Hello everyone and welcome to the sixty-fourth month of this competition. There were 51 entries from 25 authors for the theme of ‘the winter summer holiday’. NB You can all send in three stories for a better chance of being picked.
One was disqualified for being way over the 100 words (the author did leave a comment to admit to getting carried away). 🙂 Another was 98 words because four words should have been connected (get / together – as a noun, and ‘grand child’). Ditto another story for ‘grand kids’ and ‘Coke a Cola’ (instead of Coca-Cola, which is one word instead of three). And another because there were two sets of detached ellipses. Punctuation alone doesn’t count as a word. Fortunately the author submitted two other stories so they went through.
One of another author’s stories was disqualified for having ‘a snow’. Like money, snow is a collective noun so it should have been ‘snow’ on its own, making the story 99 words, or ‘a snowfall’ which would have been fine. Sadly it was my favourite story of the three so my second favourite went through to judging. Another story had ‘trees are laden with fruit hang upon branches’ – the same (collective noun) applies here and in the context ‘hanging’ (or hung) would have been the preferred (imho) choice, although my editor’s head would have chopped the ‘hang upon branches’ because we have the context (sorry, author!). There was also an apostrophe missing from ‘keeping ones spirit’ (one’s) alive. A lovely story though.
One story had a non-hyphenated title but this isn’t included in the word count so it was fine. Another had ‘it was really was’ so removing one of the ‘was’s took it down to 99. Fortunately the author had sent two other stories so they went through. Another lost a brownie point for having ‘whist’ instead of ‘whilst’. A spell checker wouldn’t pick it out because ‘whist’ is a word in itself but when I listened to the stories, on my Kindle Fire’s text-to-speech function, I spotted the error.
Other story missed out on a top-three slot by switching, in error, between past then present then back to past tense. Another from present tense to past tense (when it’s all one scene with no reflection). It’s easily done but it’s a shame.
Some stories that missed out on a place were the only entries by their authors. It’s always worth sending the maximum of three. It can’t guarantee a place but one of the stories would likely have a better chance than the other two.
- like compass points (north, south, east, west), seasons (spring, summer, autumn, winter/fall) aren’t capitalised unless part of a name, e.g. The Winter House bar. That said, the story that concentrated on these, used them as names so it’s fine. Although it was a strong story, the author’s second story made me chuckle – always a good sign – so that went through.
- adverbs (and nouns) should be used after the verb, e.g. ‘to go boldly’ rather than ‘to boldly go’ but there are exceptions such as a connected object: Tom put the pen down on the table. If something sounds better with the verb split (a split infinitive) then go with the more natural sounding.
- where the dialogue tag (he said) follows on from what is said there should be a comma before the speech marks / inverted commas then small ‘h’ for ‘he said’ or ‘s’ for ‘she said’ or equivalent. There still wouldn’t be capitals, unless for a name, after a question or exclamation mark. And it’s fine to use exclamation marks when someone’s yelling / shouting (then you’d often not need the ‘he / she yelled / shouted’), but just one ! 🙂
- where the speech has an unrelated dialogue tag, e.g. someone laughing, moving, smiling, waving etc. (with it capitalised: He laughed. She picked up the mug.’ etc.) the punctuation should be a full stop rather than a comma. Had it been related description, it would be a comma.
- when talking to someone, we don’t often say each other’s names (and avoid too many endearments). Although dialogue doesn’t strictly reflect real speech, it should feel realistic and especially where you only have two characters in a scene and it’s been established who’s saying what, you can cut down on (or out) the name calling. Also rather than ‘Tom said’, have Tom pick up a mug or equivalent so the description, in the same paragraph as what he says, tells us it’s him speaking.
- ‘all’, ‘now’, ‘very’ and ‘just’ are often overused so I recommend, especially in a longer piece, seeing how many you have and chopping where possible. One story had two ‘just’s in consecutive sentences. They stand out to me more than most readers but less is more, especially in something this short.
- titles (and headings) don’t have full stops unless there’s more than one sentence.
