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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Two Opportunities to Nominate Your Favorite Writing Blogs

It seems to be the season for 'best writing blog' awards at the moment. There are at least two such high-profile contests running right now.

The first is the annual Top 10 Blogs for Writers contest on Michael Stelzner's Writing White Papers blog.

It's the fourth year this well-respected contest has been held. Anyone is welcome to nominate their favorite writing blog (one only) by commenting on the relevant post. Nominations close on 11 September 2009.

The other is the Editor Unleashed Top 25 Writing Blogs contest on Maria Schneider's Editor Unleashed blog. In this one you can nominate any number of blogs (including your own) in any of five categories: Fiction Writing, Freelance Writing, Creativity, Marketing and Social Media, and Publishing Trends.

Nominations for this contest close a little sooner, on 1 September 2009. The top nominations will then be posted on the blog, and readers will be invited to vote for seven days to determine the top five sites in each category.

Obviously, I'd be honored if anyone would like to nominate my own blog in either contest; but my main reason for mentioning them here is because of the great resources you can discover just by reading the nominations. I've added quite a few blogs from both these contests to my feed reader already. To me this is really more valuable than finding out what the 'winning' blogs are. Though clearly, winning either of these contests will be a considerable feather in the caps of the bloggers concerned!

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Monday, August 17, 2009

And the Winner Is...

Yes, it's time to reveal the winner of my contest to win a copy of my illustrated science-fiction novella, The Festival on Lyris Five.

There were six entries in the contest, so I asked my partner, Jayne, to pick a number between 1 and 6 (without telling her what it was for). She picked number 4, so I'm pleased to reveal that the winner of a signed copy is entrant number 4, Coffeewithkate. Congratulations, Kate!

I originally advertised that two runners-up would receive PDF versions of the novella. In a contest with only six entries, however, it seems a shame to have any losers, so I've decided to donate a copy of the PDF to everyone who entered. Please write to me with your email address using the Contact Me link on my blog, and I'll send you download instructions.

The competition asked people to name their favorite SF or fantasy books and state their reasons in 50 words or fewer. I've reproduced all the entries below, in case anyone else who enjoys SFF is looking for some more reading ideas...

Airman, by Eoin Colfer
A picture-perfect life, dashed by lies. The 14-year-old in the center of this story flies--literally-- through a tumult of treachery, anger, abuse, and hatred on his way to justice and his dream--learning to fly.

West of Eden by Harry Harrison
An alternate-history work built around a world in which dinosaurs and humans both evolved into intelligent species. Two extremely different civilizations are brought together in a story full of excitement, intrigue, and conflict.

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen Donaldson
Oldie but a goodie, two worlds, alter ego, escaping reality, characters out of this world, stories build, crescend, time travel, ethereal existence, is it real or is it not kind of stuff. Three more books are being written before the end.

Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy- Douglas Adams
An ordinary man thrown into a world of Paranoid Androids, Pangalactic Gargleblasters and deadly Vogon Poetry.
Join Arthur Dent and his quest to discover the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything in this classic sci-fi romp.
Pyjamas optional.

Rosco Fraser
Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers
I have honestly never laughed so much from reading a book in my life. I loved the TV show but the book was so much better, my favourite bit is the hopper ride, comic genius and a definite must read.

Carrie Sheppard
Dragon's Egg: Theodore Sturgeon
This book was written decades ago and yet it is one of the most forward thinking books I have ever read. He challenges our very perceptions of physics and reality and offers a great story too. These old SF writers gave us 90% of our current technology lingo - if you've never read this book, or any work by TS, then remedy it!

Thanks to everyone who entered the contest. I've read Hitch-Hiker's Guide (I'm tempted to add 'of course'!) but rather surprisingly none of the others. I have read some of Harry Harrison's other books, and especially recommend The Technicolor Time Machine if you can find a copy - it's Harrison at his hilarious best. The other books and authors listed above I will have to check out soon.

Happy reading!

Photo Credit: Rufus Gefangenen on Flickr

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Visit Nadine's Blog Party!

Former MWC moderator and successful author Nadine Laman is holding a Blog Party to celebrate the 100th post on her blog - and everybody is invited!

Nadine is running a series of contests and giving away signed copies of books donated by various authors (including yours truly). On her blog, she provides the following explanation of how the 'Blog Party' came to be...

...I thought I'd give away free books. Then I realized everyone might not want one of my books - they might already have all three. So I decided the winners could choose from one of my books or I would buy them an autographed book from a short list of authors I know. How's that sound?

I emailed these authors and ask if they were able to send an autographed book, if I bought one. (Meaning it did not come direct from a third party.) The amazing thing that followed was a sudden flood of emails from the authors not only saying, yes they could get a signed book out if I bought one, they have donated the book! I kid you not! Is that a fantastic group of writers/friends or what?

Above all, Nadine's Blog Party is intended to be fun for all involved - there's no money required, and nothing to sign up for. Just turn up each day and take part in the daily contest, then wait and see if you're a winner. Via Nadine's blog, you can also chat with other party-goers, including the featured authors.

I'll be giving away a copy of my new novella, The Festival on Lyris Five. I'm due to be featured on Monday 31 August, so make a note to visit on that day especially :-D

See you at Nadine's Blog Party!

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Friday, July 31, 2009

Win a Signed Copy of The Festival on Lyris Five!

As regular readers will know, The Festival on Lyris Five is my tongue-in-cheek science fiction novella, newly published by Salvatore Publishing.

You can find out more about the book, and read an extract from it, in my earlier blog post.

To celebrate the launch, I'm giving away a signed copy of the printed version of The Festival on Lyris Five, along with two copies of the downloadable (PDF) version for the runners-up.

To win, all you have to do is post the title and author of your favorite science fiction or fantasy book as a comment below, along with no more than 50 words about why you like it so much. I'm really hoping for some good recommendations for books to read myself in the coming months!

The contest is open to anyone in the world. The closing date is midnight GMT on Sunday 16 August. I will pick the winners at random from all qualifying entries, and announce the results on this blog on Monday 17 August. So you have just over a fortnight to get your entry in!

Good luck, and please do mention this contest to anyone else you think might like to enter.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

$500 Flash Fiction Contest

Short story writing contests are always popular, so here's a good one you may want to check out.

The e-book publishing service Smashwords, in association with the Editor Unleashed blog and community, is running a flash-fiction writing contest for stories of up to 1000 words on any subject.

There's a top prize of $500 for the winner, plus 39 runner-up prizes of $25. The top 40 stories will also be published in an e-book anthology, and their authors will get free links/publicity via the contest sponsors.

The best news is that there is no entry fee, and the contest is open to anyone in the world.

Submissions are open from May 18 until June 14, 2009. To enter, you have to post your story on the Editor Unleashed forum. Stories will then be ranked by members of the forum, and the 40 winners will be announced on June 30, 2009.

