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2020-21 Updates: New Changes, New Opportunities


Well, what a year, huh? It's been a rollercoaster for everyone, but we're so thankful that we've been in a position that has allowed us to propogate creative outlets in a world that seems deadset on putting them in an early grave.

The arts have been hit so hard in 2020, so having the chance to help keep them on track in some fashion has been humbling to say the least. We know now more than ever that we not only have the opportunity to help authors reach their goals, but also the responsibility.

We started this because we were authors who knew the struggle of this industry, and we still do. Which is why nothing has changed -- we're still trying to provide the best writing competitions we can in order to elevate as many writers as possible to a platform from which they can begin their careers.

Last year's Novel Prize winner, Nikki May, has gone on to score major publishing deals in both the UK and US with her agent Catherine Cho, and this has really reignited our fire! So we took a long, hard look at what we're doing and how we're doing it, and we've implemented some changes. Some are drastic, others exciting, but in the longterm, we feel they'll be both more sustainable

and beneficial to all of our authors.

What's coming?

  1. Website & Dashboard Update

  2. No More Poetry

  3. No More Flash Fiction

  4. Better Agent-Relations

  5. Novel Prize Publication-Changes

  6. A Brand New Free-To-Enter First Novel Award

  7. The Atmos Collections: Volume 1

Website & Dashboard Updates

We've gone through lots of iterations of our site design, always trying to accommodate the competition-setup we've run. But now, with a leaner lineup (just 3 larger prizes) we've given each competition it's own page so that the rules and guidelines are clearer, and that entry is easier. This way, you can bookmark the competition page you want, and never miss a deadline again. Or you can signup for our mailing list and we'll remind you!

But changes haven't stopped there. Our user dashboard has received some much-needed love, and has been made more stable, as well as more user-friendly. Each competition will now have it's own page too, so there's no chance of entering the wrong one by mistake, and feedback is now going to be handled by an optional check-box so everything is clear and simple to use.

We're also taking away copy-and-paste entries and asking for PDFs only. We'll be making plenty of posts about how to convert your work to this format if you're not sure, don't worry!

All in all, we feel these changes will be a positive step towards making Grindstone the best that it can be. Any and all feedback os always welcome!


No More Poetry

This one isn't strictly true, but we're not going to be pursuing poetry in a competition format anymore. I have a deep, personal love for poetry, and would love to be able to handle it in a much more community-friendly way. How that will work, I'm not sure yet, but we'll keep thinking on it.

The reason we're doing this is because we're finding that the poetry community is better served with larger, state or estate-funded prizes which offer much larger prize pools and usually free entries. Their funding allows them to attain a structure we can't, and we would rather direct our support to them and offer our assistance in any way we can.

Poetry is vital in this world, and we'll do all we can to help sustain it, we have just come to recognise that perhaps we are better poised to lend ourselves wholly to fiction, at least for now.


No More Flash Fiction

Our Flash Fiction prize will now be incorporated into our Short Story Prize, which will be asking for short fiction between 500 and 3000 words in length. As always, our judging comes down to creativity, originality, and quality of writing. And believe us, this can be evident in the first 100 words, let alone 500! So we're hoping to receive a mixture of lengths, and to showcase a broader, more dynamic, and diverse collection of short fiction than ever before.

How will this work with our Anthology? Well, we're going to continue to produce one every year, but from 2021 onwards, it will contain the entries from just one competition. So, while the monetary prize pool will remain at just six, we're going to buck the traditional long/short list format, and find the best 20-30 entries from each competition year, and then publish all of them in a rich and exciting fiction collection.

This anthology won't contain any novel entries, but will be a celebration of the best short fiction pieces from the previous year, and will be available much quicker, too.


Better Agent Relations

For an exciting new project we've been working on, we have been in contact with dozens of agencies and agents. During this, we've introduced ourselves, explained what we're all about, and forged open channels of communication with them.

In doing so, what we've created is a way for us to present work that we feel passionately about, directly to them. And as we're now going to be offering a new first novel award alongside our annual novel prize, and changing the way our novel prize publication works, we hope to be able to send ALL of these agents more of your work than ever before. As in, directly to them, in a neatly packaged way that showcases the best new novels of the year.


Novel Prize Publication Changes

Much like with our short fiction collection, we're going to be moving towards publishing a chapbook every year. This will contain the top 20-30 novel entries from the prize, which will be combined into the Novel Prize Chapbook. This chapbook will present our top 6 'prize pool' winning entries, as well as the rest of the 'longlist', so to speak. We will then send a copy of this chapbook to every agency that we have on our affiliates list (we're aiming for 40), all of whom so far have expressed great interest in receiving, and reading it!

This is a big change for us, but we hope that it will offer even more incentive for budding novelists to enter our competitions. Let us know if you like the sound of this.


New First Novel Award

The Crucible First Novel Award is a brand new free-to-enter competition aimed at unpublished or self-published writers of thriller, crime, and mystery fiction (and all its sub-genres) with a finished novel, which will run over the winter period.

We're doing away with the traditional formatting of our competitions -- so that means no entry fee, no prize money, no feedback, no longlisting, and no winners.

No winners, you say? Well, yes, and no. We're going to have a handful of agents on our judging panel who will select one novel each to request a full MS. What happens from there is for the fates to decide.

On top of that, we'll be aiming to assemble the 20-30 best entries into another chapbook, which we'll then send to our big list of wonderful agents.

In essence, we'll have two chapbooks like this per year -- one in the spring, and one in the autumn, which will land right in an agents' reading tray, meaning that your chances of scoring some real focused reading time from an agent just went up by an order of magnitude.

How does that sound?

The full description, including the entry guidelines and rules, will be available to read on the website from November 1st, when this new prize opens. For now, stay tuned, and get polishing your manuscript!

So How Will 2021 Look?

In the early part of the year, the Crucible FNA will close to entries and the chapbook will be sent out very quickly! As we're not providing feedback or dealing with the other red tape that we usually have to, we can be a lot more efficient in assembling and getting our chapbooks out the door. Those whose work has been chosen by our judging agents will be contacted directly, and the announcements will arrive in early spring.

We'll then have our standard Super Early Bird and Early Bird deadlines for our Novel Prize, followed by the Final Deadline at the end of September, as normal. We'll still offer feedback, and the same fee and prize fund structure, with the added bonus of the larger chapbook which gets dispatched directly to agents.

As for the short story prize, we'll be having an Early Bird and a Final Deadline which will fall before the Novel Prize's, which means you can focus your attention were it counts.

With our new Dashboard and website setup, you should find navigating and staying up to date much easier than before. But of course, we welcome all feedback in all regards!

What about The Atmos Collections: Volume 1?

As we speak, we're welcoming a new field of winners into our creative sphere, and are building towards our first volume. Originally, we'd intended to make it a grand collection of many stories, but as this was always an organic process, we've now decided to make it shorter, more digestible, and episodic in nature.

We'll be publishing the first collection before the year is out (with some luck... but maybe just after) with a handful of amazing, warming, terrifying stories nestled between their pages. The theme will remain a secret until launch, but we can divulge that they'll be speculative in nature, set in a shared world, inspired by some recent, amazing fiction and media that has graced our world. We think you're going to love it.

Think all of this sounds great? Reach out on Twitter and Facebook and let us know what you think!

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