Category Archives: Competitions

Attracting the Reader’s Attention: Choosing the best eBook Cover Design

Standard

For us British, anything related to self-promotion tends not to come naturally. We’re brought up in a culture where mentioning your achievements is only a step away from boasting – and we don’t approve of boasting, ho no! If you’re a writer, the chances are you’re at the quiet and shy end of the social spectrum, possibly a little insular, with perhaps a tendency towards self-doubt too. I’d put myself firmly in this category.

This means I’m mostly doing the social media equivalent of standing at the back of a busy room, raising my hand and giving a polite cough to get everyone’s attention. Sometimes no-one notices. Sometimes I don’t even have the courage to do it at all. Everyone carries on talking, and I just stand there thinking I probably should mention what I’m doing, but maybe it’s not the best time.

But now I really ought to tell you formally about my latest project. I’m writing a book. Just a little one you understand (so that you know I’m not boasting!). It’s my first non-fiction book: “Short Story Competitions: A Writer’s Guide”. I’ve aimed to incorporate all that I’ve learned from my own experiences as both entrant and judge – the idea being the reader will be able to learn from my mistakes rather than having to make so many of their own!

Alongside drafting the text for the book, I pondered the cover design for a long time. There’s no way I’d attempt to create my own eBook cover, but I sent a couple of ideas to Shar, my cover designer, and she mocked up three designs for me.

 

As I’m pretty rubbish at making decisions, I decided to consult family and friends, Facebook and the Twittersphere. The results were really interesting – each cover got lots of support, and there were also some good comments, discussions of the relative merits of each, and suggestions for improvements. Of course, with an eBook cover, you have to think about how the design will work both large scale and in thumb nail form when the reader is quickly scanning through the available options.

If you’ve not chosen a favourite yet, or you’d like to make a further suggestion about one or more of the designs, I’ve love to hear your comments. If you’d like to see the final cover design before the book is out, please click the link on the right hand side of the blog to join my new mailing list. (Oh, did I mention…. *whispers* I’ve got a new mailing list!) 😉

Advertisements

5 Things I learned from short story judging

Standard

Judging Panel clipart

The shortlist came out last week for the Hysteria 2017 Writing Competition – so huge congratulations to all those who feature in either the poetry, flash fiction or short story categories. All of these will be published in the forthcoming Hysteria 6 anthology, so it really is a great competition for showcasing talent in women’s writing. You can see all three category shortlists on the Hysteria blog.

I’ve already blogged with tips for entering short story competitions here but I thought it might be useful to mention a few things I’ve learned from the judging process too. I judged in the short story category, but the anthology will include comments from the judges in all three categories, so will be useful to read if you are intending to enter the competition in the future.

The Hysteria competition uses a panel approach, using several judges in each category. Every judge reads every story, and the overall winners are those which receive the highest combined rating from all judges in that category.

So, here’s a brief summary of five things which struck me about the judging process:

  1. There are an amazing number of good writers out there. The vast majority of  stories submitted were competently written, and professionally presented. There were some great voices, good dialogue, interesting settings, and thought provoking themes. Nonetheless, when judges are reading multiple entries, each story only has a brief opportunity to make an impact, and probably only 10-15% of the entries stood out as being really special. These were the stories which made you momentarily forget you were judging in a competition, and instead simply read for pure pleasure.
  2. I was a little anxious before the process began, wondering if I would be able to make a valid judgement about other people’s work. I worried about how to go about the process – should I read several stories at the outset to give myself an internal ‘benchmark’? Would I be more generous on one day than the next? Would I be out of step with the other members of the panel? In fact, the format of the process meant that it was surprisingly straightforward to come to a conclusion about the various aspects of a story’s merit. And Linda Parkinson-Hardman, who co-ordinates the competition and edits the anthology, says that in her experience, the judges are, for the most part, surprisingly in alignment.
  3. I now completely understand why editors are so adamant that short story submissions should not dwell on depressing subject matter! Reading several gloomy stories in a row is a dispiriting experience, however well-written they might be. There is though a difference between tackling difficult subject matter, and writing a depressing story. There were examples of stories which addressed traumatic domestic situations, bereavements, injustice, mental instability and so forth, and yet managed to do this while still creating an engaging and entertaining story. These were great to read.
  4. This competition required submissions to be made online, and the uploading process caused a few problems for a small number of entrants. Be very careful when you complete an online entry process. You need to ensure you have uploaded the final version of your story with any corrections dealt with. You need to upload to the correct category, and you need to make sure you have uploaded the complete text – especially if cutting and pasting. You don’t want to spoil your story’s chances through a silly formatting error.
  5. Finally, there were a couple of stories which I absolutely loved which didn’t make it to the final shortlist. If you were unsuccessful in this competition, please don’t think that your story was unappreciated. Yours might have been the one which made me wish I could show all my friends! This is why it’s so important to keep writing and keep submitting – your story has to be read to have a chance, and the next editor or the next judge might be the one who thinks your work is amazing.

The final winners in each category will be revealed when the anthology is published. If your story is on the shortlist, I wish you all the very best of luck. And thank you for submitting your story to the competition, and therefore giving me the chance to read it. It was a great experience, and I’ll certainly be looking out for similar opportunities in the future.

