Friday, 28 February 2014


We understand that some of you have been having problems voting for the annual winner. The problem has been sorted now. We apologise for the inconvenience. 

Gettng it right

Characters can make or break a story. You cannot make your stories live unless you have characters.  This came to mind with some entries into this month’s Global Short Story Competition (last day today). Here’s some thoughts on how those writers got it right.
They described their main characters' physical characteristics but picked only the salient information
They made the reader visualise the person by thinking about the small things which make them stand out, make them live.
They captured their demeanour.
They described their views, their emotions, they type of character.
They did not pack the information in all at once, rather revealing the character as the story progressed.
They made sure the main characters are strong enough to carry the story on their shoulders.
And they made sure we care about them - not necessarily like but care.
Above all, their characters were REAL.
Still time to enter at

John Dean

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Voting under way

People are already starting to vote after the Darlington-based team behind the Global Short Story Competition launched an initiative to find its annual winner.

The monthly competition, run by Inscribe Media Limited from the North East of England, was launched in December 2007 and, in addition to £125 of monthly prizes, an annual award of £250 is made.

The award is normally selected by a panel including monthly judge Fiona Cooper and competition administrator John Dean, and goes to one of the writers who was successful in the previous twelve months of competitions.

This year, though, the company is asking people to vote by reading each of the twelve monthly winners then selecting their favourite for the sixth annual prize, taking in the whole of 2013.
Voting is open until March 31 at where the latest competition can also be entered.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Ah, you've arrived

An entry to the Global Short Story Competition today illustrated perfectly the art of beginning a story.

As I have mentioned on previous blogs, no story begins at the beginning. Stories start in the middle, sometimes at the end; lives have been lived, dramas enacted, grief experienced, joys celebrated.

What is important from the writer’s point of view is that your reader feels that they have walked in on a scene that is already unfolding. If they feel that, then they want to stick around to see how it all resolves itself.

This story did just that with the character addressing the reader as if the reader had arrived in mid-sentence. Brilliant.

John Dean


Where you live, what you write

The Global Short Story Competition received an entry from Norway today, which got me thinking about landscapes.

As I have said in previous blogs, I have always believed that a writer is influenced to some degree by where they live and work.

Yes I know it is a gross generalisation but I am sure that a writer writing in a dark, cold country produces different fiction than one in a bright sunny one.

Certainly if you look at the great Scandinavian and Icelandic crime writers their work is influenced by their surroundings and darkness permeates their work.

I can only speak from my own experience. I write best in Winter. I also write about a fictional city called Hafton. Sited in the North of England, it is based in part on a real city which most appeals to me in winter, when the streets glisten with rainwater and darkness falls early, casting long shadows.

The result is work that deals with dark themes and I believe they emerge from the darkness of the city.

You can offer your thoughts on our Facebook page at

John Dean

A quiet one

The February Global Short Story Comp is five days from closing and we have had very few entries. Good time to go for the £100 first prize. More at
John Dean

Taking to the reader

I know I talk about first lines a lot in my blogs but they are so important and that came to mind when we received an entry to the Global Short Story Competition over the weekend.

One of the best ways to start a story is to instantly introduce the reader to a character who addresses us directly in a voice that is distinctive and compelling. What do I mean? Try this: “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.” — J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

The voice is distinctive, you are challenged and want to learn more about this person. It was the same with the story over the weekend, creating a character that talked directly to the reader.

And if the character is talking to the reader, the writer has a great platform on which to work.
Still a week to enter our latest competition at It’s still a low entry so it’s a good time to go for the £100 first prize.

John Dean

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Search begins for annual winner - your chance to vote

The team behind the Global Short Story Competition has launched a vote to find its annual winner.

The monthly competition, run by Inscribe Media Limited from the North East of England, was launched in December 2007 and, in addition to £125 of monthly prizes, an annual award of £250 is made.

The award is normally selected by a panel including monthly judge Fiona Cooper and competition administrator John Dean, and goes to one of the writers who was successful in the previous twelve months of competitions.

This year, the company is asking people to vote by reading each of the twelve monthly winners then selecting their favourite for the sixth annual prize.