For more information, see this post on the Smashwords blog or this one at Editor Unleashed.

Good luck!

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Contests Week: Final Round-Up

Last week was Contests Week on my forum at, and this week the winners were revealed.

In this post I'll be publishing the winners of all five contests, and also setting out a few thoughts on the contests from a judge's perspective.

The first challenge, set on Monday, was to write a story in exactly 100 words including three essential words (envelope, jocular, precursor). The prize, a copy of WCCL's Novel in a Month, was won by Grognoth, with the following entry:

The Fear of All Mothers Whose Sons Went to War
by Grognoth

The news was bad; the fleet had come under attack at night. Philip's ship had been torpedoed. Few men survived, many were unaccounted for.

Having read the naval letter, Sally believed it was a precursor for worse to come. "Missing in action; presumed dead." No words of comfort, just the official cold line.

Sally waited before nervously picking up the beige envelope. An hour and three cups of tea later, she opened it.

"Dear Mum, in hospital and in jocular mood, though don't know why; so many friends gone. Love you."

Sally returned the paper to the envelope and cried.

You can read the winner and runners-up, and members' comments about them, on this forum topic. All of the entries are also published here anonymously as a Word attachment.

Tuesday's contest was to write a haiku including two out of three set words (smoke, lake, paper). The prize was a copy of WCCL's Writer's Block CD. The winner of this challenge was a new member, Rohi Shetty, with the following beautifully crafted entry:

Haiku: an ink-clad
thought on paper; lovely like
the lake at sunrise.

You can read the winner and runners-up (which included another of Rohi's poems), and members' comments about them, on this forum topic. All of the entries are also published anonymously here as a Word attachment.

Wednesday's Contest was to write a radio commercial for The prize was a copy of WCCL's Ultimate Copywriter guide. The winner was brimstone with the following entry:

Female1: What are you looking so chuffed about?
Female2: I've just had my first short story accepted by a magazine.
Female1: Didn't know you could write!
Female2: Neither did I. Then I joined this website called It's for people who like to write. You should check it out Jill.
Female1: I'm hopeless at writing.
Female2: Me too. But on we review each other's work. Share ideas. It's improved my writing a lot. It's fun and it's free.
Female1: Free?
Female2: That's right. And I've met some lovely people online.
If I can learn to write, anybody can.

Male announcer: Want to improve your writing? At we help each other write. Visit us now at

Female1: I checked out that website last night.
Female2: And?
Female1: You were right it's fun.
Female2: Told you.
Female1: Booker Prize. Here I come!

They chuckle.

You can read the winner and runners-up, and members' comments about them, on this forum topic. All of the entries are also published anonymously here as a Word attachment.

Incidentally, our forum administrator and sponsor Karl Moore has already recorded this ad for possible future use on his online radio station WritersFM - click here to listen to it on YouTube!

Thursday's challenge was to write a travel article about your best-ever or worst-ever vacation. The prize was a copy of WCCL's Travel Writing Secrets, and the winner was Sellit with this entry:

Wet and Wild Dominica, an Island for the Adventurous

Dominica is for nature lovers who crave a taste of the wild side. Don't expect resorts, gourmet cuisine, and upscale shopping. Pack your hiking boots and a swimsuit. Prepare to encounter 365 rivers, lush rain forests, waterfalls, amazing sea life, and narrow mountain roads. Dominica remains a largely undeveloped island where tourism and ecosystem coexist.

When our cruise ship docked, we anticipated a day of adventure. We were not disappointed. Two shore excursions provided memories we'll cherish for a lifetime.

Skirting the rugged volcanic shoreline aboard the Sting Ray II, dolphins set a tone of expectation as they frolicked beside our vessel. The boat's hydrophone picked up the clicks of conversing whales. Words cannot capture the thrill of racing to intercept these fascinating creatures. A pod of ten sperm whales surfaced like enormous gray submarines. Giant waterspouts blew from their noses. They posed for pictures and waved perfect flukes as they departed with the precision of a choreographed diving team.

A unique glimpse of motherhood came when a young whale surfaced to swallow and then dove several times to nurse. Both mother and child provided a splendid view of flukes when they departed.

Sun-baked by our morning with the dolphins and whales, we departed for a jeep ride into the mountains. These aptly named Wacky Rollers traversed riverbeds and wound along narrow roads high in the rainforest.

A short hike crossed a river via a footbridge and led to a dark opening between sheer black cliffs. Brave souls entered the river's frigid water and swam between the towering cliffs. A magnificent waterfall, plunging into Ti Tou Gorge, was our reward. Sunlight filtered through overhanging foliage at the top of the narrow chasm as we drifted out on the current. Invigorated by our adventure, we stood in the water of a warm spring that drops into the pool outside the pseudo cave.

'The Pirates of the Caribbean' movies used Ti Tou Gorge and other locations around Dominica during filming. It wasn't hard to imagine pirates sailing the shores or roaming the trails of this wet, wild island.

You can read the winner and runners-up, and members' comments about them, on this forum topic. All of the entries are also published anonymously here as a Word attachment.

The winner of this contest (real name Melinda) wrote to thank me, and added, 'I'm hoping to break into the travel writing area, so this win is a big bonus for me. I really wanted this prize.' Great to hear that, Melinda!

Our final, Friday challenge was to write a scene for any dramatic medium featuring three people in a restaurant. The prize was a copy of WCCL's premium product Movie in a Month. The winner was sue91353 with the following entry:

Meeting at the Angry Yeti

Man and woman seated at table in center of room. Both wear chain mail armor.

Serving wench drops off drinks and food and winks at man, whispers something in his ear. He grins.

Food and drink are consumed. Man stands.

Beauregard: I'm off, don't wait for me. I'll see you in the morning.

Elspeth: How do you do it? Every town we go to, there's a wench with room in her bed for you. And you're not even pretty.

Beauregard: (Shrugs) I treat them right.

Elspeth waves him away and sits back with her drink.

She looks around. A man is staring at her, looking her up and down. He looks at her face and she raises an eyebrow. He smiles. She turns away.

Tall, red haired man, bearded, muscular, leather armor, stands in front of table.

Tannik: May I join you?

Elspeth: (points to chair and nods)

Tannik: Your friend left you.

Elspeth: He had obligations.

Tannik: (Looks off in distance) So I see.

Beauregard and serving wench are climbing the back stairs.

Elspeth: What brings you to my table?

Tannik: (Smiles) I have obligations. And you are the most interesting one I've seen in a while.

Elspeth: (Laughs, shakes her head) I've been on the road all winter, I'm only here to drink.

Tannik: Then I'll escort you home when you've had your fill.

Elspeth: I need no protection.

Tannik: I suspect not. But I would like to anyway.

