Tag Archives: short story

Short Story Competitions: Making Your Entry Stand Out


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


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)


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


  • 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)


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


Best of luck!


Flash Fiction – One in a Million!


If you’re a writer of short stories or flash fiction, you may be interested in the “One Million Stories Creative Writing Project” at:


As their homepage states, “It is our mission to discover, select and showcase some of the very best new short fiction being written today, and then publish it right here for you to enjoy…”

They have a specific page dedicated to flash fiction, called The Sharp End and they have just published my 100 word piece, “Sunburn”:


The One Million Stories Project is open for submissions now. They are looking for anything between 50-5,000 words.  Check out their guidelines here:


And of course, if you like my flash piece, you might want to read my short story collection Beyond Words available here:



Writing Ambitions for the New Year


We’re five days into the New Year, so plenty of time to have broken a few resolutions if you made any! I tried not to, instead I’ve bought myself a pin board and have pinned up all my “To Do” lists and “Aims & Ambitions” so I can see them every time I sit at my desk. I’m hoping this will keep me focused. (I’ll let you know how that goes…)

That’s the other thing – I’m making an effort to sit at the desk every day and achieve something. (I’ve been doing this since before New Year, so I don’t think it counts as a resolution.) A competition entry, a sub to a magazine, an idea for a future piece, an edit of something previously abandoned. I’m aiming to find a home for as many stories as possible (and by now, there seem to be hundreds stored in my Dropbox files!). I also found out about the Pomodoro Technique last night on Twitter’s #writingchat – it’s a very simple approach to time management  which breaks down tasks into 25 minute chunks with an enforced break. I think this might work for me (as someone who is very easily distracted!). Find out more about it here:


I have, though, achieved one of my writing ambitions this week: I’ve had a mention on Shirley’s blog (Fiction Editor at The People’s Friend). My story “A Promise to the Past” appears in the first issue of 2017, and is the first story Shirley mentions in her “sneak peak” summary – you can read Shirley’s blog post here:



As you can see, the story is (as always) beautifully illustrated (by Jim Dewar), and my heroine is rather glamorous (I’m always a little startled by this!). Hoping this will be the first publication of many during 2017 – but it’s definitely a good start.

Anyway, my 25 minutes is up, so I’ve got to go! Happy writing…



Issue #70 of Scribble – Out Now


2016-06-13 20.27.38

The latest issue of Scribble was waiting for me when I got in this evening – and it feels like quite a bumper issue, with seventeen short stories, and two articles.  (And a very attractive cover design.)

One of the best aspects of this magazine is the feedback from readers – and in this issue, editor David Howarth, mentions that he’s had to allocate an extra page to accommodate all the reader comments submitted.

I’m a big fan of Scribble – not only because it’s a great platform for short story writers (both those new to writing, and the more experienced), but because David takes the time to give feedback on unsuccessful submissions.  It’s also very good value at £15 for an annual subscription (which includes free story submissions and competition entries).

You can find out more about Scribble and subscribe here. The annual short story competition is this year on the theme of “fear”.  Max 3,000 words.  Closing date 1st November 2016 – so plenty of time to plan your entry! ;0)






What’s different about the current issue of “Yours” magazine?


Well, apparently it’s the first time they’ve had a male celeb on the cover for ages.


And….ahem, I have a story in it!

Green Granddad

(This is a first for me in the actual magazine, though I do have a story in their current yearbook too.)

So, thank you to the lovely people at Yours.  🙂

In praise of the short story…


Today is International Short Story Day (http://www.internationalshortstoryday.org/) – a celebration of the recent resurgence in the popularity of the genre, and a shot in the arm for story-telling in general.

When I first started trying to write as a teenager, I was thinking only of the novel.  And I bashed out thousands of words on my old manual typewriter before giving up.  The problem with novels is they’re…um….really long.  And take ages.  And when you’re a teenager, you tend to run out of steam before you get to the end (or even the middle).

With an eye for publication even in those days, I started trying to write short stories because I noticed you could sell them to magazines.  Most of them came back (probably because I was attempting to write for the woman’s market without actually having been one yet!), but when I stuck to writing about ponies for children’s magazines, they sold.  So, for a while I was happy to concentrate on the short story.  At least, more often than not, they got finished.

At the start of the MA, I was once again focused on the novel, but material to be taken to workshop had to be necessarily of around the 3,000 words mark.  Rather than rack up gazillions of first-chapters-which-went-nowhere-afterwards, I started to concentrate once again on the short story.  And I find I’m now a real fan.  Not only does the format still appeal to the lazy-streak in me (and sometimes the buzz from finishing a short story is just what you need to give you a lift when the novel is stagnating), but there’s a beauty in the snap-shot structure of the short story which allows you to tackle different subject matter than you might with a longer piece of work.

And there’s now an even bigger plus.  While traditional short story markets (the weekly and monthly magazines) appear to be in decline, and few publishers wanting to touch a book of short stories (unless you’re already somebody), the advent of e-technology is giving the short story a boost.  Perfect for the e-reader, for that daily commute on bus/train/tube, there are now outlets for the short story which never once existed.

And I for one say hoorah to that.  😉

‘Out of Her Misery’ becomes a paid download


The team at Ether Books will be today converting ‘Out of Her Misery’ to a paid download – available to download to your iPhone for sixty-nine of your English pennies.

You can keep up to date with Ether’s news via Twitter (@etherbooks) and their website http://www.etherbooks.com/Default.aspx 

I don’t think I’ll quite be able to give up the day job on the back of the royalties – but hey, every little counts!  😉

NTU Creative Writing MA – Anthology Launch


Ore features short stories, poetry and script extracts from the students of the NTU Creative Writing MA course.  It includes my short story, Free Running.

The anthology will be officially launched on Wednesday evening – at 7pm, Antenna, Nottingham.  Entry is free and everyone is welcome.