Archive for category Short Story
Two Free Short Story Competitions
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Competitions, Short Story on March 10, 2023
Green Stories Superhero Competition
In this competition your superhero must save the planet!
It sounds a fun brief to play around with: ‘this contest challenges you to create an uplifting short story of superheroes that respond to climate change. Imagine your target audience to be teens and young adults that enjoy watching superhero films‘.
The prize is £500 plus a scene from your story turned into a 1 page comic strip.
The competition is open to adults, and teenagers aged 14+. The deadline is 15th April 2023.
As always, don’t forget to read the full terms and conditions.
Evening Standard Stories Competition
The theme for this competition is ‘belonging’ and it’s not limited to short stories. You can submit a piece of spoken word or performance, for example a monologue, a script or a self-contained episode of a narrative podcast. Entries can be submitted as written, audio, or film.
The winner will get a masterclass with Evening Standard Stories Editor, Lotte Jeff, a one year mentorship in their chosen field by management and production company, 42, plus the chance to perform their piece and other extras!
Closing date is 12th April 2023 and it is a 1,000 word limit. Again, read the terms and conditions, they do include: Work from previously published authors or writers cannot be accepted. It doesn’t indicate what their definition of ‘published’ is.
Talking of short stories, I was delighted to be invited, last month, to talk to author Tony Riches and to give my top 6 tips on short story writing. Did I cover everything or have you got a tip to add?
The Write Mango Awards
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Books, Competitions, Short Story on January 19, 2023
Short story competition judges often bemoan the fact that they receive a lot of entries with depressing or dark storylines and therefore anything a little bit quirky stands out from the rest.
The Scottish Arts Trust has gone as far as introducing a new subsidiary award in its short story competition: The Write Mango Award. This award is ‘for short stories that are fun, amusing, bizarre and as delicious as a mango …’
The Write Mango Award can be found within the Scottish Arts Club Short Story Competition. First Prize is £3,000, Second Prize is £500, Third Prize £250 and the additional Write Mango Award is £300 (you do need to indicate when entering that you wish your story to be considered for this award as well as the main one). Entry fee is £10, there is a 2,000 word limit and the stories can be on any theme or subject. The judge is Ian Rankin and the competition closes 28th February 2023.
I’ve just finished a novel which could definitely be describes as ‘bizarre and delicious’. The Beresford by Will Carver is set in an apartment building where new tenants arrive but don’t leave in the way they would expect. At The Beresford there is routine in murder. We know who the killers are but what we don’t know is how it’s all going to end. It’s a dark story but told in such a way that there’s a lot of humour there too. If you’re looking for something a little out of the ordinary, it’s worth a read.
Short Story Writing Tips & a Launch!
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Promotion, Self-publishing, Short Story, Successes on October 28, 2022
I’ve been busy with the feather duster in my Dropbox repository and have rediscovered several of my favourite short stories that missed their target. These are the stories which didn’t land on the right editor’s desk at the right time or failed to catch the imagination of a competition judge.
This exercise made me think about two things: What are the best tips or rules for short story writing? And how can I best utilize these short story ‘misses’ in this age of recycling and ‘waste not want not’?
Here are the five top short story writing tips I came up with:
1. Have only a few characters. Any more than three or four makes it difficult for the reader to get to know them in a short space of time. Make sure all their names begin with a different letter – this makes it easier for the reader to differentiate between them. Don’t give names to ‘walk-on’ characters such as the postman or policeman – this will only add to any confusion in the reader’s mind.
2. Be clear whose story it is i.e., from which character’s point of view are you telling the story. That person should have the most to gain/lose from the action. Ensure the reader becomes emotionally invested in that person.
3. Have the action take place in a short timescale. Focusing on a single moment in time works best because the story is ‘immediate’. Avoid a long buildup of backstory. If back story is essential, drop it concisely alongside the action.
4. Conflict should be at the centre of the story. The main character should be facing a dilemma or decision of some kind. This character should solve the dilemma himself rather than have it sorted out by someone else, coincidence or fate.
5. Edit! Give the story more impact by removing words like ‘very’ and ‘just’. Replace adverbs with more specific verbs, for example ‘run fast’ becomes ‘sprint’. Combine characters, for example does the heroine need two friends or will one work just as well and make the story neater?
And what’s happening to those short story ‘misses’? They are now getting their fifteen minutes of fame in Hit or Miss? 33 Coffee Break Stories. I’ve mixed the stories up with others that DID land on the right editor’s or judge’s desk at the right time, and I challenge YOU to decide which were hits and which missed their target.
Hit or Miss? 33 Coffee Break Stories is now available on Kindle, in paperback from Amazon and on Kobo.
It would be lovely to get the comments started on the book’s Amazon/Kobo Review pages to indicate whether or not you agreed with those editors and judges.
