Posted in writing, competitions, critique

BeaconLit Second Year 500-word comp Round 6 – January 2019 winners announced

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

  • Leaving Amy
  • Lost and Found
  • No Ending, No Goodbye

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 2019 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 13th 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.

Morgen’s feedback on the stories received this month:

A bumper month this time with eighteen stories received. I tend to judge short stories on how I react to them at the end. One of the top three stood out in particular with me going, “Oh yes, I love that one.” Each story was enjoyable for its own merit but they have to have something in particular to catch the judge’s attention. There were a couple of stories where I went “Huh?” at the end – not a good sign. I reread them and while they were more understandable, a second read hadn’t done enough to get them through. I’d recommend getting someone else to read your story, ideally in front of you so you can see how they react at the end. Friends might say it’s great but if they’ve frowned then that’s a sign that it may need some work. There were a couple of stories with a twist; one I guessed relatively early, the other much nearer the ending. If you’re going to have a twist, leave it as late as possible and while you don’t want to leave obvious clues, there should be a hint but also a red herring or three.

Following the reading of these stories, I thought it might be useful to provide some tips:

  • Like ‘erm’, we do say ‘well’ as a dialogue pause but it’s best not to include it in our writing, or at the most have it as a characteristic for one of the characters. Ditto ‘look’.
  • When you’re writing someone’s name when another character is speaking to them, you’d need a comma before the name, i.e. ‘Do you know John?’ is asking if the person knows someone called John. ‘Do you know, John?’ means that the character is speaking to someone called John but asking them if they know something. A subtle difference but you want to avoid confusing the reader so they jump out of the story.
  • wifi / WiFi etc. is technically Wi-Fi but it blends in better with the rest of the text to have it as wifi. Everyone reading the piece will know what it means but it’s personal choice which you go for.
  • Where you have a character shouting, don’t CAPITALISE THE WORDS! An exclamation mark (or ‘he shouted’ if there’s no description pertaining to that character) and the context should be sufficient.
  • Do read your work aloud, or better still, get someone or something (Kindle Fire’s text to speech) to read it to you. There were a couple of stories that had words missing and this would have been more likely picked up through this process. It will also pick out where you would pause, and where you’d need to add commas.
  • Speaking of which, although grammatically correct, I recommend that you don’t put commas between adjectives. At least not so many. It slows the pace… really slows it where there are several. In my opinion, commas work best when the reader is supposed to breathe (or the writer wants to make the reader pause for a particular reason). They wouldn’t need to when describing an object and anything that slows what should be a fast-paced page-turning read is best avoided.
  • Some adjectives before nouns should be hyphenated, e.g. ‘a well-known celebrity’ whereas those without the noun, and adverbs, shouldn’t, e.g. ‘he was well known’ or ‘a softly spoken word’.
  • We have sound and vision via dialogue and description but don’t forget smell, taste and touch.

Although Morgen 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.

And you can also receive feedback on your story / stories at £5 per story with the optional critique service (given by the judge, Morgen Bailey, who is a professional editor for publishers and independent authors). This option is detailed on the main 500-word Competition page with an option to select critique within the entry form.

All the money from this competition goes to BeaconLit funds for the local libraries. Morgen is not charging for her time. Good luck!

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Posted in competitions, writing

BeaconLit’s 500-word comp is open for February

Hello everyone. Yes, the January’s theme of ‘a fresh start’ has closed and February’s competition is now open. The theme is ‘the love affair’ to be used in any way you would like. 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 Second Year 500-word comp Round 5 – December 2018 winners announced

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

  • A Father’s Gift
  • A Special Christmas Gift
  • Christmas night

Narrowly missing out (in alphabetical order)…

  • All About Me!
  • An Unexpected Trip
  • Middle-age Christmas

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 2019 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 13th July.

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.

