Posted in competitions, critique, literary festival, writing

BeaconLit Third Year 500-word comp Round 5 – Jan 2020 winners announced

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

  • Going Places
  • Made with Love
  • Number 16

The theme for January was ‘sweet and sour’.

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 2020 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 11th July. As with most months, there were 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 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.

*

Gareth’s feedback on the stories received this month:

Another good range of stories, with people doing clever, creative things with “Sweet and Sour”.

Some people are making political points. Others are simply telling stories; or making observations about relationships and hinting at people’s troubles. One story had a revenge denouement that I don’t think even the Kray brothers would have sanctioned.  I also liked a clever allegory about worms, neat and straighforward, like a parable.

All in all, there are some really inventive and chilling stories here.

People seem to have taken to heart earlier injunctions about over-use of exclamation marks, and punctuation errors.

But I would still ask people to look closely at specific words. Are they quite what you meant? One writer refers to the “evolution” from one season to another when perhaps what was meant was “transition”. I can see where evolution would be right, but that would imply a sudden change, not what was meant here.

Sometimes, with a little bit of thought, you can find a better word.

After all, once you’ve written the 500 words, and the plot, structure and the development are right, you can afford to look at keywords and descriptions and refine them if necessary.

And be brutal with your editing. Somebody’s hand is “trembling slightly”. Do you really need the “slightly” ? After all, you’ve already said the person was nervous. No need to underline it. with only 500 words available. Be as sparing as possible. Maybe change “The nervous contestant placed the dish in front of her, his hands trembling slightly”, to “the nervous contestant, hands trembling, placed the dish in front of her.” Two words saved.

Having judged this competition for five months now, I get impatient when people overdo descriptions. For example one writer spends five sentences describing Chinatown in Vancouver. The description is well done, but it’s a bit of a luxury in a story of 500 words. Chinatown is just the setting for the action. I got the point after two sentences. What is described does not add to the story or explain anything. Use the words freed up here to give me a little more of a hint of what is behind the mystery illness.

There is no need to strain for effect. But if it’s your specialist subject, by all means use it, although still sparingly. A number of writers describe food and drink very well, and it is, presumably, something they know a lot about. The descriptions are convincing.

But sometimes just a few colourful adjectives will do. So one person refers to red shoes for instance (they don’t do anything; they are just red, but a nice touch). Another refers to a person as a butterfly, summing up her qualities in one evocative word.

There are a few places in the stories where I am not absolutely sure what the writer means to say. It’s not serious, because you get the meaning from the context. But It’s worth putting yourself in the place of the reader. Will he or she be confused here? If the answer is yes, or possibly, play safe and try it another way; or maybe split a long sentence into two shorter ones. Things can happen quickly in a short story of 500 words, and it’s important to get those transitions right.

Again, be careful with words. One writer uses the Irish and American spelling of whiskey, when the person referred to is undoubtedly Scottish and would surely be drinking whisky without an “e”.

It seems like a mistake, particularly as it’s repeated, not some subtle message. I’m not being pedantic. The spellings are very specific. They matter.

I came across one use of 60’s. Standard use is 60s. I hold with the general rule that apostrophes for contractions and to indicate possession, not plurals.

There are just a couple of cases of unnecessary punctuation, such as “championing any cause, that needed a”. No need for a comma here.

And a capital G for “gillie”.  It’s just a noun, so lower case.

And be careful about names.  In one story I would have given made “Baby worm” “Baby Worm” – it’s a name, just like John and Jill.

This is just an aside from me, but two writers attributed “sweet and sour” to women.  Isn’t this a rather sexist stereotype – can’t men or boys be sweet and sour as well? However there is one example of sweet and sour being a boy and a girl.

*

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 27 stories (three per month over nine 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, 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 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!

Posted in competitions, critique, literary festival, writing

BeaconLit Third Year 500-word comp Round 4 – Dec 2019 winners announced

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

  • Blessed are the Peacemakers
  • My Nemesis
  • Univited Guest

The theme for December was ‘a reunion’. 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 2020 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 11th July. As with most months, there were 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 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.

*

Gareth’s feedback on the stories received this month:

Several good stories written as if from personal knowledge, really getting inside the characters in a short space. Lots of capable handling of dialogue. And it’s good to see writers using (where appropriate) crisp, short sentences. It’s worth trying to make your point with as few words, as this form is all about brevity.

The stories were competent and satisfying. Several saved a neat twist, heavily disguised, to the very end. It’s good to be surprised in a story, but not essential. Others tell a very conventional story, in strict temporal order. But as long as you do it well, and retain the reader’s interest, that is all that matters.

*

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 27 stories (three per month over nine 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, 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 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!