John Dean said: “We know people enjoy reading the winning stories and we thought it would be a good idea to let them choose the winner.”
Voting is open until March 31 at where the latest competition can also be entered.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Supporting arts festival

I am part of the team helping to organise the Darlington Arts Festival in April/May, including running a weekend residential writing course, taking day-long masterclasses in children’s fiction and crime fiction and hosting an open mic event for authors.
You can check the programme out at

John Dean

Seeking inspiration in music

Those who have read my blogs before will know that one of the things that interests me about writing is ambience and how authors create it.

I always write to music. Favourite artists for writing? The Irish band Clannad trigger something deep in me, as does some Mike Oldfield stuff, particularly Tubular Bells.

My current novel (proceeding slowly!) is inspired by a line in Mercy Street by Peter Gabriel, a song so haunting that it gets my mind working, in particular in this case the image of an old rowing boat on a small lake.

While researching this, I came across a blog by Indra Sena, who said: “Music just might be the perfect muse. Music can relax or invigorate you. The lyrics often refer to timeless themes, much the way writing does. Instruments can also express a wide variety of emotional nuance. Anger, sorrow, joy and despair are all common emotions music seeks to express. You can use music to bring you into these states of feeling and infuse your writing with rich emotion.”
I have started a discussion, asking what gets you in the mood, at our Facebook site at

John Dean

Monday, 17 February 2014

Supporting Australian writers

We know that a lot of Australian writers read this blog and we regularly receive entries to the Global Short Story Competition.
What is notable about Australian entries is the writers’ strong sense of place and how to use it to create atmosphere, allied to strong characterisation.
Many of our Australian entries have also exhibited a very clear understanding of how a short story works: how to write in mini episodes, how a short story can sometimes cover but a fleeting moment in time, how it needs to have pace and balance so that it gives you enough information but not too much.
To pay tribute to Australian writers, we celebrate their writing in three of our ebooks:

Global Shorts - an anthology of short stories taken from the early years of the Global Short Competition, including Australian writers

Vegemite Whiskers - a selection of some of the finest writing from Australian authors who have entered the Global Short Story Competition

Cyber Rules by Myra King. The novel by Australian writer Myra tells the story of a farmer’s wife in isolated rural Australia. Caught up on the addictive side of the Internet, she holds a secret which may prove to be deadly.

More details on our home page at

John Dean

Friday, 14 February 2014

Good time to go for the £100 prize

The February Global Short Story Comp is half way through and it’s quiet. Very few entries. Good time to go for the £100 first prize. More at

Open mic night

The next Open Mic night for authors in North East England is on Thursday February 27.

The nights, supported by Darlington for Culture and which offer a forum for writers to read their material and audiences to enjoy it, run at Voodoo Café/Cantina, 84 Skinnergate, on the last Thursday of the month. Each session starts at 7pm and the cost of entry is £3 paid on the door.
More information is available from Inscribe Media Limited at

So what gets your juices flowing?

I’ve been doing a lot of teaching on the idea of ideas lately and came across these excellent quotes.
People always want to know: Where do I get my ideas? They're everywhere. I'm inspired by people and things around me. (Gwendolyn Brooks, American poet)
My standard answer is "I don't know where they come from, but I know where they come to, they come to my desk." If I'm not there, they go away again, so you've got to sit and think. (Philip Pullman, English writer)
Ideas come to a writer, a writer does not search for them. "Ideas come to me like birds that I see in the corner of my eye," I say to journalists, "and I may try, or may not, to get a closer fix on those birds." (Patricia Highsmith, American crime writer)
It's very blurred, it's not clear. The plan is something which gradually evolves. Usually, I'll just start with one particular idea or certain image or even just a mood and gradually it'll kind of grow when other things attach themselves to it. (Jane Rogers, British novelist, editor, and teacher)
Anything can set things going--an encounter, a recollection. I think writers are great rememberers. (Gore Vidal, American novelist, playwright, essayist)
You can write about anything, and if you write well enough, even the reader with no intrinsic interest in the subject will become involved.
(Tracy Kidder, literary journalist)
"From you," I say. The crowd laughs. I look at the woman asking the question; she seems innocent enough. I continue. "I get them from looking at the world we live in, from reading the paper, watching the news. It seems as though what I write is often extreme, but in truth it happens every day."
(A. M. Homes, American novelist and short story writer)
My usual, perfectly honest reply is, "I don't get them; they get me."
(Robertson Davies, Canadian novelist, playwright, and critic
So what gets your juices flowing?

