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

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!

Writers’ Rooms – photos

We all like to see what sort of environment other writers work in. So you’re bound to enjoy this page on the BBC News website, which shows photos of lots of writers’ rooms, together with an audio commentary.

The full list of rooms featured is:

Alan Sillitoe
Jacqueline Wilson
Beryl Bainbridge
Craig Raine
Seamus Heaney
A.L. Kennedy
Ahdaf Soueif
John Mortimer
David Lodge
V.S. Naipaul
Hanif Kureishi
Margaret Drabble
J.G. Ballard
David Hare
Russell Hoban
Eric Hobsbawm
Roald Dahl
Martin Amis
Ian Rankin
Will Self

As you might expect, some are implausibly tidy, some are well-lived-in . . . and one or two are just like mine!

Dave Haslett, ideas4writers,

Beat the credit crunch – follow-up

Several of you bought the book 20 Ways to Make $100 a Day Online that I mentioned last week. Well done. I really do hope it works for you. It certainly has for me – I’ll talk about that some more in a moment.

A couple of people (who obviously haven’t seen the book) thought it was probably just a gimmick, or would only work in America, or that the only people who would make any money out of it were the people who wrote it.

I’m seriously disappointed. Surely you know me well enough by now to know that I wouldn’t bother promoting or recommending anything that I hadn’t personally tested. I don’t do that sort of thing. I’m trying to help you. Being a cynic is all well and good – and very wise when your “bank” sends you strange emails – but it does mean that you’ll sometimes miss out on the good stuff.

I’ve had exactly the same problem trying to convince people that The Fastest Way to Write Your Book is the genuine article. It’s been on sale for over three years now, yet some people still think it sounds too good to be true and won’t touch it. Despite that, I’ve had over a hundred letters, notes, cards, emails, reviews – and even a few books – from happy readers who’ve bought it, used it, and found that it works. (Thanks for sending them in – and more are always welcome, especially the books!) If anyone is still too cynical to buy it, they’re clearly losing out.

It reminds me of a spam filter that blocks everything, including the messages you really did want to receive. I’ve talked about this before.

As anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m a quality-obsessed control freak with a guilt complex. So if I wrote it or recommended it, you can guarantee that it’s good, genuine, life-enhancing stuff.

Anyway, back to this 20 Ways to Make $100 a Day Online book . . .

Let me first assure you that every one of the 20 methods will work wherever you are in the world – even if you live in a tiny little rural town in the middle of Devon like me. None of them are gimmicks. None of them are unethical. None of them are particularly American either.

I very nearly wrote the same book myself – and in fact I started writing the outline. But I decided not to bother when I found out that it had already been done.

I think I’d have made a slightly better job of it, if I’m completely honest.

I’d have added a few additional methods that I use myself – if you’ve bought the book, email me ( and I’ll tell you what they are. If you haven’t bought it yet, buy it first, then email me.

There’s also too much jargon for the layman, in my opinion. And the steps need to be more consistently explained – you can tell it was written by several different people. A bit of proofreading wouldn’t have hurt either.

But the basic facts are all there, and it should give you plenty of leads and ideas and make you plenty of money. You can always get someone else to do it for you, if you don’t know how or can’t be bothered – the book tells you how to do this. And there are plenty of places to get extra help and advice.

Here’s my personal experience:

By using just one of the methods in the book I was able to give up work about four and a half years ago. And I did it long before this book was even written. (For those who have the book it’s the method on page 207 – I’m sure you’re familiar with it!)

I’ve stopped using that particular method to generate income (for the time being) and switched to something else – which is also in the book. It makes more money for less effort. (Pages 156 and 231.)

But I’ve now worked out a way to do the first method (page 207) in a way that requires virtually no effort. So early next year I’ll be resurrecting it as an income generator and running it in parallel with the current stuff. I might even start up a new one on a different subject as well. Or maybe I’ll get my daughter to do it – she’s 14.

Next year I’ll also be doing another method that’s in the book (Pages 23 and 57). Someone else will be doing all the work – for free. And I’ll keep half the profits – for basically doing nothing. Well, I had the idea and spent a couple of hours writing it down. And I had to find someone to do all the work – which involved sending one email. But that was my total contribution to a project that will probably make me a lot of money over the next 5 years.

