The results of the Flash 500 short story competition have just been announced, and I’ve been waiting to see who’s won … not because I entered, but because I was the judge.
When you judge a competition you judge it blind, which means you have no idea who wrote each entry. You judge the entry, and assess its impact upon you as a reader, out of the batch you’ve been sent to adjudicate. So it’s always with excitement that I look to see who the writers are, when the results are finally published.
I thought I’d take the opportunity to repeat my judge’s report here, because you might find it useful to see why I chose the stories I selected as my top three (along with a Highly Commended). Writing something of 500 words is not easy. Not when it needs to be a complete story in its own right – not just an anecdotal observation. Writing a 500-word story is a brilliant exercise in writing succinctly, but effectively. And, as these entrants have learned, if you do it well it can earn you some nice money!
Last weekend was the annual NAWGFest writers’ weekend, full of fantastic workshops and talks. The highlight is the Gala Dinner on Saturday night when the women dress up and look absolutely stunning, and the men dig out an old shirt they once wore for work a few years ago.
It’s at this dinner that the winners of NAWG’s writing competitions are announced. Judges, like myself, have read all of the entries, cogitated, considered and then picked a winner and some runners up. However, none of the entrants knows which of them is the winner. All they know is that they’ve been shortlisted.
I’m in the process of judging a couple of competitions at the moment, and there’s one observation that’s really standing out to me: Entries way under the maximum word count.
All competitions set a maximum word count. Entries that exceed this are disqualified. I’ve seen a few competitions that also have a minimum word count: but not many. I don’t feel comfortable setting a minimum word count, because if you’ve got something to say, and you can say it successfully in far fewer words than the maximum, I don’t believe an entrant should be forced to ‘pad’ just to make it meet a minimum word count threshold.
I was recently interviewed by Helen Walters for her competition column in Writers’ Forum, and the piece has just been published in the July 2016 issue, out now. I thought I’d repeat some of the tips here, but if you can, do go out and buy the magazine for the full interview, and also because it’s packed full of other useful articles for writers too.
What do you look for, when judging a short story competition?
A student recently queried with me the value of entering competitions. What’s the point, because, in her opinion, she didn’t think her entry was of a good enough quality.
Well, let’s just hang on a minute there, shall we? There’s part of me that wants to remind entrants to ‘know their place’. You are the entrant. You do the writing and entering, and leave the judge to the judging!