A chair flies by, loud voices in background.
Elspeth chugs her drink, stands.

Elspeth: Last thing I need is a brawl. You can escort me home now.

Tannik: Indeed. I'm glad I'm not on duty.

Exit pub. Warder at door hands back their weapons. Elspeth straps on great sword, dragon-hilted, ruby eyes, outspread wings form guard. Tannik hoists battle axe.

Tannik: I see you really don't need protection.

Elspeth: (Smiles) No, but you might.

Laughing, exit building.

You can read the winner and runners-up, and members' comments about them, on this forum topic. All of the entries are also published anonymously here as a Word attachment.

I and my fellow judges really enjoyed judging the Contest Week entries, although it was a lot of work for us as well! Here are a few tips based on our experience of judging the contests that I hope may be helpful to anyone entering writing contests on MWC (or anywhere else) in future...

1. Most important of all, obey the contest rules. We didn't actually disqualify anyone for failing to do this, but nonetheless an entry that clearly didn't follow the instructions had no chance of winning. A good example was the radio commercial contest, where several people wrote ads for other products or services, and not for as instructed.

2. It's also very important to pay attention to the instructions and how they are worded. In Friday's Challenge we asked for a script that would 'reveal something interesting about the characters' and also 'make us want to see/hear more'. Our winner and runners-up did this, but some of the other scripts were really more like comedy sketches, with two-dimensional characters whose sole purpose was to lead up to a punch-line. As such they might have worked well, but it wasn't really what we were looking for in this challenge.

3. Try to come up with an original slant. In contests where certain elements are required (as in many of the Contests Week challenges) a lot of people inevitably adopt a similar, predictable line, and this can become a bit wearing for the judges. When we see someone who has found an original slant different from anything we have come across before, inevitably we take a bit more interest.

4. And finally, check and double-check your spelling, grammar and punctuation. The overall standard was actually quite good, but a few entries were let down by lack of attention to the basics. Again, no entry is likely to win a writing contest if it is littered with mistakes of this nature.

Once again, thank you very much to everyone who took part in Contests Week, to the moderators who put so much time and effort into judging the challenges, and (of course) to Karl Moore from WCCL, who generously donated the prizes. Don't forget you can see a wide range of WCCL's great-value courses and products for writers on their dedicated website at

Watch out for more exciting contests and challenges on the world's favorite writing forum soon!

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Contests Week: Monday Challenge Results

Last week was Contests Week on my forum at, and this week the winners will be revealed.

Monday's challenge was to write a story in exactly 100 words including three essential words (envelope, jocular, precursor).

We received over 50 entries to this contest, and the overall standard was amazingly high (so much so that the judging took a lot longer than anticipated). There can only be one winner, however, so I am delighted to reveal that this was Grognoth, with the following entry:

The Fear of All Mothers Whose Sons Went to War
by Grognoth

The news was bad; the fleet had come under attack at night. Philip's ship had been torpedoed. Few men survived, many were unaccounted for.

Having read the naval letter, Sally believed it was a precursor for worse to come. "Missing in action; presumed dead." No words of comfort, just the official cold line.

Sally waited before nervously picking up the beige envelope. An hour and three cups of tea later, she opened it.

"Dear Mum, in hospital and in jocular mood, though don't know why; so many friends gone. Love you."

Sally returned the paper to the envelope and cried.

I will be in touch with Grognoth to arrange delivery of his prize, a copy of WCCL's Novel in a Month.

There were two runners-up in this contest, both of whom came within a single vote of the winner. Both Annvh and kk should consider themselves Highly Commended, therefore. I'm sorry there was only one prize! Here are their entries:

Never Again
by Annvh

Jenny's eyelids remained defiantly shut, ignoring the insistent beep of her alarm clock. As she eased one arm from beneath her duvet to tap the snooze button, her hand brushed against a package lying on the pillow next to her. Consciousness surfaced with jagged shafts of light flickering at the edge of her vision; the precursor of a blinding migraine; and images of last night's excesses forced her eyes wide open.

"Well, open the envelope," a teasing, jocular voice called from the doorway. "It'll help you remember."

Photos, of bits she didn't know she had.

"Call it a hangover cure."

Kids Rule!
by kk

We met at Fenway Park, huge fans of the Red Sox, never missing a game; a precursor to falling in love. We married; had babies. Life together was perfect; agreeing on everything - where we lived; children; life was good.

Finding that envelope with the photo of him and Marybeth - together - like that - it nearly killed me. Nothing could have prepared me. Devastated, I confronted him one fateful day.

"What's this?" I demanded, presenting the photo of little Marybeth; Yankees cap ruining her toddler's jocular innocence.

"Well," he replied, "I couldn't resist"; "As she says, 'Yankees rule, Red Sox drool.'"

Congratulations again to our winner and runners-up, and thank you to everyone else who entered. For those who are interested, on my forum post I have attached a separate Word file including all the entries, listed anonymously. See if you agree with the judges or not!

The results of Tuesday's challenge will be published on the Writing Games and Challenges board tomorrow. Note that I will not be publishing the results on this blog every day this week as well - I have a few other things I want to blog about - but I will include a round-up of all the winners on Friday.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Contests Week: Friday Challenge

All this week has been CONTESTS WEEK on

Every day we've posted a quick-fire 24-hour writing challenge, with great prizes of software for writers donated by our sponsors (and my publishers) WCCL.

The final, Friday Challenge is now open - and as it's 'lucky' Friday 13th, it's a humdinger! This time, we're asking you to write a short scene set in a restaurant, in any dramatic medium of your choice!

The prize for the winner of this challenge will be a copy of WCCL's flagship product (well, one of them) Movie in a Month. This is a complete guide to film screenwriting on CD-ROM.

Movie in a Month was written by three successful screenwriters, two in the US and one in the UK. As well as a set of informative manuals, it also includes over 850 actual TV and movie scripts and treatments, and a complete, fully-featured screenplay writing and formatting program. The full normal price of Movie in a Month is $97.

As always you have just 24 hours to complete this challenge, with a final deadline of 9 am GMT on Saturday 14 March. For full details of this exciting contest, see Contests Week: Friday Challenge.

Just to remind you, the results of all the Contests Week challenges will be announced next week, with Monday's winner announced on Monday 16 March, and the winner of today's contest on Friday 20 March.

Good luck in today's challenge. Whether or not you are one of our winners, I do hope you have enjoyed Contests Week, and that you will continue to return regularly to!

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Contests Week: Thursday Challenge

All this week from Monday to Friday it's CONTESTS WEEK! on

Every day we're posting a quick-fire 24-hour writing challenge, with great prizes of software for writers donated by our sponsors (and my publishers) WCCL.

The Thursday Challenge is now open. This time we're asking you to write a short travel article describing your best-ever or worst-ever vacation!