I’ll also be using the method on page 213 to repackage and sell something I already have. Though I don’t plan on doing much of the selling myself. The methods on pages 12, 35, 222 and 231 should take care of that.

And very recently I’ve spotted a good opportunity to use another of the methods (page 137) that there’s a big demand for, that I can do easily, and for which the competing products are generally of poor quality. My initial trial worked perfectly. So I’ll roll that out on a much bigger scale when I’ve finished writing the books I’m currently working on. That one’s so much fun to do that it’s more like a hobby really, albeit a profitable one. And it’s a welcome break from all the writing.

So that’s 11 out of the 20 I think. All of which I can do very (very) easily. I could also do any of the others fairly easily too, but those 11 are the ones that I can do with the least effort and that interest me the most. In fact I was doing most of them on a small scale already. They just need to be expanded, as and when I decide to do it.

Once they’re set up, most of them can be left to run on their own. And they won’t even take much setting up. I just need to get a few other things out of the way first. Next year is going to be a lot of fun!

Remember, getting the book is only the first step. The second step is the one where most people give up: taking action. Just pick one of the methods and spend a day doing it, working through the blueprint exactly as it says – you’ll be amazed at how far you can get.

I couldn’t ever go back to having a real job!

Dave Haslett, ideas4writers,

Beat the credit crunch: 20 ways to make money online

Hello! Something a bit different for you this week.

Several of you have been telling me that you’re short of money.

  • You want to publish your book, but you can’t afford to.
  • You can’t afford to run a proper marketing campaign.
  • And of course, some of you are struggling to pay your household bills, what with this credit crunch/recession thing.

I’m sorry to hear that. But I’m always willing to help if I can – and this is something I can help you with. I’ve got something for you – something that I use myself.

It’s a 247-page e-book called “20 ways to make $100 a day online”.

$100 a day is about £65. That might not sound a lot. But this is regular income generated using simple methods that take very little time to do. See how it all stacks up:

£65 a day is £455 a week. Or £1,950 a month. Or £23,725 a year.

That’s regular income from doing some very easy part-time work – maybe an hour or two per day. You’ll easily be able to publish your book, have a fantastic marketing campaign for it, pay your bills – and still have enough left over for a nice holiday.

And that’s just from using one of the methods. There are 20 of them in the book. There’s nothing to stop you using more of them and making even more money. Several of the methods involve doing a little bit of writing. You’re already a writer, so that immediately gives you a big advantage over most other people. You can treat each day’s money-making session as a warm-up exercise before you get on with your real writing. And you can do this on top of your day job if you have one, so it’s much better – and far more rewarding – than pestering your boss for a pay rise.


I’ve got this e-book myself, and I use several of the methods in it. In fact several of these methods are the exact same ones that enabled me to give up my day job in 2004 so I could spend my time writing books. These methods still work perfectly well today, and will continue to work.

The 20 methods are all easily do-able by just about anyone with a computer. Each method is fully and properly explained by someone who’s not only an expert at it, but also a great teacher. They use these methods themselves. And all the methods WORK – day after day – to make small but regular amounts of money. There is nothing dodgy, unethical, or illegal. It isn’t a get-rich-quck scheme, pyramid marketing scam, or anything like that. I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to you if it was.

This isn’t some flimsy little e-book, it’s an in-depth guide, and it’ll probably take you a few days to read it all properly. You don’t just get an overview of each method, you get a full explanation of exactly WHAT to do and exactly HOW to do it. And it’s the “HOW TO” bit that’s most important in my opinion – that’s the part that’s so often missing from other books.

With all this great information at your fingertips, all you have to do to make money is to TAKE ACTION. But that’s the bit that most people won’t do. If you’re just going to read the book, say to yourself, “That looks easy, I could do that” but then not do anything, then please don’t bother buying it, especially if you’re badly affected by the credit crunch. Because you’ll be wasting money that would be better spent on something else.

But if you would be willing to take action if it was something you could easily do and all the steps were fully explained to you, then I urge you to get this book straight away. Read it, choose one or two of the methods, and start doing them. Then all those irritating money problems will go away.