We’re debating this on our Facebook page at

John Dean

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Are you the next big thing in crime fiction?

Moth Publishing is looking for the next big thing in crime fiction

Northern Crime is a unique competition that aims to unearth and publish exciting new crime writing from writers who live and work in the north of England.

It is a collaboration between the writing development agency New Writing North and publisher BEPL, who have come together to create the Moth imprint.

Last year, Moth published the four winning books from the inaugural Northern Crime competition: Rebecca Muddiman’s Stolen, Helen Cadbury’s To Catch a Rabbit, Alfie Crow’s Rant and Michael Donovan’s Behind Closed Doors. Together the books have so far sold more than 50,000 ebook and print copies and garnered widespread critical praise from reviewers and readers.

Now, they are looking for more fresh new voices, more great stories with strong characters, and fiction that isn’t afraid to push the boundaries of the genre. This year for the first time, they are also looking for short stories to publish in the Northern Crime short story anthology.

The winning novels will be published in print and as ebooks in 2015. The winning writers will receive a standard publishing contract, a £1,000 advance, and support to editorially develop their work. They will also enjoy a marketing and PR campaign to support the publication of their books. Short story winners will receive £100 and their story published in the first Northern Crime short story anthology.
So take your detective novel off desktop duty and get him back on those literary streets, by submitting to the Northern Crime Competition at

Deadline for entries is Friday 29 August.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Japan prompts some interesting questions

Recently, we had an entry into the Global Short Story Competition from Japan.

Japanese fiction is interesting because it brings together two strands of debate which often crop up in conversation with writers.

One strand is how much of themself does the writer inject into the story? How much of their own experience and their own emotion shapes their writing? If at all. That has brought forth some really interesting, and at times fairly vigorous, replies. It is clearly a contentious subject for some writers.

My research has suggested that there is a very strong sense of the writer in some Japanese fiction. One historical piece about modern Japanese fiction suggested: “Although modern Japanese writers cover a wide variety of subjects, one particularly Japanese approach stressed their subjects’ inner lives, widening the earlier novel’s preoccupation with the narrator's consciousness. In Japanese fiction, plot development and action have often been of secondary interest to emotional issues.”

It’s another take on a fascinating subject - how much does the writer stand back and tell a story? And if they do decide to embrace deep emotion, how much of their take on the world makes its way into the final edit? And does it get in the way of the storytelling process? I am sure there will be further comments on this one.

The second debate in which Japan features is a purely technological one dealing with the future of the book.

Japan has already been leading the use of technology in the writing and publishing process, witnessing the appearance of mobile phone novels in the early stages of the 21st Century. Famously, at the end of 2007, four of Japan‘s five fiction best sellers were produced on mobiles.

As I understand it, rather than appearing in printed form, the story is sent directly to the reader via SMS text message, usually chapter by chapter. And it’s growing in popularity in Japan as well as in other countries.

It is another example of how technology shapes publishing and something that very much interests us as we plan our own future.

John Dean

Getting the title right

Recent weeks have seen us receive a number of stories with terrific titles, which set me thinking. Yes, the story has to be good but a title, like a good opening line, can do a lot of work for the author when it comes to hooking the reader.

For me, it goes deeper. In my mind, the title has to be right for me to feel comfortable with the writing process.

So what does a good title need? Well, I would say some of the below would be a good start. A good title should/could:

* Be easy to remember. Yes, I know there have been successful books and stories with long titles but how many can you name? Go for no more than five words and even then you are pushing it (look at best-selling books and you will not see that many more than three). There are exceptions, I know. The Spy who Came in from the Cold springs to mind but for every long title that sticks in the memory there‘s an awful lot are lost.

