ADJUDICATION WOMAN’S SHORT STORY – SCOTTISH ASSOCIATION OF WRITERS
This post looks back to what I did in February and early March. Looking at the file this morning, I see I wrote over 13,000 words between the adjudication overview, below, and the individual critiques. It took a wee while. In addition, I evolved a workshop which was attended by 15 writers on the Sunday morning of the Fiftieth Anniversary Conference.
I hope you’ll find the general comments of interest, readers and writers.
Adjudication delivered on Saturday 23rd March 2019
It has been a great pleasure to read the 47 entries in the category, Woman’s Short Story.
I was entertained by a wide variety of subject matter. There were single ladies in search of love. There were ladies fleeing from broken relationships. There were a few children causing heartache and occasionally mayhem. Of interest to me was the high number of entries with a touch of the supernatural. There were stories reflecting the electronic nature of our lives – be that the internet or the mobile phone. There was loyalty.
What was I looking for? Entertainment, emotional sincerity, strong characterisation, careful plotting, historical accuracy where relevant and impeccable editing.
What did I Find?
Overall the MSS submitted were short stories. However, there were two I thought would work better as articles and one as a sketch. There were another couple I thought were either literary type stories or more suitable for a general market such as The Weekly News or perhaps competitions run by the writing magazines.
The standard at the top of the competition was high and I think it might be helpful to indicate some general issues I encountered. Matters that might help you move out of the bulk and onto the shortlist in another competition.
Please read in your market. Studying any woman’s magazine will demonstrate that the short stories are dialogue heavy. Properly used, dialogue enables the writer to dramatize scenes, to show characterisation, to get the thoughts of characters other than the ViewPoint character onto the page and to move the action along. Improperly used, dialogue might have two characters telling each other things they already know – in the story world of which they are a part – in order to tell the reader those facts.
The entries included several with excellent dialogue but also some with poor dialogue and some with virtually none.
The word count for this competition was 1,000 – 2,000. Therefore, it might be a mistake to use 500 words to set up your story. You the writer need to know what has brought the VP character to this point in time when the action starts, the reader doesn’t. It’s an enormous temptation to set out the VP character’s problem and then write a 2-page flashback explaining how the problem came about. Please resist that temptation and feed the information into your story, bleed it in as the action progresses.
To a lesser extent, but nonetheless important, were two other issues. In a short piece, it can be a mistake to split the VP. In a novel or novella you have more leeway to tell the story from opposing points of view. In a short story, the reader likes to know early on who they’re rooting for. Finally, the computer is our friend, but we need to use it with care. Have you altered a sentence? Did you check the surrounding ones to see whether their content is affected by that change? I encountered a few misplaced articles and verbs of the wrong tense. There were also a few stories where the layout was in need of attention. Again, check printed work.
The overall Winner was Linda Brown of Ayr Writers. Linda is an unpublished writer at present, but I cannot think that will be the case for very long.
The Scottish Association of Writers is an umbrella organisation for writing groups thorughout Scotland and their website is here.
Have you enjoyed any competition success recently? Drop by and tell us about it, please.
How do you self-edit your books before submitting or publishing? This is the question Rhobin asked us to consider in March.
Self-editing is a complex process and I’ve taken a few days of thought to work out what I might say here.
I have a degree in English Literature and Language and very good language and editing skills – BUT, I’m not perfect and I HAVE NO ILLUSIONS that I might be.
Without or before outside editorial help, what can one do?
RULE No ONE:
Always, always, leave the work to read again. Short articles or blogs, irritated letters to your publisher – you might get away with an overnight gap. Anything longer, a minimum of a week. The reason for setting a MS aside is that you come back to it with the eye of a reader.
RULE No TWO:
Put into Find and Replace a hair colour or the words green/blue/grey eyes in the hope your inability to remember the hero/heroine’s hair or eye colouring will have remained consistent throughout. In my case, it won’t. While you’re doing Find and Replace check out your word tics. My major one is redundant ‘thats’. Great way to reduce a tight word count.
RULE No THREE:
Write out a timeline for all the major characters and find out whether two of them have slammed a door, fallen off a horse, whatever. Good plot ideas have a tendency to hang about.
In General, I start each day with a read-through. Of a novel, this will be from the top for a while, but eventually the words have piled on and time doesn’t permit. I do benefit from the red spelling warnings, but find the purpley ones hinting at grammar issues less useful.
As regular visitors know I’m in a group called Capital Writers. One of our members, Jane Riddell, has produced this helpful guide – Words’worth
I wrote the bulk of Bella’s Betrothal during my one stint in Nano-Wri-Mo. The advice was to avoid self-editing in order to get the word count up and the words on the page. It was quite a departure to normal practice for me, but that book is full of energy. It has also been edited by me and by the wonderful Judy Roth.