The book costs $27, which at today’s exchange rate is about £17.

If £17 sounds expensive, try looking at it another way – it’s just 85p for each method. And you will find that all 20 methods are easy to do. Your problem won’t be finding one that you can do, it’ll be deciding which one to do first!

Each method is so well covered, and the information in each chapter so valuable, that if each one was sold as a separate e-book for $27 each, they would still sell well. So you could say that you’re actually getting over $500 worth of information.

And in fact there’s also a 21st method that will earn back the cost of your book several times over with about 30 minutes’ work.

And just one more thing. I really do want you to get this book, so I’m going to give you an extra reward if you buy it – something you can really use. When you buy the e-book (by clicking on the link below) you will be sent a receipt by email. Forward a copy of your receipt to me ( and I will send you FIVE bonus e-books:

Bonus Book 1: How I Quit My Job
Bonus Book 2: The Science of Getting Rich
Bonus Book 3: 60 Effective Strategies for Selling More Books
Bonus Book 4: Book Promotion Ain’t For Sissies
Bonus Book 5: How To Create An e-Course In Only One Day

Click here to find out more “20 ways to make $100 a day online” and to buy your copy.

Don’t forget to send me a copy of your receipt, so I can send you your bonuses.

Right, that’s the credit crunch sorted – now I can get back to working on The Date-A-Base Book 2010.

Here’s to your success!

Dave Haslett, ideas4writers,

2009 writers’ yearbooks now available

It’s that time of year again when wise writers update their collection of yearbooks. These yearbooks give you the latest contact details for publishers, agents, newspapers, magazines, TV companies, etc. They also contain the latest submission requirements and advice. There are also details of competitions and awards that you can enter. Plus you’ll find a variety of useful articles from leading writers, covering subjects such as formatting your manuscript and tax issues.

The world of writing and publishing changes rapidly. By having the very latest contact details, submission requirements and advice, you’ll significantly improve your chances of getting published. And you won’t make the mistake of sending your work to someone who’s now left the company, or to a company that has gone out of business. You’ll also find out about new publishers, agents and media outlets.

But these yearbooks are not only useful to writers seeking publication, they’re also enormously valuable if you’ve already been published and need contact details for press and media outlets so you can market your books.

Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2009

Children’s Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2009

The Writer’s Handbook 2009

Writer’s Market UK 2009

And don’t forget our own very useful Date-A-Base Book 2009 which is a different sort of yearbook. It contains details of more than 1,200 historic anniversaries that will occur during 2009. You need these dates well in advance so you’ll have time to research, write and edit your work and get it to editors in plenty of time for publication. Available in both printed and e-book versions, just one article sale will cover the purchase cost many times over.

Dave Haslett, ideas4writers,

ideas4writers short story workshop, Exeter

Dave Haslett from ideas4writers will be running a short story writing workshop in Exeter, Devon on Saturday 8th March 2008 as part of the World Book Day celebrations. You are very welcome to attend but places are limited so you’ll need to book early.

This workshop covers:

  • Plot
  • Characters
  • Dialogue
  • Setting
  • Structure
  • Genre
  • Theme
  • Dialogue
  • Description
  • Obstacles and hazards
  • Taboos
  • Beginnings, middles & ends


  • How to grab a reader’s attention from the very start
  • Editing and polishing
  • Writer’s block – and how to avoid it
  • What magazine editors are looking for
  • Choosing the right market for your work
  • Making sure your work fits the market
  • How to submit your work for publication
  • How to win writing competitions – secrets of the judging process revealed!

Fast-paced and tons of fun, you’ll leave the workshop buzzing with ideas, eager to get to work, and fully-loaded with all the essential knowledge you need to be a successful short story writer!

Venue: Farringdon Village Hall, near Exeter, Devon
Date: Saturday 8th March 2008, 2.00 – 5.00 pm
Cost: £12.50 (including refreshments)

To book your place or for more information please call 01884-839577 or email

You can also book Dave for your own talks and workshops. For details of the topics available click here. To contact Dave, email:

Dave Haslett, ideas4writers,