of copy, as you edit.

Several people repeated the same word, or a variation upon it, in successive sentences. It is worth looking for alternatives,.

And when to use capital letters? New Year, for example, generally has initial capitals.

If in doubt, do check on a few different places on the Internet. There will be an authoritative answer there.

My feeling is that technical terms, such as DEFCON 3, need to be explained in a story. I had to look it up. I am obviously watching the wrong films.

*

Although Gareth judges on the impact of the stories and the quality of the writing, it’s always disappointing when there are simple spelling mistakes or even simpler errors that should have been picked up during the editing process. Please do read your stories carefully before submitting and ideally show them to someone you trust for their opinion.

*Should you get through to the longlist of 30 stories (three per month over ten months), it doesn’t necessarily mean that your story won’t be chosen if it slips out of the top ten. No author will appear in the top ten twice so a story that came eleventh (or twelfth, thirteenth…) could be bumped up where there are author duplications.

You can also receive feedback on your story / stories at £5 per story with the optional critique service (given by the judge, Gareth Davies). This option is detailed on the main 500-word Competition page with an option to select critique within the entry form.

N.B. ALL the profits (fees minus PayPal charges) from this competition go to BeaconLit funds for the local libraries. No one involved in the competition charges for their time (including the judge!). Good luck!

Posted in competitions, critique, literary festival, writing

BeaconLit Fourth Year 500-word comp Round 5 – Dec 2020 winners announced (and February’s open!)

On the day that January rolls over to February (Theme: Better To Have Loved And Lost), we are delighted to announce the top three stories from December’s entries are (in alphabetical order):

  • Big Black Boots with High Cotton Tops
  • Black and Red Promises
  • Party Boy

The theme for December was ‘The Fake Santa’. The three top stories will now go through to the final judging and the top ten prize-winning authors (not necessarily the same as the top ten stories as no author can win more than one prize) will be announced at the 2021 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 10th July (fingers crossed!). The results will also be listed here and on the main website (link below) and the winners contacted.

There are often more than three stories that could have made the top three but those that did were either closer to the theme or stronger (provoked more of a reaction after reading) so don’t be disheartened if yours hasn’t been mentioned.

If your story for this month isn’t listed in the above three, you are welcome to do whatever you like with your submission hereon in. If your story is listed, it’s possible that it could be placed in the ultimate top ten* which will be published on this website (and on http://www.beaconlit.co.uk) in July so please do not send it elsewhere until after the final results are announced.

If you have requested, and paid for, critique, this will be with you in the next few days if not already.

*

Gareth’s feedback on the stories received this month:

December’s subject was The Fake Santa.

There are many ways to set a story to this theme: in the home, the department store and elsewhere. And writers came up with some novel treatments, while adhering to the truth that, from the child’s point of view, the very idea of Santa, anywhere, is enchanting.

Writers succeeded in conveying the mystery of the man and his world from many angles, and the way children interpret him. One of my favourites concerns a boy named Donald who ungraciously tried to expose the Santa as a fake at a Christmas party. Now who could this writer possibly have had in mind?

It was a good start to this year’s competition, although these were technically December’s entries.

If you thought you were in with a chance, you almost certainly were. It’s been so hard to choose winners. I have had to exclude from my top three several entries which in other months would have sailed in. So please don’t be too disappointed if your story didn’t make it. There wasn’t a poor story here. One or two were outstanding, making this one of the best competitions I have had to judge.

In many cases there is nothing I could possibly add to improve the story, except for some punctuation. People are working hard at descriptions – “there’s madness and mayhem with one piping voice, the party giver’s, shriller than the rest”, is just one example I like.

There’s a delightful story about Grandpa as a Santa, but told slightly obliquely so you have to think about it.

Another is a convincing commentary on the uncomfortable, low-paid lot of the men who do the job of impersonating Santa. Yet another was a neat variation on the Jimmy Boyd “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” perennial.

And clever, too. Rearrange the letters a bit, and Santa becomes Satan. Dreadful thought, or intriguing alternative reality?

One writer uses a string of cliches, but while I normally bristle at their use, there are times, such as this, when they can be used to effect. In this case in the voice of someone down on his luck, telling his festive tale in his own voice.

One or two people, or maybe their spellcheckers, slipped in unnecessary apostrophes before the final “s” in plural words. “Over seven’s”, for example. I’m sure it was a mistake. Just be careful when you read through. Especially when the rest of the writing in that particular story is so good.

I’m looking for turns of phrase that stand out. A sequence of words that I’ve never seen before – “underneath all, the black sparkling seams of coal that have paid for these luxuries” – created not recycled, which is one of the best elements of writing.

But this is not essential; I’m happy, too, with the story that is sparse and crispy told, that moves swiftly along.

I was reminded that ideas for stories come from anywhere. One writer based a very pleasing story on a ’Christmas Gift of Coal’ letter from the local mine owner, written just before nationalisation of the coal industry in 1948, found in a junk shop.

*

Although Gareth judges on the impact of the stories and the quality of the writing, it’s always disappointing when there are simple spelling mistakes or even simpler errors that should have been picked up during the editing process. Please do read your stories carefully before submitting and ideally show them to someone you trust for their opinion.

