Twisted50: Everything You Wanted To Know But Never Dared Ask

What is Twisted 50?

Twisted 50 is a part of the Create 50 initiative, which provides writers with the opportunity to submit their short scripts and stories for consideration. The project was born out of the desire to create a mechanism for writers to get their first credit on a film. It all started with the very first project called 4 Nights in August, which received an overwhelming response and launched the careers of many writers.

The Submission Process

If you’re interested in submitting your work to Twisted 50, here’s how you can get involved:

  • Visit twisted50.com and create an account.
  • Read and review other stories on the platform to gain insight and feedback.
  • Write and edit your 2,000-word horror story.
  • Submit your story through the website’s submission form.

Benefits of Participating

Participating in the Twisted 50 project offers several benefits for writers:

  • Low bar to entry: With a 2,000-word submission requirement, the project is designed to be accessible and achievable for writers.
  • Peer feedback: Writers have the opportunity to receive feedback from other members of the community, helping them improve their work.
  • Community support: The Twisted 50 community provides writers with a sense of togetherness and collaboration, fostering a supportive environment for creative expression.

Tips for Writing a Successful Horror Story

If you’re considering submitting a horror story to Twisted 50, here are some top tips to keep in mind:

  • Edit aggressively: Don’t feel compelled to reach the 2,000-word limit. Edit your story to be as concise and impactful as possible.
  • Bite harder: Don’t hold back in your storytelling. Embrace the unsettling nature of horror and aim to shock and surprise your readers.
  • Embrace the fantastical: Consider incorporating elements of magical reality and esoteric themes into your story to captivate readers.

Getting Involved

If you’re eager to get more involved with the Twisted 50 project, there are several ways you can contribute:

  • Become a reader: The project is always in need of additional readers to review and provide feedback on submitted stories.
  • Write a blog post: Share your insights and experiences with the Twisted 50 community by contributing a blog post to the website.
  • Amplify the message: Help spread the word about Twisted 50 on social media and within your writer networks.

Transcript below…

Amy: Hello and welcome to the London Screenwriters Festival. My name is Amy, I am a writer and producer with the LSF and I am joined today by the wonderful Chris Jones. Chris, would you like to say hello?

Chris: Hello there, everyone in Podcastland.

Amy: Chris is with us today, and thank you very much for joining us to talk about Create 50 and the new Twisted 50. So Chris, what is Create 50?

Chris: Well, way back in the dawn of time, I think it was like 2011 or something when we had the riots in London. I remember that the Festival was in maybe its second year, and I really had this frustration that there wasn’t really a mechanism for writers to get their very first credit on a film. And I came up with this idea of like, what if we invited everybody to write a really short script around a subject, and then released all those scripts on the internet and any filmmaker could download it and make a version of that film and then we’d select the best films and give them a prize. And that was the genesis of the very first project which we called 4 Nights in August. And like I said, it was based around the idea of the riots. And it was an enormous success. I don’t have to hand the numbers, but it was something like 500 scripts were submitted, 100 films were made, and some careers were launched. And we thought, crikey, that was good. And that was based on a 1 page script. We wanted it to be so ridiculously easy to enter that you just didn’t have an excuse to not enter it.

So we then expanded it into 2 pages and themed it. And we came up with the film, 50 Kisses, and the theme was, it just has to feature a kiss, be set on Valentine’s, and it’s gotta be 2 pages or less, and we’ll do the same deal. And we got 2000 scripts submitted to that 1 and we selected the best 50, released those on the internet. I think we’ve got 300 films produced and then we made a feature film out of those films. We released the films in the cinema. It hit the top 10 in the UK, astonishingly went in the Guinness Book of Records for the most writers on a feature film. And then we developed Twisted, which was a kind of horror anthology project because we had a love of the the 70s horror books done by Pan books and things like Hammer House of Horror that was on Saturday nights and Tales of the Unexpected. It was very much a kind of Gen X kind of horror compendium. And we really love the idea. And we did the very first book. It was again, was a huge creative success, so successful. We had too many good stories. So we ended up making a second book called Twisted’s Evil Little Sister, which was kind of the ones that didn’t make it into the book. Or for those writers who submitted 2 stories and they were both great and we wanted to publish them both. So we published them and we had an amazing award ceremony and a launch party, got onto Amazon’s best seller list. Much of this is tactical. We’re really attempting to get like squeeze as much blood out of that stone for the writers, because it’s often very much their first credit or second or third credit. And it’s very much about the career launching value of what comes out of it.

