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Short Story Winners 2020!

May 29th, 2020

First, thanks to Ryan for last week’s post. Getting to grips with selling your work online is more important than ever, but please heed the warning about some sites that claim to provide opportunities for freelances. Because you’re competing against so many other writers, the pay can be  terrible; or the arrangement is that you only get a few pence (or cents) if someone actually clicks on your content.

I know you’re trying to build up a profile and a body of work to show editors and publishers but always bear in mind the well-known quotation from Samuel Johnson: No man but a blockhead every wrote, except for money. You want to be boosting your bank balance as well as your credibility.

Now for some great news – the winners of our 2020 Short Story Competition have been announced. So congratulations to Jean Cooper Maran for her story “Walking Water” and the runners up Jim Goodman, Caroline Slater and Colin Watts. I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading all of them, but while you’re doing this, try to work out what it is about them that makes them winners. If you study our brief critique of “Walking Water” and then try to do the same for all the stories it should give you an insight into why they’re successful and what really makes a first-class story.

So, that’s the winners dealt with, but what about the hundreds of other entries we received this year? I find that there are often themes that repeat themselves, and this year was no exception.

It was definitely a competition of two halves. There was a distinct change in mood between the stories we received when the competition first opened and those that came in after the real threat of the pandemic became obvious. The stories definitely got more reflective and sad, but few actually dealt with Covid as such. Social distancing had not started to make its mark; so it’ll be interesting to see how the ‘new normal’ is reflected in next year’s entries.

As usual , there were plenty of stories about old people dying – some were unloved and lonely; some were looking forward to meeting up with those who had passed away before them. So, perhaps a topic you might want to avoid unless you can come up with a very original angle.

Two other themes were popular this year. The first was online dating for older people.  And by that I mean people that were notionally in their 40s to 60s. But what amazed me was how unrealistic many of them were. The characters held hands over tea-room tables and considered a trip to London as an adventure. Prior to Covid, that age group would have been far more at ease in a wine bar or trekking in the Andes. But, who knows, we could now get a return to socially distanced tea-room romances.

The second one was retired couples where the wife wanted to travel and do exciting things but the husband just wanted to mow the lawn or watch TV. And I can tell you, those husbands didn’t fare well at all! They were bumped off in their droves and the insurance money used to fund trips to -you’ve got it – the Andes (or somewhere equally exotic).

Finally, something I repeat every year. There were some beautifully written experimental stories. But ultimately if they don’t tell a story they are just doing literary tricks for the sake of it. Read the winners and you’ll see how you can combine beautiful, imaginative writing with a solid plot that takes the reader on a journey and leaves them satisfied.

So, enough of that. Our 2020 Poetry Competition is now open. Full details of how to enter and the great prizes on offer are shown here.

My guest next week is Writers Bureau tutor, Colin Bulman, who will be looking at the topic of ‘Quest Fiction’.

Author: Diana Nadin


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About The Author: Diana Nadin

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