Thursday, 20 August 2015

Competitions - Are they Good For Writers?
You may think that this is a strange blog post following on from the last one where I told you that I was going to concentrate on my novel from now on. No, I haven't gone back on my word and written any short stories but I have edited and tweaked a few for competitions. 

I was delighted to have been long-listed for the West Sussex Short Story competition. Unfortunately I didn't make the final ten on the short-list  but I feel that the story has been given enough of a stamp of approval to try it elsewhere if it fits the remit of another competition.

So are there any benefits for a writer to enter competitions? For me, there's a buzz of taking up a challenge to write something that may grab the attention of a first reader or judge. It may be a panel of writing club members who sift through the entries and then recommend stories to go through for a further reading. I learned this when I wrote a crime story when I knew the judge was a crime writer, only to find out that she would only see the shortlisted entries of which mine wasn't one! 

As the world's worst procrastinator, I enjoy the deadlines that competitions give me. Those dates are written in my diary with dates to remind me to finish edits and write final drafts. Competitions can stretch you as a writer and you may be writing about themes, and in forms of writing, you may never have considered before. I like, too, the anonymous aspect of competitions. The success - or lack of it! - depends on nothing but the words I have written and the story I have created.

Another benefit from entering competitions is that writers can learn from the feedback given by judges. Last year I was fortunate enough to have been long-listed in the Alfie Dog Short Story competition and the editor, Rosemary Kind's general feedback on the site was very helpful. We learned how the judging process was organised and what she was looking for in a winning story. 

'What set the better stories apart, more than anything, was the originality of their story ideas and the high level of reader satisfaction. Ideas were not contrived, but enabled the reader to suspend reality for a few minutes and enter a different world. Their characters were convincing and believable with a greater depth of emotion that touched the reader.This latter point is something you will see clearly if you read the winning entries.'

If you would like to read last year's winning stories, you will find them HERE 

With this in mind, why not enter the 2015 competition? The closing date for entries is September 30th so you have some time yet. 

1st Prize:

£200 AND Publication of a short story collection of 35,000 – 40,000 words with editorial support for completion

2nd Prize:

full critique of stories to a total maximum word count of 10,000 words

Entry fee – the download of 5 paid short stories by different authors (Purchase number required on entry)

You will find full details at Alfie Dog Fiction.

I'd love it if you would like to download any of my stories as your part of your entry fee. Here's the link showing you where to find them. Thank you.

Here is another exciting competition that caught my eye and may appeal to those of you who enjoy writing longer stories. 'The People's Friend' has launched a serial writing competition for those writers who haven't had a serial published in the magazine. In the current 'Writers' Forum', Shirley Blair, the editor, gives tips on writing a serial for the magazine along with writers who have had serials published there. The closing date for this competition is October 30th and full entry details may be found on www.the

So, there's plenty of writing to do over the next few weeks as well as moving on with the novel. 

Do you enjoy entering competitions? Which ones appeal to you and which ones would you recommend? Please leave a comment about your experiences and feel free to share your successes, too. It's always good to hear how other writers have fared.

Thank you for reading. You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

And now back to the novel....HONESTLY!


  1. Ha, Jan, you're as bad as me. I'm supposed to be working on the follow up to Hats. Love changes Everything, but I too am working on my Alfie story, and People's Friend serial as well. Hope I can get them done in time, so back to it. Great post, and good luck with the competitions.

    1. Thanks, Sue. Good luck to you, too. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.

  2. I have never entered any writing competitions, but I take your point about having to meet the deadlines. Discipline is always a good thing when writing. Also, I can see that competition writing would be a challenge, if you are required to write something that you wouldn't have thought of writing if left to your own devices. I imagine it must become quite addictive. But not so addictive, I hope, that your novel falls by the wayside......

    1. Yes, Sue, that's why I've decided to keep away from competitions for the time being. The novel has to take priority! I have some time before I enter these two, haven't I? Thanks you for commenting.

  3. Thought provoking post, Jan. AND spooky as you've just commented on my blog at the same time :) I am mulling over ideas for the People's Friend serial comp. To be honest I am really excited at having a go. I've yet to break into the world of magazines, even though I keep trying. Just not hit the mark, or my timing was off. What inspired me to enter was the interview with Shirley in Writer's Forum. Fingers crossed. Oh and by the way - I'm still trying to get my novel finished too. Let's aim for Christmas :) Have a great week and thank you for the download option. Looking forward to reading.

    1. Thank you for your comments, Nicola. I read Shirley's interview in 'Writers' Forum', too, and found her advice interesting and helpful. Good luck with your entry.

  4. I'd love to have a go at the People's Friend comp but, no, I mustn't! Like you, I'm trying to finish things before I start on any new projects. I've only entered a few competitions this year, but I haven't written anything new for them - just edited and recycled some of my previously rejected stories. Which is probably why I haven't won anything! But one did make a shortlist so that will definitely be polished a bit more and submitted elsewhere.
    But I do have an idea for a new story that I'm going to try for the Alfie Dog comp, if I don't get too distracted reading other people's stories that I'll be downloading for the entry fee!

    1. Congratulations on your short listing, Linda! You certainly should send it elsewhere after coming that close. I've had a story long-listed which will be fine to send into another competition once I've checked it and tried to improve it but another shortlisted one has been published on the website so I can't re-enter it anywhere.
      I can't see me having time for the serial competition even though I'd love to have a go. As well as the time issue, I missed getting the magazine last week for the entry form and can't see where I can get a back issue. Good luck with Alfie Dog. I'm working on a story for that at least. I like the sound of your last story with the twist in the ending as one of my downloaded stories for the entry fee.
      Thanks so much for leaving a comment.

  5. I've decided only to enter competitions where there is no entry fee, unless it is for a charity that I support. I enjoy the discipline of the deadline, but don't like paying to fail!

    1. I've made a rule that I won't spend more than £5 and the smaller competitions I enter at the moment are usually that or less. With the two I mention here, the Alfie Dog competition is just 5 x 39p to enter and the chosen authors benefit from a sale and the People's Friend one is jpnly the cost of the magazine to get the entry form. I take your point about 'paying to fail' but I treat it as a way of getting a variety of stories written to a time and word count deadline. Because I was so hopeless at sport, my philosophy was 'it's not the winning, but the taking part etc, etc' so perhaps for me this is the same. Who am I trying to kid? Of course it's the winning....and I can only dream, ha, ha! Thank you so much for popping by to comment!