I entered a short-story competition and…

c/o Foxtongue on Flickr

c/o Foxtongue on Flickr

And? Won? Lost? Read on! On December 17 I posted that a short-story I had published in August of last year on this blog titled ‘Coming Up’ was ineligible for entry in a writing competition because of its publication on this blog.

I then tried to make it disappear by making it private and hoping that Google would not be able to find it. But it has not been able to escape Google’s gaze even if clicking on the link takes the searcher to an empty page, this is still a trace that this story was previously published here!

But then it did not matter anyway because I discovered another site hosting a writing competition that did not mind, give two hoots and what have you, that a story had prior publication, at least online, print media was still not allowed.

Them being the Writer’s Village based in Leighton Buzzard, England. No significance to Leighton Buzzard rather some place names are just worth sharing! And indeed wherever you happen to be in the world this competition is open to you.

Writers' Village Web Page Banner

Their prize went by the name of ‘Best Writing Award Winter 2012′ and so I entered it.

It was the first writing competitoin I had ever entered.

Their remit was broad and to quote the site:

Any form of short story may be submitted up to 3000 words and in any genre (eg. mystery, romance, fantasy, crime, science fiction, children’s, etc).

Closing date was 31 December 2012 and having already a story complete it was just a matter of ensuring it was presented in the manner they required.

Entries were by Email and win or lose you would be notified of this by Email too. You would be so notified because all stories were guaranteed a critique from the judges. Another selling point to me – whatever the outcome we would not be ignored.

Having Emailed my story then came the twilight period of wishing and hoping and doubting and…trying as much as possible to forget the whole thing until that Email shows up in your Inbox. Of which we were promised this would be late January.

And Monday January 21 proved to be that day.

At the sight of this Email my body involuntarily braced!

And recoiled further when I saw I had been scored a 3 on one of the categories ‘Professionalism of Presentation’. I looked away, instantly forlorn. On casting my eyes back I then noticed this three was out of three and a sigh of relief followed!

There were five other categories and I scored as follows:

‘Unity of story form, incl. closure’ 6/8.  And that was my lowest category score. Looking good for my story?

The category allocated the most points was ‘Overall power to engage the reader, incl. use of conflict’ of which I scored 8/10.

For ‘Appeal of first paragraph(s)’ 7/8.

For “Originality of  story concept’ 9/10 – oh yeah!

And finally for ‘Aptness of language to story-line’ 6/6 giving me a total score of 39 out of 45. Enough to win?

The written conclusion they gave was:

A delicious satire on the vacuity of television shows, populist reviews and fatuous publishers! (Or is it a subtle lampoon of a political manifesto?).

So of course I won?!

They ended by saying:

You have an impressive gift for fiction writing and your work shows great competence. Merely address a few points of detail and you will be well placed to win a worthwhile award next time.

So no I did not!

The main point of negative criticism was that perhaps the story went on a bit. This I was aware of because this was my intention – I was making a meta-pont – no really! – that just as these TV product-touting shows can go on without end so my story! I Emailed this back to the judge who said he got that point but still thought I could have shortened my short story! He reiterated his praise though saying that ‘he thoroughly enjoyed it’.

All very pleasing and encouraging. Or perhaps not.

This particular competion also had a second cash prize. And further cash payouts for five shortlsited entrants. And yet further five highly commended entrants get a free entry in the next prize.

So with all the praise of my story I was still bested by another 12 stories.

I know that prizes have a lottery element. Consider a competition which attracts a low entry of one-hundred stories with just one prize. Your story has to be deemed in the top 1% to get that prize and 99% of you will get nothing!

And leave aside the subjectivitiy of the judges.

I am not discouraged though. I will enter further competitions and may submit Coming Up again. (I today made it public again, it may go private again but for now at least…!)

Indeed today I am finishing up a flash-fiction story of up to just 100 words for a Reader’s Digest competition with a £1000 cash prize. £10 per word! And this one is free to enter! But only open to residents of the UK.

Readers' Digest 100 Word Story

But in the future I will focus more on submitting my work to journals than entering competitions. Getting published in a journal is still a lottery but with better odds if smaller prize!

Oh and just to show how magnaminous I am, I provide a link to the winning story of the Writers’ Village ‘Best Writing’ Award, Winter 2012 Writing Competition.

It was titled  The Ghosties and written by Ellie Stewart. I enjoyed it very much.

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9 thoughts on “I entered a short-story competition and…

  1. That’s great! You did it, Sam. You’re very inspiring. Perhaps, I will give it a try. I am impressed that the judges provided you with so much feedback. For me, that would be worth it right there. Good deal! Good job, Sam!! I’d say you did quite well.

  2. This is an enormous result from your first comp entry ever. I’m glad for your perseverance, & that you found a comp that didn’t mind your story appearing on a blog once upon a time which is not here now today.

    This is so fantastic: CONGRATS :)

    The feedback was awesome. A few tweaks & you’re in it to win it.

    As for the 100 word – that to me is a challenge. So big good luck there :) ONYA SAM

    • Thank you Noeleen.

      Yes, that 100 word event needs to be exactly 100 words too! It may work out at £10 per word should you win but each word is taking me so much longer than I would usually spend on them!

      It is a great writing exercise though – making me really think about the words I use by just being able to focus in on what is in effect a few paragraphs.

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