Category Archives: Writing

CrimeFest’s ‘Flashbang’ Competition 2013 and Sarah Hilary’s Five Top Tips


Click on the image to go to the site for further details.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe 2013 Flashbang Flash Crime Fiction Contest is now underway and you have until 1 March to get in your entry.  Started by Sarah Hilary in 2012, the competition is going from strength to strength and this year we have small changes such as a £2 entry fee.  It’s still a 150 maximum word count and the first prize is two free passes to CrimeFest.  But new for 2013:  the shortlisted authors will be invited to attend CrimeFest’s Crime Writing Seminar on Thursday 30 May 2013, at which the winners will be announced.

Being the generous lot we are, Sarah has drawn on her experience of overseeing this competition in 2012 to bring you some key tips for 2013.  Just remember to read and keep the tips to yourself, if you want to win.  No tweeting of this post to share the info!

Over to Sarah:

  1. flashbang3Make every word count. Judges are on the lookout for wasted words, or waffle. Decide on your story and stick to it. If you find yourself heading off on a tangent, ask yourself if the tangent is the story you really want to tell. Layers are great, but clarity is vital; if we can’t see the story for the words, then it hasn’t worked. When it’s written, read it through. Can you tell the story in fewer words? If you can, do. For Flashbang 2012, we rejected an entry that used half the word count on the names of train stations. Don’t do that. We want your 150 words, not someone else’s.
  2. Get your title right. It’s the first thing the judges read. Is it eye-catching? Does it intrigue? If it’s one word, does it have at least two meanings? The best titles complete the story, by holding or revealing its secret. Good writers will spend even longer on the title than they do on the story, especially if it’s flash fiction.
  3. Do your research. Read the winning stories from previous years. Find out what the judges like. Don’t imagine every story will suit every contest; please don’t send romantic prose poetry to a crime writing contest (it happens). Flashbang’s judges have been good enough to say what they’re after in a winning story, so check this out. It’s gold dust.
  4. Follow the rules. If the contest says stories in the body of an email, don’t send an attachment. Ditto all other formatting and submission guidelines, which exist to enable the admin team (usually volunteers) to manage the mighty task of judging the contest fairly and on time. This applies even if you’ve put a nice covering note in the email explaining why you’re breaking the rules. Oh and check your entry for errors. If we find typos in 150 words, we don’t put the story through. Simple as that.
  5. Break the rules. Look at the story that won Flashbang 2012: Search History by Iain Rowan. It doesn’t follow a narrative format. It doesn’t use punctuation. It looks odd on the page. It’s risky (there was a second there where it looked like spam in our in-box, but luckily we read it twice and realised it was genius). It won.

Good luck!

Sarah Hilary lives in Bristol, where she writes quirky copy for a well-loved travel publisher. She’s also worked as a bookseller, and with the Royal Navy. An award-winning short story writer, Sarah won the Cheshire Prize for Literature in 2012 and the Fish Criminally Short Histories Prize in 2008.  But here’s the most recent bit of BIG news for Sarah: her debut novel, SOMEONE ELSE’S SKIN, will be published by Headline in February 2014.

Launched today: a free creative writing for crime course with M. R. Hall plus competition

From a Pan Macmillan email:

Today we launch a free creative writing course by twice CWA Gold Dagger shortlisted M. R. Hall. By visiting- and hitting the ‘like’ button at- , readers can discover M. R. Hall’s Seven Secrets of Successful Crime Writing, through conversational videos and downloadable worksheets. The course at is completely free and a new secret will be revealed each week, along with three more detailed podcasts, during which M. R. Hall expands on his advice. At the end of the course four amazing prizes will be awarded to the winner of our writing competition:

  • A place on an intensive two day creative writing for crime course, run by M. R. Hall and fellow author William Ryan at Goldsboro Books in central London.
  • A detailed email critique of the first three chapters of their novel, from Pan Macmillan editor Sophie Orme.
  • £200 worth of Pan Macmillan crime books.
  • Signed copies of all M. R. Hall titles.

The competition will be judged by M. R. Hall together with Maria Rejt and Sophie Orme, Publisher and Editor at Pan Macmillan imprint Mantle.