Short Story Ideas Generator
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Resources, Short Story on September 22, 2022
I’m on a mission to gather 30 short story ideas before the end of October. I will then write one 1700-word story per day through the 30 days of November, harnessing the global enthusiasm for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) to keep me going. Purists may argue that writing short stories rather than novels for NaNoWriMo is cheating but for me, as long as I’m in the groove and aiming for 50,000 words, it doesn’t matter – it’s not a competition and no one is giving out prizes.
How do I come up with 30 short story ideas?
So far, I’ve amassed 14 and used a variety of means. There were a few ideas floating in my head anyway, a friend sent me a page of prompts used by her poetry society, I took inspiration from all the recent royal coverage, and I discovered this online short story generator. Fill in the form to customise the story or take the option to fill the form with random things, then let the generator do its stuff.
Warning: the story will be nonsense. However, the first time I used it the opening sentence triggered an idea for me and the second time around it produced an intriguing title.
Might be worth a try if you’ve got a blank piece of paper and an empty mind?
For anybody not familiar with NaNoWriMo, the 30 stories I write will be very rough drafts, time doesn’t permit anything else. From December onwards they will need to be worked upon, crafted to the right length to suit the prospective market and then submitted gradually next year.
Whatever you choose to write in November, it only generates a starting point to be worked on over future months. It is never an endpoint in itself.
Two Free Writing Competitions
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Competitions, Poetry, Short Story on August 16, 2022
Thank goodness the heatwave in the UK is diminishing. It seemed to sap all my energy and brain power. As I cool down, my thoughts are getting back into some sort of order and I’ve found two free competitions with generous cash prizes. They might be worth a try if you’re feeling creative.
The inaugural Patricia Eschen Prize for Poetry 2022 is open for entries.
Poems can be on any subject, up to a maximum length of 40 lines. Entry is free and limited to one entry per person. First prize is a massive £1,000, second prize is £500 and third prize is £300.
Closing date is Friday 30th September 2022.
The Secret Life of Data Short Story Competition is being run by Bristol University. The website says, “this secret life of data – the traces, bits, and fragments of personal information that we leave behind us online – is the focus of this short story competition.”
Maximum word count is 4,000 and any style or genre is acceptable. Prizes are: 1st – £1000, 2nd – £500, 3rd – £250. The ten shortlisted stories will be published in the Secret Life of Data Anthology in both print and ebook formats plus there will be an Awards Ceremony in Bristol.
Closing date 9am (BST) Monday 12th September 2022 and entry is free.
This timid little fellow belonging to one of our neighbours didn’t like the heat either and flaked out in any shade he could find.
‘Clean vs Green’ – Free Short Story Competition
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Competitions, Short Story on June 1, 2022
Green Stories Writing Competitions want your stories on the theme ‘Clean versus Green’.
The competition is looking for an engaging fictional story which will help readers understand how over-cleaning and misinformation about bacteria can mean that we can end up killing our bodies’ ‘good’ bacteria through over-use of harsh cleaning products.
To help you get started there are story ideas on the website plus a free virtual writing workshop on June 6th, to which you can take your draft stories for early feedback. Attendance at the workshop is not a prerequisite of entry.
First prize is £500.
Entry is FREE. Stories must be between 1000 and 3000 words and the story can be in any genre. Closing date is 21st July 2022.
As always, please make sure you read all the rules before entering.
Librarian Stories Wanted
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Competitions, Markets, Short Story on May 10, 2022
This is a bit of an unusual call for stories but it caught my eye because I’ve been working as a library assistant since last October.
Air and Nothingness Press want short stories about a librarian for their upcoming anthology which will have the title ‘The Librarian’. However, the stories must be about a very specific librarian who, “… travels the multiverse (along the timeline – past through the future – and across planetary systems and universes) helping out people, societies, and those in need, with their questions, problems, and research (as librarians do).” The stories should be positive and hopeful and have narratives that celebrate librarians.
There’s lots more information about the requirements on the Air and Nothingness Press website.
The closing date for submissions is June 30 2022. Selected stories will be paid for at the rate of 8 cents per word and authors will also receive one print copy of the anthology.
The cookie picture was just to get your attention. Sorry.
Free: Concrete Short Story Competition
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Competitions, Short Story on April 17, 2022
Outsideleft is running a free to enter short story competition in conjunction with The Bear Bookshop.
The theme is ‘concrete’. ‘Concrete’ might not immediately grab you but the story doesn’t have to be about physical concrete. It could be about solid ideas or anything unmovable and difficult to get around.
First prize is £100. Maximum of 1,000 words and the closing date is 31st May 2022.
Any genre is acceptable and entry is by email only. As always, make sure you read all the rules before submitting.
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Competitions, Events, Non-fiction, Poetry, Short Story on May 26, 2021
Here is a free to enter competition which is completely relaxed about the format and genre of entries.