So that’s 1 aspect of Create 50. So we had all those projects. We’ve done Impact 50, which was a film about a meteor hit in the earth. We did a Christmas book during the pandemic And we’ve just come back to relaunch Twisted version 3 or book volume 3.

Amy: And for writers out there, why would they sign up to Twisted 50?

Chris: Well, I think there’s The value of the Create 50 concept and Twisted 50 within Create 50 is, first of all, it’s a very low bar to entry. It’s a 2, 000 word submission, 2, 000 words or less, and I would frankly recommend or less. If we get another we have so many stories that are 1, 999 words and you’re like, guys. So I would strongly recommend fewer words. And so, but you know, most of us can write 2000 words in a day. So it’s a day’s work, really, and maybe maybe 2 days with a redraft or, you know, a crazy morning and a crazy afternoon a few days later to do your redraft. So there’s a low bar to entry. And then the second thing is you get peer feedback, peer review feedback. So put it up on the site, other people read it, they offer you feedback. You get real world feedback from a lot of writers. And that’s invaluable in submitting your second draft where you’ve taken all that feedback and any thoughts you’ve had in the shower or waking up at 3 a.m. In the morning to integrate all that stuff. And you get a second punch, submit your second draft based on all that feedback. And you also get to read other people’s stories as well. And that process is actually extraordinarily valuable, because we all too often work very much in a vacuum. And that community, that sense of togetherness, but also the ability to get feedback and to offer your impartial view and insight. It’s absolutely amazing. And it’s 1 of the reasons why the projects always thrive and become such a kind of furious like excited ball of energy when it really picks up steam towards the deadline, the closing deadline.

Amy: So with Twisted 50 having the feedback and reviews from other readers, Do you think that’s a really beneficial and helpful way for writers to improve?

Chris: Yeah, I think so, because I think all too often, I mean, this is really for all creative people in all creative endeavours, is, You know, there is an argument that we create for the for the pleasure of creation in of itself But I think most of us would agree that there is if we want to buy into that there is a secondary pleasure, which is the pleasure of having somebody else experience our creation And I think all too often there are too many barriers to having our work experienced by people who aren’t your mum or your brother or your neighbour. And to have complete strangers or people who become friends over time help collaborate and you help them collaborate, it really builds a sense of momentum. And I think that’s another key thing that really works about Create 50 is that because you can do the work in a short period of time and you can even do it again, so submit twice or 3 times, you can really build a sense of momentum. And that is again like going to the gym, like you start writing every day and you write diligently and you write with less preciousness because you’re like, well, I’ll just write another 1 and I’ll see what happens with that 1. And we stopped self-censoring and we start writing from a place of joy and courage and fearlessness and uncensored creativity. And I think that’s the good stuff. That’s where the really good stuff is when you’re not writing anymore with a sense of what if somebody reads this and you know they’re going to read it. It’s all part and parcel of the process. So I think it’s absolutely key to the process. And because we get a lot of people involved, that makes that process much more joyful.

Amy: Yeah, having more people like outside of your circle read your work definitely gives you a bit more confidence and you appreciate that feedback more. You can’t pass it off as yeah but they’re just being nice because they’re my friend and I think that external feedback is invaluable. So if you’re writing in the horror genre for Twisted 50, what are some of the top tips that you can give?

