How to Win Short Story Competitions (Second Edition)


We’ve updated our book How to Win Short Story Competitions.

This new *Second Edition* is available from Amazon in
Kindle ( and
paperback ( editions,
from just £2.99/$3.99.

Two highly experienced, award-winning writers and short story competition judges share everything they know about entering, judging and (most importantly) winning short story competitions, in an easy-to-follow Q&A format.

Find out:

* Exactly what the judges are looking for.

* How the scoring system works.

* How to score highly in every category.

* What impresses judges – and what turns them off.

* How to write exceptional short stories.

* Which competitions give you the best chance of winning.

* How to avoid being disqualified.

* And much more.

New to this edition are:

Updated and expanded content – now 140 pages
Table of contents and full index
TWO award-winning short stories
First time available in paperback

The Date-A-Base Book 2019 is here!

cover19_3d_transThe Date-A-Base Book 2019 is now available!

Details of 1,500 newsworthy and notable anniversaries in 2019, including important events, inventions, discoveries, and significant births and deaths.

Buy your copy at

(Lifetime ideas4writers members can download it free of charge from the members’ area.)

As previously advised, we’ve gone back to our old format, with only the top 1,500 most significant (and useful) events of the year included. This makes it much faster to produce.

We are only producing the chronological version this time, not the “grouped by date” version. But as there are only about 8 pages for each month, you should be able to find the dates you need quite easily.

We should be able to get the printed version on sale within the next few days – though you will have to buy it from Amazon rather than our own website. The advantage is that wherever you live, you should only have to pay local shipping rates rather than airmail from the UK. Unfortunately, it will have a regular paperback binding, not the spiral wire binding we’ve used for the last few years. We’ll post another message here as soon as it’s available.

Is there any demand for a Kindle version? Please let us know in the comments or email Kindle editions have never sold particularly well when we’ve tried them in the past. If there’s no demand, we’d rather get on with producing the 2020 edition.

Best wishes


Wanted: someone to run a Kickstarter campaign for us. Reward: 10 percent of funds raised.


We’re looking for someone with experience of running a Kickstarter campaign who would like to earn some money.

We’re getting lots of complaints that we’ve discontinued The Date-A-Base Book/Next Year’s News series. This was our annual collection of historic and newsworthy anniversaries for the coming year. We weren’t selling enough copies to make it worth continuing. But some high-profile companies and writers had come to depend on it.

So we’re considering a Kickstarter campaign that will raise £15,000 – £20,000 (more would be nice) where people pay £10 to order their copy of “Next Year’s News 2019” in advance. If we reach the target – equivalent to at least 1,500 copies – we’ll drop everything and get it written ASAP. But if we don’t hit the target then it won’t get written, and the series will be retired.

We don’t have the time or marketing expertise to be able to pull this off, but we’re sure someone out there does. If not you personally then a friend of a friend, perhaps. We’ll give that person 10% of whatever the Kickstarter campaign raises. (However, they only get paid if the campaign reaches its target.)

So … £1,500 – £2,000 (maybe more) for a few weeks’ work … anybody?

[UPDATE] To help sweeten the deal, we’ll raise the reward to 20% if the campaign fund reaches £20,000, and to 50% if it reaches £50,000. achieving that kind of figure won’t be easy, but it’s certainly possible. If you have the crowdfunding skills to pull it off, £25,000 could be yours.

Please spread the word and let’s see if we can save this much-loved series!

If you’re interested in running the campaign:

Please email us: and tell us about your previous experience of running a successful Kickstarter campaign. (If it wasn’t successful, you need to be confident that it would be if you did it again – lessons learned, etc.)

We have the contact details for everyone that has bought a copy previously, so you’d be able to email them and try to enlist their support.

We can supply any graphics or text that might be required – just tell us what you need.

If you want to see what the book looks like, here’s the link to the 2018 edition:

Or email us at the address above and we’ll send you the pdf of the 2017 edition.

The 2018 edition has only sold about 120 copies so far, which is why the series will be discontinued unless we can get the funding. The minimum number of copies required for a viable product is 1,500.

We think there should be a lot more demand for it. Previous editions have sold significantly more copies than the current one. But we don’t seem to be reaching the right people with our marketing. We also believe that Google is preventing people from finding our website because it isn’t mobile responsive yet, and we haven’t had the time to fix it.

