Posted in competitions, critique, literary festival, writing

BeaconLit Third Year 500-word comp Round 9 – May 2020 winners announced

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

  • Hope in Springtime
  • Muse No More
  • Sonnets and Satellites

The theme for April was ‘It’s in the stars’. 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). They were going to be announced at the 2020 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 11th July but very sadly we’ve have had to postpone the festival until next year (Sat 10th July). The results will therefore be announced 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.

*

Gareth’s feedback on the stories received this month:

The range of subjects this month was fascinating and ambitious, from a story inspired by a BBC documentary on Lee Miller, to an extra terrestrial; from a well planned suicide to a very young (and touching) romance. There are several set in the current pandemic.

There wasn’t a poor story here. They were satisfying and many were quite clever. It’s often hard picking a winner, but this month has been hardest of all.

Contributors have a good grasp of structure, dialogue, and plot.

Very few basic errors, and I’m reduced in the main to pointing out use of lower case instead of capitals, and the odd missing punctuation.

Stories were clear and unambiguous, and well composed. My view is that in a 500 word story you have very little space for description and ornamentation, and it’s good to see people not doing this. They aren’t wasting words.

It’s gratifying when I’ve been a bit puzzled about something and I have re-read the story and found the explanation was there all along. Pleasing that people are addressing difficulties the reader might have had. It should always be the readers’ fault if they don’t get it.

I’ve no way of knowing if some of the people who have done so before are submitting stories again, or if these are entirely fresh writers, but one way or another the standard does seem to be rising.

Several stories show the value of good research, and in some cases personal experience in a particular job. This is some interesting insight into the work of a tour bus guide in Hollywood, for example. (Yes, writer, I had fun, too, doing this very thing, but on my own, filling in a couple of hours before a flight home from LA.) Ultimately you can write about any job without necessarily doing it yourself, but why not use personal knowledge if you have it?

Once again Covid-19 was a theme, and it was handled well, with some poignant stories. Writers certainly capture the daily tragedy, the futility, the loneliness of the past three months.

People are already talking about the pandemic novels. Well, we are already having some good pandemic short stories.

Another theme, naturally, is space, the stars, and space travel. A mother looking out into space to her astronaut son, for example. Writers are anticipating emotions that will surely be experienced in the future now that interplanetary travel seems very likely, after Elon Musk’s latest achievement. (In one story that caught my eye, they come here.)

In another I like the idea of something as permanent as a star not being so permanent at all, but simply going out, falling and then disintegrating. (Stars on a bedroom ceiling.)

One clever writer (the theme of young love) totally takes us in, but still give us clues – which, of course, we aren’t meant to pick up.

A few more small points. Some writers have used the same word twice in the same paragraph, and not for emphasis, when it would be justified. Always worth another read-through. I’m sure they would’ve used another word had they spotted it.

Several people very effectively hold back the twist to the very last paragraph, and in one case the last three words. It’s not a rule of short stories that you save the denouement for the last line, though we enjoy it when people do it well.

But it’s just one of many devices in the short story. There are others.

It’s quite acceptable to write about real people, as well as real events, such as the pandemic. The story about Lee Miller was a bit unusual in that it helped if the reader who didn’t know much too much about her read some background. Not all stories can be self-explanatory, or entirely self-contained, where you need no reference at all to other sources.

*

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 27 stories (three per month over nine 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 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 Third Year 500-word competition now closed!

Thank you to everyone who has entered over the past nine months.

The results of the May round will be announced first (hopefully by mid-June) then the overall results in the few weeks thereafter, certainly by when the festival would have run on Saturday 11th July.

You’ve already raised £100s (over £500 year 2… we’re hoping more this ‘year’) for the BeaconLit community libraries so everyone involved behind the scenes thanks you soooo much!

Posted in competitions, critique, literary festival, writing

BeaconLit Third Year 500-word comp Round 8 – April 2020 winners announced

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

  • Arranging Flowers
  • Baby Dolls
  • Bibliophilia

The theme for March was ‘the female assassin’. 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). They were going to be announced at the 2020 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 11th July but very sadly we’ve have had to postpone the festival until next year (Sat 10th July). The results will therefore be announced 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.