The prize for the winner of this challenge will be a copy of WCCL's Travel Writing Secrets. This is a complete guide for any writer who enjoys travelling and wants to make money writing about it.

For full details of this exciting contest, see Contests Week: Thursday Challenge.

By the way, following the huge response to our first two challenges, we have had to delay announcing the results slightly, to allow more time for the judges to discuss the entries and vote on them. All results will now be announced next week, with Monday's winner announced on Monday 16 March, and so on.

Good luck in today's challenge, and watch out for the biggest prize of the week in Friday's final contest - all brought to you by courtesy of our sponsors WCCL, in association with the world's favorite writers' forum!

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Contests Week: Wednesday Challenge

All this week from Monday to Friday it's CONTESTS WEEK! on

Every day we're posting a quick-fire 24-hour writing challenge, with great prizes of software for writers donated by our sponsors (and my publishers) WCCL.

Tuesday's challenge is now closed. I'm pleased to say we received a huge response to our haiku contest, so please bear with us while we judge the winner. This will be announced on the forum, and we will also publish all the other entries, so you can see whether you agree with our decision or not!

In the meantime, Wednesday's Challenge is now open. This time we're asking you to put on your copywriter's hat and write a radio commercial for

The prize for the winner of this challenge will be a copy of WCCL's market-leading guide The Ultimate Copywriter. This is written for any writer who wants to break in to the exciting and well-paid world of advertising copywriting.

For full details of this contest, see Contests Week: Wednesday Challenge. And watch out for more writing challenges with great prizes every day this week on the world's favorite writers' forum!

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Contests Week: Tuesday Challenge Now Posted!

All this week from Monday to Friday it's CONTESTS WEEK! on

Every day we're posting a quick-fire 24-hour writing challenge, with great prizes of software for writers donated by our sponsors (and my publishers) WCCL.

Monday's challenge is now closed. I'm pleased to say we received a huge response to our Flash Fiction contest, so please bear with us while we judge the winner. This will be announced as soon as possible, and we will also publish all the other entries, so you can see whether you agree with our decision or not!

In the meantime, Tuesday's Challenge is now open. This time we're asking you to write a haiku - a form of syllabic poetry - incorporating two out of three particular words set out in the contest rules.

The prize for the winner of this challenge will be a copy of WCCL's amazing Writer's Block CD, which is intended not only to help writers overcome writer's block but also to boost their creativity.

For full details of this contest, see Contests Week: Tuesday Challenge. And watch out for more writing challenges with great prizes every day this week on the world's favorite writers' forum!

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Contests Week: First Challenge Now Posted!

All this week from Monday to Friday it's CONTESTS WEEK on!

Every day we're posting a quick-fire 24-hour writing challenge, with great prizes of software for writers donated by our sponsors (and my publishers) WCCL.

I'm excited to reveal that the first challenge is now open. We're asking you to write a short story of 100 words exactly incorporating three particular words set out in the contest rules.

The prize for the winner of this challenge will be a copy of Novel in a Month, WCCL's block-busting tutorial that guides you through planning, writing and editing a novel in just four weeks.

For full details of this contest, see Contests Week: Monday Challenge. And watch out for more writing challenges with great prizes every day this week on the world's favorite writers' forum!

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Contests Week on!

Just wanted to let you know that from Monday 9 March to Friday 13 March, it's Contests Week at!

Every day, thanks to the generosity of our sponsors WCCL, we'll be giving away courses and products from their great range for writers, in a series of 24-hour writing challenges. For more info about WCCL's writing software, please visit

At 9 am GMT every day during Contests Week I will post a new challenge on MWC's Writing Games & Challenges board. This will also mark the closing time for the previous challenge.

The challenges will all be quite short. You will need to submit your entry by PM (personal message) to one designated moderator, whose name will be shown in the challenge details. They will then forward all entries anonymously to the other mods, who will vote to decide the winner. We have chosen this method to allow the contests to be judged anonymously.

Of course, this does mean that you will need to be a member of to enter the contests, but joining is very easy (and free) - just click on the Register tab near the top of the MWC homepage and follow the on-screen instructions.

Although we are keeping the exact details of the contests a surprise, I can reveal that we are giving away the following WCCL products as prizes during the week (though not necessarily in this order):

* Movie in a Month
* Writer's Block CD
* Novel in a Month
* The Ultimate Copywriter
* Travel Writing Secrets

For more details of any of these products, just click on the name in the list above. The sales page will then open in a separate window. The contests will be themed so they are at least vaguely relevant to the prize on offer!

For further info and updates, please see this read-only forum topic.

I do hope you will join in with at least some of the daily challenges. I'd also appreciate any help you can provide in spreading word of Contests Week to the widest possible audience, via e-mail, blog posts, Twitter, social networking sites, and so on.

Here's to an exciting week of contests!

Photo Credit: on Flickr

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Writing Tips Contest Results

Yes, judging of my Writing Tips Contest is now complete, and I am happy to announce the winners!

To remind you, the rules required a writing tip of 250 words or less, including the title. I had two prizes of a year's subscription to SpellCheckPlus Pro to give away. One I have chosen myself (with a little bit of help from Jayne). The other has been randomly selected by my cat Reggie.

I've reproduced all the competition entries at the end of this post, lightly edited and with titles supplied by me if the author didn't provide one. I thought all of the entries had merit, and another judge might well have come up with a different winner (I'm pleased to say that Jayne agreed with my choice, however!).

So, without further ado, I'm delighted to reveal that the winner of the contest was Suzie, with her entry 'Keep Accurate Submission Records'.

I liked this for a number of reasons: it is well-written and succinct; it presents a specific, useful piece of advice that is germane to every writer; it is illustrated with an amusing anecdote; and it concludes by stating its key message clearly at the end. It didn't hurt, either, that Suzie followed all the rules of the contest to the letter. You can read her winning entry by scrolling down (it's the first in the list).

The other prize was awarded randomly by Reggie. If you want to know the mechanics of this, there were six entries left after taking away Suzie's, so I put a dice on the table with Reggie, and waited until he batted it onto the floor. He 'threw' a 4, so I picked the fourth entry, not including Suzie's. Congratulations then to Jo, who wins the other prize for her entry 'Use the Resources Around You'.

Jo, I will need your email address to notify the people at SpellCheckPlus Pro so that they can arrange for your free subscription. Suzie, I already have your GMail address, so I will give them that unless you tell me otherwise. Click here to contact me.

Congratulations to the winners, and many thanks to everyone who took part. Many thanks also to the sponsors, SpellCheckPlus - see the main page of their website for details of their free online spelling and grammar checker, and SpellCheckPlus Pro for their premium service. And, of course, thank you to Reggie, whose morning nap I interrupted for this important task!

All the tips are reproduced below, with Suzie's winning tip first.