The key targets for marketing purposes would be media/production companies, newspapers, journalists, and article writers.

New Book: 176 Lovingly Crafted Ideas for Romance Writers

176 Lovingly Crafted Ideas for Romance Writers

Here’s the first book in our rebranded series of ideas and story prompts for writers.

All of the ideas have been edited and updated;
there’s a lovely new cover;
the Kindle price has been slashed to just 2.99;
and it’s now available in paperback too!

It’s only available from Amazon, and to comply with their exclusivity requirements, we will no longer be selling it on the ideas4writers website.

Here’s the new description:

Create romantic stories your readers will never forget. No more boring, over-used plots; clichéd, one-dimensional characters; or stories that lack imagination. Your plots will be fresh and exciting, your characters will be realistic and compelling, and your stories will be so full of imagination and depth that your readers will be hungry for more.


  • An easy way to write romantic stories
  • The essential elements of romantic fiction
  • How to create the perfect hero and heroine
  • Conveying emotion and building tension
  • The perfect formula for sexual chemistry
  • How to write romantic dialogue
  • And much more
  • Plus 50 great storylines you can use immediately or adapt as you wish

Here are those all-important links:

Kindle edition:


(Hint: the paperback version would make a lovely Christmas gift!)

We’ll be working on the Thrillers collection next. It should be available in about two weeks.

Guest post: E. Rachael Hardcastle (Author of Finding Pandora)

6016f2_1e64bbd333624e3da9900739929e2dbc-mv2_d_1280_1214_s_2.pngToday we’re delighted to welcome supernatural fantasy novelist and West Yorkshire lass E. Rachael Hardcastle to the ideas4writers blog. Her box set Finding Pandora – The Complete Collection (Books 1 – 4) is out this week.

Naturally, we wanted to know all about her, her ideas, and her writing and publishing experiences, and to see if she had any useful tips to share. Here’s what she had to say:

How do you find and evaluate ideas for characters, plots, dialogue, etc?

It’s an overused response but ideas just come to me. Sometimes after watching TV or reading a book I wonder what new swing I could put on that premise, so I’ll write it down and explore it later on. I never base characters on real people – I like to let the characters develop into who they need to be and usually fill in a profile sheet (as seen on my blog) to make sure I cover everything.

How did you get your latest idea? What made it good enough to write about?

My latest idea came to me after watching Jurassic Park and reading a book called The Great Zoo of China. I wanted to explore the theme park idea further, where the guests have to escape for some reason. I know the idea is popular because the movies do well, and to the best of my knowledge the books have done well too, so I thought I’d note it down and brainstorm some ideas. I haven’t started writing yet, but I know it’s a golden nugget because it crosses my mind every day.

How did you expand the idea?

  • Use brainstorming and mind mapping ideas

  • Use story beats to note everything down and build a story/characters

  • Note down the cliches I wanted to avoid and why

  • Watched the movies, read the books etc for research and to see how I can make my story unique

How do you do your research?

I prefer to use reference books rather than the internet, though I do often mix the two. I write fantasy, so some of my research is on myth, legends, signs and symbols, etc, which is fun, so I don’t actually mind this part of the process. I then keep notes in a ‘story beats’ outline document in OpenOffice, which I refer to whenever it is needed. I tried Scrivener but haven’t yet made friends with it.

Would you be willing to share with us some of the ideas you’ve rejected?

I very rarely reject ideas, I just note them down for use in a future project. I think my advice would be not to reject anything because even if it has been used before, there’s always a new way to approach it. They say there are no new ideas and I believe this is true to some extent – it’s what you do with them that counts.

Which book marketing ideas would you recommend?

I offer free content to prove I am trustworthy and helpful. I think marketing can be creepy when you’re posting ‘buy my book’ on social media. Your posts will be ignored and you might lose followers by doing this. Post free content on your blog, helpful notes and resources, and then offer your book at the end. For example, you could advertise your book at the end of a YouTube video that is free and offers the viewer a solution to a problem.

How did you get published?

I self-published my work after coming close to traditional publishing and turning down two offers. I decided I wanted to be in control and give it a shot myself. That way, I could learn the ins and outs and possibly turn hybrid later.

Have you had any really bad/bizarre rejections or reviews?

