Archive for category Competitions

Milton Keynes Short Story Competition

Ever been to Milton Keynes? It’s famous for its concrete cows and the urban myth that it was named after the two economists Milton Friedman and Maynard Keynes. The town’s name actually came from the old village of Milton Keynes which was in the centre of the area designated for development as a ‘new town’ in 1967.

2017 is Milton Keynes’ 50th birthday and, to help the town celebrate its half-centenary, a short story competition has been organised. Hooray!

The competition is asking for stories in any genre but they must be set in Milton Keynes. Maximum number of words is 1050 and the closing date is 21st April 2017.
£100 goes to the winner, £50 to second place and £25 to third place. Fifty of the best stories will be selected for publication in a limited edition anthology.
Entry is FREE and judges include local Milton Keynes authors Carole Matthews, Karen Guyler and Scott Dorward.

Full information is available on Carole Matthew’s website.

And, by the way, Milton Keynes gets a brief mention in my psychological thriller Bedsit Three

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Benefits of Writing Competitions

At the end of January Morton S. Gray celebrated the publication, by Choc Lit, of her first novel, The Girl on the Beach. The Girl on the Beach by Morton S GrayMorton’s success was the result of dogged perseverance and the culmination of a series of competition successes. Not surprisingly, she is now a great advocate of writing competitions and she’s here today to tell us how they helped her on the road to success:

Innocently entering a writing competition caused me to take my writing seriously! In 2006, a friend started a fledgling publishing business (sadly no longer trading) and she held a short story writing competition to raise the profile of the company. I entered, primarily to support her, and unbelievably won with my story “Human Nature versus the Spirit Guide”.
It was a wake-up call for me. I’d had a baby and not been well for a couple of years, so I was looking for a new direction. The competition win made me look at writing as a serious option for the future and it was relatively easy to combine with a small child still taking naps in the afternoon. I started to take courses to learn to polish my work. I entered several competitions and began to get shortlisted.

In 2008, I entered a Mills and Boon novel competition, the forerunner of their SYTYCW competitions. I quickly decided I wasn’t a Mills and Boon writer, as it is a particular way of writing and much harder than people might think to keep the focus on the main protagonists throughout a novel. However, the competition introduced me to several people with whom I’m still in contact.

Competitions give you a framework within which to work. They give you the discipline of a deadline and a word count. Not as many people enter these competitions as you may imagine, especially the smaller local ones. I’ve been involved in running a local competition and I was surprised not only by the relatively few number of entries, but by the fact that sixty percent of the entries were essentially the same story. Tip – think around the set theme for a while and don’t go for the obvious. Your entry will stand out if it is different.

Morton S. Gray

Morton S. Gray

I continued to get shortlisted for flash fiction, poetry, short story and novel competitions. In 2013, I came second in the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference competition for the first chapter of a novel and that resulted in an appearance on the Tammy Gooding show at BBC Hereford and Worcester Radio. All good experience. Later that year, I shortlisted in the New Talent Award at the then Festival of Romance, with another first chapter. I met a different group of writers, many of whom I’m still in contact with in real life and online.

These encouraging signs for my writing kept me going. It is easy to get despondent when writing, as it can be a very solitary occupation. Don’t spend your life thinking no one will want to read your work, imagining that it’s rubbish, not up to scratch, not worthy of anything but the bin. Been there, done that! Keep going, keep writing and get your work out to competitions, send it to magazines, publishers, agents. Writing is a constant learning process and is generally about persistence. You need an imaginative spark, yes, but you also need to be willing to check your work over time and again to make it the best it can be. What is the point of a manuscript in a drawer?

I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers Scheme and made sure I submitted a novel for critique every year. I also made a promise to myself to take part in the annual novel writing challenge NaNoWriMo and I’ve managed seven years running to write 50,000 words in November. One of these novels, when edited and passed through the RNA NWS critique service, I sent off to the Search for a Star competition run by a publisher I’d admired for many years, Choc Lit and I won! My debut novel, The Girl on the Beach was published on 24 January 2017.

