Posted in competitions, critique, literary festival, writing

BeaconLit Second Year 500-word comp Round 5 – December 2018 winners announced

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

  • A Father’s Gift
  • A Special Christmas Gift
  • Christmas night

Narrowly missing out (in alphabetical order)…

  • All About Me!
  • An Unexpected Trip
  • Middle-age Christmas

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 2019 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 13th July.

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 http://www.beaconlit.co.uk) next July so please do not send it elsewhere until after the literary festival.

If you have requested, and paid for, critique, this will be with you in the next few days.

*

Morgen’s feedback on the stories received this month:

As you can tell by the number of narrowly missed out stories, this month was a particularly difficult batch to judge. While the quality of the writing is important (the more mistakes made – missing words, typos etc.), it is usually how I feel at the end of a story that deems how highly it is placed. I whittle down the entire batch to my favourites then pick my top three.

Following the reading of these stories, I thought it might be useful to provide some tips:

  • While reading the stories, I got to the end of them and went “Huh?” Not a good sign. I reread the stories and one made more sense the second time but I still struggled with the second. Whatever you’re writing, it’s so important to get someone else to read it and give you feedback. As the creators of our pieces, we know what we mean by something, where our characters are, who they are. We need to portray that to our readers but leaving part of the story to their imagination. Leave too much unsaid (‘shown’, e.g. Andy yelled, “Get out!” instead of Andy was angry.) and the reader can struggle. Having at least two people read the same piece, you may well find they pick out the same things but also different things… and usually aspects you thought were clear. It happens to me too. Second / third (or more) opinions are invaluable before sending a piece anywhere.
  • There were some its that should have been it’s and vice versa (in more than one story). The easy way to remember is that it’s is a shortening for it is. If you can’t replace the its/it’s with it is, then it’s going to be its, e.g. its warm breath (the warm breath belonging to it). It’s(!) a little confusing when you would say the dog’s warm breath where the object in this case would have an apostrophe yet they say the same thing.
  • numbers under 100 are best written in full so they blend with the rest of the text (especiallywhere they are 1st and the likes as eReaders tend not to like superscript) so I’ve amended the ones that are. That said, I think all numbers unless titles (BMW Series 5) etc. are best written in full. Decades are plural so no apostrophe required.
  • Readers remember characters’ names from the initial letter so I always recommend having them as distinctive as possible. Having the same letter, same second letter and the same or similar lengths (e.g. Mark / Marx) can be confusing and again, anything that can pull the reader away from the story, even for a second, is to be avoided. Unless there’s a reason to use the same letter, e.g. siblings (two dogs in one of the stories, which was fine) then best not to.
  • Speaking of characters, when you’re writing someone’s name when another character is speaking to them, you’d need a comma before the name, i.e. ‘Do you know John?’ is asking if the person knows someone called John. ‘Do you know, John?’ means that the character is speaking to someone called John but asking them if they know something. A subtle difference but you want to avoid confusing the reader so they jump out of the story.
  • In some stories I’ve added some commas where a reader would breathe if reading the piece aloud. Tip: although grammatically correct, I recommend that you don’t put commas between adjectives. It slows the pace… really slows it where there are several and anything that slows what should be a fast-paced page-turning read is best avoided.
  • And finally… I recommend not inverting the dialogue tags as it’s not how we would naturally speak if talking aloud, i.e. to change ‘said Joan’ to ‘Joan said’.

*

Although Morgen 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 thirty 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.

And now you can also receive feedback on your story / stories at £5 per story with the optional critique service (given by the judge, Morgen Bailey, who is a professional editor for publishers and independent authors). This option is detailed on the main 500-word Competition page with an option to select critique within the entry form.

 All the money from this competition goes to BeaconLit funds for the local libraries. Morgen is not charging for her time. Good luck!

