Spare a thought for the dutiful team at Online Writing Tips who’ve been bingeing coffee in a bid to meet their midnight deadline to publish this year’s longlist. With more than 600 entries to debate, selecting our favourite 10% has been fraught and exhausting. But we’ve made it, just.
We’ve picked a longlist of 70, which is actually more like 11%. We could have picked any of several hundred high-quality stories, so commiserations to those who didn’t make the cut this time. These decisions are subjective, and luck plays a big part too; it always seems to me that if the previous story made the list then the next story up for consideration is at a disadvantage. You need a lot of skill to be placed in a writing comp, but you need a bit of luck too. In that way, I guess writing comps are more like poker than chess.
Anyway, congratulations to the following authors, listed in alphabetical order by surname. Next up, we’ll be narrowing this esteemed field down to a shortlist of 12, which we’ll publish on Monday 9th July.
The 2018 OWT short fiction competition is now closed for entries – thanks so much to everyone who has submitted their work. We’re still counting the entries and it looks like we have nearly 600! Once again, that’s almost double the number of entries we received last year (in 2016 we had 148 entries, in 2017 we had 300 (exactly), and now we have almost 600; if the competition continues to grow at this rate then in 25 years we’ll have more entries than there will be people alive on earth.) We are thrilled – and a little overwhelmed – by the volume and range of submissions we’ve received.
The judging now begins. Alas, we have only three prizes to award, so we apologise that there is no way we can give all entries the recognition that they deserve. Please know how grateful we are to everyone who shared their work, and please remember that with so many strong pieces our choices will inevitably be subjective.
Our judges this year are Tyler Keevil, D.D. Johnston, and Lucy Tyler. Tyler Keevil is the author of three novels and a collection of short fiction. His short story “Sealskin” won the $15,000 Journey Prize and his novel No Good Brother has recently been shortlisted for the Wilbur Smith Prize. He is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Cardiff in Wales. D.D. Johnston is the author of three novels, which have been described as “Funny as all Hell” (The Sunday Herald) and “determinedly extraordinary” (The Morning Star). His short story “The Invitation” was shortlisted for the £5000 Bridport Prize. He’s a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Gloucestershire, England. And adding a different perspective to our deliberations, our third judge, Lucy Tyler, is a theatre maker whose creative work has been performed in Europe and the US, and whose critical writing appears in several scholarly books and journals. She’s Lecturer in Performance Practices at the University of Reading, England.
Given the volume of entries, we plan to make our selections in two stages. In the first instance our aim is to narrow the field to a longlist of 60 (approx. 10% of entries), which we plan to announce on Monday 25th June. We will announce authors by their name (or pen name), but, so as not to hinder non-winning entrants’ chances of publishing their stories elsewhere, we will not publish story titles at this stage. Please be patient as we try to choose between so many excellent pieces of writing. Thank you and good luck!
Some years ago, former-US President George W. Bush named The Very Hungry Caterpillar as his favourite childhood book. Unfortunately, it wasn’t published until he was 23 and fresh out of Yale. Still, while it’s not advanced post-graduate reading, it does have a perfect structure, from which we can learn a lot.
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In this video, D.D. Johnston discusses how imagery is often the connecting point between subject and theme (for a reminder about subject and theme, see writing tip 71). He looks at Ian McEwan’s short story ‘Psychopolis’ and presents a weird theory about Magpies. Psychopolis is available here, starting on page 52.
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In our last video, we considered the similarities between short stories and jokes. We said that, just like the punchline of a joke, whatever happens at the climax of a story is unexpected, but in retrospect seems obvious and inevitable. In this video, DD Johnston develops that idea and think about what it is that happens at the climax of most successful literary short stories. (We say ‘literary’ short stories, since in other genres the endings of stories can sometimes be more about plot resolution than character transition.)
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