I suppose the messages here are keep writing, learn your craft, polish your work and get it out into the world. My novel could so easily still be in that drawer under the bed. Competitions are a way of assessing how you are progressing, hopefully you’ll meet friends along the way and who knows, you might win a publishing contract like me.

I love Morton’s encouraging message and I love the blurb for The Girl on the Beach – the novel is now sitting on my Kindle hankering to be read. I think it might tempt some of you too:

When Ellie Golden meets Harry Dixon, she can’t help but feel she recognises him from somewhere. But when she finally realises who he is, she can’t believe it – because the man she met on the beach all those years before wasn’t called Harry Dixon. And, what’s more, that man is dead.
For a woman trying to outrun her troubled past and protect her son, Harry’s presence is deeply unsettling – and even more disconcerting than coming face to face with a dead man, is the fact that Harry seems to have no recollection of ever having met Ellie before. At least that’s what he says …
But perhaps Harry isn’t the person Ellie should be worried about. Because there’s a far more dangerous figure from the past lurking just outside of the new life she has built for herself, biding his time, just waiting to strike.

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50 Word Story Competition

If the 50,000 word marathon of NaNoWriMo is too much for you, have a go at this 50 word story competition organised by Just Write.

It’s free to enter and an open theme but the story must be exactly 50 words – not as easy as it sounds!

There are prizes of books and ‘literary goodies’ plus the winner will be published on tyjustwrite.com.

Closing date is 30th November 2016 and entry is by email or post.

This competition could be a useful exercise in focusing the mind and creating an elevator pitch for your NaNoWriMo work-in-progress.

Also, there was a wordpress glitch when I published my last post and I don’t think notification emails were sent out. In case you missed it, it was 200 Powerful Words to Use Instead of Good .

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Win a Just Write Tote Bag and Goodies

Just Write, the Hodder creative writing community, are offering one lucky person a Just Write Tote Bag from the Creative Writing Competition party of the 18th August. Just Write Tote Bag
It will be filled with the following goodies: a copy of The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley, a proof copy of The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan,  Masterclass: Write a Bestseller by Jacq Burns, plus literary maps, discount cards and notebooks.

All you have to do is tell @JustWriteGroup, via Twitter, what made you start writing.

‘What made you start writing?’ was one of the questions asked in video interviews of the six shortlisted writers at the party. These videos (including me being a little too vociferous with my hands!) are now available to view on the Writing Magazine website. In the interviews each of us also offers the piece of writing advice that we’ve found the most useful – and amazingly we nearly all say the same thing!

The Just Write competition closes at 17:00 on September 23rd 2016 and the full competition rules are here.

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Poems about Birmingham Wanted

In February 2017 Birmingham will be hosting ‘Verve’, its first ever Poetry and Spoken Word Festival, organised by Waterstones and the Emma Press.

To get things started a poetry competition has been launched for poems on the theme ‘Birmingham’.

So start thinking poetic about things like Spaghetti Junction, Edgbaston Cricket Club, the Bullring, the Jewellery Quarter, New Street Station etc. etc. Maybe you live in the area or maybe you’ve done the tourist bit or perhaps been here on business – whatever your connection to the city, there’s lots of inspiration to get your teeth into.

The only problem is I’ve left it a bit late to tell you about this. The closing date for the adult section of the competition is September 11th 2016 and for the children’s section it’s September 30th. But a short deadline is good – it forces the brain cells to perform!

Full details of the competition are on the Verve website.

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Celebrating on a London rooftop!

Last night I and five other short-listed authors were sipping sparkling wine in the rooftop garden of Hachette UK. Also among us were the team from Writing Magazine, several of the authors published by the various imprints of Hachette, editors and literary consultants. Earlier in the day we’d each made a short video interview in the Darwin room (Origin of the Species was one of the first books published by the company). It was all exciting stuff! Just Write 2016

The six of us had been shortlisted from 130 entrants in the 2016 Just Write Creative Writing Competition organised in association with Writing Magazine and John Murray Press. The competition asked for short stories of 4,000 to 8,000 words in any genre and on any theme.2016 Just Write

In true award ceremony style, the name of the winner was taken from a ‘gold’ envelope and announced to the waiting crowd. Emma J Myatt was the worthy winner and we expect great things from her in the future! There followed lots of chatting to literary people and I got encouraging feedback for an idea I have in mind – something to work on for the future …

We all came away on a high, with goody bags full of books plus copies of the newly-printed anthology containing all six of our shortlisted stories. And we were kept busy signing the anthologies for lots of the other guests to take home – I felt like I was famous as people kept pushing books in front of me to sign!