Posted in competitions, critique, literary festival, writing

BeaconLit Third Year 500-word comp Round 3 – Nov 2019 winners announced

Sorry for being late but we are delighted to announce the top three stories from November’s entries are (in alphabetical order):

  • Discharged
  • The Fifth Conversation
  • Where the Train Will Divide

The theme for November was ‘the fifth’. 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 2020 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 11th July. As with most months, there were 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 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.

*

Gareth’s feedback on the stories received this month:

Some particularly clever stories this month, well crafted without any need for me to make pedantic but sometimes necessary comments about over-use of exclamation marks and punctuation confusion. Every one could have been a winner. My job was very difficult.

In the stories that didn’t ask for a critique, I particularly liked the the depiction of a big communal event, a fireworks display, from two different points of view – that of a young child and an old soldier. (I’ve often thought that the loud fireworks that resound over every community in the land are in poor taste, so close to Armistice Day. And a short story can make the point where a pompous opinion piece in a newspaper cannot.)

In another story the action is tangential to something enormous happening. So we are given the procedure of a school lock down and the hiding in a cupboard. We don’t know what happens in the end, but a short story of this length can be excused for leaving things open. There’s not always room for a conclusion, satisfactory or not, so no need to force one, as this writers does not.

There’s no real message in this story (there doesn’t have to be), except that of the child’s complete faith in the counsellor.

Then there is a good ‘Appearances can be deceptive’ story, set on a train.

I don’t really have any comments on style or choice of language. I’ll make one point about the need for variety, wherever possible. You only have 500 words. Might as well make the key ones different  where you can, or not too similar.

An example is the writer of another story using “splash” and “sploshing”. Both mean more or less the same, despite the one letter difference. In a short story I would avoid using both, when there are plenty of alternatives. Faced with a choice I would retain “sploshing” as it is the more unusual, and has an active, urgent feel to it.

*

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 27 stories (three per month over nine 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, 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 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!

Posted in competitions, critique, literary festival, writing

BeaconLit Third Year 500-word comp Round 2 – Oct 2019 winners announced

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

  • Adult Behaviour
  • A Sticky End
  • Time to Speak Out

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 2020 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 11th July. As with most months, there were 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 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.

*

Gareth’s feedback on the stories received this month:

Again, I liked all eight entries this month, written to the theme of ‘sweet revenge’,  but in the end I chose Adult Behaviour, A Sticky End and Time to Speak Out as my winners. But every one was a contender.

There was ambiguity in some (nothing wrong with that) – did that errant husband even survive the meal?  – but not the confusion I sometimes experienced last month.

Characters were well established in such a short space. And flashbacks, where used, I could understand – ie I knew we were going back to the start of the story, with it being spelt out.

People seem to have taken the point about using exclamation marks excessively. I only counted a few. And they were justified.

But people were still continuing a sentence, when they could easily put in a full stop  and start a fresh sentence, instead of running on.  People write succinctly in other ways; if they cut sentence up, it would make their points quicker, and with more impact.

*

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 27 stories (three per month over nine 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, 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 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!

Posted in competitions, critique, literary festival, writing

BeaconLit Third Year 500-word comp Round 1 – Sept 2019 winners announced

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

  • Future Plans
  • The Recent Convert
  • The Trial

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 2020 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 11th July. There are often stories that could have made the top selected 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 above, 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.

*

Gareth’s feedback on the stories received this month:

There were good things about all seven of the entries this month, but in the end I chose Future Plans, The Recent Convert, and The Trial as my winners.

In several of the other entries I occasionally found myself confused, with the part played by some characters in my opinion too ambiguous. Mystery is one thing, but I was left unsure.

However, the standard was high.

The comments I would make, about those who did not ask for a critique, and some who did, is that some people still use exclamation marks excessively. Generally the exclamation is implicit in what you say, and doesn’t have to be “underlined” like this. If they hadn’t been used at all, I would not have thought there was something missing.

Another point is sometimes people continue a sentence when they could easily put in a full stop and start a fresh sentence, instead of running on. Often this strengthens what they’re trying to say anyway.

I also suggest that people try to be more succinct where possible – after all you only have 500 words and if you can trim one or two here and there it’s all to the good.

Some caught my eye such as: “thrusts herself into”. Why not “throws on” [clothing]?

And “sees her chance” works just as well as “seizes her opportunity”.

My final point is the use of “that” instead of “which”, or vice versa. I, too, often have to check, but in essence it’s “that” if it is essential extra information, without which the line doesn’t make sense. And “which” if you could take the words following without losing any meaning.

*

Although our judges choose their favourite stories 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 27 stories (three per month over nine 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 current judge, journalist and writer Gareth Davis). This option is detailed on the main 500-word Competition page, where you can also find the forthcoming themes, with an option to select critique within the entry form.