- although grammatically correct, I recommend you don’t put commas between adjectives, and certainly not immediately before the noun / object. It slows the pace… really slows it where there are several and anything that slows what should be a fast-paced page-turning read is best avoided.
- where an action has ‘starts to’ / ‘started to’ or ‘begins to’ / ‘began to’ before it, most of the time they’re not needed because unless the action is interrupted, the verb alone works better / is stronger. An example would be ‘the phone began to ring’. If it stops without being answered then that’s fine (although it still rang!) but if not then have ‘the phone rang’.
- I’m a stickler for unintended repetition. One story had a ‘rushing’ then ‘rush’. Another had four ‘all’s. I spot some early but other repetition leaps out when I listen to the document, alongside reading it on the screen. I recommend having some way of having something (or someone) else reading your story as you may well spot something you’d not picked up on the first (or second… third) time round.
- numbers under 100 are best written in full so they blend with the rest of the text (especially where they are 1st and the likes, as eReaders tend not to like superscript) so I’ve amended the ones that are. That said, I think all numbers unless titles (BMW Series 5) etc. are best written in full. For info., decades are plural so no apostrophe required.
- where something is plural (a family name in this case) rather than possessive, e.g. the Smiths rather than something belonging to the Smith family, no apostrophe is required.
- it’s is a shortening for ‘it is’ – often used before a verb or description (e.g. it’s happening whether you like it or not / it’s brown not black) whereas ‘its’ is possessive – something belonging to something or someone, so usually before a noun (e.g. the dog was curled in its basket). Note: I’ve said ‘curled’ rather than ‘curled up’ because we know what curled means. You can often lose the ‘up’ or ‘down’ with a motion, e.g. he stood up, she sat down It’s only trimming a word but they add up(!) over the length of a novel.
- when writing past tense narration, ago is present tense so ‘two years ago’ wouldn’t be two years ago but two years earlier / before. Ditto tomorrow isn’t tomorrow (today isn’t today etc.). Tomorrow is the next day / the day after, today is that day, yesterday is the day before / a day earlier, tonight is that evening / night etc. Dialogue is present tense so they’re fine in speech. This is present-tense narration so it’s fine as it is but worth mentioning.
The winning stories are ones that I reacted most favourably to (especially this month as ‘Richard’ was a long-deceased cat in one and non-deceased husband in another). They were clever, surprising, eek-making (in a good way), or gave me a warm fuzzy feeling (without being sickly). Sometimes a story beats another because it has a stronger link to the theme so it’s worth writing a story to the theme rather than tweaking a story you already have to loosely fit it. Alternatively there may have been several stories on with same topic so I chose my favourite of those. With any competition, much rests upon the judge’s preference and it’s usually ones than garner a stronger (positive) reaction that do the best.
You may have chosen a different order or indeed not placed one or more of them so if you entered and didn’t find your story / stories here, don’t lose heart. You probably only just missed out so do enter new stories this month*, next month, whenever you like (but not in advance!). It’s an ongoing competition and free, so you could win at any time. There were new and familiar names this month so anyone could win… it’s all dependent upon whether your story grabs me, for whatever reason (whether it be clever, funny, unusual, quirky, or sweet).
Apart from the top three and highly commended, there are some ‘Honourable Mentions’. They don’t win anything but they were so close to being Highly Commended that I wanted them to know how close they came. It’s still something for them to put on their CVs.
*The theme for January is ‘Before the shot was fired… (as a sentence start)’ and you can submit your entries (and do send three) at any time up to midnight (UK time) on Sunday 31st January. Details and entry forms on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/100-word-free-monthly-competition. So without further ado, below are the successful entries this month.
Join first place (each winning free access to three of my online creative writing courses (currently worth £60 / $60) or a free edit and critique of up to 2,000 words (worth £30 / $42):
Christopher Tattersall with ‘Season’s Greetings’
Behind the glass it was cold enough for snow, yet outside the sun shone bright.
