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 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!


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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