Chris: Well, I mean, this is based on the hundreds and hundreds of submissions. I mean, I don’t know how many submissions we’ve had now for the Twisted 50 kind of mass community. I’m gonna say somewhere between 500 and a thousand stories. And I would say there’s a number of things that come up regularly. The first 1 is don’t feel like you have to go to 2, 000 words. That’s, you know, If you’re ready to submit in 2, 000 words, go read Stephen King’s book on writing, and I guarantee you can make it 1, 800 words, and it will be better for it. So edit aggressively. Secondly, I think my big note has always been bite harder. Like I think there’s something about many horror writers where they just hold back. And I would say don’t hold back. I mean, whatever the area you’re writing in, have people gasp and be shocked and demand censorship. I mean, I’m not saying outwardly go out to offend people, but people should feel unsettled. It’s horror, it’s supposed to unsettle you. So that’s another big no. And then I think another 1 would be, I think somehow we very often tend to lean into kind of kitchen sink horror. And I would I would encourage more magical reality horror where, you know, we can have demons and monsters and aliens. And although we shy away from aliens, I have no problem with brain eating aliens in Twisted. But, you know, go, lean a little bit more into the fantastical as well. And a number of our better entries have been quite, you know, esoteric as well, like almost Lovecraftian in the kind of like weird trippiness of it. And I think that’s always a welcome read inside the very, very structured, plotty stories. And don’t over plot as well. That’s another thing, like don’t attempt to put a novel into 2000 words or a super clever twist. I mean, you can have a super clever twist. I do love a super clever twist, but I don’t think that is required. A slice is a nice word. A slice of something happening is often just as juicy as a well-plotted with a twist in the tale, particularly if you can kind of see the twist in the tale after the third sentence, you know, into the story. Because, you know, as we know, nothing is that original.

Amy: With that though, do you think there’s any kind of limits with regards to taste? Is there any any kind of big no-no subjects that you think people should avoid?

Chris: I would say let the community let you know if you’ve wandered into an area that is too far. That’s my view. So I would say wherever it is, go for it. I mean, I suppose there will be legal limits and we’ll have to be mindful of that. But most writers, I don’t think we’ve ever had a problem, really. We’ve only ever had a couple of stories where we’ve raised a real eyebrow and gone, blimey, okay. But I don’t think we’ve ever excluded any of them from the process. And we see what people say. It’s that whole thing of, you know, 1 person’s diet coke bottle is another person’s high art. And I don’t really want to be the judge of what is and is not art. That said, I have a pretty high tolerance for offence, so it takes a lot to offend me.

Amy: And for writers out there who either don’t do short stories or don’t write horror, should they give it a go?

Chris: Absolutely. I mean, first of all, there is a kind of like, there’s a delicious pleasure in writing horror that until you do it, you don’t really understand just how pleasurable it can be. You can murder all those people that you’ve been wanting to murder secretly for a long time. So, yeah, you can really have some fun with it. And, you know, even though I’ve said you can go horrifically, you know, have bigger teeth, have sharper teeth, you can absolutely go in the opposite direction and, you know, go into the mundanity of horror as well. So, you know, you don’t have to go into creatures and monsters. You can stay in the world of drama. But it’s a muscle, you know, it’s a muscle and it’s a whole new continent to explore if it’s not your thing. And my experience is everybody who writes and submits to Twisted 50, they always say, actually, I really enjoyed that. I didn’t think I was going to enjoy anywhere near as much. I discovered I actually do have a little bit of a love for horror. It’s not my main thing, but I quite enjoyed that. So I definitely say have a go. And, you know, as a discipline anyway, as a professional writer, you should be able to write anything that comes along. You know, if you’re offered a job to write, you should be able to at least consider it.

Amy: Yeah, being able to do something that maybe isn’t your bag but it’s going to pay you that’s something that you need to you know be able to adjust to very quickly.

Chris: For sure.

Amy: With Create50 the community is a really big part of it, why do you think that works?