He wore his warm coat with white fur lapels as he watched her outside enjoying the summer vacation.
He revelled in her joy, watching her splash in the paddling pool. As she played and her family made the most of summer, he travelled the globe, killing time until he was required again.
As the year progressed, their ambient temperatures slowly converged. Soon snow would fall from their skies again.
She replaced the ornament, watching in awe as the snow settled in his dome of glass.
Darren York with ‘Who Stole the Summer?’
I took it as it was poking its head above the horizon, bright orange beginning to fill every living thing. The previous year had been a miserable one, rain taking the place of the sun’s rays. Winter followed, giving us another season without the sun. So, in desperation, I’d bundled it into the back of my car, driven home and locked it in my garden shed. I waited until Christmas day to release its golden rays, making it the hottest Christmas in my house ever recorded. To this very day the sun’s still missing, but I know where it is.
Joint second place (each winning free access to two of my online creative writing courses (currently worth £40 / $40) or a free edit and critique of up to 1,500 words (worth £22.50 / $31.50):
E. E. Rhodes with ‘The Dream Trip’
Let’s pretend we went on our summer holiday and you got to wear your brand new dress.
Let’s pretend there was unremitting sunshine and we paddled happily in a welcoming sea.
Let’s pretend we got sand in all our creases when we rolled together on the salt-stretched beach.
Let’s pretend the weather was delightful and we remembered to send all our busy postcards.
Let’s pretend we had the most amazing time and there were no tiers.
Let’s pretend I didn’t cry all through December, aching for the warmth of you.
Let’s pretend we could still go.
Let’s pretend we went.
Jane Brown with ‘A Full House’
“Beach!” the Queen of Hearts demanded. “I want to show off my new bikini.”
“Come on, Queenie,” both the black Jacks said. “We all agreed our next holiday would be to the snow.”
The Queen pouted. “I refuse to go. All that cold air does nothing for my pores.”
The King of Diamonds groaned and put his head in his hands.
That night, all the cards (minus one) got together for a secret meeting.
The next day, they frolicked in a winter wonderland after one card took an unexpected trip down a pipe.
It’s hard to beat a straight flush.
Third place (winning free access to one of my online creative writing courses (currently worth £20 / $20) or a free edit and critique of up to 1,000 words (worth £15 / $21):
Sue Massey with ‘Winter Sunshine’
The volume of work makes it impossible to take a holiday in summer. Green Team sorts mail. Red Team builds bespoke creations. EffCee is in charge. Parcels and packages loaded sky high, he harnesses Pulling Team. They fly into the cold night sky full of twinkling constellations and bright planets. “Phew, last drop,” EffCee mutters. Thomas pops his sleepy head over the duvet. “Thank you, Father Christmas. See you next year.”
Exhausted, EffCee smiles. He steers Pulling Team back to base to pick up the others. They head off in search of winter sunshine for a well-earned and long-overdue holiday.
Highly commended (winning my Entering Writing Competitions course worth £20 / $20) or a free edit and critique of up to 1,000 words (worth £15 / $21) – in alphabetical order:
- Bob Cairns with ‘Santa’s Sudden Summer’
- Kirtan Savith Kumar with ‘A Seaside Picnic’
- Kyle Barratt with ‘What’s in a Name’
- Linda Hibbin with ‘Heart-warming Memories’
- Sarah Robin with ‘The Escape’
Honourable mentions (not winning anything but only narrowly missing out and still looking good on their CV) – in alphabetical order:
- CJ Nicol with ‘Christmas Day, 2120’
- Laura Besley with ‘Dream Holiday’
- Stef Smulders with ‘Sloth’
- Yvonne Mastaglio with ‘Back on the Mountain’
Congratulations, everyone. The entries for this month are already drifting in. Remember, you can send up to three per month so rather than miss out on a chance by sending one story, do submit more.
If you’ve enjoyed these stories and / or just want to leave a comment, please do so below and / or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org., although I won’t (can’t) discuss forthcoming entries unless it’s a general query.