At the beginning of this year I set myself the task of reading more books considered ‘classics’ in order to widen my literary knowledge and improve my writing skills. After asking a friend and colleague for book recommendations, I have made it to and finished the modern classic and short story, ‘Heart of Darkness’ by Joseph Conrad. Previously, I had never heard of Joseph Conrad, so I decided to do some research about the author.
Joseph Conrad was born in December 1857, he was a Polish-British writer who was granted British nationality in 1886. Many of his works feature nautical settings which is not surprising considering Conrad expressed a desire to go to sea and spent time working on French merchant vessels before joining a British ship as an apprentice.
The ‘Heart of Darkness’ explores the effects of European imperialism and colonialism in Africa, both for the African people who lived there and the Europeans who were sent there as part of the now, illegal, ivory trade. Conrad writes from read more
Outlet Publishing and their team have kindly asked me to help judge their short story competition, and even though I haven’t written a short story myself, yet, and I’m certainly no expert. I am an avid reader and I have been through the writing and publication process, so I do feel in my humble opinion that I have a basic understanding of what works and what doesn’t.
Over the past two months I have read dozens of entries written by young, hopeful candidates. Some have been very good, others not so, but as the entries have been piling up around me I have noticed similarities and reoccurring patterns. The same mistakes have been cropping up again and again, and there appears to be a preference towards particular genres and themes. The latter is neither strictly bad nor good, but the former is most definitely bad. With this in mind, I am going to share with you some insight into what I feel short story competition judges are looking for, and hopefully help you and your short stories shoot to the top of the winning pile.
Tip Number 1: Read The Rules.
This may seem obvious, but make sure you read the competition’s specifications, rules and guidelines. I don’t know if it was because candidates couldn’t be bothered to read the rules or if they simply misread them, but a couple of the short story submissions I have recently received didn’t sit within the required word count. Judges may be able to forgive a word count that falls 10% above or below the maximum and minimum requirement, but if your story is more than 10% above or below then don’t submit it. Also, some competitions state a specific age range or country of residence, so make sure you read everything carefully before submitting your work.
Tip Number 2: Quality Over Quantity. read more