* Be appropriate to what you are writing. I learned this lesson from my publisher, Robert Hale. I wrote a novel which I wanted to call Ghosts, which they asked to be changed because it made it sound like a ghost story, which it wasn’t. It ended up called The Long Dead, which I think works much better. Interestingly, during the writing, the title had not felt right anyway. The Long Dead did.

* Pose questions. Something that makes you wonder. Taking The Long Dead as an example, who are long dead? Why are they long dead? How did they die? If they are long dead, why do we care now?

* Maybe go for a name of a person - think Harry Potter - and maybe make it a possessive title - think Angela’s Ashes. Or maybe a place. Think Northanger Abbey. Or a thing - Diamonds are Forever.

* Maybe pick a line from the work itself such as They Shoot Horses, Don't They? And yes, it is long but it’s easily remembered.

As with everything in writing, there are no golden rules other than if it works, do it.

John Dean

Friday, 7 February 2014

It's Winners Day!

It’s winners day!
Judge Fiona Cooper has selected her winners for the December Global Short Story Competition and writers from Spain and France have taken the honours. And we have also announced the winner of our recent flash fiction competition.
The £100 December Global Short Story Competition first place prize goes to Johanna Bergstrom, of Malaga, Spain, of whose story The Bitch Next Door Fiona says: “This is a fast paced intense story, exploring preconceptions and assumptions about other people and their actions. The way events are distorted is given a neat twist at the end - the Chinese whispers that gossip thrives on are very well done - and this is wholly believable and satisfying.”
Our highly commended runner up is Ann Hebert, of St Andre-de-Najac in Aveyron, France,
who wins £25 for The Letter.
Fiona says: “Our secrets will always come to light eventually, even if sometimes they stay hidden until death. This compassionate and thoughtful story shows the quite astonishing parallel between a young woman's present pretences and her dead mother's deep buried past. It is an intriguing story which creates a strong visual picture and I could see it being televised very successfully.”
The writers on the shortlist are:
Thomas Smith, Sunderland, England
Alex Reece Abbott, York, England
Eowyn O’Connor
Winning stories will be posted on Well done to our successful writers. You can enter the latest competition at the same address.
* Our judging panel, chaired by John Dean, has selected the winner of our free flash fiction competition launched in October 2013. The challenge was make us feel something in more than 20 words. The £50 prize goes to
Lesley Marshall with:
A boy!” my husband exulted. “We’re a perfect family!”
Which we were.
Until he discovered the imperfect chromosome... and left.
Special mention to Its a Girl by Asharika Jaward:
"A girl?" they sneer. Its fate is sealed. Hers, but not hers to keep; to love, to mother
Eileen R Mueller:
Scraps of rotting pumpkin, cast-off shoes.... A bitten hotdog! Starving, he shovels it down, stumbling to the next bin.
Kirk Nesset: Catastrophe Measure
The sky is on fire, our buildings bright pink. We wait where the ground shakes least, endlessly repeating our names.
Our free comps run at our Facebook page at











Thursday, 6 February 2014

Time to celebrate

A reminder that we have set out to celebrate the achievements of the world’s new and emerging talent.Inscribe. which runs the monthly Global Short Story Competition as well as free flash and poetry competitions, wants to celebrate success. We will mention as many writer's success stories as we can as part of our blog at

We try to encourage writers as much as we can. We know that many of our entrants enjoy success around the world in various competitions, or have had books published, and we want to give them the chance to shout about it.
In recent weeks, we have heard about writers securing publishing contracts and creating blog sites. We hope our site can help them celebrate those achievements.

John Dean

Shivers down the spine

We received a story into a recent Global Short Story Competition that was, in essence, a ghost story and it got me thinking about the genre.

It is, of course, a classic genre but one that seems less popular today. Pity, because it is immense fun to write.

Ghost stories need subtlety. The golden rule is that less is definitely more when it comes to ghost stories (not a bad maxim for most writing, actually). None of those characters clad in flowing white sheets going ’woo, woo’, more about making the ordinary scary.

Take an example. My grandmother was not scary but she would be if she walked into my office now because she had been dead for 20 years. I’m not being disrespectful about her but it does make the point.

Similarly, I hope I am not frightening but I sure as Hell would be if I turned up in your living room at midnight with a strange smile on my face. The ordinary in the extraordinary setting works well in ghost stories.

