Posted in competitions, critique, literary festival, writing

BeaconLit Fourth Year 500-word comp Round 6 – Jan 2021 winners announced

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

  • Did you have a good holiday?
  • Piece by Piece
  • The Real Mrs Chapman

January’s theme was ‘A New Me’. 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:

There were some thoughtful interpretations, ranging from facial and even full body makeovers, to dropping out of, or into, lives of crime. Surprisingly only one person chose the ongoing pandemic lockdown as the backdrop. Some stories were rooted in the practical and real-life experience, both in the classroom, as teachers (with scarily well-observed pupils). One teacher, helped by her therapist, was finding a new way to negotiate the class, and making clever use of a banana at a key point in the story. As well as clapping for carers, we should be cheering for teachers once a week.

People are taking on difficult subjects. One was a touching story about a boy applying make-up, confidently redefining his sexuality, with a neat twist in the last paragraph. Another person struggles with contact lenses, an important part of the makeover.

Another writer outlines the practical details of her going-green plan, complete with making donations to green charities.

Lockdown can still be a fertile subject, and we all have something to say about our domestic situation. One person told a very good jigsaw story, for instance. And clearly based on the person’s own experience, with lots of practical detail on how to deal with those 2000 thousand pieces, while coming to terms with one’s partner.

One or two ventured into science fiction. When you imagine the future, of course, anything goes. But in other real-life locations, it’s always worth checking the details online. If you have a plausible story why spoil it by introducing a jarring plot detail?

Quite a number of good stories, and I urge people not to be discouraged if they weren’t in my top three. I could easily have put another three there. Please keep trying.

Some general observations…

It’s tempting to be lyrical and pile on the adjectives. But do be self-critical. Look again and see if you can cast that sentence more simply, while keeping the strong adjectives. Or maybe just one vivid piece of description to set the scene. You’ve made your point about that stunning landscape, or sunset. Now get on with this story.

The wonderful thing about writing on a computer (or phone or iPad) is you never need to misspell again. I came across one or two wrong spellings, and they can be rather jarring. Do check.

And watch out for cliches. Think of new ways to describe the person serving you coffee, and the effect it has on you. Think: has what I’ve just written been said before in this way 1 million times, with these same qualifying adjectives? If the answer is yes, spend some time thinking of a new way to say it.

A simple comma can make all the difference. Amplifying a clause, when, if a sentence simply runs on unbroken, readers could be left confused. Again, no end of trustworthy help on the Internet. And do read pieces through yet one more time to pick up those stray words or letters that get overlooked and stranded in a piece of copy, as you edit.

Several people repeated the same word, or a variation upon it, in successive sentences. It is worth looking for alternatives,.

And when to use capital letters? New Year, for example, generally has initial capitals.

If in doubt, do check on a few different places on the Internet. There will be an authoritative answer there.

My feeling is that technical terms, such as DEFCON 3, need to be explained in a story. I had to look it up. I am obviously watching the wrong films.


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.

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