Fellow Robiners are listed below and perhaps you’d like to pop across and read their thoughts. Tweets and FB shares really appreciated, folks.
I’ve left the household to themsleves on the domestic front and will be at the Scottish Association of Writers weekend school when this post goes up. Apologies if it takes me a while to get back to your wonderful comments – How do you cope with self-editing?
So, having started the most recent novel idea something like four times, I may just have to concede it’s flawed and work on another. Not everything in one’s brain is going to win a trophy.
In the meantime, I’m clearing stacks of paper, research material and ephemera in quantities, rather large quantities, from the study. My tidy-minded husband may feel moved to award a trophy for these efforts. On the other hand, he may just appear with a further roll of bin bags.
In the, other meantime, I’m writing short stories. Wonderfully satisfying to craft a complete something.
Courting the Countess has possibly come to a library near you. If not, it’s available on amazon here.
Having bought it some time ago, I’m just starting to read Helen Forbes’ second Joe Galbraith novel, Madness Lies.
Why have I waited so long? (Research for City of Discoveries, ed.)
Okay, folks. Hope your own ideas are flourishing and not languishing.
With 2nd March on the cover, The People’s Friend serial I spent so much of last year researching and writing reaches its 8th and final instalment. When my subscription copy came in last Saturday, I greedily raced through the closing scenes and yet again shed a tear over one of my characters. But don’t panic, folks, nobody dies.
Don’t know whether any of you take The Weekly News, but I had my first short story for it, Trouble in Store, published in the 23rd February edition. A mere 1200 words, it was incredibly satisfying to write.
This month is devoted to an adjudication for the Scottish Association of Writers. I’ve made excellent progress partly due to being confined by an horrendous cold. Will be sending the results in this weekend and have done all the critiques. Next up is planning for the workshop I’m offering at the conference. The written word crafted to be spoken is my favourite type of writing.
Looking ahead, I’ve been asked to speak at an event marking the 150th anniversary of the Church of Scotland’s social care body. Now known as CrossReach, it provides many services for the ill and vulnerable.
1869 was some year!
Currently re-reading The Unknown Ajax by Georgette Heyer and loving it all over again. what are you reading?
The topic for this month’s round robin is an opinion on love, sex, and relationships in books. What seems acceptable? Is it necessary in a story? And what goes too far?
For a variety of reasons, I’m not included in the official list of contributors this month. I have been reading some of the posts and I discovered I wanted to say something – hence these quick few words.
Jane Austen is one of my favourite authors and so is Georgette Heyer. Neither writer majors on sex. They both write about relationships and about love – quite often familial love/loyalty. It would, however, be a great mistake to suggest the sex isn’t there.
One of the sexiest moments in television adaptations has to be the one where Captain Wentworth assists Anne Elliot into his brother-in-law’s open carriage. The pressure of his hand in the small of her back and the reactionary embarrassment from both him and her are moving beyond words.
Who needs a biology lesson?
I don’t think my books make it into the ‘sweet’ romance category, but they contain little to make anyone blush. Mariah Fox might develop a sever dose of hayfever, though, when her would-be husband fills her house with summer blooms as part of his campaign to win her hand. Like many a Heyer heroine, Mariah’s sparring battle with Tobias conceals a blossoming romance that leads to Mariah’s Marriage.
I hope you’ve all been enjoying my City of Discoveries, the Anniversary serial commissioned to mark the 150th anniversary of The People’s Friend magazine. Instalment 7 is out on Wednesday.
That’s it, folks,
Ta Ra! Delighted to reveal Linford Romance Library’s atmospheric cover for their large print edition of Courting the Countess, published today. Complete and unabriged, it makes a comfortable handful – they sent me some some author’s copies.
You can get it from your library and discover how Melissa fares in Regency Edinburgh.
From the cover:
When Melissa Neville, widowed Countess of Pateley, suffers life-threatening injuries in a fire, no one expects her to survive long. However, despite her disfigurement, would-be suitors have been a constant intrusion, all of them hoping to get their hands on her fortune before she expires. Then one night, in the privacy of her bath, she is abducted without explanation by Colonel Harry Gunn and his steward Zed, who specialise in medicine and seem to want to help her. What is their real motive – and can Melissa hope to love again?
It is of course still available from Endeavour media for your kindle here.
The range of books available in large print is testimony to the ageing population and the market responding to their needs. My late mum loved to read and enjoyed many books across a wide spectrum of interests. We were always appreciative of the library editions.
I’m really busy at the moment reading the entries for the Scottish Association of Writers’ women’s short story competition. I won the competition last year – I may just have mentioned that in passing previously – and it’s such a privilege to have been handed this task.
If I had a pic of me in a green eye-shade, I’d post it. I haven’t. How about this one created by my friend, Miranda?
Warmest congratulations to the team at The People’s Friend as it reaches its 150th anniversary – a noteworthy moment.
