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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
The 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.
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!
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:
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:
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/
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:
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!
Congratulations to Victoria Slotover, winner of the Erewash Writers’ Full Stop Short Story Competition, with her story The Water’s Edge. Whilst not placed, I’m delighted to have made it to the short list, so a big thank you to Erewash writers for organising. Click the link for the judge’s report: http://erewashwriterscompetition.weebly.com/full-stop-comp—judges-report.html
Assuming they survive the weather, Exeter Writers are now taking entries for their annual Short Story Competition. Details as follows:
“The first prize is £500, second £250, third £100, plus there is an extra £100 prize for the best story sent in by a writer living in Devon. The word limit is up to 3,000 words and the closing date is March 31st 2014. Stories can be in any genre except children’s. The full rules and a downloadable entry form can be found on our website at www.exeterwriters.org.uk or you can obtain an entry form by writing to: Competition, 202 Manstone Avenue, Sidmouth, Devon, EX10 9TL (please enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope). This year, for the first time, you can send your story by email, but you MUST go to the website for details of format and payment. Please read all the rules very carefully and stick to them. Every year a handful of entrants send faulty entries which are disqualified. This is heartbreaking and can easily be avoided by taking a little care.”
And rather more ambitiously, for those of you who’ve self-published a (paper) novel, you might want to take a look at The Quagga Prize for Literary Fiction. For details of conditions, how to enter and entry form visit www.quaggabooks.net
Good luck! 🙂
Following on from yesterday’s post, I discover, of course, that there is already a most excellent writing calendar on Sally Quilford’s blog http://writingcalendar.wordpress.com/ – this lists forthcoming writing competitions in closing date order. Brilliant. So that deals with part of my quest.
I still feel I should be thinking ahead and taking more account of festival dates, news items, literary promotions etc. And I’ve started adding these kinds of things to my electronic calendar (which has of course the bonus of being able to set reminders hours, days or weeks beforehand). But I’m quite a visual person, and still hanker after a big wall chart on which I could write (I know, write! how quaint!) important events, and see everything at a glance. It’s daft, because I don’t really have a spare bit of wall near my writing desk for such a year planner, but I still like the idea of one. (For one thing, unlike an electronic calendar, it couldn’t be wiped off by a piece of gadgetry malfunction!!)
So if anyone knows of a suitable wall planner which might be aimed at the creative writing community (or even a “writing diary” if such a thing exists), I’d be interested to hear about it. In the meantime, I’ll be adding e-notes nervously to my electronic calendar…!