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Posted in competitions, critique, literary festival, writing

BeaconLit Second Year 500-word comp Round 3 – October 2018 winners announced

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

  • A Child’s Scent
  • A Windy Day
  • Victor’s Treats

Narrowly missed out:

  • A Memorable Birthday
  • Something’s Afoot

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 2019 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 13th July.

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 http://www.beaconlit.co.uk) next July so please do not send it elsewhere until after the literary festival.

If you have requested, and paid for, critique, this will be with you in the next few days.

*

Morgen’s feedback on the stories received this month:

A smaller number of submissions than the first two months (ten vs. seventeen and eighteen, working backwards to August) but still a tough job. Yes, I know, all judges say that but it only actually takes two really good stories, or for this competition four, and the battle’s on. Sometimes it comes down to the closeness to the theme so apart from sending your best stories, do make sure they’re as relevant as possible. We can often tell when you’ve tailored something to fit rather than seen the prompt and thought, “Ooh, I know…!”

Following the reading of these stories, I thought it might be useful to provide some tips:

  • Check your spelling. This sounds obvious but misspelled words (in this case one of the character’s names) does lose marks where it’s a careless oversight.
  • Punctuation, however, in competitions doesn’t really matter – unless it’s terrible and that can be forgiven as unaware but it’s up to the individual judge. In speech the comma or full stop comes before the closing speech marks or inverted comma.
  • This won’t show when you’re submitting in the online form but in a normal document… where there are characters thinking, the thoughts should go in italics (rather than speech marks or inverted commas) so it’s clear it’s not narration or speech. Also we only think to ourselves so you don’t need any ‘to himself / herself’.
  • Technically, ‘now’ is present tense so it would normally be removed or changed to a past-tense alternative. Dialogue is present tense so they’re fine in speech.

Although Morgen 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.

And now you can also receive feedback on your story / stories at £5 per story with the optional critique service (given by the judge, Morgen Bailey, who is a professional editor for publishers and independent authors). This option is detailed on the main 500-word Competition page with an option to select critique within the entry form.

All the money from this competition goes to BeaconLit funds for the local libraries. Morgen is not charging for her time. Good luck!

Posted in competitions, critique, writing

BeaconLit Second Year 500-word comp Round 2 – September 2018 winners announced

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

  • A Picture of Innocence
  • Saving Kaylee
  • The Class Reunion

Narrowly missing out…

  • The Red Box

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 2019 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 13th July.

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 http://www.beaconlit.co.uk) next July so please do not send it elsewhere until after the literary festival.

If you have requested, and paid for, critique, this will be with you in the next few days.

Morgen’s feedback on the stories received this month:

Some stories were 500 words or a word or two less. This is quite risky. It only takes a hyphenated word that shouldn’t be hyphenated, e.g. ‘he was well known’ rather than a ‘well-known celebrity’ to push it over the 500. Any story can lose a few words, even one as short as these. There was a really interesting mixture with some stories fitting very closely to the theme, others less so. Following the reading of these stories, I thought it might be useful to provide some tips:

  • Numbers under 100 are best written in full so they blend with the rest of the text (especially where they are 1stand the likes as eReaders tend not to like superscript) so I’ve amended the ones that are. That said, I think all numbers unless titles (BMW Series 5) etc. are best written in full.
  • As mentioned above, hyphens are only usually used to connect words such as ‘a well-known celebrity’ (where it appears before a noun)* whereas a long dash (–) is used as a standalone, for an aside – and interruption at the end of dialogue. *So a ‘celebrity is well known’ isn’t hyphenated.
  • When referring to family, mum and dad should be capitalised when used as a name, e.g. “I know, Mum.” When used as a ‘job’, e.g. my mum, my dad, my doctor etc. then it should be a small m, d etc.
  • Where there are characters thinking, the thoughts should go in italics (rather than speech marks or inverted commas) so it’s clear it’s not narration or speech. Also we only think to ourselves so you don’t need any ‘to himself / herself’.
  • When referring to family, grandfather, mum and dad should be capitalised only when used as a name, e.g. “I know, Mum.” When used as a ‘job’, e.g. my mum, my dad, my doctor etc. then it should be a small m, d etc.
  • Where an action has ‘started to’ and ‘began to’ before it, most of the time they’re not needed because unless the action is interrupted, the verb alone works better / is stronger.
  • When the narrator tells us what the character is doing and saying, everything connected with that character should be within the same paragraph and you would usually only use colons when about to provide a list (or similar).
  • I recommend not inverting the dialogue tags as it’s not how we would naturally speak if talking aloud, e.g. ‘John said’ rather than ‘said John’.
  • Where there are only two characters ‘they’ or ‘them’ is sufficient so we don’t need ‘both’.
  • Technically, ‘now’ is present tense, which is fine in dialogue but not in past-tense narration. All, now, very and just are often overused so I recommend seeing how many you have in a piece and chopping where possible.
  • Where there’s time passing or a change of main character point of view, there should be a section break (a blank line) then the first paragraph of the section being flush to the left. You can also use asterisks (usually one or three) between paragraphs. There wouldn’t then be extra blanks lines between the paragraphs, normally just the one line containing the asterisk/s.
  • When you’re writing someone’s name when another character is speaking to them, you’d need a comma before the name, i.e. ‘Do you know John?’ is asking if the person knows someone called John. ‘Do you know, John?’ means that the character is speaking to someone called John but asking them if they know something. A subtle difference but you want to avoid confusing the reader so they jump out of the story.
  • I’m old school and prefer alright to all right but the latter is grammatically correct (and preferred). https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/all_right
  • Where you have two characters of the same gender in the scene, it can be confusing with just ‘he, she, him, her’ etc. (they should always refer to the last character mentioned.
  • It’s perfectly fine to use exclamation marks when someone’s shouting (then you’d often not need the ‘he / she shouted’, but just one !

*

Although Morgen 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.

And now you can also receive feedback on your story / stories at £5 per story with the optional critique service (given by the judge, Morgen Bailey, who is a professional editor for publishers and independent authors). This option is detailed on the main 500-word Competition page with an option to select critique within the entry form.

NB. All the money from this competition goes to BeaconLit funds for the local libraries. Morgen is not charging for her time. Good luck!

Posted in competitions, critique, writing

BeaconLit Second Year 500-word comp Round 1 – August 2018 winners announced

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

  • Chasing the First
  • Coming of Age
  • Cupboard Love

Narrowly missing out…

  • The First Time
  • The Red Bicycle

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 2019 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 13th July.

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 top three which will be published on this website (and on http://www.beaconlit.co.uk) so please do not send it elsewhere until after the literary festival.

If you have requested, and paid for, critique, this will be with you in the next few days.

Morgen’s feedback on the stories received this month:

An incredibly strong month with eight chosen for a longlist then five then the final three. In another batch, any of those could have made it. A couple of stories lost points because there were words missing or the wrong word used, e.g. forminstead of from, an ofinstead of on. An easy mistake to make, and one that the spell checker may not pick up but this is where reading aloud or ideally getting someone, or something (a Kindle Fire or your computer) to read it to you.

Following the reading of these stories, I thought it might be useful to provide some tips:

  • we speak in contractions (e.g. I’mrather than I am) and it’s fine (preferred) to use them in dialogue though less so in narration.
  • when you’re writing someone’s name when another character is speaking to them, you’d need a comma before the name, i.e. ‘Do you know John?’ is asking if the person knows someone called John. ‘Do you know, John?’ means that the character is speaking to someone called John but asking them if they know something. A subtle difference but you want to avoid confusing the reader so they jump out of the story.
  • like ‘erm’, we do say ‘well’ as a dialogue pause but it’s best not to include it in our writing, or at the most have it as a characteristic for one of the characters. Ditto ‘look’.
  • where there are characters thinking, the thoughts should go in italics so it’s clear it’s not narration or speech. Also we only think to ourselves so you don’t need the ‘to himself / herself’.
  • when referring to family, mum and dad should be capitalised when used as a name, e.g. “I know, Mum.” When used as a ‘job’, e.g. my mum, my dad, my doctor etc. then it should be a small m, d etc.
  • regarding split infinitives, sometimes sticking to the rules will make the sentence clunky so you can’t always keep the two words together, e.g. ‘Tom put the book down onto the table.’ rather than ‘Tom put down the book onto the table.’ but where it’s unlikely to jar the reader then it makes for better English.
  • anymoreis time e.g. I don’t want this anymore… whereas any moreis quantity, e.g. do you have any more?
  • when writing past tense narration, agois present tense so ‘two years ago’ wouldn’t be two years ago. Ditto tomorrow isn’t tomorrow (today isn’t today etc.). Tomorrow is the next day / the day after, today is that day, yesterday is the day before / a day earlier, tonight is that evening / night etc. Dialogue is present tense so they’re fine in speech.
  • where an action has ‘started to’ and ‘began to’ before it, most of the time they’re not needed because unless the action is interrupted, the verb alone works better / is stronger.
  • although grammatically correct, I recommend that you don’t put commas between adjectives. At least not so many. It slows the pace… really slows it where there are several. In my opinion, commas work best when the reader is supposed to breathe (or the writer wants to make the reader pause for a particular reason). They wouldn’t need to when describing an object and anything that slows what should be a fast-paced page-turning read is best avoided.
  • stories are tales, storeys are layers / floors of buildings.
  • parents – parents are plural so if you’re referring to anything belonging to them, e.g. his parents’ house then the apostrophe needs to come after the s.
  • where there’s a gap in time or a change of main character point of view, there should be a section break: a blank line then the first paragraph of the section being flush to the left. You shouldn’t go into more than one character’s head per section.

*

Although Morgen 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.

And now you can also receive feedback on your story / stories at £5 per story with the optional critique service (given by the judge, Morgen Bailey, who is a professional editor for publishers and independent authors). This option is detailed on the main 500-word Competition page with an option to select critique within the entry form. Good luck!

Posted in competitions, critique, literary festival, writing

The First BeaconLit 500-word Competition Longlist

Following the results announcement of the final month’s entries, we are now in a position to share the longlist of 34 stories (in alphabetical order):

  • A Dish Served Cold (October)
  • Alive Again (November)
  • A Pilgrimage (November)
  • April’s Fool (April)
  • Autumn Fair (September)
  • Back to School (September)
  • Black Friday (November)
  • Changing the Clocks (October)
  • Christmas is Coming (October)
  • Dents de Lion (April)
  • Edgar’s Last Stand (August)
  • Festive Fayre (December)
  • Gone but not forgotten (April)
  • Happy New Year (January)
  • Knickerbocker Holiday (July)
  • Letter Home December 1915 (December)
  • Love your Fete (May)
  • Making Mother’s Day (March)
  • ‘Mayday, Mayday’ (May)
  • New Starters (January)
  • New Year New Start (January)
  • No Running! (February)
  • Partition (August)
  • Seek and Ye Shall Find (September)
  • Spring Surveillance (March)
  • Summer Escape (August)
  • The Air That I Breathed (November)
  • The Keeper of Time (March)
  • The Wisdom of Scarecrows (May)
  • War of the Roses (February)
  • When Rambo Met Mitzy (February)
  • Wishful Thinking (December)
  • Wrongful Retribution (July)
  • Zapped (July)

Congratulations to those authors and commiserations to those not making this list. The standard was incredibly high so don’t let this put you off from entering (with different stories) again, and just as importantly sending your original submissions elsewhere.

These 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 2018 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 14th July.

The second BeaconLit 500-word competition will open on 1st August with specific rather than month-themed topics. As Morgen says, do try to make your stories as close to the theme as possible, so written around the theme rather than the topic slotted in as an afterthought. Even if it isn’t, you don’t want it to come across as such.

