Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

600pix-red-rose-flowers-bouquetDos and don’ts of entering a writing competition (plus local literary info)

Hastings Literary Festival has just launched its writing competitions for this year and there are many more. It’s a chance to have your work evaluated and hopefully, you might win a prize – money or  publication. Angela J. Phillip investigates the dos and don’ts of how to maximise your chance of success.


banking-business-checklist-commerce-416322Do choose your competition carefully.
Have a look to see what your chances are of winning. If you choose one of the biggest, most prestigious ones then the competition will be intense. A slightly less high profile competition, for instance, with a lesser prize might give you a better chance.

Do check the theme.
What are you being asked to write about and for what age group? If you write children’s stories, for example, then a competition for a science fiction story for adults is unlikely to suit you. In some respects, a writing competition is like an exam. If you don’t answer the question, you won’t get any marks – no matter how brilliant the answer. You should check this before you start writing and then again after you’ve finished before your submit your entry.

Do check the rules.
Seems obvious but it’s so easy to get carried away and forget to do it. Most competitions have age restrictions, for example, but there may be other restrictions, too. Place (e.g. only writers based in Wales), ethnicity (e,g, BAME writers only), experience (e.g. previously unpubished) – the list goes on. You need to read the rules.

Do check the prize.
Is it a prize you want? To win any writing competition is good for your street cred but there may be some prizes you value more than others. Is the publication that is offered on a website or via an anthology, for example? If the prize is mentoring, is the mentor someone who would be appropriate for your needs?

Do edit your work thoroughly.
To have a chance of winning, your work must be the best that it can be. It’s no good thinking that you can polish it up later. There won’t be a later.

Do research the judge
Who is the judge? Do you know her/his work? Have a look at the judge’s own novels to get an idea of what s/he might be looking for. Read about her. What are her views? If this doesn’t fit with what you value, it’s probably a good idea to look for another competition.

Do read winning entries.
What standard are you up against? Have a look at the entries that won last year and the year before. This will give you an idea of whether you have a realistic chance of winning.

Do be careful with timing.
I am grateful to the Old Town Writing Group for this piece of advice. It’s to do with when it’s the best time to submit your entry.

Put yourself in the position of the judge/s. There are possibly hundreds of entries coming in for you to read. Will you read them all at once or as they come in? Obviously this will vary from judge to judge and although it might be fairer if all the entries were read at the end, it might not be practical to do so. In that case, it is probably better to avoid the beginning and the end of the submission period.

This reminds me of assessing MA theses – sometimes it is easy to make judgements about which is better or worse and allocate a grade – but not always. Sometimes the subject matter and style can be so different from one to the next that judgement becomes difficult. A long time ago, I wrote a paper called What makes a good piece of writing? I remember it still. I had been hoping that the research I was doing would identify certain key components of writing in order to set up marking schemes that would help teachers. Not so. It turned out to be much less straightforward than I had hoped. A naive question that generated complex but interesting results.


Don’t send an entry that is above (or substantially below) the word count.
A couple of words over the specified word count can disqualify your entry. It’s no good thinking that the brilliance of your piece will grant an exemption. Your piece will not be read. Submitting an entry that is substantially below the word count won’t disqualify you but will lead the judge to look less favourably on your work.

Don’t enter your story for more than one competition at once.
You can enter your story in more than one competition only if you’ve checked that the rules for those competitions allow you to do so. If the rules are not clear on this point, you should get in touch to ask.

animal-africa-zoo-lion-33045Don’t be depressed if you don’t win.
You are the richer for having written it and there is always another competition. Or you can submit it for publication elsewhere. Or you could get together with other writers to produce an anthology that could be self-.published on Amazon.

Why I haven’t
This is the second post I’ve written on writing competitions.
Time for full disclosure.
After the first one, I gathered myself together and entered a novel writing competition. After I’d submitted my entry, I saw that it was going to take months before the results would be available. I read in the rules that I couldn’t enter my novel elsewhere or publish it so I wrote and withdrew from the competition.

Why I will
Listening to my fellow writers and those with more experience than I have has convinced me that it’s worth a try.

Why we all should!
Writing competitions chosen with care are opportunities like low hanging fruit waiting to be plucked. Opportunities to meet a new challenge, to be brave, to get published. Not winning isn’t failure, it’s the road to success.

Please see details of writing competitions based locally in the section below.

For more writing competitions, please see the following:
Writing competitions – Creative Writing Ink
The Big List of UK Writing Competitions – Neon Books
The best writing contests of 2020 – Reedsy

Previous post on writing competitions: Why not enter a writing competition?

Thanks to The Old Town Writing Group for information and discussion on writing competitions.

top pic – Lum3n at
other two pics – Pixabay at
News & Events

Hastings Literary Festival launches writing competitions 2020. Please see website for details.

Thursday 12th March 7 pm – Write Night – A Writer’s Journey with Sam Dvey and Chrissy Hamar-Brown hosted by Wayne Herbert on behalf of New Writing South Tickets £5/£3 see details

Thursday 19th March 6 pm – Sheer Poetry at Bookbuster’s 39 Queens Rd, Hastings £3 on the door

Wednesday 1 April  6 – 7.30 pm Reading & music from Clive Parker-Sharp’s novel ConeBoy at Printed Matter Bookshop 185 Queens Rd, Hastings TN34 1RG

Coming soon – Staglit Tuesdays at the Stag Inn in the Old Town 6.30 – 8.30 pm  Monthly . Starting date TBA (previously announced as starting in April but taking time to set up). This is a chance for writers to read short extracts from their work and sell their books – and for readers to listen & comment. If you are interested in attending these events and/ or you would like to read from your work, please contact Angie and you will be included on the email list.