Short Story Competitions: Making Your Entry Stand Out

Standard

wowThe winners have just been announced for the latest “1000 Word Challenge” competition. If you’re not familiar with the site, it runs a different contest every three months, with a new word, theme or starting phrase. You have to come up with a 1000 word story which reflects this theme, but which is original enough to catch the eye of the judges. The entry fee is £5, and the winners are published on the site.

The theme for the last contest was “Kiss”, and was won by Anna Haldane with her story “The Tiller’s Daughter” – a fantastic version of a fairy story.  Anna’s unusual vocabulary immediately makes her prose stand out, but it’s not a gimmick – the story is artful and very clever. A worthy winner indeed. There are two published runners-up this time, and several others get mentioned in despatches, including mine. I’m telling you this last bit not because I’m blowing my own trumpet (well, maybe a tad – but you know, if you don’t, no-one else will!) but because my story is described as “surprising”, and I think that’s important for a competition entry.

I’m currently about three quarters of the way through reading all the entries in the short story category of this year’s Hysteria Writing Competition. There are lots of good, well-written submissions, but probably four or five have really stood out for me so far. These are stories which have a particularly entertaining scenario, an unusually compelling narrative voice, or an ending which has left me momentarily stunned and thinking, “Gosh, that’s clever.”  And this is what we, as story writers, should be aiming for – something which lingers in the mind of the reader long after they’ve finished reading. This is the unique power of the short story.

 

 

 

 

3 Writing Competitions for Your Diary

Standard

For those of you who might benefit from a writing goal to help with motivation, or new writers who are thinking about sending some work out into the big wide world, here are three writing competitions which might appeal:

  • The Fiction Desk – Newcomer Prize 2017 for short stories (1,000 – 7,000 words) – deadline 31st May, £500 to the winner (entry fee £8)

http://www.thefictiondesk.com/submissions/newcomer-short-story-prize.php

  • Reflex Fiction: flash fiction (180-360 words) – deadline 31st May, £1,000 to the winner (entry fee £7)

http://www.reflexfiction.com/flash-fiction-submissions-entry-form/

  • Hysteria Writing Competition – deadline 31st August – 3 categories:
    • Poetry – max 20 lines, £75 to the winner (entry fee £3)
    • Short Story – max 2,000 words, £150 to the winner (entry fee £5)
    • Flash fiction – max 250 words, £75 to the winner (entry fee £3)

https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/

And if you’re thinking of entering any of these, and are looking for some tips, I’ve blogged about my experience previously here:

https://jennyroman.wordpress.com/2016/09/10/short-story-competitions-5-tips-for-success/

Best of luck!

 

Reflex Fiction – Flash Fiction Contest

Standard

If flash fiction is your thing, and you fancy having a go at a competition with some decent prize money, you could do much worse than trying Reflex Fiction.

Reflex Fiction is a quarterly on-line competition for stories between 180 and 360 words.  The closing date for the current contest is 31st May, and there’s £1,000 up for grabs for the winner (though the entry fee is fairly steep for a flash comp at £7). You can find the details here:

http://www.reflexfiction.com/flash-fiction-contest-schedule/

While the prize money might be one of the attractions, another great thing about the contest is that, after they have announced the long list for the current competition, they publish one story a day on the site working their way towards the final winner. So even if your story doesn’t make the final cut, there’s a chance it will be selected as one of the “almost made it” judges favourites.

Currently, the site is publishing stories from the Spring contest (which, incidentally was free to enter, though with a correspondingly smaller prize pot), and my piece Battered is today’s published story – you can read it here:

http://www.reflexfiction.com/battered-by-jenny-roman/

 

 

The Judging Panel – Hysteria 2017

Standard

Regular readers of this blog will know I love short story competitions. The demands of sticking to a specific theme or word count, the inclusion of a special word or phrase, or even just having the focus of a deadline can all help with motivation. In fact, sometimes the more restrictions that seem to be imposed, the harder your story-telling brain seems to work to come up with a idea which will fit the bill.

I’ve tried my hand at entering lots of short story competitions in recent years – sometimes I’ve been successful, sometimes less so. But I’ve usually found that the discipline involved in editing a story to suit the demands of a specific competition has helped me to improve on the original idea or draft.

It seemed an obvious next step to try my hand at judging. I’ve previously assisted with short-listing for a competition, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and so when the opportunity came to become part of the short story panel on the Hysteria UK 2017 writing competition, I jumped at the chance. Being one of a panel of five seems less daunting for a first timer too!

Of course, short story judging is subjective, so even though we have a clear set of criteria to use while we’re judging, I’m sure there will be pieces which impress me but do nothing for another member of the panel, and vice versa. Overall though, I’m confident we’ll be able to make a good decision. And during this process, we’ll have had the opportunity to read a huge variety of stories – from which I’m sure we’ll learn a great deal.

If you’re a female writer, writing in the flash fiction, poetry or short story genres, you have until 31st August 2017 to submit your piece – head over to the website for details:

https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/

If you’ve never entered a writing competition before, why not have a go at this one which supports the work of the Hysterectomy Association, helping women worldwide. There are cash prizes, and winners and runners-up will be published in the annual anthology.

