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Yesterday brought an old-fashioned brown envelope rejection – it’s usually email or silence these days – to a story I sent to Woman’s Weekly. I’d tried to do the right things: studied the magazine, opted for the first person narrative which they seem to favour, even included an appealing small dog. They obviously hated it. Or did they?

I recently learned that a story I wasn’t happy about has been shortlisted for a competition. It was on a set theme and I found it such a struggle to come up with something appropriate that I ran out of time and put it in the post, warts and all.

So what’s that all about?

Ninevoices have written before about Rachel Dunlop’s must-read blog ‘Butterflies‘ of January 2013 on this subject. She argues that competitions (and, presumably, fiction editors) are like photographers setting up a photo-shoot. They already have a great red dress, a fabulous bag – and only lack a pair of black killer heels and some classy accessories. And what have you sent them? Another red dress. It’s probably a stunning creation, but they’ve got one of those already and moved on.

She adds that competition judges prefer a spread of style/theme for their handful of winners. They clearly wouldn’t want the first, second and third places all to be stories about a one-legged ex-priest, wearing a red dress, who kidnaps and murders female politicians.