Another author you wish you knew – Peter Astle – answers the question: How do you feel about writing contests? Have you entered any competitions?
“I entered the Great Clarendon House Writing Challenge with no thoughts of winning whatsoever. As a subscriber to the Inner Circle Writing Group Magazine I thought I’d give it a go.
I’ve entered writing competitions before without much success, but this competition interested me because we were to be given specific ‘challenges’ as the competition progressed.
We were promised that the challenges would become increasingly more difficult for those who made the next round and I wanted to see how far I could go.
I’m a fan of Roald Dahl’s short stories for adults and, as such, enjoy writing twist endings.
My first contribution was ‘Donors’, where the characters talking on a hillside turned out to be dogs, reincarnated from people who carried organ donor cards.
The second challenge was to write a western set in the 1800’s story in exactly one thousand words. This stumped me for quite some time. I’m from the UK and have never read a western in my life. I did some research, read some Louis L’Amour and visited online western sites and gradually got the feel for the old American west. Not confident with gun slinging lone cowboys, I chose a travelling piano player as my lead character who happened to be a hustler with a wooden leg. The twist at the end – which I won’t reveal – possibly got me into the grand final with Julie Eger and David Bowmore.
The final challenge was a one-thousand-five-hundred word story in the Regency style of, say, Jane Austen. This was a real challenge for me as I’d never read Jane Austen and I had no idea when or what the Regency period was.
Google came to the rescue. I was amazed how many sites there were about the Regency period. I read some Jane Austen and discovered that the ‘style’ seemed to be extremely long sentences and paragraphs with lots of semicolons. The characters were predominantly the British upper classes, Lords and Ladies, the situations seemed to be affairs of the heart and the settings were lavish.
Although we were allowed to write in any genre – so long as it was in the Regency ‘style’ – I chose to set my piece in the early 1800’s.
I discovered scandal magazines were all the rage––as were masquerade balls––at the time, so I combined the two and wrote ‘Masquerade’ for my final entry. The first draft was not very good as I put in too many characters. Eventually I thinned it down and was happy with the story and the twist ending, but the process took me right to the wire.
Both Julie’s and David’s final entries were excellent.
Voting was extremely tight and I was lucky enough to win by a couple of votes.
Obviously, I was over the moon. Like I said, I’ve not had great success with competitions in the past.
It was a great writing journey. What I learnt most was this: when you’re in a competition like this one where you have to submit something within a short period – two weeks – you make damned sure you DO submit something – good or bad. You can’t not submit something, so that pressure drives you.
I wish I could be as disciplined with all my other writing projects.”
To read Peter’s winning stories you can subscribe to The Inner Circle Magazine at this link: https://www.clarendonhousebooks.com/inner-circle-magazine-subscribe-pag