Attend to the Obvious

Our 11th Award ends next Monday, 15th April and if you are a Last Minute writer, like I am when I enter competitons,now’s the time you might be looking over your story. Although I am a regular competition entrant, I don’t always attend to things I should before sending off the entry. Here’s a list for you to look through, if you are like me and would like some quick obvious reminders

1. Check through the rules. You might think you remember them from previous years, but you might not. And rules change. We don’t accept stories in ‘pages’, for example. But authors still send stories in that format. Although it isn’t in the rules, (that might change next year), we don’t like submissions in Word doc (the very old version of Word which was discontinued in 2007). Also, in previous years, some people have confused our word limit with that of the Bristol Prize, which isn’t closing at the same time as us this year. So we’ve received many stories way over the 2200 word limit.

2. Try a different angle if you are using a very common theme (dementia for eg) and add more layers for interest. I was pleased to have my flash fiction story ‘What’s it All About’ published in Fictive Dream in February. It’s certainly about someone losing their memory but there are other things going on. Fresh new subjects of course, are always of interest.

3. Sensory details always deepen a short fiction and can make it seem longer than it is. If your story is set in a wine bar/grocery in Geneva as in the picture here, add the smells, the visuals, the sounds of jazz playing etc.

4. Make some radical cuts. In her guide book on writing flash fiction, Going Short, Nancy Stohlman suggests cutting a story in half and then cutting it in half again. There’s a very interesting example of one of her short-short fictions in the book, which gets the chop in this way. You might find you like one of the new versions better. Or not. But it can help you find any baggy parts.

5. Beginnings and ends. I very often find the first paragraph of an early (or much later) story draft can go. Also the final sentence.

6. Titles. Not too generic. One word titles can be great and still intrigue. But we’ve often mentioned titles that come up again and again in competitions. Like ‘Flight’. ‘Metamorphosis’ is gaining popularity too.

7. Finally, typos. We are forgiving of small errors. Most readers in competitions are. Which is a good thing becuase I invariably miss something myself. It is always better, of course, to have a perfect copy. You all know what to do here. Other readers, including the faciltity of word processing programmes, spell checkers etc.

If you are about to enter, thank you very much. We really appreciate everyone sending stories in. Best wishes for your success!

for Bath Short Story Award, 8th April, 2024