Posted in competitions, critique, writing

BeaconLit 500-word comp Round 10 – April 2018 – winners announced

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

  • April’s Fool
  • Dents de Lion
  • Gone but Not Forgotten

(‘Two Women’ only just missing out)

These three stories will now go through to the final judging which takes place when the final (eleventh) round closes on 31st May. The results of that month will be revealed mid-June and the final ten authors (not necessarily the same as the top ten stories as no author can win more than one prize) will be announced at the 2018 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 14th July.

If your story isn’t listed above, you are welcome to do whatever you like with them hereon in. If your story is listed, it’s possible that it could be placed in the top three (next July – see below) which will be published on this website (and on http://www.beaconlit.co.uk).

If you have requested and paid for critique, this will be with you in the next few days.

Morgen’s feedback on the stories received this month:

A love mix of stories. Again some could have been set at any point in the year with April mentioned almost as an addition rather than the story created with that month in mind… or so they felt. The winning stories though were chosen because of my reaction to them. A “wow” at the end of a story usually means it’s going to do well. Anything ranging from an ‘ah’ to ‘ooh’ is also likely to at least beat those to which I go “Huh?”, and there’s often at least one of those. Get someone else to read your story and see how they react. Everyone needs a second pair of eyes / ears. I’d recommend the judge being at least the third.

*

Although Morgen 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 when going through before submission.

The final (May) round (where the theme is ‘May’) has already opened so don’t delay in writing those 500-word maximum (excluding titles) masterpieces. And do make sure you read them thoroughly before submitting.

Should you get through to the longlist of 33 stories (three per month over eleven months), it doesn’t necessarily mean that your story will be chosen for the top ten. And 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. So, the more (stories / months) you enter, the more chance you have of success.

And now you can also receive feedback on your story / stories at £5 per story with the optional critique service (given by the judge, Morgen Bailey, who is a professional editor for publishers and independent authors). This option is detailed on the main 500-word Competition page with an option to select critique within the entry form. Good luck!

 

Posted in competitions, critique, literary festival

BeaconLit 500-word comp Round 8 – February 2018 – winners announced

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

  • No Running!
  • War of the Roses
  • When Rambo Met Mitzy

These three stories will now go through to the final judging which takes place when the final (eleventh) round closes on 31st May. The results of that month will be revealed mid-June and the final ten authors (not necessarily the same as the top ten stories as no author can win more than one prize) will be announced at the 2018 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 14th July.

If your story isn’t listed above, you are welcome to do whatever you like with them hereon in. If your story is listed, it’s possible that it could be placed in the top three (next July – see below) which will be published on this website (and on http://www.beaconlit.co.uk).

If you have requested, and paid for, critique, this will be with you in the next few days.

Morgen’s feedback on the stories received this month:

There were five contenders for the top spots this month. That said, the remaining stories could have made it in a different batch but as with most judging, it was how I felt at the end of the story that swung it for me. Most entrants went for a Valentine’s theme, as to be expected, but extra kudos for those who didn’t. We had first person, third person, serious and comic. One, sadly, had nothing to do with February so was disqualified. It’s not always about the quality of the writing and in some cases it can feel that the author is trying too hard. Stories are composed of character, setting and plot, and for most readers it’s all about character. You could have an intricate plot, elaborate setting, but if the reader doesn’t care what happens to the character then the story falls.

*

Although Morgen 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 when going through before submission.

The March round (where the theme is ‘March’) has already opened so don’t delay in writing those 500-word maximum (excluding titles) masterpieces. And do make sure you read them thoroughly before submitting.

Should you get through to the longlist of 33 stories (three per month over eleven months), it doesn’t necessarily mean that your story will be chosen for the top ten. And 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. So, the more (stories / months) you enter, the more chance you have of success.

And now you can also receive feedback on your story / stories at £5 per story with the optional critique service (given by the judge, Morgen Bailey, who is a professional editor for publishers and independent authors). This option is detailed on the main 500-word Competition page with an option to select critique within the entry form. Good luck!