Traditional Publishing

My writing competition success - An interview with writer, Brian Richmond – Saturday February 24, 2007

Brian Richmond recently found success in a writing competition he found through We caught up with him to talk to him about the competition, and his writing.

fw: Congratulations on your success in the Next Stop Hollywood competition. Tell us a little about the competition. 

BR: The competition was a collaboration between figures in the publishing and movie industries in the USA. The aim was very specific: to find stories that had the potential to be turned into films, as the title suggests. The first step will be the publication of an anthology of the winning stories by St Martin's Press in New York. Over 600 stories were submitted and only 15 were chosen. In fact, I'm the only person from Europe who made it through. 

fw: Is writing something you've always done? 

BR: I've always been interested in writing and had some very minor successes in my early 20s. But, like a lot of people, career and family intervened. Then I realised that, if I didn't do something soon, I'd become one of those people who was always going to write but never did. 

fw: What made you want to start writing? 

BR: I loved reading. It's something I picked up from my dad. One of the few things we did together was to go to the local public library. And, when you love writing, it's a pretty natural aspiration to want to be a writer.

fw: And what made you think about entering competitions?

BR: I was just looking for anywhere to send my work. My belief is that you have to put almost as much effort into getting your work out there as into writing it. I'd actually sold my first short story directly to Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine but I just wanted to know as much as possible about any potential market. And some competitions pay as well or offer as much as conventional publication.

fw: Did you find it difficult to get good information on potential markets?

BR: For magazines and suchlike, no. Competitions were a different matter.

fw: How did help you in your search?

BR: Without wanting to sound as if I'm sucking up, it was a godsend. To have the information sent to me rather than having to go searching for it... and you hear of things that otherwise you would never come across...

fw: I'm guessing you didn't enter every competition we sent you in an InstantAlert email. How did you select which ones to enter and which not? 

BR: It depends. I write commercial rather than literary fiction. Normally, if you read the competition description closely, you can tell if it's something you have a shot at doing. Also, and this is personal preference, I only write for competitions that have a cash prize. I feel if someone is going to pay for my work, they must actually value it. I don't consider it much of an achievement if someone says they'll print my story for nothing.

fw: So do you write stories for specific competitions you want to enter, or do you wait for competitions to come along that match the stories you have already written? 

BR: Sometimes I write for the competition, particularly if it's in one of the areas I'm strong in, like crime. Other times, I might read about a competition and feel that a story I have in my bank is worth submitting. There's no hard and fast rule.

fw: Do you always stick with the same kind of contests, or do you enter a variety? 

BR: I tend to enter competitions where the theme interests me. Next Stop Hollywood was totally open in terms of the kind of story you submitted, so I just went with my strongest piece. However, I am drawn to crime and dark fiction competitions as these reflect my own interests.

fw: How long were you entering competitions before you found success?

BR: Well, my first success wasn't in a competition. The first story I wrote in this, my second phase of trying to be a writer, sold to Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. So did my second. The competitions started to come a few months later.

fw: What do you think has been the key to your success?

BR: I'm a lazy person. But, I've learned that if I want to be a writer, I have to work hard. The harder I work, the more success I tend to have. That doesn't just mean working on writing itself, it involves searching out markets, researching what editors are looking for, plugging away as much as you can...

fw: So what next? Are you entering more competitions, or do you have other plans for your writing? 

BR: I'm still entering competitions although I'm more selective now. When I started, I just wanted the reassurance that I wasn't totally deluding myself by wanting to be a writer. Now, I've had some success in seeing my short stories do well in competitions and magazines. I think a novel is the next hurdle. However, I am diversifying a little bit. I live in a very scenic part of Donegal in Ireland and, given that I've had some success in selling my stories, I'm actually going to be running a residential course for aspiring writers in a local hotel. This part of the world is heaven for writers. Watch out for my ad coming soon to the site!

fw: Thanks very much for your time, Brian, and best of luck with everything.