I once received a postal rejection (with my manuscript enclosed) and on the title page was the comment ‘We don’t publish poetry’. I had submitted my 50,000+ word high fantasy novel…

How do you find the time to write?

I think I steal the time to write after work and between chores at home. If you want to be a writer, you should write, and those who are serious will make the time.

Where do you write?

I have a home office. I keep all my reference books, tools and notes in that room so I can access anything I need quickly and easily.

Can you recommend any software or apps that help with your writing?

And finally, where can we find out more about you and your books?

My website is at

Thank you! Good luck with the box set and for your future writing success.

Thank you!

We now edit books!

We have officially launched our new editing and proofreading service!

We can offer proofreading, copy editing, line editing and developmental work at very reasonable prices. (There’s an explanation of what we do for each of those on our website, and you’ll find the price list there too.)

We have nearly 30 years’ writing and editing experience, and we’re friendly, flexible and full of ideas! The last time we offered this service (to ideas4writers lifetime members only) at least five of the books we worked on won international awards. We expect that to continue. The only difference is that this time the service is open to everyone!

But we’re more than just editors! If you don’t have a finished book yet, or even if you haven’t started it yet, we can help you turn your idea into an outline, then help you create your book around it, scene by scene or chapter by chapter, suggesting improvements as you go and editing each part as it’s completed.

And if English isn’t your first language we can make your book read as if it was written by a native English speaker.

We’re keeping our prices deliberately low while we get the service up and running again and work on the first ten or so books. Sign up soon if you want a genuine bargain!

Full details are at


NEW: Discuss What Ifs in our Facebook Group

Dave Haslett, founder, ideas4writers


Hello fellow writers!

If you go to the ideas4writers Facebook group you’ll see an exciting new feature. Each day we’re choosing one of the What Ifs we posted on the blog at the beginning of each month, and we’re discussing it in depth, expanding and enlarging on it, and looking at the story possibilities in each one. I hope you find it useful. It’s certainly stretching my imagination!

The Facebook group is open to anyone who wants to join. Just go to the group and click the Join button and I’ll grant you access the next time I’m on Facebook. You don’t need to be a member of the ideas4writers website or the blog. Your friends can join too – just let them know where to find us. The more people who join, the better the discussions should be, and the more ideas we’ll get for bigger and better stories.

In case the link above isn’t working, the ideas4writers Facebook group is at:


If you’re a member of the ideas4writers website, you might have spotted that our forum software has died. We’re going to redesign the site over the next few months, so it seems silly to replace the forum software with something else, only to have to scrap it again when the new site launches. So we’re using the Facebook group as our forum for now, and directing all our members there instead.

When the new website launches, the forum will be at the front of the site, not hidden away in the members’ section, so everyone will be able to use it.


I hope you’ve made a great start to your writing in 2017. I have huge plans for the year, and I’ve made a big wall chart with all the projects and timelines I’ll be working on. It looks … scary. But just about doable with a lot of work (and no procrastinating).

You might know that I get most of my ideas while I’m out walking, so when I saw the Walk 1,000 Miles in 2017 challenge, I immediately signed up for it. As I write this I’ve just completed the walk for day 9 and my total so far is 33 miles (8 miles more than the target) so it’s going well – I could even afford to take a couple of days off. Snow is forecast for the end of the week, which might limit the walks for a few days. (But I’ll believe it when I see it – it rarely snows here.)

I’m planning to do some longer walks over the summer. There are about 50 walking routes through the Blackdown Hills, about 20 minutes from here, that I haven’t explored yet. I’m also part of a walking group, but they only walk on Wednesday evenings between May and August.

If I’m walking on my own (which is most of the time – the rest of the family are not walkers!) I take my phone and headphones with me and listen to podcasts to keep me company. They help the miles fly by, and don’t inhibit the flow of ideas. I have Evernote on my phone, so it’s easy to note down (or speak) each idea as it occurs, or take a quick photo, and file it in the relevant section.

The podcasts I listen to are: The Creative Penn, the Sell More Books Show, Write 2B Read, and a new one called the Book Launch Show. I also download and listen to the Radio 4 shows The News Quiz and the The Now Show when they’re on – but they’re not on at the moment.

I must leave you now as it’s 9 pm and I have a chapter to write before bedtime. I hope to connect with you in the Facebook group. Or I’ll see you here this time next week with 50 Newsworthy Anniversaries in July 2017 for you to write about.