Markets For Writers

As many of you know, I have a passion for flash fiction so, when I saw the advert for this writing competition, I knew I had to share it with you:

Competition: The Writers Bureau Flash Fiction Competition

Word count: up to 500 words

Closing date: 30th November 2017

Prizes:

1st: £300

2nd: £200

3rd: £100

All prize winners also receive a Writers Bureau course of their choice and their story will be published on the Writers Bureau website.

Entry fee: £5 per entry, or three for £10

For further details, visit the competition page

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don't

 

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Funny Of The Week/Silly Signs Part Three

My latest series is all about double meanings. If you missed them, here are part one and part two. Now for part three; I don’t think any explanation is required…

pants

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Writing Workshop…Top Tips

Now for the fifth instalment in my writing workshop series. I’ve covered the short story ending as well as the opening.  I’ve guided you through dialogue and focused on the importance of taking time to do things properly. This week, it’s a competitions refresher:

I’m A Winner!

 

Type ‘writing competitions’ into your search engine and pages and pages of numerous competitions appear before your very eyes. Poetry, article writing, short stories, novellas and flash fiction to name a few; there’s a competition for any and every type of writing. But exactly what is the attraction of competitions and are they worth entering?

One of the attractions of competitions is that they’re great fun to enter and if you are named as a prize winner, there’s no feeling quite like it. Many competitions have cash prizes and of course, there’s the prestige that’s associated with a competition win. It’s something to put at the top of your writing CV and it can lead to other work. Many competitions also publish the winning entries in print form; in a magazine or anthology, while others publish on the internet. Some organisers also provide a critique to any entrant in exchange for just a few pounds. This can be invaluable as all too often editors reject our writing with no hint of why our precious piece of work isn’t suitable.

Big or Small

Some competitions offer small prizes, for example £25 cash as a top prize or a book token, while others offer an eye-catching first prize of £1000. If you are a beginner, it’s often best to start small and work your way up. The bigger the prize money, the more entrants there are likely to be and you will be competing against the best. Most importantly, a win is a win, whatever the competition.

Think outside the box

Competitions allow writers to stretch themselves and to write something that doesn’t fit neatly into a mainstream publication. Writers can push the boundaries and absorb themselves in something fresh and new. Open theme competitions obviously offer the writer a chance to write about a theme of their choice, within reason. For example, an entry of a racist nature wouldn’t be favoured by a judge.

Other competitions have a set theme such as writing a ghost story or a poem about winter. In others, entrants are given a setting or an opening line. Even though entrants are required to write something within these boundaries, you still need to think outside the box. For instance, one of the competitions where I was named as a prize winner had to feature a librarian. When I first considered what to write about, a stereotypical image of a librarian came to mind, complete with a quiet library full of books. I knew a judge wouldn’t want to read numerous entries of this nature. A judge wants to read something unexpected, exciting and compelling. So I started to make a list of things you wouldn’t normally associate with librarians and libraries. My prize winning story featured a siege, which took place in the library. This obviously stood out and caught the judge’s eye.

Read previous winning entries

It really is worth taking a little time to read previous winning entries. What made them stand out? Did the writing flow from one image to the other? Did the story urge you to read on to the very end? Or in the case of poetry, did the winning poem follow a set form? How did the poet make sure every word counted? Some competition organisers write reports on the winning entries, highlighting exactly what the judge was looking for and why the winners ticked all the right boxes.

Read the rules

Some competitions have a few simple rules to follow, others’ rules seem endless. Whichever, they are, the rules must be adhered to. For example, if the rules state that an entry must be the unpublished work of the entrant, it really means that the work cannot have been published before. If it’s discovered that your entry has appeared in an issue of last year’s local paper or in an old short story magazine, your entry will be disqualified immediately.

Word/ line count

This is always stated in the rules and is a strict rule to abide by. If the competition requires a maximum of 40 lines of poetry, it’s no good sending in 41 lines. Why should you be allowed an extra line?

