I'm very pleased to announce I've been awarded second prize in the H. E. Bates Short Story Competition for my story Last of the Sand Dragons.
If you'd like to read the story, it's online over on the competition site, here, alongside the winning entry by Louise G Cole.
I've entered the H.E. Bates competition a few times, and I've been pretty lucky - the first time I entered I was shortlisted, the second time (in 2013, when it was themed rather than open) I bagged the top spot, and now I have a second prize to add to the trophy cabinet. I may be biased, but it seems like a pretty good competition - well organised, reasonably priced, and the top prize is a not-to-be-sniffed-at £500. 2015 was the eleventh consecutive year of the competition, although it was originally established in the 1970s.
This year the judge was the prolific writer and blogger Morgen Bailey. In her introductory speech, Morgen said she'd had a tough job deciding between the top two stories. As the eventual runner-up, I'm never sure whether this is a good thing to know or not! I guess it's good to be in contention for the main prize rather than being completely outclassed, but missing out by a whisker still feels a bit gutting.
Either way, I'm very happy to have finally scored a hit with Last of the Sand Dragons. It's a story I wrote quite a long time ago and it's been out to probably more than its fair share of competitions. It made it onto several shortlists and was highly commended in at least one, but never quite made it onto the winners' podium. In between each attempt, I'd always find something to change about the story - sometimes fairly big changes like taking it from first- to third-person perspective, or going from past to present tense, sometimes just minor tweaks to wording. I'm glad I persevered with it, as it's always been a story I thought was worth telling, although with effectively only one character and no dialogue, it was never going to be an easy sell.
There's always a feeling that you can over-edit a story, and I've had a few that have definitely started to come apart at the seams when I've tried to cut too much or restructure too radically. But sometimes, it's worth giving it just one last go...