When you send off an email or written piece, make sure you keep a diary or computer record of where you sent it, to whom, and the date - along with the details of the submission.

You can use a spreadsheet or, like me, if you prefer paper and pen, then buy a small notebook from a stationery shop and keep accurate hard copy records.

This can save embarrassing situations, such as the one I recently found myself in.

I used a web page submission form to fire off a query letter to a publisher. I didn't even think of making a note at the time, as I assumed they would reply before I forgot. What a mistake that was!

A few months later the publisher contacted me to thank me for my query and requested a full proposal. I could not remember what I had suggested to them so I had the embarrassing task of writing back to say that my PC had died and I had lost all my records. It wasn't true of course, and needless to say I never heard from them again.

So no matter how mundane it may seem, make sure you keep records of everything so that you don't miss the chance of being published.


As I write, and particularly when I edit my work, I imagine I'm an artist painting a landscape scene.

When you first put pen to paper (or, more likely, fingers to keyboard) you are using a wide brush, blocking out the background with bold strokes. You're aiming for the correct scale and proportions at this point, giving yourself a framework to work to. Perhaps, in some scenes, your eye will be drawn to one section of the canvas and you'll add in a little more detail with a narrower brush, but generally your main aim is to cover the canvas with paint.

Remember Rolf Harris...can you tell what it is yet? No, it won't be ready for anyone to read at this point, and if it's a longer story you might be some way from your ideal word count, but it doesn't matter at this stage.

Once your background, or story, is complete you'll pick up your thinner brushes and start building up layers of colour to add depth, light and shadow - giving your characters personality and emotion. Finally, you can choose a really fine brush and go over the canvas yet again, adding in those finishing touches, perfecting your word choices and bringing the picture to life.


I'm sure you're familiar with the advice to have little notebooks and pens in every room of your house. In the bathroom, on your bedside table. And here I'm going to tell you to not use them. Not with this technique, which I've been using successfully ever since I first started writing as a child.

When you go to bed, don't count sheep. Think about your story. Dream about your main character while you're still awake. Dream while you're in that twilight zone between wakefulness and sleep - but don't reach for your pen and paper; it will disrupt the flow of your dream. Dream about what's going to happen until you fall asleep.

When you wake up, still half asleep, pick up your dream where you left it last night and allow yourself to dream for just a little while longer. Then, when you're finally fully awake, grab pen and paper and write it all down.

You can also use this technique when you're taking a nice long hot bath, or in the car on a two-hour drive to your grandparents up North... Just make sure you're in the passenger seat.


When you read, you subconsciously hear the words in your mind, so when you have written something, it makes sense to read it aloud, to make sure it conveys what you want it to. If it sounds right, it probably is. But beware. It might still need revising.

Driving too fast along the jungle track an elephant suddenly appeared in front of her.

The reader will know what you mean, but not before getting a bizarre mental image of an elephant behind the wheel of a speeding car. Your story, and your credibility as a writer, is ruined.

Reading your work aloud will not only show whether the writing makes sense, it will also help with the punctuation. Try saying out loud the following sentence:

She hurried past the cake shop she had already eaten and didn't want to be tempted, she was trying to lose weight.

As it is written, without proper punctuation, it's nonsense. What, she'd already eaten the cake shop? Reading it aloud immediately shows that it should be three separate sentences.

She hurried past the cake shop. She had already eaten, and didn't want to be tempted. She was trying to lose weight.

The comma after eaten is not essential, but the slight pause makes it sound better.

Whatever you write, whether a postcard or novel, reading it aloud will make it better.


If you are struggling to create characters you can use the resources around you.

Spend some time sitting in a cafe or pub and use other people to help mould your character or create a new one.

Listen to other people's conversations, are they telling any funny stories? Are they discussing any burning issues or talking about something that has actually happened?

Look at what they are wearing, how they have their hair, how they greet each other.

Ask yourself how they respond when they are laughing, how they look when they are confused and body language and non-verbal signs.

Alternatively look at old photos of schoolfriends or people you were on holiday with and try and remember their personality traits and mannerisms and use these in your characters.

As time has elapsed and you have fitted them to your story they won't be able to be identified but will be very believable.

I hope this helps either form an existing character or inspire a new one, perhaps even a whole new tale just from eavesdropping someone else's conversation.

6. STAY ON A ROLL - Margarett

My best tip is when you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, maybe paint to canvas and when you are on a roll keep going!

If inspiration hits in the middle of the night get up and put it on the page. We lose so much by not putting it down for safe keeping.

I know I had a big inspiration for this and then went to sleep and lost it. Seriously, get that first draft down, no matter if it does not play well.

That is what tweaking is for, and second drafts and third. Just keep writing till it's done and then worry about editing and touching it up. Get inspiration from anyone, anywhere and from anything.

Paint the picture you want seen with your words.


In Microsoft we trust is a rule many writers come to follow. In doing so we leave ourselves open to sneaky writing errors that slip by Microsoft's editing. As a result, your writing looks, well, unedited. These simple mistakes happen to everyone and are the reason why you cannot trust your word processing software to do what only human eyes can. Next time you finish your writing and smile from clearing all underlined errors the editing gods determined are your only issues, comb over your writing in search of the following errors.

Right spelling, wrong form: While 'there' is spelled correctly, did you mean 'their'? 'See' instead of 'sea'? 'Write' instead of 'Right'? Make sure the correct forms of the words are being used.

Right spelling, wrong word: It happens. We meant to say 'he had bent down to pick something up' and instead we typed 'he had been down to pick something up.' Why did we do it? Who knows, but it is up to you to catch it!

Tenses: If only! If only they were smart enough to tell you that in one sentence your character took actions in the past but was currently in the present.

While the editing list is endless (plot, structure, dialogue, etc), if you run through your writing at the end look for these three things. I bet you make at least one more change just when you thought you were done!

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

FieldReport Update

In this blog post a few weeks ago I talked about FieldReport, a new, ongoing online writing contest and writers community.

FieldReport was - and still is - offering big cash prizes for true-life stories, with no entry fees required.

Anyway, I've been asked to remind readers that the final submissions deadline for the January prizes is coming up soon (Nov 15 2008), so now is the time to send in your stories.

There are 20 categories you can choose from, but according to data received from my informant, two categories in which there haven't been as many good submissions so far are Real Breaking News and Sport/Challenge. So if you have a good true story in either of these categories, your chances of success could be better than you think.

Also, if you know any teenagers - or you are one - they are looking for the best submission by a teenage writer in the TeenReport category. There is a special $25,000 prize for the best story in this category.

FieldReport is open to anyone in the world. The monthly category prizes are worth $1,000, with a monthly $4,000 prize for the top-rated story in any category. Not only that, on January 5 2009 the best overall submission as voted for by FieldReport members will be awarded the $250,000 Grand Prize.