No mistakes

Checking your work through is vital. If a competition judge has to decide between two entries, both with brilliant storylines, but one with mistakes and the other without, the prize is likely to go to the one without the mistakes.

Presentation

If you send an entry in with the typing slanting upwards, splodges of ink dotted over the crumpled pages and faded words here and there, you’re obviously not concerned about your sloppy presentation. Such an attitude will put a judge off.

So take a look at the competitions advertised online and see if a competition theme inspires you or a previous winner’s entry sparks off an idea. It won’t be long before you’re the one saying. “I’m a winner!”

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Love…And Hate…

And here’s another piece of flash fiction for you:

Destruction

I touch his face, my fingers caressing his lips, catching on a ragged ridge of chapped skin. I press my own to them, tasting the tang of tears as they cascade down my cheeks. I drink in his warmth. Or what’s left; it won’t be long before his lips mirror the hue of a bloated blueberry.

“Don’t go. Don’t leave me.” My fists fly, pounding his chest, pushing him away.

Something shiny claims my attention. Silver. Then red. Blood red.

“I didn’t mean to…” I whisper. “You were going to leave her. For me. You shouldn’t have changed your mind.”

***

Buddha

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Funny Of The Week/Seriously Silly Signs Part Two

As I explained last week, my latest series is all about double meanings. If you missed part one, click here. Here’s part two…

Leak

Posted in humor, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Writing Workshop…Top Tips

Now for the fourth instalment in my writing workshop series. I’ve covered the short story ending as well as the opening and last week I gave you a dialogue refresher course. This week, it’s all about the importance of taking time to do things properly: 

Top Tips…

Don’t Become A Sloppy Writer!

 

Writing is a little bit like driving – when you’re learning, and first starting out, you’re full of enthusiasm and keen to get everything just right. Then, once you pass your driving test, ‘mirror, signal, manoeuvre’ soon goes out the window and before you know it, you’ve picked up numerous bad habits, which can cause all sorts of problems.

It’s also easy to pick up sloppy habits in your writing. Whilst these won’t have as serious a repercussion as poor driving may, they’ll certainly reduce your chances of having your work published. Here are some common bad habits you could find yourself falling into and how to avoid them:   

Market Research

When you first start writing, you know you need to analyse your target market carefully in terms of readership so you know who you’re writing for, the length of articles/stories the publication uses, the type of article/story the editor is likely to accept, the style you need to write in etc. Perhaps you make a careful record of everything you need to know, or you make mental notes as you study the market carefully.

Fast forward a few months/years and it might be the recorded research notes that go out the window first and soon you find yourself just quickly flicking through a publication to get the general gist of what they’re looking for. You might even dispense with that. Perhaps you’ve been published by them before and feel certain you know exactly what they’re looking for. But, even if you have, if you don’t look at your market carefully, how will you know that the slot you wrote for last time has been replaced by another? Or that the magazine no longer publishes stories shorter than 1500 words? Send in an article aimed at an old slot in the magazine or a story of 1000 words and the editor will know you haven’t bothered to take look at the magazine. It doesn’t look very professional, does it? 

Thorough market research is a must.

Use the editor’s name

At the beginning, when you’re still in the habit of carrying out thorough research, finding out the name of the editor you need to address your work to is pretty straightforward – it’s usually found just inside the front of the magazine where most have a short introduction from the editor. So that’s great, but if you’re writing something for the same publication a few months or even much longer down the line, that magazine will be out-of-date. The editor may have changed. Do you keep your fingers crossed and hope the editor is the same or do you just address your covering e-mail/letter ‘Dear Sir/Madam?’

It doesn’t take five minutes to put a call through to the editorial desk to find the information you need. It shows that you have taken an interest in the magazine and that you have made an effort to find out the right name. ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ or ‘Dear Editor’ looks like you can’t be bothered.  Even worse is to address your e-mail/letter to an editor that left three years ago. If you can’t be bothered with the editor and his magazine, why should he be bothered with you and your work?

