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 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.


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!


Writer of 'dark and light' (crime / chick-lit) fiction since 2005, WordPress blogger since March 2011, editor since March 2012 (more recently just for Bloodhound Books), and creative writing tutor since Jan 2014. Also judge for H.E. Bates, and BeaconFlash / BBC Radio 2 / Althorp Lit Fest 500-word competitions.

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