Diary of a Writer – April – Helping Others

ADJUDICATION WOMAN’S SHORT STORY – SCOTTISH ASSOCIATION OF WRITERS

Margaret McConnell Trophy

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.

Looking For:

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.

Dialogue:

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.

Scene-setting:

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.

Anne

 

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