Accuracy

Facts and statistics are used in articles all the time. They often enhance an article, adding authority to it as well as interest. But those facts have to be right. You may have a deadline you need to meet, or it might be Friday afternoon and you want to get your article off before the weekend. That final piece of vital information could be proving to be elusive but you have a reasonable idea of what the figure/date/place/person is, so what do you do?

Even if it means a delay in submitting your work, you must check anything you’re not 100% sure about. An editor won’t thank you for making him look silly with information that’s incorrect and he’s unlikely to accept anything else from you again.

Check, check and check again

How important is it to send an error-free script? Some publications demand one and if your script is full of mistakes it’ll be rejected. Others are more lenient but it’s best not to wait and find out.

Put your work aside for a few days, then print it out and read it aloud. This is an excellent way for showing up any missed words or for highlighting a sentence that doesn’t sound quite right. Any omitted full stops or speech marks are also easy to spot this way. A script peppered with simple mistakes is sure to get the editor’s back up.

By e-mail or post?

More and more publications are accepting work by e-mail but some still prefer postal submissions, especially from someone writing for them for the first time. Even if you have had a few pieces published by a magazine, if they ask for submissions to be sent by post, send your work by post. You could always send a query e-mail asking if they’d be prepared to accept future work by e-mail. If you just go ahead and send your full piece by e-mail, the editor may have a policy where any submission sent this way is automatically deleted so you could find your work isn’t even looked at.   

Exclusivity

When you write for a specific magazine, you only send your work to that publication. But some editors take months to come back to you. This is so frustrating. From past experience you know how difficult it is to get your work published, so surely it’s okay to offer your work to several magazines at the same time? If you’re lucky one magazine might take an interest. But what happens if, say, three editors want to use that one piece of work? You will have to turn down two and those two editors won’t be very impressed. You may have something else to offer them but they won’t put their trust in you again.

Becoming a published writer on a regular basis isn’t easy but it’s possible; as long as you don’t take shortcuts, you’ll be giving yourself every chance.

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Tommy’s Tale

I’m slowly getting my writing mojo back, with a penchant for flash fiction at the moment:

Tommy

Coats: pink, blue, yellow, green and others every colour of the rainbow covered the pegs. All except one. Tommy Brown, outlined in bold black letters, stood above the empty peg. His blue coat wouldn’t ever rest on the orange hook again.

Inside the classroom children chattered, their hands plastered with splodges of paint; others had fists full of sticky play-dough and a few concentrated on wooden puzzles. They longed for playtime, to roam free, to drink the refreshing milk and chomp on their piece of fruit. Most preferred a biscuit, but Mummy always said fruit was better for you. They knew otherwise, but Mummy was always right.

Something was wrong. Today, something was different.

‘Where’s Tommy?’ Madeline spoke first.

A gasp. All eyes turned to the pretty young girl.

‘I want to know where he is. He’s my friend. We’re going to get married,’ she continued.

‘No, you’re not! He’s going to marry me!’ Rachel’s eyes were full of hatred.

The sound of sobbing stopped the girls in their tracks.

‘Miss? What’s wrong? It’s something bad, isn’t it?’ a tear rolled down Madeline’s cheek.

Miss Woods battled for strength. She couldn’t tell them. They wouldn’t understand. How could they, when she herself didn’t.

‘He’s gone to heaven, hasn’t he? Everyone goes to heaven,’ Madeline walked over to her teacher. She placed her arms around the older woman. ‘It’s okay, Miss. He told me where he was going. He said that thing…cancer, I think it was. He said it would take him away to heaven one day.’

Miss Woods looked down at the little girl, blonde pigtails hanging down past her shoulders.

‘It’s all right, Miss. He wasn’t scared. He was happy. He wanted to go so he wouldn’t hurt anymore.’

Miss Woods walked out to the cloakroom and stared at the empty peg. She pulled at the sticker, ripping the nametag in half. Another child would soon take his place, a new coat would stand proudly on the peg.

She smiled through her tears. She felt as if she were the child and Madeline the adult, telling her all would be well. She looked out the window to the sky, a silent prayer for Tommy now at peace in heaven.

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Happy

 

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