The Evening Standard in association with Netflix is running a ‘What’s Your Story’ Competition as part of their Stories Festival which takes place in September 2021.
Entries can be written (up to 1,000 words) or recorded as a video (up to 2-minutes in length).
The story can be about childhood, life or from your imagination but must be original and from a previously unpublished writer. The entry can be written as a short story, poem, screen/theatre play or can even be sung.
The competition closes on 30 June 2021 at 11.59 AM
The prizes sound pretty good. According to the competition website:
The winners will receive a suite of prizes to support them in their journey into the industry. Including workshop sessions with either leading screenwriters or editors, publication of winning stories on standard.co.uk, and VIP access to the festival. The winning pieces will be performed as part of the Stories Festival by well-known writers.
As usual don’t forget to read all the terms and conditions before entering and Good Luck! This sounds like a great opportunity for someone just starting their writing journey.
The Short Story Synopsis – How to Get It Right
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Markets, Short Story, Writing on November 16, 2020
Much is written about crafting the novel synopsis and agent pitch but there’s far less on how to sell a short story to the women’s magazine market via a synopsis.
Writer, S. Bee has put together some good tips for those of us trying to make sales in this ever decreasing market. Here is her advice:
Six UK women’s magazines require a short synopsis – either with the story itself, or before the story is submitted.
- The regular, fortnightly Yours
- The Yours Fiction Special
- Take a Break’s Fiction Feast. (N.B. This has a closed writer’s list and takes all rights.)
- Spirit & Destiny. This magazine requires a story pitch upfront. If they like the sound of the story, they ask for it to be emailed for consideration. They also take all rights to accepted stories.
- My Weekly require a brief synopsis to head up the story. This magazine has a closed writer’s list.
- During the current lockdown, The People’s Friend is asking for writers who have previously been published by the magazine to email a synopsis. Writers new to the magazine should continue to submit by post.
Possible reasons editors ask for a short story synopsis:
- It allows the editor to quickly see what kind of story it is – sweet romance/comedy/crime/revenge, etc.
- It explains the plot, so the editor can decide whether or not the story will work for that magazine.
- It’s useful for the illustrator/picture editor – so consider including significant details about the age and appearance of characters or the location.
Below are six steps to getting the synopsis right:
- Keep to the word count. If the guidelines ask for 200 words, don’t ramble on. Don’t start with: ‘This is a story about…’ Provide a clear outline of the story from start, middle and end.
- Do I reveal the ending? There is some debate around this. Some writers do (I’m one of them) but some choose not to. It’s entirely up to you.
- Run it past a womag writer/ reader friend before submitting. Asking other womag writers to read your work before submitting is useful. I run a womag writers’ email critique group; we read each other’s work and give constructive feedback. Not only can others point out the flaws in the story, they might be able to spot the flaws in your synopsis too.
- Themes/ Genres There’s no need to include the theme or a genre in your synopsis. The word count matters, so don’t fill your lines with: ‘This is an empty nest/ moving on/ dealing with bereavement story.’
- Get to the point Imagine you are an aspiring scriptwriter who steps into a lift with a movie producer. You have an amazing opportunity to pitch your story – but only 30 seconds to do it. Cut the waffle and focus on the chain of events in your story: The main character has a problem/conflict. How do they overcome this problem? What complicates it? How is it solved?
- Get over the dread writing of them. It can seem like a synopsis cruelly chops our work down and removes the heart of the story. But without it, there’s no chance of a sale to the above magazines. The more synopses you write, the more confident you’ll become.
Women’s magazine writer, TW, has kindly provided me with an example synopsis:
Music manager Ross King is visited in his office by Beth and Sam, who are members of one of his most successful pop acts.
Beth and Sam are in their early twenties, slim, blonde and beautiful. They are very excited, as they have met a potential new member of the group, Penny. Ross has a shock when Penny enters the office, as although she is also slim, blonde and beautiful, she is over forty. Ross thinks the group’s young fans won’t accept an older woman as part of the group. He’s forced by politeness to watch Penny audition (sing and dance) and recognises that she is very talented. After some tough argument, Ross agrees that Penny can join the group.
The girls are so keen on her joining them that Ross suspects – rightly – that there is something they are not telling him about Penny, and at the end of the story the girls reveal what this is.
The above story was published in Take a Break’s Fiction Feast. Note that the twist ending wasn’t revealed in the synopsis.
Practice makes perfect. Writing a synopsis – whether it’s for a short story, a novel, article or a play – is a specific, highly valued skill. Give it a go and increase your chances of a story sale!
S. Bee is the brains behind the lively short story anthology Paws for Thought. It is available on Kindle and raises money for the RSPCA.
To find out more about S. Bee and her critique group, Fiction Addition, please visit her website.
Don’t forget there’s lots more information about writing fiction for women’s magazines at https://womagwriter.blogspot.com/