Posted in competitions, critique, literary festival, writing

BeaconLit Third Year 500-word comp Round 9 – May 2020 winners announced

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

  • Hope in Springtime
  • Muse No More
  • Sonnets and Satellites

The theme for April was ‘It’s in the stars’. 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:

The range of subjects this month was fascinating and ambitious, from a story inspired by a BBC documentary on Lee Miller, to an extra terrestrial; from a well planned suicide to a very young (and touching) romance. There are several set in the current pandemic.

There wasn’t a poor story here. They were satisfying and many were quite clever. It’s often hard picking a winner, but this month has been hardest of all.

Contributors have a good grasp of structure, dialogue, and plot.

Very few basic errors, and I’m reduced in the main to pointing out use of lower case instead of capitals, and the odd missing punctuation.

Stories were clear and unambiguous, and well composed. My view is that in a 500 word story you have very little space for description and ornamentation, and it’s good to see people not doing this. They aren’t wasting words.

It’s gratifying when I’ve been a bit puzzled about something and I have re-read the story and found the explanation was there all along. Pleasing that people are addressing difficulties the reader might have had. It should always be the readers’ fault if they don’t get it.

I’ve no way of knowing if some of the people who have done so before are submitting stories again, or if these are entirely fresh writers, but one way or another the standard does seem to be rising.

Several stories show the value of good research, and in some cases personal experience in a particular job. This is some interesting insight into the work of a tour bus guide in Hollywood, for example. (Yes, writer, I had fun, too, doing this very thing, but on my own, filling in a couple of hours before a flight home from LA.) Ultimately you can write about any job without necessarily doing it yourself, but why not use personal knowledge if you have it?

Once again Covid-19 was a theme, and it was handled well, with some poignant stories. Writers certainly capture the daily tragedy, the futility, the loneliness of the past three months.

People are already talking about the pandemic novels. Well, we are already having some good pandemic short stories.

Another theme, naturally, is space, the stars, and space travel. A mother looking out into space to her astronaut son, for example. Writers are anticipating emotions that will surely be experienced in the future now that interplanetary travel seems very likely, after Elon Musk’s latest achievement. (In one story that caught my eye, they come here.)

In another I like the idea of something as permanent as a star not being so permanent at all, but simply going out, falling and then disintegrating. (Stars on a bedroom ceiling.)

One clever writer (the theme of young love) totally takes us in, but still give us clues – which, of course, we aren’t meant to pick up.

A few more small points. Some writers have used the same word twice in the same paragraph, and not for emphasis, when it would be justified. Always worth another read-through. I’m sure they would’ve used another word had they spotted it.

Several people very effectively hold back the twist to the very last paragraph, and in one case the last three words. It’s not a rule of short stories that you save the denouement for the last line, though we enjoy it when people do it well.

But it’s just one of many devices in the short story. There are others.

It’s quite acceptable to write about real people, as well as real events, such as the pandemic. The story about Lee Miller was a bit unusual in that it helped if the reader who didn’t know much too much about her read some background. Not all stories can be self-explanatory, or entirely self-contained, where you need no reference at all to other sources.


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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