*

Morgen’s feedback on the stories received this month:

As you can tell by the number of narrowly missed out stories, this month was a particularly difficult batch to judge. While the quality of the writing is important (the more mistakes made – missing words, typos etc.), it is usually how I feel at the end of a story that deems how highly it is placed. I whittle down the entire batch to my favourites then pick my top three.

Following the reading of these stories, I thought it might be useful to provide some tips:

  • While reading the stories, I got to the end of them and went “Huh?” Not a good sign. I reread the stories and one made more sense the second time but I still struggled with the second. Whatever you’re writing, it’s so important to get someone else to read it and give you feedback. As the creators of our pieces, we know what we mean by something, where our characters are, who they are. We need to portray that to our readers but leaving part of the story to their imagination. Leave too much unsaid (‘shown’, e.g. Andy yelled, “Get out!” instead of Andy was angry.) and the reader can struggle. Having at least two people read the same piece, you may well find they pick out the same things but also different things… and usually aspects you thought were clear. It happens to me too. Second / third (or more) opinions are invaluable before sending a piece anywhere.
  • There were some its that should have been it’s and vice versa (in more than one story). The easy way to remember is that it’s is a shortening for it is. If you can’t replace the its/it’s with it is, then it’s going to be its, e.g. its warm breath (the warm breath belonging to it). It’s(!) a little confusing when you would say the dog’s warm breath where the object in this case would have an apostrophe yet they say the same thing.
  • numbers under 100 are best written in full so they blend with the rest of the text (especiallywhere they are 1st and the likes as eReaders tend not to like superscript) so I’ve amended the ones that are. That said, I think all numbers unless titles (BMW Series 5) etc. are best written in full. Decades are plural so no apostrophe required.
  • Readers remember characters’ names from the initial letter so I always recommend having them as distinctive as possible. Having the same letter, same second letter and the same or similar lengths (e.g. Mark / Marx) can be confusing and again, anything that can pull the reader away from the story, even for a second, is to be avoided. Unless there’s a reason to use the same letter, e.g. siblings (two dogs in one of the stories, which was fine) then best not to.
  • Speaking of characters, when you’re writing someone’s name when another character is speaking to them, you’d need a comma before the name, i.e. ‘Do you know John?’ is asking if the person knows someone called John. ‘Do you know, John?’ means that the character is speaking to someone called John but asking them if they know something. A subtle difference but you want to avoid confusing the reader so they jump out of the story.
  • In some stories I’ve added some commas where a reader would breathe if reading the piece aloud. Tip: although grammatically correct, I recommend that you don’t put commas between adjectives. It slows the pace… really slows it where there are several and anything that slows what should be a fast-paced page-turning read is best avoided.
  • And finally… I recommend not inverting the dialogue tags as it’s not how we would naturally speak if talking aloud, i.e. to change ‘said Joan’ to ‘Joan said’.

*

Although Morgen 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 thirty 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.

And now you can also receive feedback on your story / stories at £5 per story with the optional critique service (given by the judge, Morgen Bailey, who is a professional editor for publishers and independent authors). This option is detailed on the main 500-word Competition page with an option to select critique within the entry form.

 All the money from this competition goes to BeaconLit funds for the local libraries. Morgen is not charging for her time. Good luck!

Posted in competitions, writing

BeaconLit Second Year 500-word comp Round 4 – November 2018 winners announced

BeaconLit Second Year 500-word comp Round 4 – November 2018 winners announced

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

  • Morris Man
  • Signs of the Times
  • Waiting

Narrow missed out:

  • London in 4018
  • The Cleansing

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 2019 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 13th July.

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.

*

Morgen’s feedback on the stories received this month:

It’s a shame when really well-written stories miss out because they’re not close enough to the theme. When there’s a choice to be made then the theme trumps and the story / stories with a too-loose connection fall by the wayside. It could be that they were written especially but where it feels they were adapted for, or perhaps not at all, the theme then they do sadly miss out. This may sound harsh but the judge’s role is to consider how each story captures the theme provided. It certainly doesn’t have to be clever but where too tentative. A very different and interesting collection of stories this month including comedy, science fiction and romance, many superbly written.

