Posted in competitions, critique, literary festival, writing

BeaconLit Fourth Year 500-word comp Round 3 – Oct 2020 winners announced

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

  • Barking mad
  • The Grimshaws
  • Semi-detached

The theme for October was ‘The Terror Next Door’. 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 if not already.


Gareth’s feedback on the stories received this month:

Neighbours. This is a rich seam, and people have mined it to very good effect.

Some stories are so convincing, written with passion, that I must suppose the writers have had personal experience of unpleasant neighbours.

Some give conventional treatments of the title. Others spin off in quite unexpected directions. But any treatment is fine, and better still if it’s well written, and competently paced and constructed.

And the stories certainly have been that this month.

It’s fine, if you have had that “neighbour experience” yourself. But by all means let your imagination take you to that place too, as others have.

There is one particularly good story I liked about the sadness of the childless couple next door. That scene evokes – from the children’s point of view – the boys singing carols at the spooky house in Dylan Thomas’s “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”.

And a few stories about the people next door actually making physical contact. (They were plausible, because it can be quite easy to get in, particularly through the attic.)

And there is one imaginative story about shape shifting.

One writer ably conveyed the grinding irritation of living with serial carless, inconsiderate families next door.

What is a good way of ending a story? I’ve decided there are many.

Some this month have quite satisfying, reassuring conclusions, where the main character (there is rarely room for more from more than one in a 500 word story) has an issue, thinks of, and works towards, a solution and successfully, even if unexpectedly, implements it in the last paragraph.

Others leave you, the reader, hanging. Both endings are equally valid, happy, unhappy, clear or ambiguous and uncertain. What matters is how you get there, and if it all adds up for the reader.

A few general points:

Avoid cliches, if only because that form of words is not original writing. I and other readers will surely have heard them before.

Try not to repeat the title of something, or a name, in two successive sentences. Why not just “it”, “he” or “she”?

Look closely at punctuation. Do you need that gratuitous comma. And some people might want to use a semi colon, instead of comma.

These are very minor points. But they can blunt the overall effect, in a story of good descriptive writing. It’s worth getting them right. As ever there is plenty of sound advice on the Internet. Or look at a master like John LeCarre (see below). Just read his punctuation for a couple of pages.

I’m pleased that people look for different ways of describing things – just one original description of movement I came across is: “She puddled across the doormat”.

People haven’t forced, or overdone, the descriptive writing this month. My main overall point is: in a 500 word story, do weigh those words carefully.

Look out for wordy phrases. And try to avoid the passive voice – something “being done” to someone. Try to be as crisp as possible, when words are so scarce. It sound better too.

Even if it’s only one word. “Continue” is better than “Continue on”, for example. It’s crisper, more economical. What does “on” actually mean? (Where it doesn’t mean forwards.)

When it’s perfectly clear who is speaking, there’s no need for “he / she said”. And think of making three individual sentences out of a longer sentence with multiple clauses, which can become clumsy.

I recently read John LeCarre’s Agent Running in the Field. It’s just worth reading just to see how a master handles dialogue. And so crisply.

And even when you think you have found every last error in the story, read it again in a few hours. (I found several things people had missed.


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 3 – Oct 2020 winners announced

  1. Prompts/themes help writers to focus and this a super competition for writers to concentrate on the monthly topic and hone their skills. The entry fee at £3 is a bargain (and it goes to a worthy cause). If you opt to pay for a critique from a professional writer (£5 – that also goes to the same worthy cause) you are getting exceptional value for money. I’ve entered two competitions and received two critiques that have been immensely helpful and encouraging. Where would you get a 1:1 tutorial for £5? My aim is to submit an entry for each month’s prompt and request a critique. Whether I ever achieve shortlisted status or not, I’ll certainly have received lots of helpful advice between now and May 2021.

    Liked by 1 person

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