*Should you get through to the longlist of 30 stories (three per month over ten months), it doesn’t necessarily mean that your story won’t be chosen if it slips out of the top ten. No author will appear in the top ten twice so a story that came eleventh (or twelfth, thirteenth…) could be bumped up where there are author duplications.

You can also receive feedback on your story / stories at £5 per story with the optional critique service (given by the judge, Gareth Davies). This option is detailed on the main 500-word Competition page with an option to select critique within the entry form.

N.B. ALL the profits (fees minus PayPal charges) from this competition go to BeaconLit funds for the local libraries. No one involved in the competition charges for their time (including the judge!). Good luck!

Posted in competitions, writing

BeaconLit’s 500-word comp is open for January

Hello everyone. Yes, December’s theme of ‘The Fake Santa’ has closed and January’s is now live. The theme is ‘A New Me’, to be used in any way you would like within the 500-word maximum. Rules, prizes, entry form etc. via https://beaconlitblog.wordpress.com/500-word-competition.

NB. If you have stories ready for future themes, please don’t submit them until the relevant month as the entry will be disqualified with no refund given, and you won’t be able to submit it in the correct month (because we will have seen it). It’s rule number four. 🙂

Posted in competitions, critique, literary festival, writing

BeaconLit Fourth Year 500-word comp Round 4 – Nov 2020 winners announced

We are delighted to announce the top three stories from November’s entries are (in alphabetical order):

  • 1107 Autumn leaves
  • 1101 Songbird
  • 1104 Cherished treasures

The theme for November was ‘Autumn Leaves’. The three top stories will now go through to the final judging and the top ten prize-winning authors (not necessarily the same as the top ten stories as no author can win more than one prize) will be announced at the 2021 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 10th July (fingers crossed!). The results will also be listed here and on the main website (link below) and the winners contacted.

There are often more than three stories that could have made the top three but those that did were either closer to the theme or stronger (provoked more of a reaction after reading) so don’t be disheartened if yours hasn’t been mentioned.

If your story for this month isn’t listed in the above three, you are welcome to do whatever you like with your submission hereon in. If your story is listed, it’s possible that it could be placed in the ultimate top ten* which will be published on this website (and on http://www.beaconlit.co.uk) in July so please do not send it elsewhere until after the final results are announced.

If you have requested, and paid for, critique, this will be with you in the next few days if not already.

*

Gareth’s feedback on the stories received this month:

By all means turn your personal experience into a story. It’s the best form of research. There are several this month that suggests to me that the writers felt at first hand the adventure, pain and satisfaction they are communicating in their stories.

But do check for things like unnecessary repetition and tautology: “7 am on the first morning” for example.

And errors such as “laying on the ground”. (Lying). Plenty of guidance on the Internet.

And while repetition of a word in another sentence close by can add emphasis in some instances, the repeated word is usually there because the writer didn’t read closely enough, and would probably have used an alternative if he or she had spotted it.

It’s good to see writers trying out fresh descriptions, similes and treatments. I particularly liked “they rise like a swoop of rooks” in one story.

One person, inspired by a song, told a story from the point of view of a dead lover. Another took the poetic route, and described autumn as a physical being, wearing the colours of the season, issuing her orders to the trees. An interesting, imaginative treatment of autumn.

But it jars when writers don’t check spelling. One writer made an error in the spelling of Alzheimer’s. (I confess I had to check it myself.)  Always worth one more read through. It is a shame (and especially, here, in a well-told story) because my feeling is that when somebody uses this word they often know somebody close to them who has or had the condition.

Another error was a misspelling of WhatsApp. I’m sure lots of us would get it wrong just taking a stab at it, but that’s the only correct spelling, I’m afraid. Do check online. (I allow other spelling variants, because I know writers from North America submit stories.)

*

Although Gareth judges on the impact of the stories and the quality of the writing, it’s always disappointing when there are simple spelling mistakes or even simpler errors that should have been picked up during the editing process. Please do read your stories carefully before submitting and ideally show them to someone you trust for their opinion.

*Should you get through to the longlist of 30 stories (three per month over ten months), it doesn’t necessarily mean that your story won’t be chosen if it slips out of the top ten. No author will appear in the top ten twice so a story that came eleventh (or twelfth, thirteenth…) could be bumped up where there are author duplications.

You can also receive feedback on your story / stories at £5 per story with the optional critique service (given by the judge, Gareth Davies). This option is detailed on the main 500-word Competition page with an option to select critique within the entry form.

N.B. ALL the profits (fees minus PayPal charges) from this competition go to BeaconLit funds for the local libraries. No one involved in the competition charges for their time (including the judge!). Good luck!

Posted in competitions, critique, literary festival, writing

BeaconLit Fourth Year 500-word comp Round 3 – Oct 2020 winners announced

We are delighted to announce the top three stories from October’s entries are (in alphabetical order):

  • Barking mad
  • The Grimshaws
  • Semi-detached

The theme for October was ‘The Terror Next Door’. The three top stories will now go through to the final judging and the top ten prize-winning authors (not necessarily the same as the top ten stories as no author can win more than one prize) will be announced at the 2021 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 10th July (fingers crossed!). The results will also be listed here and on the main website (link below) and the winners contacted.

