Posted in competitions, critique, writing

BeaconLit Second Year 500-word comp Round 2 – September 2018 winners announced

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

  • A Picture of Innocence
  • Saving Kaylee
  • The Class Reunion

Narrowly missing out…

  • The Red Box

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 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:

Some stories were 500 words or a word or two less. This is quite risky. It only takes a hyphenated word that shouldn’t be hyphenated, e.g. ‘he was well known’ rather than a ‘well-known celebrity’ to push it over the 500. Any story can lose a few words, even one as short as these. There was a really interesting mixture with some stories fitting very closely to the theme, others less so. Following the reading of these stories, I thought it might be useful to provide some tips:

  • Numbers under 100 are best written in full so they blend with the rest of the text (especially where they are 1stand 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.
  • As mentioned above, hyphens are only usually used to connect words such as ‘a well-known celebrity’ (where it appears before a noun)* whereas a long dash (–) is used as a standalone, for an aside – and interruption at the end of dialogue. *So a ‘celebrity is well known’ isn’t hyphenated.
  • When referring to family, mum and dad should be capitalised when used as a name, e.g. “I know, Mum.” When used as a ‘job’, e.g. my mum, my dad, my doctor etc. then it should be a small m, d etc.
  • 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’.
  • When referring to family, grandfather, mum and dad should be capitalised only when used as a name, e.g. “I know, Mum.” When used as a ‘job’, e.g. my mum, my dad, my doctor etc. then it should be a small m, d etc.
  • Where an action has ‘started to’ and ‘began to’ before it, most of the time they’re not needed because unless the action is interrupted, the verb alone works better / is stronger.
  • 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).
  • I recommend not inverting the dialogue tags as it’s not how we would naturally speak if talking aloud, e.g. ‘John said’ rather than ‘said John’.
  • Where there are only two characters ‘they’ or ‘them’ is sufficient so we don’t need ‘both’.
  • Technically, ‘now’ is present tense, which is fine in dialogue but not in past-tense narration. All, now, very and just are often overused so I recommend seeing how many you have in a piece and chopping where possible.
  • Where there’s time passing or a change of main character point of view, there should be a section break (a blank line) then the first paragraph of the section being flush to the left. You can also use asterisks (usually one or three) between paragraphs. There wouldn’t then be extra blanks lines between the paragraphs, normally just the one line containing the asterisk/s.
  • 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.
  • I’m old school and prefer alright to all right but the latter is grammatically correct (and preferred).
  • Where you have two characters of the same gender in the scene, it can be confusing with just ‘he, she, him, her’ etc. (they should always refer to the last character mentioned.
  • It’s perfectly fine to use exclamation marks when someone’s shouting (then you’d often not need the ‘he / she shouted’, but just one !


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.

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



Writer of 'dark and light' (crime / chick-lit) fiction since 2005, WordPress blogger since March 2011, freelance editor (£2-£7/K) since March 2012, and creative writing tutor since January 2014. Also judge for H.E. Bates, and BeaconFlash / BBC Radio 2 / Althorp Lit Fest 500-word comps.

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