Jennet, Hetty, Carrie, Elspeth, William, Thomas, John, Harold, Phemie, Mr Souter and Drew Fleming were people I spent a lot of time with last year. They are the central characters in the Anniversary Serial I wrote for The People’s Friend magazine to mark its 150th year of publication.
And also many thanks to the fiction team for inviting me in. My editor, Alan Spink sent a query e-mail in March. It was a total surprise filling me with excitement and dread in equal measure: what an honour to be asked: what a responsibility to carry. Of course, I need not have worried as the editorial support for which the magazine is known among its writers was there for me throughout. Alan in the forefront, but fiction ed, Shirley Blair adding her Dundonian voice and Magazine ed, Angela Gilchrist pointing things out when the three of us might have let our enthusiasm outstrip our writerly antennae. (Really? Ed)
1869 is a year rich in happenings if you want to write something for a woman’s magazine. My first synopsis was liked and commended, but rejected on fairly straightforward grounds. It wasn’t set in Dundee.
Cue a huge learning curve helped along by the work of Judith Flanders, Lynne Wilson and Norman Watson. The serial is not history or documentary, but it is informed by the histories written by these people about life in London, Edinburgh and Dundee for the poorer class of person.
The serial, CITY OF DISCOVERIES, is fiction and I hope you’ll join us over the eight weeks and read the stories of my lovely characters. I’m looking forward to having them arrive in my life again every week.
Having just returned from a delightful walk in the grounds of Dalkeith Palace, I was thinking about my Bella. Her story opens in an inn situated on Dalkeith’s High Street. Within hours, she’s travelling along Charles Street to her aunt’s house in the then fashionable George Square.
While Edinburgh remains the city of my heart, I do have some news I’m holding tight about another one. You’ll have to check back to find out what it is, but then that’s what writers do, isn’t it? Tease a little.
Other things coming up in January include the adjudication of the Scottish Association of Writers’ Women’s Short Story competition. I’ll be delivering my decision at their annual conference, the 50th, in March, but the hard work starts this month.
Together with Kate Blackadder, Jane Riddell and Jennifer Young, I produced Capital Writers’ Christmas Stories. Four short stories on the themes we might associate with Christmas.
To complete a trio of great books for your kindle, Capital Writer, Jennifer Young is offering Blank Space at 99p for a limited time.
i look forward to bringing you up-to-date on my exciting, if embargoed news, really soon. Happy New Year, lovely readers, ANNE
From Capital Writers to our readers a free copy of Capital Stories for 5 days over the pre-Christmas period 20 – 24 December inclusive. Enjoy a moment with stories by Kate Blackadder, Jane Riddell, Anne Stenhouse and Jennifer Young. All set in the Scottish capital and varying in style and tone.
Happy Christmas reading,
This month Rhobin asked us to share a bit of writing, a short story, or a piece of Flash Fiction that encapsulates the spirit of the season. As it happens, happenstance, I have a Christmas story in Capital Christmas Stories, published yesterday and available here.
Capital Writers is a group of four Edinburgh based writers who work to support and encourage each other. Writing is a lonely business sometimes and it’s good to know there are friends like Kate, Jane and Jennifer, around.
My contribution to this little book is Christmas Witches and here’s a wee snippet:
Dropping down the hill from the closes and pends of the heaving Old Town to the braw wide streets of the New, was no easy task in the gathering gloom of Christmas Eve. Jeannie stayed by her side and Liza was grateful for the girl’s silent presence. Strathven’s mansion in Heriot Row would be ablaze with lights and full of his gathered kinsmen and their families. How would she gain access when the lady of the house had come to her secretly and was perhaps already lying-in.
“We must go into the lanes around the back, Jeannie, and see if we can work out which entry is Lord Strathven’s.”
“Aye, Mistress, the steward’s no going tae open the door tae jist anybuddy, is he?”
“He is not, and nor should he. But we have an ally. We can ask for Mistress Gowans who was with Lady Margaret when she came visiting,” Liza said. The voices in her head were little calmed by her tisane and she longed for the support of another practitioner. She wondered if throwing Ragnall MacLeod out without hearing his arguments had been precipitate.
The mews behind Heriot Row were active. Grooms and their families bustled about in the narrow confines. Liza smelled the wood smoke and horse manure, the ordure running in the central gutter and the tang of blood. No doubt the maisters had brought meat from their estates to make a Christmas feast for the workers. Unheeded in their down-at-heel garb, the women moved forward.
So, is it Christmassy? You, the reader, must decide, but I, the writer, wanted a birth, the included and the marginal, the stable and the Grand House. For a limited period Capital Stories, our earlier volume, may be free to download.
In other news, I have a Biggy coming in January, check back for details.
Other Christmas Robins can be found below. Drop by for some wonderful reading. Season’s Greetings to you all, Anne
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Anne Stenhouse https://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
A.J. Maguire http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1qI
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com
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