Eye catching beginnings and anonymous characters

My first tip for short story competitions this month is true of all short stories, and that is to start with the action. There isn’t time in a piece of fiction that might be, on average, around 2,500, or even as short as 500 words, to do a page of scene setting or character description. The reader has to know straight away that there’s a problem and what that might be.

Notes I made on a competition I judged a few years ago highlighted the problem of many entries opening with descriptive narratives. Some of the main characters also started their stories engaged in some activity that wasn’t relevant to the plot. An example of this was an entry where the first two or three pages described a plane trip. It had nothing to do with the main conflict in the story, which came in about half way through. Needless to say it didn’t make it to the longlist.

Another problem I found in a couple of stories was that I had no idea the main characters were women until the second page. For some stories that might be done on purpose to provide a twist, but that wasn’t the case with these entries, where I suspect the authors simply forgot to give us any clues. This meant that as a reader I couldn’t picture them so couldn’t engage with the story. Likewise, main characters often remain accidentally unnamed, especially if the story is in first person. This is easy to remedy if there is another character talking to them who can use their name.

Whether you have a go at some of the many short fiction competitions this month, or the two novel competitions, good luck. And don’t forget to let us know of any successes.

 

Click May 2019 and June 2019 to check competitions detailed in past blog posts that are still open.

 

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Rolling Competitions

 

Writers’ Forum Short Story Competition

Theme: Open. 1,000 – 3,000 words

Prize: £300 / £150 / £100

Closing date:  Rolling

Entry: Subscribers £3 / Non Subscribers £6

Details

 

 

September Competitions

 

Stroud Book Festival Flash Fiction Competition

Theme: Open. 500 words max

Prize: £500 / £250 / £100

Closing date:  22 September

Entry: £5

Details

 

Retreat West Flash Fiction Competition

Theme: Water. 500 words max

Prize: £200 / 2 x £100

Closing date: 29 September

Entry: £8

Details

 

The Galley Beggar Short Story Prize

Theme: Open. 6,000 words max

Prize: £2,000 / Shortlisted £150 / Longlisted £50 book vouchers

Closing date: 29 September

Entry: £10

Details

 

The Short Story Competition

Theme: Open. 1,000 – 5,000 words

Prize: £500 / £100

Closing date:  30 September

Entry: £8

Details

 

Flash 500 Flash Fiction Competition

Theme: Open. 500 words max

Prize: £300 / £200 / £100

Closing date:  30 September

Entry: £5

Details

 

 

October Competitions

 

The Virginia Prize for Fiction

Theme: Open. Completed, unpublished novels for Adults or YA, at least 45,000 words.

Prize: Finalists will receive editorial guidance and conditional publishing deal from Aurora Metro books

Closing date: 1 October

Entry: US$20

Details

 

Mighty River Short Story Contest

Theme: Open. 30 pages max

Prize: US$1,000 plus publication in magazine

Closing date:  1 October

Entry: US$20

Details

 

Moon City Short Fiction Award

Theme: Open. Collection of short fiction, 30,000 – 65,000 words in total

Prize: US$1,000 plus publication by Moon City Press. Ten finalists will also be considered for publication.

Closing date: 1 October

Entry: US$25

Details

 

Wilda Hearne Flash Fiction Contest

Theme: Open. 500 words max

Prize: US$500 plus publication in the magazine.

Closing date:  1 October

Entry: US$15

Details

 

The Raven Short Story Contest (opens 1 September)

Theme: Open. 250 – 2,500 words

Prize: Can$300 plus publication in the magazine

Closing date:  15 October

Entry: Can$20 ($15 before 15 Sept)

Details

 

Ibiza Quills Black and White Compilation Competition

Theme: Ibiza. 2,500 words max

Prize: €100 / €50 / €25

Closing date:  21 October

Entry: €12

Details

 

Tulip Tree Genre Story Contest

Theme: Open. 10,000 words max

Prize: US$1,000

Closing date: 23 October

Entry: US$20

Details

 

Retreat West Short Story Prize

Theme: Open. 1,500 – 5,000

Prize: £400 / £250 / £150 / shortlisted £20

Closing date:  27 October

Entry: £10

Details

 

Flash 500 Novel Opening Chapter and Synopsis Competition

Theme: Opening chapter up to 3,000 words plus a one page synopsis

Prize: £500 / £200

Closing date: 31 October

Entry: £10

Details

 

 

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Francesca Capaldi Burgess has been placed or shortlisted in a number of competitions including Winchester Writers’ Conference, Twyford Writers, Chorley & District Writer’s Circle, Retreat West, Cordelia.net, Meridian Writing, Flash a Famous Phrase, Wells Festival, Writing Magazine and The People’s Friend serial competition. She’s had stories and a serial published in magazines worldwide. Her first book, Danger for Daisy, was published by My Weekly Pocket Novels at the end of 2018. Apart from the RNA, she’s also a member of the Society for Women Writers and Journalists. Francesca runs a writing blog along with RNA member Elaine Roberts called Write Minds.

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