Posted in competitions, critique, literary festival, writing

BeaconLit Third Year 500-word comp Round 8 – April 2020 winners announced

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

  • Arranging Flowers
  • Baby Dolls
  • Bibliophilia

The theme for March was ‘the female assassin’. 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). They were going to be announced at the 2020 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 11th July but very sadly we’ve have had to postpone the festival until next year (Sat 10th July). The results will therefore be announced 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 final results are announced.

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:

There was a record number of submissions this month, which is just as you would expect. It’s pleasing to see so many people express themselves in writing, and I hope they have a chance to develop their thoughts in longer forms of the story.

The theme was “The female assassin”. Most people took that form of words literally, and wrote about women who were killers. A number anchored their stories in the current pandemic. Several interpreted the theme in quite novel ways.

Contract killing is not an area of fiction I know particularly well, but usually non-followers can work out the meaning of “mark” and “wet work”. Sometimes, however, a few words of explanation don’t go amiss.

I ask writers to be ruthless with words. Don’t waste them on people or things that have nothing to do with the story. Paint a picture, by all means. Make that extra piece of detail on a stray bystander count. Otherwise get them out of your story.

You may need those extra words to amplify a point, and make it absolutely clear to the reader what you have in mind.

Overall, writers had a good grasp of procedure, and the killing process, and how these professionals go about their work, checking and avoiding notice at all stages, knowing where the cameras are. Lower your guard for a second and you’re dead, is the message.

A few general observations. Why not be more precise if you set your story in a known place. One person mentions a street off Park Lane. Give it a name; that makes It more authentic. Use Google Maps. It’s never been easier to research all sorts of details – names, places, substances – to pop into your story. Not essential, but it can help.

Try not to repeat a word, or form of words, in consecutive sentences or paragraphs. That cropped up a few times. Make it obvious to the reader that you took the trouble to find another word instead of repeating yourself. Look out for the wrong use of “it’s” and “its”. I know self completion software doesn’t help, but it’s always worth a check. Similarly “lay” when you mean “lie”.

One or two stories were nearer 300 words than 500 words. Nothing at all wrong with this. Brevity can be a virtue, if you can draw your character briefly but effectively, then tell your story in a few clear stages. But if you need 500 words, that’s fine too. Just don’t feel you have to. I haven’t favoured either approach.


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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