Short Stories: Hints & Tips

22nd July, 2013

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

We have had a recent flurry of entries for our short story competition, and we are rather excited about this influx of literary goodness… so much so that we would like to extend the deadline by ONE WHOLE WEEK.

The new deadline for submissions is now midnight on Sunday 4 August.

Are you working on your entry for our short story competition? Not sure where to begin? Or worse, not sure where to end? We have asked last year’s winner, Sarah Reynolds, for some hints and tips on how to write that winning entry!

“1. Read lots of short stories.  Just read them – you don’t need to take things apart or try to work out why this works and why that doesn’t.  Have faith in osmosis.  Somehow the spirit of the genre just sort of seeps into you.

2. Enjoy your creativity – I’m convinced that if you’re not freely yourself and willingly involved in a relationship with what you’re writing your own voice won’t ring true.

3. Hate to say it, but get that hook.  There’s only a short space in which to express yourself  so that first line has to inspire interest.

4. Read it aloud – with feeling, to yourself, for yourself.  Relax, have fun and listen carefully.  You’ll hear where pauses and connections should be, you’ll realise if dialogue is natural or not.  If you find yourself running out of breath, then the sentence is too long.  If you find yourself galloping to the finishing post there’s a possibility you’ve rushed your ending … and there’s no ending to the advantages of making this habit part of your writing process.

5. Show don’t tell.  Another piece of advice that’s often repeated but that’s because it’s worth its weight in gold (Which reminds me, beware the cliché.  That said, they exist because they’re real and people do use them) Space is limited – you can use actions rather than detailed description to portray character.   

6. Work it, work it and work it – but not to death.  A short story is a gem that needs to be cut and polished until it’s just right for you.  Editing is really important. Weed out the errors – the shorter the piece, the more noticeable they are.  If you want to be taken seriously, you need to take the spelling, the construction and so on seriously.  And, no matter how much you love certain parts, if they don’t move the narrative forward you’re going to have to lose them.  Well, you don’t have to lose them completely.  I’ve got a sweep up folder I brush bits I’ve culled into.  Nothing wrong with recycling your own work – it’s when you recycle someone else’s there’s trouble!

7. I’ve said it before but it’s worth saying again. If you’ve got an idea, if you have a compulsion to write, then just sit yourself down and do it.  You have to start somewhere.”

The theme of this year’s short story competition is ‘bad luck and trouble’. The deadline for entries is midnight on Sunday 28 July. Click here for more information.

Good luck!