*

Gareth’s feedback on the stories received this month:

There was a record number of submissions this month, which is just as you would expect. It’s pleasing to see so many people express themselves in writing, and I hope they have a chance to develop their thoughts in longer forms of the story.

The theme was “The female assassin”. Most people took that form of words literally, and wrote about women who were killers. A number anchored their stories in the current pandemic. Several interpreted the theme in quite novel ways.

Contract killing is not an area of fiction I know particularly well, but usually non-followers can work out the meaning of “mark” and “wet work”. Sometimes, however, a few words of explanation don’t go amiss.

I ask writers to be ruthless with words. Don’t waste them on people or things that have nothing to do with the story. Paint a picture, by all means. Make that extra piece of detail on a stray bystander count. Otherwise get them out of your story.

You may need those extra words to amplify a point, and make it absolutely clear to the reader what you have in mind.

Overall, writers had a good grasp of procedure, and the killing process, and how these professionals go about their work, checking and avoiding notice at all stages, knowing where the cameras are. Lower your guard for a second and you’re dead, is the message.

A few general observations. Why not be more precise if you set your story in a known place. One person mentions a street off Park Lane. Give it a name; that makes It more authentic. Use Google Maps. It’s never been easier to research all sorts of details – names, places, substances – to pop into your story. Not essential, but it can help.

Try not to repeat a word, or form of words, in consecutive sentences or paragraphs. That cropped up a few times. Make it obvious to the reader that you took the trouble to find another word instead of repeating yourself. Look out for the wrong use of “it’s” and “its”. I know self completion software doesn’t help, but it’s always worth a check. Similarly “lay” when you mean “lie”.

One or two stories were nearer 300 words than 500 words. Nothing at all wrong with this. Brevity can be a virtue, if you can draw your character briefly but effectively, then tell your story in a few clear stages. But if you need 500 words, that’s fine too. Just don’t feel you have to. I haven’t favoured either approach.

*

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 27 stories (three per month over nine 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 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 May

Hello everyone. Yes, April’s theme of ‘the female assassin’ has closed and May’s competition is now open. The theme is ‘it’s in the stars’, 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 Third Year 500-word comp Round 7 – March 2020 winners announced

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

  • Garden Party Peptalk
  • Letter to Mr Coleridge
  • Spring Fever

The theme for March was ‘the spring’. 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 2020 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 11th July. If we are unable to run the festival, the announcements will be made 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 literary festival.

If you have requested, and paid for, critique, this will be with you in the next few days.

*

Gareth’s feedback on the stories received this month:

Just two weeks into Coronavirus lockdown, and people are already writing about it. That’s fascinating. Fiction following real life in real time.

The stories, naturally, are immediate and well-informed, and contain a very real sense of tension. (There was a high standard of storytelling throughout, in non-virus related stories too, which made choosing three winners particularly difficult. And welcome to an American contributor – I can tell by the spelling. We delighted to have you.)

I would urge people to check the detail of things that perhaps you think are so fresh in your mind that they don’t need to be checked. One writer refers to the first Clap for Carers on March 27 – the writer refers to March, so it must be that one. The writer then has the character seeing footage of people clapping on TV, and then steps outside to catch the last light of the March dusk. But it was pitch dark on the 27th – this was the Thursday before the clocks changed.

Does this matter at all? I think it does, when you are referring to such recent events that almost every person in the country will have heard about, if not experienced. Making things up is fine, but for a real event in the immediate past it’s a jarring note. But I have sympathy with this writer. I can’t see how the concluding point can be made without it still being light.

Some more points.

Punctuation is pretty good in the stories, with just a few lapses, such as a hyphen used instead of a comma. Always worth checking, for those who feel unsure about something, and it’s so easy to check grammar and punctuation online. There is at least one good story where a few sentences simply don’t feel right, because they’re missing a comma, or two.

Even one of the winners this month could have used a semi colon to break up a sentence where orders are being given to 3 different groups. Several months ago people were overusing the exclamation mark; now they are underusing the semi colon. If you’re unsure about how three separate clauses link together, just makes them three separate sentences.