N.B. All the money from this competition goes to BeaconLit funds for the local libraries. Our judges do not charge for their time. Good luck!

Posted in competitions, critique, literary festival, writing

BeaconFlash Year 2 Finalists

And the list of the thirty-two final titles are…

  • A Child’s Scent (October 2018 – theme: trick and treat)
  • A Father’s Gift (December 2018 – theme: an alternative Christmas / not feeling festive)
  • A Picture of Innocence (September 2018 – theme: not what it seemed)
  • A Public/Private Enterprise (April 2019 – theme: the committee)
  • A Special Christmas Gift (December 2018 – theme: an alternative Christmas / not feeling festive)
  • A Windy Day (October 2018 – theme: trick and treat)
  • An Open and Shut Case (March 2019 – theme: main character is an inanimate object)
  • Blood Stained (March 2019 – theme: main character is an inanimate object)
  • Chasing the First (August 2018 – theme: the first time)
  • Christmas night (December 2018 – theme: an alternative Christmas / not feeling festive)
  • Coming of Age (August 2018 – theme: the first time)
  • Cupboard Love (August 2018 – theme: the first time)
  • Feeling Like You’re Ten Again (May 2019 – theme: young again)
  • Her Eternal Dance (February 2019 – theme: the love affair)
  • Leaving Amy (January 2019 – theme: a fresh start)
  • Lost and Found (January 2019 – theme: a fresh start)
  • Made in Toledo (March 2019 – theme: main character is an inanimate object)
  • Morris Man (November 2018 – theme: a strange tradition)
  • Mrs Fielding (May 2019 – theme: young again)
  • No Ending, No Goodbye (January 2019 – theme: a fresh start)
  • Ringing the Changes (February 2019 – theme: the love affair)
  • Saving Kaylee (September 2018 – theme: not what it seemed)
  • Signs of the Times (November 2018 – theme: a strange tradition)
  • The Answer (February 2019 – theme: the love affair)
  • The Class Reunion (September 2018 – theme: not what it seemed)
  • The Real Love Affair (February 2019 – theme: the love affair)
  • The Shed (April 2019 – theme: the committee)
  • Upper Fiddling Town Council (April 2019 – theme: the committee)
  • Veg on the Edge (March 2019 – theme: main character is an inanimate object)
  • Victor’s Treats (October 2018 – theme: trick and treat)
  • Waiting (November 2018 – theme: a strange tradition)
  • What Goes Around (May 2019 – theme: young again)

The judging will take place in the next few weeks and the results announced at the literary festival on Saturday 13th July (see you there!) where the top three stories will be read out (hopefully by their authors!) after which time those stories will be published on this blog and the main BeaconLit site.

Posted in competitions, critique, literary festival, writing

BeaconLit Second Year 500-word comp Round 10 – May 2019 winners announced

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

  • Feeling Like You’re Ten Again
  • Mrs Fielding
  • What Goes Around

Narrowly missed out:

  • Breath of Life
  • Whatever it Takes

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 (a month away!). As with most months, there were 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 http://www.beaconlit.co.uk) after the festival next month so please do not send it elsewhere until after then. The competition will reopen on 1st August.

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:

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

  • I add commas where a reader would breathe if reading the piece aloud, which I always recommend the author do too, especially where a scene feels flat or you think it doesn’t work for whatever reason. 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.
  • Words often overused include all, now, veryand just. If you search your current work in progress, you may find more than you expected.
  • Song titles are put in italics and don’t need the inverted commas (which would have been speech marks as you use inverted commas for speech).
  • Where an action has ‘starts to’ / ‘started to’ or ‘begins to’ / ‘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. An example would be ‘the phone began to ring’. If it stops without being answered then that’s fine (although it still rang!) but if not then just have ‘the phone rang’.
  • Where the speech has an unrelated dialogue tag, e.g. someone laughing, moving etc. (with it capitalised: He laughed. She picked up the mug.’ etc.) the punctuation would be a full stop rather than a comma. Had it been related description, it would be a comma.
  • Showing is all about the character doing / reacting rather than the narrator telling us what happens. If something feels flat, it could be that you’re telling us too much.
  • Words often overused include all, now, very and, as we have here, just. I’d recommend only keeping the ones for emphasis or detract from the sentence if chopped.
  • It’s fine to use exclamation marks when someone’s shouting (then you’d often not need the ‘he / she shouted’), but just one !
  • It’s good to have as many of the five senses as possible. By default we have sound (dialogue) and sight (narration) but what about taste, touch and smell. It makes a story all the more vivid if we can have one or more of those.
  • Not many of the stories had any colour mentioned. It also gives stories more depth, especially where a shade is used rather than a standard colour. Wikipedia is very good at shades: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shades_of_redis an example.

*

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.

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