CALL FOR EVENTS INFO – please contact me directly if you would like your event to be included in the HOT weekly Bookchat column. Please write to Angie

Writing Competitions

Short Story

Hastings Literary Festival 2020
Short story – up to 2,500 words see website for details.
BAME short story – up to 5,000 words (BAME entrants only) see website for details.

Hastings Writers’ Room. Theme Misrepresentation (1,500 words) deadline 30 April 2020. Fee £6. First prize Gold membership of Retreat West (worth £100). Please check rules and conditions at Hastings Writers’ Room

Early Works Press. Short Story competition. Entry fee £5 per story up to 4000 words. £10 for over 4000. Maximum 8000 words. £200 first prize. Deadline 31 October 2020. Please check rules and conditions at Earlyworks Press.

Flash Fiction

Hastings Literary Festival 2020
Flash fiction up to 500 words see website for details.

Hastings Writers’ Room. Flash fiction five/ twenty-nine – submit FIVE stories, each with max 29 words, deadline 31 May 2020. Fee £7 for five stories. First prize Gold membership of Retreat West or cash alternative £100. Please check rules and conditions at Hastings Writers’ Room

Early Works Press. Flash Fiction competition 2020. Max 100 words. Deadline 30 August 2020. First prize £100. Please check rules and conditions at Earlyworks Press.


Hastings Literary Festival 2020
Poetry – up to 40 lines see website for details.


Writers’ Groups

Hastings Writers’ Group meet fortnightly on Mondays 7.30 – 9.30 pm at the White Rock Hotel. Membership is subject to vacancies and costs £80 per yr (or £40 per half year). For more details please see the website.

St Leonard’s Writers  meet on Wednesdays 1 – 3 pm at St Ethelburga Church in St Saviours Rd. There is a small joining fee and weekly contribution (see website for details). Contact person: David Edwards For more details please see the website

Shorelink Writers meet most Monday evenings between September and July  in the Tesco Community Room, Tesco Extra, Churchwood Drive, St Leonards-on-Sea, TN38 9RB. Small donation for each meeting. Membership is subject to vacancy so please get in touch first. Contact /
For more details, please see the website.

The Literary Shed Writing Circle
Weekly. Thursday, 10–12. Café sessions free. Workshop: £8
Contact: Aruna – e:

Old Town Writing Group meet Wednesdays 4 – 6 pm in The Stag Inn, All Saints St, Hastings Old Town. Free. For more details, please see the website.

CALL FOR WRITING GROUPS & BOOKGROUPS TO GET IN TOUCH – Do get in touch if you would like your group to be listed each week in this Bookchat column. Please write to Angie


Bookbuster 39 Queens Rd, Hastings
Go to Bookbuster’s Facebook page to see more.

Printed Matter Bookshop 185 Queens Rd, Hastings TN34 1RG
Please see Facebook page for more details of these and other events.

The Bookkeeper Bookshop 1a Kings Rd, St Leonards
Come and look at the Bookkeeper Bookshop Facebook page to see more.

The Hare & Hawthorn Bookshop 
51 George St, Hastings Old Town
For more information see the Hare & Hawthorn Facebook page

600pix-AJP-sky banner-squashed

Hi there – as you can see  from the above, the banner is still the same. Think I’m going to stick with it for the time being.

Writing a Series
This brings its difficulties as well as its rewards.

Series Title – should it be longer or shorter? I chose shorter. Have finally settled on Daniela Hoffman – book 1, book 2 etc. so it’s the Daniela Hoffman series. For a long time, I considered The Dani Connections.

This is what inspired the theme of connection that runs through the series:

“Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.”
– E. M. Forster, Howards End

Daniela can read minds although her skills are patchy and she often misinterprets what she hears. In fact, in book three Daniela Hoffman is Not Stupid, she largely loses this ability due to things that have happened to her, but later on, she regains it. Her mother and one or two other people can do it, too. They can connect and ‘reply’ and that always feels like a joy even though the thought messages are often prompted by a need to connect rather than merely a desire. And there is always room for misunderstanding.

Animals can usually connect more easily than people. When she is small, Dani has a close connection with Snowy, a labrador retriever who provides fun and comfort. I had not intended having a dog in my stories. Snowy was intended originally as a very minor backdrop to family life but to Daniela, he was important so he had to be there. Dani’s connection to the dog is important.

I’d better stop rambling on about Dani or I’ll never get these books published.

I went to the Old Town Writing Group last Wednesday (for more details, please see Writing Groups section above) and hope to go again this week. What a pleasure it is to get together with other writers. I read an extract from my book 2 Getting Left Behind and received useful comments that helped me make a few changes and hopefully improve the beginning of the book. I’m about to upload it ready to send off for a proof copy. I’ll post a pic when it arrives. Publication gets ever closer (can hardly breathe).

Thank you to those of you who have signed up for the Newsletter. It means a lot to me. I can keep in touch to let you know what I’ve been thinking about, what holes I’ve fallen into recently and how I got out of them (or if I’m still there). I’m particularly grateful to those of you who wrote to tell me what you were working on or what you were reading.

Please see:  Please sign up for the emails – the Newsletter signup form is on the right-hand side as you scroll down.

Comments and suggestions on anything and everything are always welcome.

Thanks so much for reading.


Angela J. Phillip

Posted 09:00 Tuesday, Feb 25, 2020 In: Hastings Bookchat

Also in: Hastings Bookchat

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