A point about numbers. Working on newspapers I understood that numbers one to ten were written as I’ve just done and numbers above that were numerals. So 16, 85 etc. Because otherwise where do you stop?

*

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 27 stories (three per month over nine 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 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 spring’ has closed and April’s competition is now open. The theme is ‘the female assassin’, 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 Third Year 500-word comp Round 6 – Feb 2020 winners announced

BeaconLit Third Year 500-word comp Round 6 – February 2020 winners announced

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

  • Fourteen Again
  • In Detention Again
  • Take On Me

The theme for February was ‘fourteen again’. 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 2020 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 11th July. As with most months, there were 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 literary festival.

If you have requested, and paid for, critique, this will be with you in the next few days.

*

Gareth’s feedback on the stories received this month:

This month writers have dealt with a range of challenging subjects, including mental health (dementia and the effects of trauma); crime, where women pursue and achieve payback for wrongs done to them; sexual abuse; deprivation.

In the dementia story, there was a very effective telling from the point of view of the sufferer.

There is one cleverly delivered story on the subject of gender, with the satisfaction of a neat conclusion delivered in the last sentence. And there is good use of the device of mistaken identity in one story. We learn the identity of who actually sent something in the very last line.

(These last-line denouements are only one way of writing a good short story, of course. A number are intriguingly unfinished. It’s up to us to imagine what happens next. There is no formula for endings.)

Women are certainly getting their own back in the age of #metoo. There are a number of resolute women. (But not so many men. Possibly because more women than men are writing these stories. I have no way of knowing, because identities are concealed.) Besides, men have had plenty of promotion elsewhere.

There’s a strong story of retribution. And several mother and daughter relationships.

One person interprets the theme by writing the story from the point of view of a 14-year-old girl. In which case the exclamation marks are excused.

One story, cleverly, turned on the writer changing just two letters in a short word – “lad” to “lass”.

In a few stories, however, I was left confused. If writers want to make a slightly oblique point, they might want to check to see if any further clarification is needed for the reader who doesn’t quite get it. It need not take more than a clause or a short sentence.

Errors

There are a couple of cases of the dreaded apostrophe before an “s” in a plural (“Everyone is in jeans and tee’s.”) If you’re not sure how to use the apostrophe, look it up.

In some places commas are missing, probably unintentionally. Sometimes they are essential, though. An example – ‘I’m proud of you, lad whatever happens.’ There should be a comma after “lad”, so always check. The emphasis on “lad” that comes with a pause is important. Only a comma can give that pause.

A few little errors could be ironed out with another read-through, such as “its” when the writer meant “it’s”. And a missing word – that 500-word limit has to be strictly observed, so even when you think you’ve got it perfect, please read again, just in case.

Some writers feel the need to extend a sentence with yet another clause when a full stop, followed by a new sentence, can be more effective.

There is one case of fiancé spelt wrong – the female version needs the additional final e.

Try to avoid clichés. Why is it always “half empty coffee cups? Why not simply “unfinished”? It’s immaterial how much is left in them. The point is they are discarded, unwashed, around the flat.

Clichés are just lazy strings of words. That same writer came up with the excellent “pyjamas stinking of desolation” in the next line, so he/she can do it.

*

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 27 stories (three per month over nine 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.

And now 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 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 March

Hello everyone. Yes, February’s theme of ‘fourteen again’ has closed and March’s competition is now open. The theme is ‘the spring’, 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 Third Year 500-word comp Round 5 – Jan 2020 winners announced

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

  • Going Places
  • Made with Love
  • Number 16

The theme for January was ‘sweet and sour’.

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 2020 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 11th July. As with most months, there were 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) next July so please do not send it elsewhere until after the literary festival.

If you have requested, and paid for, critique, this will be with you in the next few days.

*

Gareth’s feedback on the stories received this month:

Another good range of stories, with people doing clever, creative things with “Sweet and Sour”.

Some people are making political points. Others are simply telling stories; or making observations about relationships and hinting at people’s troubles. One story had a revenge denouement that I don’t think even the Kray brothers would have sanctioned.  I also liked a clever allegory about worms, neat and straighforward, like a parable.