So get your thinking cap on, and get over to the FieldReport website today. And if you win, remember who sent you ;-)

UPDATE: I've just heard that FieldReport's final submission deadline has been extended till 31 December 2008.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Writing Tips Competition

Recently my friends at SpellCheckPlus wrote to me offering two more annual subscriptions to their premium service, SpellCheckPlus Pro, for use as competition prizes.

For those who don't know, SpellCheckPlus is a free online spelling and grammar checker. I wrote about it a while ago in this blog post, though since then it has been considerably enhanced.

SpellCheckPlus Pro, as mentioned above, is the premium (paid-for) service. It offers a number of advantages over the free version, including unlimited text length (the free version has a limit of 500 words), no ads, and an 'enrichment' tool that allows users to find alternatives to common, often over-used, words such as nice, good, bad, happy, and so on. The winners of my competition will get a year's free subscription to this service.

So what does the competition involve? Well, I thought I'd ask readers to submit their best writing tips of under 250 words including the title. Tips must be original (I will check this online), and they must be posted as comments on this blog. Only one tip per person, please. I'd also be grateful if you would give your tip a title so that I can identify it.

Tips can cover anything related to writing. Some possibilities might include beating writer's block, generating ideas, creating believable characters, making dialogue life-like, boosting your writing income, improving your grammar/spelling/punctuation, and so on.

As an example, here's a tip I submitted recently to the WeBook blog:

Write With All The Senses
by Nick Daws

The art of writing is bringing your words to life on the page. And one of the best ways to do this is to write with all the senses. In other words, don't just write about what your characters see. Describe what they hear, smell, touch and even taste as well. This is a guaranteed way to make your writing more vivid and exciting.

Here's a quick example:

Tony offered Malcolm one of his roll-ups. Malcolm had previously refused, but because he felt guilty about dropping Tony's paintbrush, this time he accepted. He didn't enjoy it at all though.

Now here's the same scene again, with the senses of taste and touch added. By the way, this paragraph comes from the published novel Painter Man by UK author Jeff Phelps:

Malcolm had already refused one of Tony's roll-ups, but now felt so bad about the brush that he accepted. Between his lips it had the texture of toilet paper. It tasted disgustingly of Tony's Old Spice aftershave.

No prizes for identifying which of these descriptions brings the scene more vividly to life! Writers are always taught to show, not tell, and writing with all the senses is one of the very best ways you can do this.

The closing date for this contest is Friday 31 October, so you have plenty of time to come up with your tip. I will announce the winners on the blog on Wednesday 5 November, so be sure to check back here on or after that date to see if you are a winner. One prize will go to the tip I consider best, while the other will be allocated at random by my cats ;-)

Naturally, contributors will retain the copyright in their tips and are free to offer them elsewhere after the competition closing date. They will, of course, remain on this page of my blog, however.

Good luck, and I look forward to reading some great tips posted as comments below!

* Just a quick reminder - when posting your competition entries here, try to avoid using 'smart quotes' and other special characters from Word, as they won't display properly online. It's best really to compose your tips in the Blogger comments box, or alternatively use a text editor such as Notepad and copy and paste from that.

The contest is now closed. Results will be posted shortly!

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Free Contest for Writers Bureau Students

If you are, or ever have been, a student with The Writers Bureau (the UK's largest distance learning college for writers), here's an opportunity you should definitely check out.

To celebrate their 20th anniversary, The Writers Bureau are offering 2000 UK pounds' worth of prizes in their new article-writing contest.

The main condition is that entrants must have taken a course with The Writers Bureau at some point in the last 20 years.

Entry is free, and the prizes are 1000 UKP for the winner, 500 UKP for second place, 200 UKP for third place, and 50 UKP for six runners-up.

Article must be between 700 and 1400 words, and reveal how the author's Writers Bureau course has helped them develop as a writer and how it contributed to their writing career. No prizes for guessing that The Writers Bureau are hoping to get some good new testimonials out of this!

For more information, and to print out an entry form, click here to visit the competition website. The closing date is 31 December 2008, and the winners will be announced on 1 February 2009.

By the way, I used to be a tutor for The Writers Bureau, and also wrote some of their course material. If you want a writing course that includes one-to-one feedback from a personal tutor, in my view they are well worth considering. For more of my musings on this topic, see my blog post Some Thoughts About Writing Courses.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Short Story Radio Update

About a year ago I wrote this post about Short Story Radio, a new web-based radio station operating from the UK and devoted to recording and broadcasting original short stories.

Since then, I'm pleased to say, Short Story Radio has gone from strength to strength. The website now looks more professional, and they are starting to pay writers of stories featured on the site. Here is an update I received recently from Ian Skillicorn, the station manager...

Over the past year we have been developing relationships with writers and many writing organisations. The latest additions to the website are recordings from three winners of the New Writing Partnership's Escalator Prize, for writers in the East of England. This summer we redesigned the website and added some new features.

I am pleased to tell you that we are now in a position to pay a writers' fee for stories that will appear on the site. At present we are approaching writers ourselves rather than taking unsolicited stories, but hope to be able to have an open submission round in the near future.

Our next project is a series of short stories that have been recorded specifically for hospital radio and will be available to hospital radio stations around the UK and beyond. The first four stories will be available for radio, and on our website, later this month. They are by award winning writer Sue Moorcroft, whose stories have appeared in many national magazines, and are read by Tamara Kennedy, whose acting career includes 14 years in Take The High Road and roles in Taggart and Monarch of the Glen.

In addition, I noticed that Short Story Radio is currently running a competition for a short story of under 3000 words in one of the following categories: drama/romance, historical fiction/memoir, humour, magic realism, mystery/thriller, science fiction.

The first-prize winner will get their story professionally recorded for broadcast on Short Story Radio, a free website worth 250 UK pounds (around $400), and five CD copies of their story for personal use. The closing date is 31 October 2008.

There is an entry fee of 8 UKP (around $14) per story in this competition, which in my view is a bit on the steep side. However, stories for Short Story Radio are recorded by professional actors, and I guess their services don't come cheap!

If you enjoy writing - and reading/listening to - short stories, Short Story Radio is well worth checking out.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Writers Bureau Poetry & Short Story Contest

There is still just time to enter the 2008 Poetry and Short Story Competition run by my old friends at The Writers Bureau.

For those who don't know, The Writers Bureau is the UK's leading distance learning college for writers. In days gone by I was a freelance tutor and assessor for them, and I also wrote some of their course material.

The competition is for short stories no longer than 2000 words and poems of up to 40 lines. There is an entry fee of 5 UKP or 9 USD per entry, unless you also happen to subscribe to their newsletter Freelance Market News, in which case reduced fees of 4 UKP/7 USD apply. Work may be on any subject or theme, but should not have been previously published.

