Posted in writing

BeaconFlash Year 4 Competition Results

BeaconFlash Competition Results

We are delighted to announce the winners of the 2020/21 BeaconFlash 500 word story competition. Our Judge, Gareth Davies, remarked, ‘The standard was once again high, and any one in the final 10 prizewinners could have made it through to the top three. The final choice reflects the way in which the three stories were so unlike one another, and excellent examples of their type. Number One was a classic chiller, set where no one can hear you scream, and still worryingly unresolved at the end. The second is a story for our times, practical therapy to put yourself, and a relationship, together again under the strains of lockdown. The third was a satisfying “how to solve a problem of everyday life” story.’

The winners are:
First prize: £75 plus up to 5,000 words critique* from the competition’s judge Gareth Davies (worth £50) and free entry to the following year’s BeaconLit fest festival in July 2020 with publication on the BeaconLit website:
Semi-detached by Julian Harvard Barnes
Second prize: £50 plus up to 4,000 words critique* (worth £40) and free entry to the following year’s BeaconLit festival, plus publication on the BeaconLit website:
Piece by Piece by Lynda Casserly
Third prize: £25 plus up to 3,000 words critique* (worth £30) and free entry to the following year’s BeaconLit festival, plus publication on the BeaconLit website:
Barking Mad by Susan Kittles
Seven further prizes of free entry to the following year’s BeaconLit festival, in no particular order:
Party Boy by Pat Mernagh Thompson
Paula’s Clown by Douglas Goodrich
Next! by Simon Shergold
Match of the Day by Barbara Young
No Going Back by Sue Massey
The Grimshaws Rosie San Jose
Little Journal by Kaitlyn Valler
Congratulations to all the winners! You can read the top three stories here.

Posted in competitions, critique, literary festival, writing

BeaconLit Fourth Year 500-word comp Round 9 – May 2021 winners announced

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

  • Little journal
  • Match of the Day
  • The key

May’s theme was ‘Last Chance’. 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 shortly. The results will 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) shortly 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:

The theme for May was Last Chance. Lots of entries, which was good to see. It’s a rather serious theme, and the stories were, in the main, serious. The implication is of chances not taken in the past, of regrets, but of new resolve.

There were some imaginative takes on the theme. There was a rather complicated, though satisfying, story of mistaken identity. It was all there, although I had to reread it if a few times. Just make sure that your story anticipates the difficult questions readers might want to ask.

And one particular daring story about reviving the dead, delivered in an interesting, and inventive, format. And a clever take on the Adam and Eve story.

Don’t be afraid to draw on your own experience, as one writer admitted to doing. It’s good to read stories written with what appears to be the benefit of specialist knowledge, or careful research – one about gold prospecting comes to mind.

And whatever its deficiencies, there is plenty of scope for gathering details and facts you can trust on the Internet, as long as you’re wary.

Dramatic endings with the plot turning in the last few paragraphs, in best TV drama traditions, are fine. These endings are satisfying, but by no means essential. Stories can be ended any way you like, as long as they make sense. A gold prospector who doesn’t strike rich but finds a way to make regular money out of prospecting, for example.

People are finding new ways of saying something very old, like this – “His words reverberated around my head like fireworks, whizzing and crashing into the dark sky of my consciousness, exploding with the truth.” “Fingers of forceful, miraculous hands reached out to my upper arm to bring some stability to the frenzied shaking.”

One thing that continues to crop up is people using the same word, unnecessarily, in successive sentences. Try to avoid it, unless you’re doing it for effect. Do another check, and find an alternative.

And cases of a subsidiary clause, not properly connected to the main clause. I’ve made this example up – “ordering a drink, two beers arrive quickly.” It wasn’t the beers that were ordering a drink.

And if you’re talking about the weather, try not to give us a description we’ve read or heard a million times. Try to find an original way to describe a deluge.

And use words in different ways – one I liked was “Famished,” he said, relief colouring his voice.”

I liked some sound descriptions. These, unique to the pub – “Male rumblings from the public bar”, “the snicker of shuffled dominoes”.

And “an eyebrow raised in question”. And “patted the seat beside him, disturbing a cloud of dust from the velour”. “His neck chameleoned to mimic his maroon paisley tie.”

Of a barman – “a graveyard of irregular teeth.”

Perhaps my favourite line this month was: “You shouldn’t have taken a bite of the bloody apple.”

*

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.

That’s the end of this year’s competition – watch this space for the overall winners.

*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 8 – April 2021 winners announced

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

  • Paula’s clown
  • Shopping for essentials
  • Stan Mackeson, I presume

April’s theme was ‘No Fool Like A…’. 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 alongside the virtual 2021 BeaconLit literary festival on or around Saturday 9th July. The results will 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:

April’s theme was : ‘No Fool Like A”

Morgen, who sets the themes, gave writers some leeway by not continuing the proverb as we expect it. (It is thought to have first appeared in a glossary by John Heywood in 1546 – “But there is no foole to the olde foole, folke saie.”)

The standard was high, once again, with a number of imaginative, and quite serious and complex stories.

There’s a clown in a children’s cancer ward. A woman snorkelling under a hot sun off a Greek beach infused with classical Greek remains and the memory of the Greek gods. A hit-man (I think) given the slip. A visit to the circus. And more.

I write separate critiques for all those who request them, and respond to them privately in detail. The minor points of criticism I make here refer to the other entries. You can search back on the website for my early adjudications, which I hope may be of some help to some people.

Among the small, but, I think, still important points I would make this month is the need to capitalise proper names, such as Google. You can get away with “googling” something, but if you are looking something up on Google, it has to be capitalised.

There were some good descriptive phrases and original sentences. Such as –  “surf slaps on toasted skin”; “The sea is restless cobalt”; “I follow the backwash of her beauty as she strides through the surf”; “I hear my resigned bleat”.; “Wincing at her martyred laugh”; “I’ve learned the art of folding my thoughts into silence”; “casually detonating her bomblet”; “my lecture on prudence is swallowed up in traffic”; “his name just a whisper on the breeze”.

I found very few superfluous words, or awkwardly expressed ideas in the stories. People are writing in short, crisp sentences. I was particularly impressed by the breathless pace of one paragraph, appropriate to the action in the circus ring.

Writers are avoiding cliches and exclamation marks, which I believe should be used sparingly. (Maybe someone will use Westward Ho! in a story one month, just to be above criticism.)

*

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 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!