Many thanks to everyone involved in organising the event and I’ll be watching for my fellow shortlistees – Louise Hare, Sumana Khan, Ian Laskey and Dan Purdue – to hit the big time!Just Write 2016 shortlist

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Win a Trip to Sydney!

Have you ever travelled via Heathrow Airport? Was it memorable in some way? For example did you meet your partner in the check-in queue or give birth in the departure lounge or were you en route to start a new life outside the UK?

2016 is Heathrow Airport’s 70th birthday and they are giving away some great ‘birthday gifts’ to the writers of the best stories. The stories will be judged according to the following criteria:

  • Quality of story
  • How the story shows personal progression/ development as a result of your Heathrow experience
  • If the story includes Heathrow as catalyst for change
  • How heart-warming the story is

The ‘birthday gifts’ up for grabs are many and varied. They range from a trip to Sydney through Gucci hampers to luggage tags.

Submit your story here and read the terms and conditions here. The competition closes on September 5th 2016.

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Creative Writing Prompts

This week’s post is prompted by a writing acquaintance who was asking for suggestions of websites that have good creative writing prompts.

Creative writing prompts are useful for those times when the ideas just won’t come. Using a prompt focuses the mind and encourages the words onto the paper. It doesn’t matter if the story then goes off at a tangent from the original prompt – the prompt has already done it’s job by starting the process.

There are various sites offering creative writing prompts. Here are a few to get you started:

Many writing competitions supply a prompt in the form of a subject or theme. These prompts have the added advantages of a ready market to which your story can be submitted and a deadline to work to.

My writing buddy, Helen Yendall, is currently running one such short story competition, it’s free to enter and only requires 100 words! It closes July 12th 2016. Why not have a go?

Do you have a favourite way of generating prompts and ideas?

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Travel Writing Competition

Steve Hanson from Senior Travel Expert has been in touch to tell me about their ‘Off the Beaten Track’ travel writing competition. It’s free to enter and has a prize of £100. Books hanging in a cafe in Madrid

Entries should be “about a fascinating, relatively unknown place near to where you live or that you came across by chance when travelling around, or it may be a totally fictional place”. The winner should “persuade readers of the Senior Travel Expert website that the place you describe is somewhere they would very much like to visit”. The closing date is September 30th 2016.

Often when you’re on holiday the things you stumble across by chance turn out to be the most interesting. I’m just back from a holiday in Madrid and Barcelona.  One evening we sat in the window of a cafe in Madrid and above me was hung a display of books (see picture on the right). The next day we spotted a grand building that turned out to be The Society of Authors building – which I think is something like ALCS but please correct me if I’m wrong.

And remember, you don’t have to travel to enter this competition – your destination can be purely fictional.

Spanish Society of Authors

Sociedad General de Autores de Espana

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Books Ireland Short Story Competition

Whilst I was at the Self-Publishing Conference I picked up a complimentary copy  of Books Ireland magazine. Books Ireland magazineInside was the launch of their 2016 short story competition and it has a pretty good first prize: 400 Euros plus a writing course at the Irish Writers Centre plus publication in Books Ireland.
The second prize is 200 Euros and third prize is 100 Euros.

There is no theme, the word limit is 2,600 and the closing date is 31st August 2016. Writers of any nationality may enter. The judge is Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, founder of writing.ie, literary agent and author.

The interesting thing about this competition is that members of writing groups receive half-price entry. The standard entry fee is 10 Euros but members of a writing group (or subscribers to Books Ireland) pay only 5 Euros.

Full details about the competition and where to send your entry are on the competition web page.

May the luck of the Irish be with you!

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