There are often more than three stories that could have made the top three but those that did were either closer to the theme or stronger (provoked more of a reaction after reading) so don’t be disheartened if yours hasn’t been mentioned.

If your story for this month isn’t listed in the above three, you are welcome to do whatever you like with your submission hereon in. If your story is listed, it’s possible that it could be placed in the ultimate top ten* which will be published on this website (and on http://www.beaconlit.co.uk) in July so please do not send it elsewhere until after the final results are announced.

If you have requested, and paid for, critique, this will be with you in the next few days if not already.

*

Gareth’s feedback on the stories received this month:

Neighbours. This is a rich seam, and people have mined it to very good effect.

Some stories are so convincing, written with passion, that I must suppose the writers have had personal experience of unpleasant neighbours.

Some give conventional treatments of the title. Others spin off in quite unexpected directions. But any treatment is fine, and better still if it’s well written, and competently paced and constructed.

And the stories certainly have been that this month.

It’s fine, if you have had that “neighbour experience” yourself. But by all means let your imagination take you to that place too, as others have.

There is one particularly good story I liked about the sadness of the childless couple next door. That scene evokes – from the children’s point of view – the boys singing carols at the spooky house in Dylan Thomas’s “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”.

And a few stories about the people next door actually making physical contact. (They were plausible, because it can be quite easy to get in, particularly through the attic.)

And there is one imaginative story about shape shifting.

One writer ably conveyed the grinding irritation of living with serial carless, inconsiderate families next door.

What is a good way of ending a story? I’ve decided there are many.

Some this month have quite satisfying, reassuring conclusions, where the main character (there is rarely room for more from more than one in a 500 word story) has an issue, thinks of, and works towards, a solution and successfully, even if unexpectedly, implements it in the last paragraph.

Others leave you, the reader, hanging. Both endings are equally valid, happy, unhappy, clear or ambiguous and uncertain. What matters is how you get there, and if it all adds up for the reader.

A few general points:

Avoid cliches, if only because that form of words is not original writing. I and other readers will surely have heard them before.

Try not to repeat the title of something, or a name, in two successive sentences. Why not just “it”, “he” or “she”?

Look closely at punctuation. Do you need that gratuitous comma. And some people might want to use a semi colon, instead of comma.

These are very minor points. But they can blunt the overall effect, in a story of good descriptive writing. It’s worth getting them right. As ever there is plenty of sound advice on the Internet. Or look at a master like John LeCarre (see below). Just read his punctuation for a couple of pages.

I’m pleased that people look for different ways of describing things – just one original description of movement I came across is: “She puddled across the doormat”.

People haven’t forced, or overdone, the descriptive writing this month. My main overall point is: in a 500 word story, do weigh those words carefully.

Look out for wordy phrases. And try to avoid the passive voice – something “being done” to someone. Try to be as crisp as possible, when words are so scarce. It sound better too.

Even if it’s only one word. “Continue” is better than “Continue on”, for example. It’s crisper, more economical. What does “on” actually mean? (Where it doesn’t mean forwards.)

When it’s perfectly clear who is speaking, there’s no need for “he / she said”. And think of making three individual sentences out of a longer sentence with multiple clauses, which can become clumsy.

I recently read John LeCarre’s Agent Running in the Field. It’s just worth reading just to see how a master handles dialogue. And so crisply.

And even when you think you have found every last error in the story, read it again in a few hours. (I found several things people had missed.

*

Although Gareth judges on the impact of the stories and the quality of the writing, it’s always disappointing when there are simple spelling mistakes or even simpler errors that should have been picked up during the editing process. Please do read your stories carefully before submitting and ideally show them to someone you trust for their opinion.

*Should you get through to the longlist of 30 stories (three per month over ten months), it doesn’t necessarily mean that your story won’t be chosen if it slips out of the top ten. No author will appear in the top ten twice so a story that came eleventh (or twelfth, thirteenth…) could be bumped up where there are author duplications.

You can also receive feedback on your story / stories at £5 per story with the optional critique service (given by the judge, Gareth Davies). This option is detailed on the main 500-word Competition page with an option to select critique within the entry form.

N.B. ALL the profits (fees minus PayPal charges) from this competition go to BeaconLit funds for the local libraries. No one involved in the competition charges for their time (including the judge!). Good luck!

Posted in competitions, writing

BeaconLit’s 500-word comp is open for November

Hello everyone. Yes, October’s theme of ‘The Terror Next Door’ has closed and November’s is now live. The theme is ‘Autumn Leaves’, to be used in any way you would like within the 500-word maximum. Rules, prizes, entry form etc. via https://beaconlitblog.wordpress.com/500-word-competition.

NB. If you have stories ready for future themes, please don’t submit them until the relevant month as the entry will be disqualified with no refund given, and you won’t be able to submit it in the correct month (because we will have seen it). It’s rule number four. 🙂