This course concentrates on storytelling techniques, how to build dramatic tension, tips for writing conflict, and gives practical advice on structure and characterisation. It is informed by M. R. Hall’s years of experience as a Bafta-nominated television crime writer (on shows including Kavanagh QC and Daziel and Pascoe) as well as his more recent career as the writer of the Coroner Jenny Cooper series.

The course can be found at from January 28th, with one video a week being revealed.  Six out of the seven videos will only be accessible via the author’s facebook page, but one will be widely available for everyone, which you can see below.


Click on image for Amazon UK link.

The launch of the course coincides with publication of M. R. Hall’s new hardback The Chosen Dead and new paperback The Flight, both part of the Coroner Jenny Cooper series.

Both The Flight, and the first book in the series, The Coroner, were shortlisted for the Crime Writers Association’s prestigious Gold Dagger award for best crime novel of the year.

Some writing course places remaining at Ty Newydd

From Tŷ Newydd:

Tŷ Newydd Courses 2012

Just a reminder that we still have some spaces on the following courses:

September 29 – October 4 Nature Writing with Nigel Brown and Katrina Porteous

Walking boots essential for this course which will explore the Llyn Peninsula and its landscape and living creatures.

October 8 – 12 Landscape, Travel and Memoir with Mark Charlton and Rory Maclean

From blogs to books . Explore all the opportunities to reach a wider audience.

October 15 – 20 Fiction with Sarah Hall and Jem Poster

A fiction course open to all levels of experience.

November 26 – December 1 Writing in Health and Social Care with Victoria Field and Graham Hartill

Participants will draw on their own experience to explore the different ways writing can be used with and by patients, clients and service users and in health, educational or community settings.


December 7 – 9, 2012 and April 12 – 14, 2013 (2 weekends)

Playwriting: Mentoring Project for new and emerging playwrights
with Kaite O’Reilly

This unusual course offers aspiring writers for live performance the rare opportunity of developing a new short play (20 minutes maximum) with guidance, tuition and dramaturgical feedback over a 4 month period by award winning writer, Kaite O’Reilly.

FOR MORE INFORMATION or phone 01766 522811

Arvon Crime Fiction Courses in October and November 2012

If you click on the picture you will go to the link for the two courses coming up in October and November.

There are still some places left on these courses.

I can’t recommend Arvon highly enough.  You get 4.5 days away from the rest of life (switch off that mobile phone to achieve the 100% target).  You are surrounded by people with shared interests and enthusiasm.  The settings themselves are inspirational and discussions into the dark, late hours only add icing onto that cake.  You gain support and camaraderie, often keeping in touch with others just like you.  You learn lots of tips for your writing; about how publishing works; what the market is like.  You receive feedback on your writing.  You may even get some leads…

Got it?  Click on the pic then!

Crime Writers’ Association Gold, Steel and John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Shortlists 2012

The Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards Shortlists 2012 – which include the CWA’s Gold, Steel and John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Shortlists – were announced on 24 August 2012.  [Update 20:45 – the Crime Thriller Site has now gone live.]

Information extracted from the Midas PR press release:

The winners of 12 Awards will be announced at The Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards on Thursday 18 October at the Grosvenor House Hotel. The awards include the CWA Gold Dagger for the Best Crime Novel of the Year, the CWA Steel Dagger for the Best Thriller of the Year, and the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger for the Best New Crime Writer of the Year, alongside the Specsavers Bestseller Dagger and Film and TV-based Daggers.

The Shortlists for Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards are as follows:

Writing Daggers:

The CWA Gold Dagger – sponsored by Constable & Robinson

  • Vengeance in Mind by N.J. Cooper (Simon and Schuster)
  • The Flight by M.R. Hall (Mantle)
  • The Rage by Gene Kerrigan (Harvill Secker)
  • Bereft by Chris Womersley (Quercus)

Find out more about the books here.

The CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger – sponsored by Goldsboro Books

  • Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne (Headline)
  • Land More Kind than Home by Wiley Cash (Bantam)
  • Good People by Ewart Hutton (Blue Door)
  • What Dies in Summer by Tom Wright (Canongate)

Find out more about the books here.

The CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger – sponsored by Ian Fleming Publications

  • Dare Me by Megan Abbott (Picador)
  • A Foreign Country by Charles Cumming (HarperCollins)
  • The Fear Index by Robert Harris (Hutchinson)
  • Reamde by Neal Stephenson (Atlantic Books)

Find out more about the books here.

Continue reading

Crime Writing Event in London: Plot the Perfect Murder Mystery

Tuesday 19 June @ 6pm for 6.30pm
Bloomsbury Publishing, 50 Bedford Square, London, WC1B 3DP
Cost: £15  Book tickets here.

Bloomsbury Institute and Writers’ & Artists’ present James Runcie and Anne Zouroudi interviewed by Claire McGowan.

To be discussed: how to plot the perfect murder mystery and unravel the mysterious charm of crime; how to create criminal tension; what makes a villain villainous or a detective likeable; tips on plotting, pacing and the secret to making your own book go bump in the night.

The Bull of Mithros is Anne Zouroudi’s latest in her series of Mysteries of the Greek Detective. Investigator Hermes Diaktoros is intrigued by the island of Mithros’s fabled bull, and his arrival on the isle coincides with a violent and mysterious death. As Hermes sets about solving the complex puzzle of who is guilty and who is innocent, he discovers a web of secrets and unspoken loyalties, and it soon becomes clear that the bull of Mithros may only be the beginning of the island’s shadowy mysteries. Anne Zouroudi is the author of five other Mysteries of the Greek Detective: The Messenger of Athens (shortlisted for the ITV3 Crime Thriller Award for Breakthrough Authors and longlisted for the Desmond Elliot Prize), The Taint of MidasThe Doctor of ThessalyThe Lady of Sorrows and The Whispers of Nemesis.  Anne Zouroudi also recently won the 2012 East Midlands Book Award for Whispers of Nemesis.

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death is the first in James Runcie’s new series of six detective novels, The Grantchester Mysteries, featuring vicar and sleuth Canon Sidney Chambers. Together with his roguish friend, Inspector Geordie Keating, Sidney inquires into the suspect suicide of a Cambridge solicitor, a scandalous jewellery theft at a New Year’s Eve dinner party, the unexplained death of a well-known jazz promoter and a shocking art forgery, the disclosure of which puts a close friend in danger. James Runcie is Artistic Director of the Bath Literature Fesival and an award-winning film-maker.  His novels include The Discovery of Chocolate, The Colour of Heaven, Canvey Island and East Fortune.His novels include The Discovery of Chocolate, The Colour of Heaven, Canvey Island and East Fortune.

Claire McGowan is Director of the Crime Writers’ Association and author of The Fall, a thriller set in contemporary London about two women from very different backgrounds who are brought together when a brutal murder shatters both their lives.

#CWM2012 Crime Writing Tips – No. 8

#CWM2012 crime writing tip number 8 is all about fear:


When upping the tension with fear, remember that it can come from the most subtle of things. Cue into the character’s personal thoughts and fears. You don’t have to skin them or feed them to pigs; just find their weak spot and capitalise on it.

Stop Press: British Thyroid Foundation Crime Writing Competition Update

Remember the earlier post about the competition being run by the British Thyroid Foundation to win Theakstons Crime Writing Festival tickets?  Well, the BTF have been in touch to say they are delighted to announce that the Cairn Hotel has offered one night’s accommodation, breakfast and evening meal to add to their prize package of the two VIP tickets to the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Launch Party.

You have until 30 June to enter. (And it’s postal, so allow for Royal Mail time.)

The judges are Eileen Robertson, author of Miss Maguire is Missing and Blackmail for Beginners; Gill Knox, a novelist based in Harrogate and author of The Legacy of Talents; and Neil Harrison, co-producer of feature film The Spell and author of Chosen.

#CWM2012 Crime Writing Tips – No. 7

#CWM2012 crime writing tip number 7 is all about forensics:


Do as I say not as TV’s Silent Witness does. Research your forensics to ensure reality prevails. Readers know that specialisms exist so don’t make your pathologist the ‘multi-purpose’ variety. And don’t make your SOCO an expert in diseases.