Sunday 3 February 2013

It's All About the B's, Baby

I noticed just about everything I was going to talk about today began with B. I don't know if that's significant.

Probably not.

The website for the H.E. Bates competition has now been updated with the winning stories, so you can read my story, "A Walk at Midnight", as well as the story in second place, "A Walk at Midnight" by Jeremy Smith, and the third-placed, "A Walk at Midnight"by Samantha Priestly. Also, check out "A Walk at Midnight", by Linnea Feldman Emison, the sixteen-year-old winner of the under-18's competition. As you can probably tell, this was a themed competition with a given title.

Recently I've been looking at upcoming short story competitions, trying to plot my way through the next few months. With the aim of working on my novel, I am planning to take a more strategic approach to producing short stories, writing fewer but ensuring they are more targeted. It doesn't hurt to aim high, so the first competition on my list is the BBC National Short Story Award. It closes on 11 March, allows a word count of up to 8000 words, and offers a quite astonishing first prize of £15,000. You need to have at least one story published (in print) to be eligible to enter, but it's free. It's a very long shot, but even getting on the shortlist would be a remarkable achievement.

New kid on the block, the Bath Short Story Award joins a growing band of writing competitions based in southern towns/cities that begin with B. For a newbie, it seems well-established, with a good website and a decent set of prizes up for grabs. The word count is up to 2200, and the winning stories will be chosen by Helen Corner and Ayisha Malik of Cornerstones Literary Consultancy. Closing date is 30 March.

Now into its sixth year, and seemingly improving each time around, the Bristol Short Story Prize is a competition with a great heritage and excellent prizes. I have entered three times, and as yet I haven't even made the shortlist. The anthology in which the winning and short listed stories are published is beautifully produced and in itself is a reason for entering the competition with your best story. They've upped the maximum word count this year to 4000, and the closing date is 30 April.

I doubt Bridport requires an introduction. It enjoys a near-mythical status as the short story equivalent of the World Cup. It's talked about in hushed, reverent tones, and the stories of agents beating a path to the doors of those who've won prizes there seem to have more than a grain of truth at their hearts. I deliberately didn't enter last year - I didn't have a story strong enough, and I'd left it too late. In the past I've sent stories that I didn't have a lot of faith in, just for the sake of not missing the opportunity. I was wasting my time. The popularity of Bridport means your story has to stand out among thousands, and it has to win over several levels of volunteer readers in order to get anywhere near the shortlist. To do this, you get up to 5000 words (there's also a 250-word flash category) to wow the judges, and you have until the end of May.

This works out at approximately one short story per month. I think that's realistic, although I guess there's only one way to find out...

Don't forget!
I'm judging the Erewash Writers' Group Flash Fiction Competition. Up to 500 words themed around "Start" - it could be the start of something, a couple trying to start over, a car that won't start, you name it. It's free to enter, you can win a copy of Somewhere to Start From, and the winning story will be published on the EWG website (global exposure for your work!). The closing date is 21 March 2013, so get going! I listed a few tips on how to make your story stand out, HERE. Good luck!


Rachel Fenton said...

My competition addiction is somewhat curbed this year by low funds. I need to make some money...Ibut a win would do that!

Good luck to you, sir!

Chloe said...

I liked your story :) I've always liked your stuff, but there's a definite new tightness to your writing that has brought it up a level I reckon.

I'll probably only write a couple of shorts this year too. And I think I'm going to go for at least one biggie - Bristol probably. Might as well! And you definitely should after your recent successes!

Patsy said...

Good luck.

I've already entered a couple of the competitions you've mentioned.

Dan Purdue said...

Rachel - Thank you. I guess it's a matter of speculating to accumulate; it's just it can be a hard decision to keep speculating if the coffers are running low. However, with your talent I'm sure a prize can't be too far away. Good luck!

Chloe - Thanks! I've tried to be a lot stricter with my editing recently, aiming to get away with leaving as much out as possible. If the writing sounds tighter, it must be working. Bristol's a good one to aim for - I don't think it'll be long before it's snapping at the heels of Bridport in terms of prestige. Good luck!

Patsy - Thank you. Very organised of you to have sent entries off already! Good luck.