All in all, there are some really inventive and chilling stories here.

People seem to have taken to heart earlier injunctions about over-use of exclamation marks, and punctuation errors.

But I would still ask people to look closely at specific words. Are they quite what you meant? One writer refers to the “evolution” from one season to another when perhaps what was meant was “transition”. I can see where evolution would be right, but that would imply a sudden change, not what was meant here.

Sometimes, with a little bit of thought, you can find a better word.

After all, once you’ve written the 500 words, and the plot, structure and the development are right, you can afford to look at keywords and descriptions and refine them if necessary.

And be brutal with your editing. Somebody’s hand is “trembling slightly”. Do you really need the “slightly” ? After all, you’ve already said the person was nervous. No need to underline it. with only 500 words available. Be as sparing as possible. Maybe change “The nervous contestant placed the dish in front of her, his hands trembling slightly”, to “the nervous contestant, hands trembling, placed the dish in front of her.” Two words saved.

Having judged this competition for five months now, I get impatient when people overdo descriptions. For example one writer spends five sentences describing Chinatown in Vancouver. The description is well done, but it’s a bit of a luxury in a story of 500 words. Chinatown is just the setting for the action. I got the point after two sentences. What is described does not add to the story or explain anything. Use the words freed up here to give me a little more of a hint of what is behind the mystery illness.

There is no need to strain for effect. But if it’s your specialist subject, by all means use it, although still sparingly. A number of writers describe food and drink very well, and it is, presumably, something they know a lot about. The descriptions are convincing.

But sometimes just a few colourful adjectives will do. So one person refers to red shoes for instance (they don’t do anything; they are just red, but a nice touch). Another refers to a person as a butterfly, summing up her qualities in one evocative word.

There are a few places in the stories where I am not absolutely sure what the writer means to say. It’s not serious, because you get the meaning from the context. But It’s worth putting yourself in the place of the reader. Will he or she be confused here? If the answer is yes, or possibly, play safe and try it another way; or maybe split a long sentence into two shorter ones. Things can happen quickly in a short story of 500 words, and it’s important to get those transitions right.

Again, be careful with words. One writer uses the Irish and American spelling of whiskey, when the person referred to is undoubtedly Scottish and would surely be drinking whisky without an “e”.

It seems like a mistake, particularly as it’s repeated, not some subtle message. I’m not being pedantic. The spellings are very specific. They matter.

I came across one use of 60’s. Standard use is 60s. I hold with the general rule that apostrophes for contractions and to indicate possession, not plurals.

There are just a couple of cases of unnecessary punctuation, such as “championing any cause, that needed a”. No need for a comma here.

And a capital G for “gillie”.  It’s just a noun, so lower case.

And be careful about names.  In one story I would have given made “Baby worm” “Baby Worm” – it’s a name, just like John and Jill.

This is just an aside from me, but two writers attributed “sweet and sour” to women.  Isn’t this a rather sexist stereotype – can’t men or boys be sweet and sour as well? However there is one example of sweet and sour being a boy and a girl.

*

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 27 stories (three per month over nine 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.

And now 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 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 Third Year 500-word comp Round 4 – Dec 2019 winners announced

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

  • Blessed are the Peacemakers
  • My Nemesis
  • Univited Guest

The theme for December was ‘a reunion’. 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 2020 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 11th July. As with most months, there were 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) next July so please do not send it elsewhere until after the literary festival.

If you have requested, and paid for, critique, this will be with you in the next few days.

*

Gareth’s feedback on the stories received this month:

Several good stories written as if from personal knowledge, really getting inside the characters in a short space. Lots of capable handling of dialogue. And it’s good to see writers using (where appropriate) crisp, short sentences. It’s worth trying to make your point with as few words, as this form is all about brevity.

The stories were competent and satisfying. Several saved a neat twist, heavily disguised, to the very end. It’s good to be surprised in a story, but not essential. Others tell a very conventional story, in strict temporal order. But as long as you do it well, and retain the reader’s interest, that is all that matters.

*

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 27 stories (three per month over nine 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.

And now 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 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!