You also have to understand the psychology of the reader and what scares them. With me, it’s mirrors at night (who is standing behind me, dare I look?) with others it may be darkness, empty houses etc. You are teasing the reader.

There are some other considerations:

* The impact of media - what scared once does not scare now. In a world of the Chainsaw Massacre and its modern cousin Saw, we are less scared by that kind of material. Ghost story writing has to be more subtle - it is why the Blair Witch Project worked, it played on the viewer‘s mind. So should ghost stories.

* Ghost stories tend not to work if you go for shock horror. A man wielding a weapon may be scary but which sends more shivers down the spine out of the following two examples? Again using a movies theme, which frightened you most in The Shining - the mad Jack Nicholson punching his way through doors or the spectral children glanced only briefly at the end of the corridor? Yes, I know we are blurring the distinction between ghost stories and horror but you get the point. Same rule is true for writing ghost stories.

* So go for normal and contrast it. My office is fine but put the lights off, have a breeze running through it, a strange voice which I can’t quite make out, and it changes. Then I’m anybody’s. In fact, I wish I had not just written that sentence.

* Build tension in the story by hinting at something horrible to come. Good ghost stories begin with normality, and gradually let things develop. It is a gamble: you have to keep the reader interested with the quality of your writing.
Ghost stories need so much to work well - strong characters, great sense of place, use of darkness, weather, sound, phobias, psychology etc - but when they do, they leave the reader glancing over their shoulder for the rest of the day.

John Dean

Let's get intimate - or not, as the case may be

Yesterday we received an entry into the Global Short Story Competition which was written in first person. This touches on a debate that all writers have - which person to write in?

Traditionally, there are three categories, first, second or third person. First is when you use refer to I, second person is you (as is in ‘You might have thought I would have liked that‘) and third is he, she, they, their, his, hers, him, her, etc.

Most stories tend to be written in third person. I write in third person because it gives me the ability to oversee all of the story.

However, first person has its advantages. As most of our spoken communication takes place in the first person and much informal written communication is in first person (letters, e-mails, for example), many people are more comfortable writing in first person.

First person is also a great choice when you intend to write informally or casually. It can be chatty, relaxed, and intimate.

However, many writers would still go for third person. Why? Well, third person creates a sense of objectivity and distance and allows the writer to get on with telling the story.

Some would say that third person means the writer's feelings and personality become peripheral and that the author can simply tell the tale.

It’s all a question of choice.

John Dean

Monday, 3 February 2014

Writing humour

We get the odd humorous story submitted to the Global Short Story Competition (a couple came in in the past few days) so I thought a recap would be useful.

Writing humour is very tough: people can listen to your short story without a sound and at the end they can say ‘that was terrific’ - with humour, if they ‘aint laughing or smiling at all you have failed!

Here’s some golden rules.

* Humorous characters need just as much characterisation as others. Look at your character, work out where the humour lies. Do you have a character who is egotistical, vain, clumsy, stupid? Whatever the strong character trait is, play on it.

* Observe, write down funny things, quips, things people say etc

* Develop humour within situations - maybe take a sideways glance at life and situations

* Dialogue is crucial - keep it sharp

* Whatever you do, a light touch is usually needed - sledgehammers are not required. If a joke needs explaining, it has not worked

* Use pace - move on from gag to gag
* Try out your jokes - if you laugh, others may not. I always reckon if I laughed first time, it was good.
* Be brutal, if a gag does not work - or is in the wrong story - ditch it!

John Dean

Sunday, 2 February 2014

New short story competition launches

Hi everyone

The February Global Short Story Competition is open for entries.

Begun six years ago, the competition runs every month with a £100 first prize and a £25 prize for highly commended writers.

The competition, which has topped £10,500 in prize money handed out, has had entries from more than 50 countries over the years.
Each month’s competition is judged by Fiona Cooper, an author in North-East England, where the competition’s organisers Inscribe Media are also based. The competition can be entered at

* There is plenty of time to enter Inscribe Media’s latest free flash fiction competition at its Facebook page at or accessed through

John Dean