Posted in competitions, critique, literary festival, writing

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

We are delighted to announce (belatedly – sorry, my fault!) that the top three stories from February’s entries are (in alphabetical order):

  • Mark Time!
  • Next!
  • Somewhere to Have a Good Cry

February’s theme was ‘Better to Have Loved and Lost’. 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 have been some genuinely moving stories this month, inventive, imaginative and crisply told. Writers are eschewing cliches, and keeping the exclamation mark count low. Writing is to a high standard, with a lot of convincing dialogue, and brisk and efficient plot development.

Writers turned out some very competent stories of love, longing and loss. Several in particular may or may not have been based on real events.

Some people write as if they have personal experience of a setting, although it could equally well be good research  – “the sergeant has spent the night bulling parade boots, polishing buttons, and knifing creases with an iron”. But if you know these details, do use them. It adds authenticity.

There are a number where I feel there were few words I would change. In a few I would query punctuation.

Even in the best-turned story, a comma, where there should be a semi colon, can be confusing. So even when you think you’ve done a good job, there’s no harm in checking again to make sure the punctuation is right. Be your own critical reader.

And a few cases of the possessive apostrophe (‘) in the wrong place with a plural noun eg “parent’s evening”. Always worth triple-checking. People can easily correct errors themselves by checking online.

Not everyone writes up to the full 500 words, and nor should they. Some stories this month are much shorter than that, yet they are complete and perfectly rounded. However, if you are willing to forfeit your word allowance, make sure you leave no confusion in the reader’s mind that could have been eliminated with another sentence or two of explanation.

Good things I noticed this month include sentences that tell me all I need to know about a person in seven snappy words – this is a short story after all.

A small point. Some people repeat the same word or combination of words in successive sentences – or even the same sentence.  I think they usually do it as an oversight, when, on reflection, they would use  another word. Sometimes, of course, words can be repeated deliberately, to good effect, to give emphasis.

There was one achingly sad story about two people who meet during a speed dating session, be can’t get their contact details in place at the end. They are apart again as the chairs revolve. No game of musical chairs ever brought such pain.

Another, a touching story of the night visits of a spirit lover.

There’s been been some excellent descriptive writing.

Some lines stand out –  macs “clinging like bats to the coat-hooks”, for example.

“She could twist in mid air like a burnished salmon”

There was a breathless passage describing a girl fleeing from her literary fraud of a two-timing boyfriend, through “the city groaning with people and buildings and roads and traffic and shops and homes until she, heart sore with pumping and burning lungs, stopped.”

It is good example, incidentally, of using commas only sparingly – as a hectic, free-flowing sentence it sums up the urgency of her flight.

Then –

“They sat back and looked at each other, managing to be both present and in a smoke filled memory at the same time.

“In one instant Amy had taken in the crumpled bed, the fetid air and the surprising size of Margot Goodacre’s bottom. ”

“The words came rushing out and heat rose from his neck to his cheeks.”

“The sergeant continues to stare straight ahead, his eyes locked on a map pin behind and slightly to the left of the RSM’s ear in this who-blinks-first moment.”

Not so many last paragraphs providing surprises this month, and this device is not obligatory. Done well, where the reader is drawn in one direction, only to be sidestepped by the plot at the end, they are quite satisfying. Even better when it’s done obliquely, and not spelled out. But springing a late surprise is just one way of telling a story.


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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