Posts Tagged Competition

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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Two Competitions From Erewash Writers

Debbie from Erewash Writers has been in touch with information about their latest short story competitions:

The first one is FREE to enter. It has a theme of ‘Summer Loving’  and there is a maximum of 1,200 words in which to tell the story. The closing date is 27th August 2015 and the judge is Andrew Campbell-Kearsey, author of more than 100 published short stories. The winner will receive Andrew’s book ‘Centurionman‘, one free entry to the Erewash Open Short Story Competition 2016 plus online publication of the story on their website and Facebook page. Full competition details can be found here.

The second competition is the Erewash Open Short Story Competition, closing September 24th 2015. Entry fees are a reasonable £3 per entry or £2.50 if entering two or more stories. The competition has an open theme and 2,000 words limit.  The judge is Simon Whaley. There are two categories to this competition: New Writer and Open.
Prizes are: £100 First, £50 Second, £25 Third, £25 Fourth plus two ‘Highly Commended’ each win 2016 comp free entry.
Full competition details can be found here.

So, no reason not to pick up your pen and get busy this weekend!

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NaNoWriMo & Nottingham Writers’ Club Short Story Competition

I did it! I wrote 50,000 words! 2013 NaNoWriMo Winner

I hit the NaNoWriMo target on 25th November – I had planned to write 2,000 words per day and, amazingly, I managed to stick to it.

Now the not so good bit. As soon as I hit 50,000 words I abandoned my routine. I had planned to keep going all the way to November 30th and thus amass 60,000 words. But once I knew I’d done enough to be a NaNo winner, I could no longer drag myself out of bed at 6:15 am to write 1,000 words before breakfast.

So now I’m gearing myself up to write the last little bit of the story, and then it’s the scary part – reading back through it all and discovering it’s all mumbo jumbo!

And if you’re looking for a new project now that NaNo is over:

Nottingham Writers’ Club are holding their first National Short Story Competition. The winner gets £200 and there are 15 prizes in total. ‘Emotion’ is the theme of the competition and the word limit is 2,000.

Entries can only be submitted between 1st and 31st January 2014 and, “All entrants must be non-professional writers. For the purpose of this competition, we define ‘non-professional’ as a writer who has earned less than £500 from short story writing during 2013”.

Request an entry form and further details here.

Finally, a quick shout out for Alison May. Alison is a fellow member of the Birmingham Chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and has just had her debut novel published via Choc Lit Lite.
It’s titled ‘Much Ado About Sweet Nothing’ and is available initially in e-book format.
Congratulations, Alison!

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Winnie the Pooh Laureate Competition

Calling all Winnie the Pooh fans!

Winnie the Pooh

Winnie the Pooh (Photo credit: Anton Ruiter)

Disney are looking for five regional winners across the UK and Ireland to be crowned ‘Winnie the Pooh Laureate’ and read their story in their local Disney store.

Entrants are asked to take Winnie the Pooh and his friends outside of 100 Acre Wood and into their own locality for an adventure. The story should feature landmarks unique to the writer’s home region. Maximum number of words is 500.

The winner from each region will also see their story printed in a special book and win a goodie bag of Winnie the Pooh merchandise.

Entry is free and is via the competition’s Facebook Page. Closing date is December 17th 2013.

Click on the Terms and Conditions tab on the Facebook Page before you enter to read full details of the judging process – the final three in each region are asked to read their story on the phone in order to judge their performance ability.

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Multi-Story Increases Prize Pot

Helen from Multi-Story.co.uk has been in touch to tell me that for their latest short story competition, the prize pot has been increased to £500 for the first prize. Second prize is £100 and third prize £50.

The competition has an open theme and a word limit of 2,500. So there’s lots of scope there for writing something new or maybe you’ve got a favourite story which hasn’t got a home yet…

The judge is Amelia Farrell who has written short stories and serials for over 30 years, under various pen names. Have a look at the website to see what she’ll be looking for in the winning entry. But be warned, she says, “… don’t mistake me for some old girl who’s only interested in romance and cosy crime!” So this might not be the place to send a Womag story.

Entry is £5 and closing date is 30th June 2012. See the website for full details. The website also has a page giving pointers on how to improve your chances when entering competitions. Much of it has been said before but it’s always useful to have it drummed home again – especially the ‘Dare to be Different’ motto. Judges have a lot of stories to read and are looking for something that stands out from the rest.

Talking of competitions, I was pleased recently to make the longlist of the Flashbang Crime Story competition. Unfortunately, I didn’t make the shortlist but it was good to know that I’d been in the top 25% of entries.

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Final Chapters Writing Competition

Death is something that has effected us all in some way – we all know what it is like to lose someone dear to us.

Therefore we should all be able to create something for the Final Chapters Writing Competition, organised by Dying Matters  which works to raise awareness of dying, death and bereavement.

The competition is free to enter and is offering prizes of £200, £100 and £50 for 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively plus highly commended certificates. All entries will also be considered for publication in either print form or online.

The closing date is 31 March 2012 and the winners will be announced during Dying Matters Awareness Week, 14-20 May 2012.

Entries can be prose (up to 2,500 words) or poetry (up to 40 lines) and each person can submit up to 3 entries by email or post.

The Dying Matters website says – “The judges will be looking for original writing in which the author’s feelings and thoughts about the end of life have been crafted into a succinct piece of work that attracts the reader’s attention and retains their interest”. I wasn’t sure whether this meant that they were looking for an account of a true experience or whether fiction would be acceptable so I contacted the organisers. Joe Meredith replied and indicated that either fact or fiction would be suitable entries for the competition. 

Please read the full terms and conditions here before entering.

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Write Exposure & Words Magazine Competitions

Write Exposure has launched its first monthly competition. There are 3 categories – short fiction (up to 1200 words), flash fiction (up to 250 words) and poetry. Entry into each category is £4 or you can enter all 3 for £9.

The winner will be showcased on the website for a month along with 3 other ‘honourable mentions’.

Prize money depends on the number of entrants. I couldn’t find it on the website so I contacted Cheslyn Baker, who is running the competition, to find out the ‘formula’ that would be used to calculate the prize. She told me that it would be 25% of the total entry fee received in each category.

The theme for the competitions will change each month. For November it is “I know your face” and the closing date is 30th November.

Please read the full details here before you enter. 

In most competitions we never know what percentage of the entry fees was paid out in prizes so this competition is being transparent in that respect. It is also being open about its judging. It will be using a panel of 3, one of whom is a ‘citizen’ judge and any of us can apply to sit in that third seat. See the website for details.

What does anybody think about prize money being 25% of the pot? Is it fair? Can we (the entrants) actually reach a fair conclusion on this question when so many other competitions only advertise a fixed prize rather than a percentage?

There is a lot of work in running a writing competition – including a large amount of administration as well as the actual reading and judging of entries. 100 entries would be required to win £100 – and I’m sure that a lot of competitions offering a prize of £100 receive more than 100 entries so maybe 25% is realistic.

By coincidence I came across another competition recently where the prize money is dependent on the number of entrants. Words Magazine is running a ‘winner takes all’ competition for short stories of up to 2000 words. Entry fee is £3 – so if 100 people enter the prize will be £300 (Closing date is December 31st).

Best of luck if you decide to enter either of these!

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