The top prize in each category is 1,000 UKP (almost 2,000 USD). There are also nine further prizes in each category, comprising 400, 200, 100 and six prizes of 50 UKP.

The judge for the poetry competition is Alison Chisholm, while for short stories it is Iain Pattison. I know Iain in particular quite well (buyers of my Quick Cash Writing course can read one his excellent stories in the Short Stories module), and you might perhaps be interested to check out this old issue of my E-Writer newsletter, where I set out some of Iain's own advice to people entering short story contests. It's always useful to know what the judge of a writing competition is looking for!

Finally, the closing date is 30 June 2008, so you'll need to get your entry in pretty soon. Here's another link to the full competition details.

Good luck!

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Free Short Story Contest

I thought some of you might be interested in this free short story contest, which is sponsored by the DIY self-publishing company Wordclay.

They are actually running two parallel contests, one for a single short story and the other for a short story collection. To enter the latter, you have to have enough short stories to fill the pages of a 48-page book. The maximum length for a single story is 5,000 words.

There are some good prizes on offer for a free contest, including $500 for the winner in each category and $250 for the runner-up. There are also prizes of publication in book form by the sponsors for the other short-listed entries. You do have to register at the site before you can enter, but there is no obligation to buy anything. The closing date is 11.59 pm ET on 31 May 2008 (i.e. before 1 June 2008), so you have about a week to get your story (or stories) in. Once again, here is a link for further details.

Good luck if you decide to enter this contest!

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Novelty Book Contest Results

A big thank-you to everyone who entered my Win a Nick Daws Novelty Book contest.

I studied the entries over the weekend. It wasn't easy but, with a bit of help from Jayne, I've made my choices. The winner of 365 Ways to Wreak Revenge was Beverley, with the entry below:

I would love to win a copy of "365 Ways to Wreak Revenge" please. I live in a small cul-de-sac and for about a year now, my neighbours and I have been playing an unofficial version of "Needful Things" (think Stephen King) but without the blood and gore. I am losing miserably, and desperately need some hints to push me back in front. I thought I was in the undisputable lead when I turned my neighbour's satellite dish around, but was quickly overtaken by someone filling my water feature with bubble mixture. I have a clean path now, but no ideas for wreaking revenge!

And the winner of 365 Ways to Have Fun at Work was Holly with this entry:

There is a need to have fun, especially at work - after all, job satisfaction is the name of the game. And of course the battle of the plebs versus the rabble must continue. Paper clips and rubber band battles, or chase me round the table tennis table with a rubber stamp, don't quite seem up to the task these days, and even the wrap the colleague up in parcel tape and leave him in a wheelie bin prank is running a bit tame - we're in need of some craftier, zanier ideas to vie one side of the office against the other. For this reason I should like to win 365 Ways to Have Fun at Work. For as they say, laughter is the best medicine.

Many congratulations to Beverley and Holly. I will be in touch with Beverley via the email address she left. Holly, I'd be grateful if you could send me your postal address via my homepage at, so that I can mail your prize to you.

Commiserations to those who were unsuccessful this time. There were some deserving cases among the entries submitted, and I had to remind myself that the rules asked for the most amusing reason for wanting the books, and not necessarily for those who needed them the most! Even so, there were some good entries that just missed out - see the comments on my original post for all the entries - and I'm only sorry I didn't have more copies of the books to give away...

Finally, just a quick reminder that my course on How to Win Consumer Contests is currently available at a discount price, and should give you a winning edge in any similar competitions in future!


Monday, April 28, 2008

Win a Nick Daws Novelty Book!

Regular readers of this blog will know that I write a steady stream of novelty and trivia items for various clients. I enjoy the break from my more 'serious' writing, and although I'll never get rich from this source, it provides me with a steady income.

I've just taken delivery of my authors' copies of a couple of novelty books I wrote last year, so I thought it might be fun to give one of each away as a contest prize. I'll explain the contest in just a moment. The books are 365 Ways to Have Fun at Work (pictured) and 365 Ways to Wreak Revenge. Obviously, they are both tongue-in-cheek. Here's a sample item from 365 Ways to Have Fun at Work...


Here's an amusing little prank to lighten anyone's day. First, make a voodoo doll of your victim (it doesn't have to be particularly lifelike). Then, go up to the person and, right in front of them, start stabbing the doll with a pin. Of course, nothing will happen, and your victim will probably laugh at you. Then just take the pin and stab them in the same spot as you did the doll...

And here's one of the items in 365 Ways to Wreak Revenge...

Revenge on a Co-Worker

Let's call your target Frank. Go up to Frank, when he's talking with Dave and a group of others, and say, 'Hey, Frank, do your impression of Dave!' When Frank protests that he doesn't do an impression of Dave, you say, 'Don't be modest, you had the whole room in fits yesterday.' Then leave.

If you'd like to win either of these essential reference guides - which I'm happy to sign if you like - all you have to do is post a comment on this blog post saying which book you would like to win, and why.

I will award one copy of each title to whoever comes up with the most amusing (to me) reason for wanting the book in question in under 150 words. Please note that you can post your entry anonymously if you don't have a Google account, but it will help if you include your name so I know how to refer to you. To post your comment, just scroll down to the bottom of this post and click on Comments (yes, kind of obvious, I know...). Comments on this blog are moderated, so there will be a short delay before your entry appears.

The closing date for this contest is Friday 16 May 2008, so you should have plenty of time. Just one entry per person, please (so make it a good one).

By the way, these books are classed as novelty goods, so you can't order them from bookshops. So unless you happen to see them in the shops, this is the ONLY way you will get your hands on one!

* See this contest and many others listed at The Prize Finder website.

The contest is now closed. Results will be announced on this blog on Monday 19 May.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Beedle the Bard Writing Contest

Harry Potter fans will know all about Beedle the Bard, and they are the target audience for this new, international writing contest, which is being sponsored by Amazon online bookstores. Here's part of their email I received...

As someone who has purchased a Harry Potter book from, you might like to know about the Beedle the Bard Ballad Writing Contest. Muggles 13 and older in 24 countries are invited to submit a creative, English-language piece of 100 words or less on one of three Harry Potter themes. The winner will receive a Grand Prize including a trip for two to London to spend a weekend with The Tales of Beedle the Bard, J.K. Rowling's handcrafted book of fairy tales.

The Grand Prize includes transport to London, two nights' lodging at a London hotel, and an expense allowance. In addition, each of the finalists from the two age groups will receive an Amazon Gift Certificate in the amount of $1,000.

The contest is in two categories, one for those aged 13 to 17, the other for those aged 18 and over. To enter, you have to answer one of the following three questions creatively in 100 words or less:

* What songs do wizards use to celebrate birthdays?
* What sports do wizards play besides Quidditch?
* What have you learned from the Harry Potter series that you use in everyday life?

