Posted in competitions, critique, literary festival, writing

BeaconLit Fourth Year 500-word comp Round 1 – Aug 2020 winners announced

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

  • A growth industry
  • A terrible mother
  • There never were any olives

The theme for August was ‘Five A Day’. 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 2021 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 10th July (fingers crossed!). The results will also be listed 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:

A number of entries this month deal with mental health issues. They are told, sensitively, from the point of view of the sufferer.

Another that caught my eye is a well-observed account of how a mother meets the challenge of getting her child to school. A simple, everyday saga.

This, too, is ably written, with insight and, I suspect, personal experience. Convincing. (There’s a neat twist, with the child in the right in this particular case, and the harassed mother left with a red face. Again that rings true.)

Then there is the topical subject of a food bank, and the decline of a person’s business circumstances so he has to make use of one.

These are good examples of people writing well about things they might have had experience of, although that is certainly not a prerequisite of a good story. I remember seeing somebody give advice to an aspiring writer years ago in a black-and-white film: “Write about things you know about, from your own experience.”

There is certainly merit in that, but you can equally well conjure up themes and plots from your imagination. And you can research pretty well any subject, with care, on the Internet these days. Or you could simply let your own mind take you where it will for 500 words.

I have no preference. All I ask is that you avoid silly mistakes, such as wrong use of apostrophes, and plurals. Everything can be checked. If you’re unsure about anything, do look it up. Nobody will know. I’ve been writing professionally for many years, and I’m constantly checking usage online.

I don’t think there’s much point in using adjectives and descriptive phrases just for affect.

But it’s fine to use them when the story allows. One is about a cat prowling in a lot in the allotment good night daylight at dead of night.

It’s quite leisurely at this point. The writer is setting the scene for the main event, so there is justification in three different verbs to describe what the rain was doing – “it drummed on umbrellas of rhubarb, pattered on swelling marrows and gurgled into brimming water butts.”

In other stories, where there is a lot of plot to develop, I don’t think you can justify a purple patch, just to show you can do it, when you’re actually holding the story up, and not adding to it. And using up valuable words, which could be better employed to explain or amplify a point.

And every story is worth just one more read-through, maybe after it has been set aside for a few hours. Even then my policy is not necessarily to mark somebody down for a howler, if the story is good enough. After all, most writers will have had their work read by a competent editor before publication, even JK Rowling.


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 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.

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 (fees minus PayPal charges) 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.

2 thoughts on “BeaconLit Fourth Year 500-word comp Round 1 – Aug 2020 winners announced

  1. Many thanks for this update.

    However, please could you explain the meaning of this sentence which appears in Gareth’s feedback below?

    “One is about a cat prowling in a lot in the allotment good night daylight at dead of night.”



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