And if you aren’t successful, it doesn’t necessarily mean your story wasn’t well-written or enjoyed by the judges. There’s still a story which sticks in my mind from my short-listing experience – the story in question didn’t make the final selection and, as it was judged anonymously, I have no idea who the author was, but years later I can still remember the quirky writing which I enjoyed tremendously. So keep writing, keep sending out your work, because there is an audience out there who will appreciate it.

If you’re interested in entering the competition, and want to find out more about the judges, they will each be interviewed in the coming weeks. You can read my interview on the Hysteria website here:

https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/2017/04/17/meet-jenny-roman-hysteria-2017-short-story-category-judge/

#Hysteria2017 Now Open for Entries

Standard

The Hysteria Writing Competition 2017 is now open for entries.

If you’re a female writer in any of the following genres:

  • short stories (up to 2,000 words)
  • flash fiction (up to 250 words)
  • poetry (up to 20 lines)

then this could be the competition for you.

The competition is run annually by the Hysterectomy Association, which provides information and support to women all over the world. They are looking for entries which appeal to their website visitors who are mostly women between 25-65. Stories should not be about hysterectomy itself, but can be in any genre except erotica or horror.

Entry fees are £3 per flash fiction or poem, and £5 per short story.

An anthology of winners and runners-up is published each year, so if you’re interested in entering, you can see what has been successful in the past.

For more information, visit the website: https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/

One Year On…

Standard

A year ago, I posted here about having lost my beautiful mare, Cracker, how hard I was finding adjusting to life without her – and how difficult it was to focus on anything, even writing.

Since then, a lot has happened (including a house move), and while I’ve been horse-less, I’ve definitely had more time for writing-related activities. On the non-fiction front, I’ve had my first full-length article published in a national magazine (equine-related, of course).  And on the fiction front, most excitingly, I achieved my aim to release an eBook short story collection on Amazon. (Two, in fact!)

I’m quietly proud of “Beyond Words” (the second of the two collections) as it brings together some of my favourite short stories, all of which have achieved competition success.  There’s so much to be gained from entering competitions – the discipline of meeting deadlines, word counts and themes can only help improve your writing, especially when it takes you away from your comfort-zone, and being short-listed, placed or commended can only increase your writing confidence. If you’ve never entered a writing competition before but would be interested in having a go, there’s a reference list at the back of “Beyond Words” which gives each of the competitions in which the stories were entered.

And a year on…  Well, I finally decided it was time to take on a new equine partner. This is Deemon Whirlwind, my new part-Arab gelding:

2017-03-20 17.11.13

2017-03-20 17.09.46

After 15 educational years with Cracker, I’m looking forward to an equally long and inspirational partnership with this handsome chap. And of course, I’ll keep you posted!

Erewash Writers Comp – Winning Entries

Standard

Last month I discovered I’d managed to place not one but two stories in the 2016 Erewash Writers open short story competition (cue slightly smug grin!). I’ve made it as far as the shortlist in past Erewash competitions, but to find this year that Resolution had been placed 4th, and Never Far From the Tree highly commended, was a real boost.

One of the nice things about Erewash competitions (as well as the fact they post the judge’s comments), is that the winning stories are published on their site: http://erewashwriterscompetition.weebly.com/winners-2016-open-short-story-competition-with-patsy-collins.html

If you enjoy Resolution and would like to read some more of my stories, don’t forget Raspberry Ripple is available free here: https://fictivedream.com/2016/11/27/raspberry-ripple / and if you’d like to read some others I’ve written which have been successful in competitions, you can find my ebook Beyond Words on Amazon, here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beyond-Words-short-stories-deception-ebook/dp/B01JWLPKW0

FINALBeyondWords

Hopefully the festive break will provide lots of reading (and writing!) time – and perhaps even a blog post or two. Until then, thanks for reading – and Merry Christmas! x

Erewash Writers – Competition Results

Standard

Results are out today for the annual Erewash Open Short Story competition, this year judged by Patsy Collins. It’s a particularly encouraging competition, as Erewash Writers have two classes of entry – for new writers and those who are more experienced (they give details of their definition of “new” in the blurb for the competition, but if you’re thinking of entering and are in any doubt, you can get in touch to check first). They also publish their longlist and shortlist, so you can chew your nails down to the quick before the results are announced! This year they had over 100 entries, of which 30 made the longlist. Twenty of these made the shortlist and went to judge, Patsy.

Congrats go to winner Tony Oswick, with his story Mackintosh Man’s Near Miss. Tony wins £100, which is a decent prize considering the very reasonable entry fees. I entered two stories, and was delighted to discover that one was placed fourth, and the other was highly commended. The winning stories will be published on the website in the near future.

For full details of the winners, and the judge’s comments, visit: http://erewashwriterscompetition.weebly.com/winners-2016-open-short-story-competition-with-patsy-collins.html

To find out more about Patsy Collins, visit her website here:  https://patsycollins.uk/

And to check for forthcoming competitions in 2017, go to:  http://erewashwriterscompetition.weebly.com/