Following the reading of these stories, I thought it might be useful to provide some tips:

  • when you’re writing someone’s name when another character is speaking to them, you’d need a comma before the name, i.e. ‘Do you know John?’ is asking if the person knows someone called John. ‘Do you know, John?’ means that the character is speaking to someone called John but asking them if they know something. A subtle difference but you want to avoid confusing the reader so they jump out of the story.
  • when talking to someone, we don’t often say their name. Although dialogue doesn’t strictly reflect real speech, it should feel realistic and especially where you only have two characters in a scene and it’s been established who’s saying what, you can cut down (out) on the name calling. Also rather than ‘Tom said’, have Tom pick up a mug or equivalent so the description, in the same paragraph as what he says, tells us it’s him speaking.
  • when the narrator tells us what the character is doing and saying, everything connected with that character should be within the same paragraph and you would usually only use colons when about to provide a list (or similar).

*

Although Morgen judges on the impact of the stories, the theme, 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. December’s theme is ‘an alternate Christmas / not feeling festive’ and closes midnight (UK time) 31st December.

*

*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.

And now you can also receive feedback on your story / stories at £5 per story with the optional critique service (given by the judge, Morgen Bailey, who is a professional editor for publishers and independent authors). This option is detailed on the main 500-word Competition page with an option to select critique within the entry form.

All the money from this competition goes to BeaconLit funds for the local libraries. Morgen is not charging for her time. Good luck!

Posted in competitions, literary festival

The December round is open

Hello everyone. Yes, the November’s theme of ‘a strange tradition’ has closed and December’s competition is now open. The theme is either ‘an alternative Christmas’ or ‘not feeling festive’ (or both!), to be used in any way you would like. 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 Second Year 500-word comp Round 3 – October 2018 winners announced

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

  • A Child’s Scent
  • A Windy Day
  • Victor’s Treats

Narrowly missed out:

  • A Memorable Birthday
  • Something’s Afoot

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 2019 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 13th July.

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.

*

Morgen’s feedback on the stories received this month:

A smaller number of submissions than the first two months (ten vs. seventeen and eighteen, working backwards to August) but still a tough job. Yes, I know, all judges say that but it only actually takes two really good stories, or for this competition four, and the battle’s on. Sometimes it comes down to the closeness to the theme so apart from sending your best stories, do make sure they’re as relevant as possible. We can often tell when you’ve tailored something to fit rather than seen the prompt and thought, “Ooh, I know…!”

Following the reading of these stories, I thought it might be useful to provide some tips:

  • Check your spelling. This sounds obvious but misspelled words (in this case one of the character’s names) does lose marks where it’s a careless oversight.
  • Punctuation, however, in competitions doesn’t really matter – unless it’s terrible and that can be forgiven as unaware but it’s up to the individual judge. In speech the comma or full stop comes before the closing speech marks or inverted comma.
  • This won’t show when you’re submitting in the online form but in a normal document… where there are characters thinking, the thoughts should go in italics (rather than speech marks or inverted commas) so it’s clear it’s not narration or speech. Also we only think to ourselves so you don’t need any ‘to himself / herself’.
  • Technically, ‘now’ is present tense so it would normally be removed or changed to a past-tense alternative. Dialogue is present tense so they’re fine in speech.

Although Morgen 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.

And now you can also receive feedback on your story / stories at £5 per story with the optional critique service (given by the judge, Morgen Bailey, who is a professional editor for publishers and independent authors). This option is detailed on the main 500-word Competition page with an option to select critique within the entry form.

All the money from this competition goes to BeaconLit funds for the local libraries. Morgen is not charging for her time. Good luck!

Posted in competitions, literary festival, writing

The November round is open…

Hello everyone. Yes, the October theme of ‘trick and treat’ has closed and November’s competition is now open. The theme is ‘a strange tradition’, to be used in any way you would like. 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. 🙂