Chris: I think it’s because you know ultimately writing is a is a necessarily individual process. It operates, you know, from your brain through your heart, possibly through your fingertips onto the keyboard, onto the screen to be immediately judged and rewritten. And we can all go a little bit stir crazy in that process and to have a community of people who all get the kind of the madness and the insecurity and the self-doubt and the, but also the exultation and the pleasure and the joy of having your work read by other people. Understanding that passion, being surrounded by people like that is priceless because it validates who we are as creators, as storytellers. And, you know, when we hang around in the real world with normal people and you say, I tell stories, they often look at you like you’re a bit bonkers. And they don’t, a lot of people just don’t understand the passion. And I think Having a way to express yourself authentically and fully and to be applauded for that, I think is amazing. And that’s kind of the heartbeat of the London Screenwriters Festival as well. I always politically incorrectly refer to it now as, you know, for 3 days the lunatics get to take over the asylum and we all go crazy. And if it were Glastonbury, we’d be rolling around in the mud.

Amy: Create 50 and Twisted 50 have been going for quite some time now. How many writers have been with you, done the process, moved on? How many writers have you had in total, do you reckon?

Chris: I mean, we don’t track those specifically, but I’m going to… I mean, like with Impact 50, we had nearly 3000 scripts submitted, and I know it was 2000 for 50 Kisses. And with the books, and we did a science fiction book as well, they were always in the 500, 400 kind of entry. So if it was 5, 000 writers it wouldn’t surprise me, it’s probably more like 2, 500 because I think there’s a lot of people who who apply to or get involved in everything really. So maybe 2 and a half, 3 and a half thousand people. Some people come in and out, some people have been there at the very beginning and are still with us. So yeah, it’s a very, very large and energetic community.

Amy: And if Twisted 50 volume 3 gets 2000 entries, does that mean you’ve got 2000 short stories to read or have you got any help on that front?

Chris: Yeah, no, we have a team of readers. I mean, part of the whole process of having the community read and feedback is to help people make the very best submission so that when it gets to our readers, it’s in the very best shape. Because what’s super frustrating is when we see something that’s good, but it needs some work and the deadlines passed and you know then we get into editing and that just makes things very very difficult. So the whole process is designed to have your work be the very best it can be before it hits our readers. Our readers will then read it. Every story is read by at least 2 people, cross-referenced with the feedback that we have on the website and then we’ll generate a shortlist and then we’ll whittle it down. Inevitably there’ll be people who’ve got 2 stories in that shortlist So we’ll have to make a difficult choice between, because we want 50 writers, not 47 writers, a couple of which have 2 stories in there. And we’ll just whittle it down and whittle it down and whittle it down. And then the editors will go in and they’ll probably make some small editorial changes and maybe fix some typos. We don’t change the stories at all but sometimes we have to make minor adjustments. Then we lock the book, put it together and have it published for October 31st Halloween and all go to the party, it’ll be amazing.

Amy: So once the book is put together and published and we’ve had the launch party, what happens to the final book?

Chris: So what we do is we self-publish on Amazon and all the other sites that will take it. And so we’ll have a paperback version, it’ll be on Kindle. We have an ace card, which is because there’s 50 writers, there’s 50 people invested in elevating the book. So we run a tactical campaign in the run-up so that when we release it, we get as many people to buy it at the same time, getting it right up the charts in Amazon and getting all those reviews, those 5 star reviews onto the book page as quickly as we can. All of that stuff is noticed by Amazon’s algorithms, which then pushes it even further. So yes, it’s a little bit of a hustle, a little bit of a cheat, but frankly, that’s exactly what we should be doing. If we want to be in the creative industries, everybody is hustling, everybody is doing something to elevate their work, and this is our way to do that. So, and then once it’s out in the world, it has to live on its own 2 feet. And we’ll see how readers respond to it beyond, you know, our process.

Amy: So how can someone get involved?

Chris: So it’s super easy to get involved. All you have to do is go to twisted50.com and follow the links on the main page. Create an account. It’s free. Read some stories. If you want to submit a story, you have to commit to reading at least 2 stories and there is a star rating system. We don’t really use the star rating in the judging, but it does help create a little bit of energy in the community. We’re all super competitive, so it just helps get those juices flowing. So read some stories, feedback on some stories, leave your authentic thoughts on it, get writing and write those 2, 000 words, edit it, edit it, edit it, rewrite it, edit it, submit it and then you know listen to feedback for a couple of weeks, and then do your second draft, edit it, edit it, edit it, edit it, submit it, and then hopefully you’ll get through into the final book and you’ll be on stage with us at the awards ceremony in London in October.