You can read full details at . If that shortcut link doesn't work, just go to the Books page of your local Amazon store and you should see a link there.

Finally, note that the closing date for submissions is April 22, so you don't have huge amounts of time if you want to enter.

Good luck!

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Free Short Story Contest

I recently heard about a new short story contest which, unusually, is free to enter. It's being run by Claire C (sorry, I don't know her full name) of the Bebo Author blog. Full details of the contest can be found by clicking on Bebo Author Short Story Competition.

The contest is for stories of at least 1000 words. There is no maximum word count, although as it IS a short story contest, I'd guess you probably shouldn't go over 10,000 words.

The contest is open to anyone - you don't have to be a member of the social networking site Bebo - and stories can be in almost any genre. Claire says: 'I don't want to restrict you but I don't want literotica or gore with the sole intention of making me sick.'

A variety of prizes is on offer. They include $50, $30 and $20 Amazon vouchers (or the equivalent in cash paid via Paypal), plus a growing range of other prizes donated by sponsors.

The contest judges are professional writer Samantha Priestley and Catherine Sharp, a technical writer who runs her own blog, Sharp Words. The closing date is Friday 21 March 2008 (so you don't have loads of time!). Stories have to be sent to Claire in the body of an email (no attachments) at (change the -at- to the usual @ sign). For more info, as mentioned, click through to the contest information page.

Good luck!

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Friday, February 01, 2008

Write a TV Ad for a Book!

In my blog last year I mentioned a contest held by thriller writer Dean Koontz to promote his new book The Good Guy. Contestants had to write and produce a 30-second video trailer for the book. All entries appeared on the video-sharing site YouTube, and as far as I know the winning entry was broadcast on US TV.

Well, UK publishers Little, Brown have decided to use a similar method to promote the new crime novel by the American author Patricia Cornwell, Book of the Dead. They are running a competition for people to create a 20-second TV ad for this book. Entrants have to shoot their own 20-second video, and/or submit a script and/or a storyboard for an ad (so you can still enter even if you don't own a video camera). The contest is only open to people in the UK and Eire, unfortunately, and you must be over 18.

Submissions must include a product shot (included in the competition kit) for a minimum of 5 seconds, so you really only have to come up with a 15-second advertisement. There is a top prize of 2500 UK pounds for the winning entry, which will be chosen by Patricia Cornwell herself from a shortlist of six.

For more details, and to download a competition kit, visit The closing date is Friday 29 February.

Good luck!

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Fifty Pounds an Hour Entering Consumer Contests!

I'm talking mainly to my readers in the UK and Republic of Ireland in this post, so I hope the rest of you out there will bear with me. Your turn will come again soon!

If you're in either of these countries, did you happen to see the new TV show on UK Channel 5 last night titled It Pays to Watch? It's on at 7.30 pm on Wednesdays, and features Martin Lewis, the renowned personal finance campaigner.

Martin runs the excellent Moneysaving Expert website. If you haven't already, by the way, you really should sign up here for his free weekly email of money-saving (and money-making) tips. You can also read about the TV show, and view an extended online version, at the It Pays to Watch website.

Anyway, the show was very interesting - if a little frenetic at times - but one thing that especially caught my eye was when they interviewed a guy called Glynn Olive. Since he retired from the police force in 2007, Glynn has been spending an hour a day simply entering consumer competitions. During that time he has apparently won over 6000 UK pounds' (about $12000 US) worth of prizes. Some of these, such as a holiday at a five-star hotel in Malta, he and his family enjoyed - but others they didn't want, such as a Kymco motor scooter, he sold on for cash.

Martin Lewis worked out that, in effect, Glynn's hobby was earning him a staggering fifty pounds ($100 US) an hour. In fact, because in the UK prizes won in consumer contests are normally tax-free, this is the equivalent of a much higher rate of pay in a normal job. It's food for thought, isn't it?

Entering consumer contests has long been a sideline interest of mine, and over the years I've won various prizes, from a Mediterranean cruise to a crate of lager. I particularly favour the sort of contest which includes a tie-breaker slogan, e.g. where you have to complete a line such as "I love eating Australian apples every day because..." in 15 words or less.

These sort of contests are great for writers, because you really can use your professional skills to give you an edge over most of the other entrants. Here's an example of one such contest running online at the moment, so you can see what I mean. Note that these contests often require you to answer one or two other questions as well, but almost always these are very easy. Really, it all comes down to who can write the best "tie-breaker" slogan.

Unfortunately, this sort of contest is mainly open to people in the UK, and to a lesser extent in Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. Elsewhere in the world - e.g. the USA - sweepstakes abound, but because there is little skill in entering these, you have no opportunity to apply your writing abilities, and your chances of winning are therefore much less.

Anyway, I thought I'd take this opportunity to mention that entering consumer contests is a topic covered in my Quick Cash Writing course and, in much more depth, in my new course How to Win Contests. If you want to know all about entering consumer contests, how to devise winning slogans, essential online (and off-line) resources for "compers", and much more, you really should check them out. How to Win Contests does also discuss sweepstakes, but as mentioned above you can't do a lot to improve your chances of winning these. There are a few things, however, and naturally in my full course I reveal them :)

Good luck, and I hope you're soon earning the equivalent of fifty pounds an hour!

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Three Days Left!

A quick reminder that you have just three days left to enter the contest on my forum at to win a year's subscription to SpellCheckPlus Pro.

All you have to do is write a short verse about and post it in this topic. Any verse-form may be used, with an upper limit of 14 lines. The judges will be Karl Moore of WCCL and myself, and we will each pick our favourite of the entries submitted. Each winner will then receive a prize (we have two to give away in total).

Forum members can post their entries as a reply in this forum topic, which also includes the full rules. Any comments or questions about the contest can be posted in this other topic.

The closing date is Friday 30 November at 12 noon GMT - so have fun, and get writing!

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Win a copy of SpellCheckPlus Pro!

Members of my forum at have a chance to win a year's subscription to SpellCheckPlus Pro, the professional version of the free online spelling and grammar checker SpellCheckPlus, discussed in my blog post yesterday.

To win this prize, you have to write a short verse about and post it in this topic. Any verse-form may be used, with an upper limit of 14 lines (so sonnets are eligible!). Use of humour is not only acceptable, it is positively encouraged. The judges will be me and Karl Moore of WCCL, and we will each pick our favourite of all the entries submitted. Each winner will then receive a prize (we have two to give away in total).

Forum members can post their entries as a reply in this forum topic, which also includes the full rules. Please do NOT post comments or queries there, though, as we want to keep it for contest entries only. Any comments or questions about the contest can be posted in this other topic.

The closing date is Friday 30 November at 12 noon GMT - so have fun, and get writing!

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