I’ve had an email from Alex Black of PrintExpress.co.uk. Following on from their previous successful poetry competition (which I mentioned on this blog some months ago) they are running another FREE poetry competition to win £100.
Alex describes the competition as follows:
Have you ever tried writing in a coffee shop?
I fancied myself as a J.K. Rowling sort of writer – scribbling away in the corner of a cafe, far from all the domestic distractions and guilt trips (like ironing, kitchen cleaning etc). So when my daughter bought me a Costa Coffee gift card I decided to indulge my fantasy.
11am on a Friday morning and the cafe was busy but I managed to find a nice little table hidden away at the back – just right for me, my latte and my notebook. I had a few sips of coffee, found my pen and started to write and that’s when I noticed the noise level. All around me were groups of women yakking at the tops of their voices (or so it seemed). I’d never noticed this decibel assault before (probably because I’m usually one of those yakking women when I go out for coffee!) It was impossible to stop myself tuning into what they had to say:
“That’s Mark’s ex. Now he’s with the one with the crooked eye.”
“They stitched her up so the baby couldn’t come out and now she’s nearly 2 weeks overdue.”
“She was sick at the altar whilst she made her wedding vows.”
At home I write in silence with not even the radio on for company so all this was hard to take but I did eventually manage to tune out and write.
The next problem was – how long can you sit with an empty latte glass in front of you without feeling obliged to buy another or leave? It was a situation made worse when the waitress whisked my glass away leaving me with nothing – but she completely ignored the tables of women who’d been there much longer than me. So I gave up and went home.
Would I try coffee shop writing again? Yes – I’ve still got £7.65 left on my gift card and it was good to get away from the PC and back to pen and paper. But I’ll try to go when it’s not so busy next time and have a pot of tea – so it’s not so obvious when I’ve finished & the waitress won’t whisk it away!
Where do you prefer to write?
If you’re struggling with a story, agonising over an article or gnashing your teeth about the novel, why not take a short break to recharge your batteries and have a go at some flash fiction instead? Spending a short time playing around with just a few hundred words (or less) will get the brain cells working again, send you back to the magnum opus refreshed and also give you that lovely satisfied feeling that comes from finishing a piece of work and submitting it.
Flash fiction seems to be growing in popularity and here are just a few of the competitions and markets for it:
Flash Fiction World runs quarterly FREE to enter competitions – plus the site contains details of other competitions and helpful advice for the writer.
Emerald Writing Workshops runs quarterly 500 word story competitions with cheap entry fees – I’ve extolled the virtues of Eddie Walsh and his competitions before, so I won’t go on and on again.
Real People Magazine pays £25 each week for a 60 word story – most of which tend to have a twist in the tail.
And don’t forget the ‘Win a Book’ competitions which appear each month in Writing Magazine. They usually ask for around 250 words on a particular theme. I find them great for kick starting the grey matter and for trying a genre I might not otherwise consider - I recently won the ‘Paranormal’ competition and have had a go at ‘Pitching a SitCom’. These competitions are a quick and easy way to step outside your comfort zone.
If you know of any other extremely short fiction markets then let me know – I’m always looking for reasons to deviate from my current project!
What motivates you to pick up a pen or put fingers to keyboard and write? Is it the hope of riches and fame? Is it the need to communicate your thoughts and opinions to others? Or is it because those ideas buzzing around in your head won’t go away until they’ve been captured on paper? Or may be just because you enjoy it?
I expect most of us write for a combination of these reasons. Riches and fame might be at the back of our minds but we know that penning a bestseller is as likely as winning the lottery, so money alone is rarely the primary reason for becoming a writer – but the odd cheque for a story, article or reader’s letter certainly helps the enthusiasm levels!
As well as the ‘grand motivation’ for writing, we all make smaller motivational decisions over each piece that we decide to write. For instance when you decide to enter a particular competition – is it because the prize is good? Or is it because it’s smaller competition and prize, so therefore there’s a greater chance of winning? Similarly, do you only write when you have known publication or market to target? Or if an idea pops into your head do you get working on it and worry where to send it later?
Long ago I learned that it’s virtually impossible to make any sort of living from the written word so I suppose I must write because I enjoy it – although most of the time it just feels like hard work! I like the satisfaction of completing and submitting a piece, along with that surge of hope that this could be ‘the one’ that successfully hits its target.
As far as the smaller motivations, I only write if I can see where I can submit the piece. But my chosen market doesn’t have to pay a fortune (I might choose differently if I didn’t have a ‘proper’ job and therefore relied on writing for an income) - I prefer to have a greater chance of small prize/payment than a smaller chance of a bigger pot of money.
Sometimes it’s not the ‘carrot’ that’s important – it’s the need to show those that have made fun of our writing ambitions that they are wrong and that we can write well enough to be published. John Malone discusses this ‘negative’ motivation on his blog here.
So, why are you writing?
Helen Foley has been in touch from MULTI-STORY.co.uk to tell me about the current short story competition that is running on the site.
She says, “It is for an open-themed story of no more than fifteen hundred words, the entry fee is £5 for one story or £8 for two and the closing date is 30th April 2012. There are cash prizes of £300 for first place, £100 for second, £50 for third and the winning entries will be published on the site. The judge is the author, Jim Williams, whose ten novels, including the Booker Prize nominated Scherzo, have all been internationally published.”
Entry fees are payable via PayPal and submission is by email. Full details are on the website along with a few words from Jim about what his is looking for in the winning entry.
He says, ‘A prize-winning entry will show a knowledge, and understanding, of what makes a short story work. I’ll be looking for a distinctive voice, sharply drawn characters and the best possible use of language. Any dialogue should be engaging and appropriate.’
As well as being a successful author, Jim also has a brilliant sense of humour. Take a look at his blog post, Why I am Glad I’m a Writer and not a Plumber - I challenge you not to laugh!
So maybe a slightly humourous story might be a winner in the competition…
It’s a nice prize pot so, Good Luck!