Amy: Are there any particular stories that you’re looking for that perhaps you haven’t seen in the Twisted 50 before?

Chris: You know, there’s 2 areas that whenever you read that story, like truly melancholic stories, we’ve had some of those, which are, you know, there’s that genre of like gothic romance and I’m not talking about Twilight, but you know genuinely like melancholic stories they always land because they don’t have to you don’t have to kind of hit so hard with them. I suppose that’s often ghost stories. It’s like a lost soul. I’m not really saying ghost stories, I’m just saying melancholic. Those always land with greater weight for me. And then kind of fun creature feature ones, you know, giant ants taking over London, as nuts as that sounds, they always land as well. Because they’re, I suppose it’s the yin and yang, the lightness and the darkness that works because we’re structuring a book as well. So we don’t just chuck 50 stories together. We actually create a kind of undulation of, oh, this one’s light and entertaining and this one’s dark and heavy and we’ll create that process and try to craft a good read for the reader.

Amy: So if someone’s signed up and they are writing their little socks off, How can they help if they want to do a little bit more, go a little bit further?

Chris: We’d love to hear from you if you want to get involved because we need more readers. That’s always a thing. You know, if we could have every story read by 4 people that would be even better than 2. But if you can write a blog post, 1 of the things that is always super challenging is keeping the project in the mind of writers and potentially readers. And we do that through writing blog posts, which would then proliferate through social media. And once somebody’s written a blog post, they’re a little bit more invested themselves as well. So if you can write as a blog post, that would be great. Drop us a line and say I’d like to write a blog post with an idea and we’ll maybe bounce some things around with you. And it doesn’t need to be very long, anywhere between 200 words and 800 words, it goes as long as you want really. But that would be super helpful. Amplifying all our messages on social media, commenting on things on social media, telling your writers friends, writer friends, you know, getting if you know any horror groups or other horror initiatives that we may not have come across, please let us know about that. Just dive in and you know, if you can offer us 1 minute, we’ll take it. If you can offer us a week, we’ll take that as well.

Amy: So what final piece would you offer any writers that want to get involved.

Chris: Be audacious. Above all, be audacious. And write as though you’re going to be executed tomorrow. Like, this is it. Just write, be audacious. Write that thing you were always afraid to write, and then do the same again the following day, and the following day, and the following, whether it’s for Twisted 50 or whether it’s whatever you’re writing in your life, just write with, write bigger. I don’t know how to say that. I mean, obviously don’t mean a bigger font, but just write bigger. Even when it’s small, write bigger. I suppose if you write bigger, you have to write fewer words because the bigness of it makes it take up more space. I don’t know. I don’t. That’s a weird psychological thing I’ve just just occurred to me because I think also write shorter, Write bigger and write shorter. That would be my, I think my big thing. And participate, be part of it, get involved, read other people’s stuff. There’s so much to be learned just by reading other people’s interpretation of the rules and what they think they can or they can’t write and read the comments and see how people defend their work or take on board the criticism. Because being a professional writer is in large part your ability to collaborate with other people and to take other people’s opinions and notes and integrate it where necessary and not just say, no, I’m the author, I am the genius, step away and just get involved in the whole process.

Amy: Don’t hold yourself back basically, just get into your writing.

Chris: You’ve written a blog yourself for the site today about about the little voice showing up and self-censoring yourself.

Amy: Yes I have yes.

Chris: Do you want to expand on that?

Amy: Yeah So I failed to submit to Twisted 50 in the previous iterations and Impact 50 and 50 Kisses. I think I’d even written something for Impact 50 and then bottled it at the last minute and going to the premiere was great I loved it but there was something eating away at me sat there going yeah I passed this opportunity up just because I kind of got a bit scared. You can’t expect to get a career if you’re too afraid to submit something or to even you know have a blog post on a website, which again, is something that I would never have done before. I think sometimes you just have to acknowledge that if this is what you want, you’ve got to go for it. And the fear can f off to be honest.

