A lovely member of the NaNoWriMo Manchester group brought the Costa Short Story Award to the group’s attention recently. I have to confess, I’ve only ever entered one short story competition ever. To my credit, I was shortlisted. Which, for my first competition, was kinda awesome! This was a good couple of years ago.
I’ve not written a short story in a while. My mind is full of The Trilogy right now. Luckily, the deadline isn’t for the competition isn’t until September 7th (and I already have a fortnight’s warning written in my diary) so I have time. But, if I can’t come up with a new idea, I have a whole bunch of short stories I’ve written over the years. I know I can pick one to edit/re-write. I may even go with the story which has been shortlisted once before. It must’ve had some sort of potential, right? It could do with a bit of work on it though. I glanced through it recently and some of the punctuation made me cringe. (“I put a comma there?” and other such thoughts.)
It’s strange how your writing mind changes. I used to write tons of short stories. Since I left university, I haven’t written any. (Of course, I used to have to write short stories for my Creative Writing portfolio for my degree…) And I graduated 4 years ago. The fact that I know I haven’t written a short story since then without even looking through my files says everything. I think it takes a different mentality to write a short story than it does to write a novel. You have to set up background, characters and a plot in a much smaller space than when writing a novel. I feel it’s a whole different talent.
Aside from my shortlisted story, I remember being proud of one other short story that I wrote in university. I wrote a quick horror which I set on campus. It involved a power cut and murders. A couple of members of my creative writing seminar expressed their horror at it, announcing I made them nervous when walking across campus at night. (I admit, it was awesome to know I had that sort of power. Mwahahaha! *cough*) My tutor didn’t like it, though. She actually suggested to end it with “it was all a dream.” I nearly threw a book at her.
Writing competitions (I believe the term in the business is “comps”) are something I’d like to go for more often. They tend to be aimed at short stories, though. But if you have the text, go for it! There’s plenty out there. I used to follow a website which listed writing competitions and e-zines and magazines which were looking for submissions. It was awesome! Unfortunately, it seems to have shut down. Well, it’s website says “temporarily unavailable” and I haven’t been on in a while, so they could be doing something technical with it. It’s here http://www.literaturetraining.com/ if you’re interested in keeping an eye on it.
If you do hit the competition scene, make sure you read the terms and conditions for each individual competition carefully (make note of any submission requirements such as font and spacing) and be aware that some competitions charge an entry fee. Set yourself a limit of what you’re willing to pay to enter and stick to it. Be wary of any which charge an excessive entry fee for a little or no prize.
Click here for the official website for the Costa Short Story Award: http://www.costabookawards.com/short-stories.aspx.