NewsFour’s RTE short story award recipient gives tips on competition

NewsFour’s Peter McNamara gives his best advice to entrants

There are only seven days left to have your story written, edited and posted into RTE for the chance to win big money for only 2000 words.If you are in the top three you will receive a four figure sum alongside having your story read out on RTE Radio 1 by a famous Irish actor. If you are in the shortlisted top ten you receive €250 from the fat cats at RTE. So with all this in mind, and the close proximity of RTE to our readers at NewsFour, it would be only natural for one of those prizes to go out to a local, that’s usually how these competitions go isn’t it?! So get your thinking caps on, dig out that old folder of short stories, get out your English essay copybook and get editing onthe best short story you have and send it in. Who knows you could be that person who is sitting at breakfast one morning when you recognize those characters read out on the radio and scream out loud, or not.

NewsFour’s journalist Peter McNamara came runner-up last year so no better buachaill here to give you some advice…

Peter: The Francis MacManus Award has a long history of launching new writers. It’s a great competition with a very desirable prize. And the fact that it’s free to enter makes it a great reason for any aspiring writer to have a crack at writing up a short story. I came runner-up last year, and I put my success down to three key things (and these three things will help with any kind of writing, not just short stories).

1. Get Feedback

It might be late in the game now, but feedback is pretty fundamental to writing, especially when you’re starting out. Having someone read your work with fresh eyes will help you see what is and isn’t working. I had three different writers look over my story before I sent it in, and their advice is what got me over the line. With their help, my okay-ish story became a good one. When you go looking for feedback, make sure your reader will give you their honest opinion – no pain, no gain!

2. Read Your Work Aloud

It’s very important to read your work aloud. This is doubly true for the Francis MacManus competition, given that your story is supposed to be read out on the radio. Your piece should be easy to follow, and show flow from moment to moment. Reading your work aloud helps you to find mistakes and repeated or clunky words. If you find yourself tripping over yourself when you read out your story that means there’s something not working on the page. I try to say what I want to say in the fewest words possible. And I try keep the language very simple – but that’s just me.

3. Get Your Formatting Right

This sounds like a basic suggestion, but so many people make this mistake. Present your work in the way that the judges ask. Don’t let yourself down and fall at the first hurdle. You could have laboured to produce a wonderful story, only to find that your single spacing has ruled you ineligible for the competition. It’s a small but very important thing. Read and re-read the competition rules.

One final thing I’ll say is to say that stories take time to write (my winning entry came out of a novel I was writing three years before). If your story isn’t ready this year, don’t despair. By the looks of things, this competition isn’t going anywhere. Do your drafts, get your feedback, and give it another go in 2020. Of course there’s no harm in sending it in this year: the competition is free after all!

By Paul Carton

Online Editor