Chris: Yeah, I agree. I agree totally. Yeah, it’s an amazing insight, isn’t it? That, you know, we are the only thing in our way is ourself.

Amy: Absolutely. Yeah. And you can, you know, you can, you can put plenty of other things in your way. And that’s not saying that life is all sunshine and whatever for everybody, but you can always figure it out. And it’s just allowing yourself to figure it out.

Chris: Yeah. And I think that that speaks again to the whole Create 50 process, which is when we do the films, like you can write a 2 page script. You can do that. There’s literally nothing in your way from doing that. And yes, 2000 words is much longer than 2 pages. It’s not that much longer. So you can write 2000 words, you’ve got from the point of this recording over 70 days to do it. So you’ve got plenty time to, you know, I don’t know what it is, like 10 words a day.

Amy: 30 words a day if you were to go right to the final deadline but yeah

Chris: there you go your maths is better than mine

Amy: okay so that brings us nicely to what’s the deadline how can people get involved like let’s let’s push this 1 out there

Chris: okay so the deadline for submissions is the 15th of September. That will give us enough time to finish judging and get the book put together for the October 31st. I don’t think we’ll be on Halloween. We may, we may not be. The launch party in London and the awards. And, and to enter, you just go to twisted 50.com on the menu. You will see, you know, read T 3, which is twisted, twisted 50 volume 3, And just click on any of those links. If you’re not logged in, it’ll tell you to log in. If you can’t log in, you have to create an account. If you create a account, you can log in. And once you can log in, you can read the stories and you can submit your own story as well. It’s got to be a Word doc or just a text file. No PDFs, please. And do fill out the submission forms. I mean, today I was, you know, again, I don’t know, astonished, amused or whatever, take it seriously. Like that submission form, take it seriously. And when it asks for some data, put the data in there. It’s not frivolous. Because, you know, there’s a thing about life, how you do the small things is how you do the big things. So if you’re not taking that form seriously, perhaps you’re not taking your career seriously enough. So fill out the form properly. It’s only got 5 boxes and it’s only things like, what’s the title, what’s your name? Astonishingly, some people can get that wrong. And yeah, get involved. It’s amazing.

Amy: Don’t wait until the 15th of September either.

Chris: Yes, yes. Like really seriously, like that’s a massive note. Like the time to submit is not 11.58 on the 15th of September. It is not. You know, get it there 48 hours earlier, because you just don’t want to be that person. And look, I’m the first to admit that I do think that, I genuinely do think that there is some energy that happens inside creative people’s hearts and brains when you get close to a deadline. I do believe that sometimes we go, oh, I don’t know, I can’t do it. I’m confused, I’ve got writer’s block and we come up with all these excuses. But I actually think your subconscious is working on it at that point. I think somehow you’re working through it. And then when you get to that point, you go, I don’t have time, suddenly everything appears. And I do believe that that is a real thing. I also think it’s horrible. And I think, you know, maybe, well, actually, don’t ever say this out loud, but maybe, you know, we’ll extend the deadline by a couple of days. We, you know, I guarantee we will just for those people. I know, I know.

Amy: I was actually going to say…

Chris: But yeah, it is a real thing.

Amy: I was going to say, maybe people should give themselves their own deadline of like the 1st of September and then, you know, they can work with that.

Chris: Yeah, yeah, totally.

Amy: Okay. So the deadline’s the 1st of September not the 15th. Yeah. Okay so sign up to Twisted 50 get writing get those stories up and start reading and reviewing. Thank you very very much Chris for coming on today and giving us a nice quick run through of Twisted 50 and Create 50. Okay so yeah go to twisted50.com and sign up and get writing and we wish you all the best of luck and we hope to read your stories soon. Take care, bye bye bye!

Chris: Bye!

 

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