Writing Short Stories with Cynan Jones

Write and edit a complete short story and learn essential fiction-writing techniques on Curtis Brown Creative’s brand new six-week online course, Writing Short Stories led by award-winning short story writer Cynan Jones. Cynan won the Betty Trask award for his novel The Long Dry and he won BBC National Short Story Award in 2017, for which he was on the 2019 judging panel . His short stories have appeared in a variety of anthologies and in journals and magazines including Granta and the New Yorker.

We interviewed Cynan to find out more about his love of short fiction…

You won the BBC National Short Story Prize for your story The Edge of the Shoal in 2017 and now you’re on this year’s judging panel for the prize. How does it feel to come full circle? And what do you look for when reading short stories for competitions?

Judging the competition has certainly pointed out what an extraordinary thing it was to win. Ultimately, all a writer can do is write as strongly as he or she can, and work on a story until it’s the best possible piece they can produce. What happens to that story is a product of the work and attention put in. If nothing else, I know I’ve really worked hard to write strongly. In many ways then, it feels less of a circle and more of a starting point! What next? I’m always aiming to challenge myself.

The sense a writer has challenged him or herself is in the best stories too. You read great pieces and think, ‘How!? How did they write that?’ Such stories feel both totally impossible to write, but as if they couldn’t be written better.

When reading stories for competitions I look for that. Stories that take narrative risks and show the technical ability to make those risks pay off. That’s much rarer than you think.

What initially inspired you to start writing in short fiction?

I think several elements led me to shorter forms. Firstly, the thing of reading a story from start to finish in one sitting. I loved that as a reader and – as most of us are copyists when we first start writing – wanted to replicate that experience.

I also think that, even in my initial attempts at serious writing, the way my prose hit the page lent itself to shorter form. I aimed always to put a picture down as simply and powerfully as I could and relied on the reader to think and feel in response. That meant I didn’t write a great deal of explanation or back story, or direct a reader how to react. In itself, that makes for fewer words.

In retrospect, perhaps too there were constraints as to how long I could really dedicate to the process of writing when I first started. I usually had about three months for writing at the beginning of the year before the freelance work I did at the time really got going. Perhaps that made me feel I needed to write something I could start and finish in one block. (Which loops back to the first thing I mentioned here, about the immersive experience of starting and finishing something in one go.)

We’re thrilled to have you on board as the teacher of our brand-new Writing Short Stories course. What’s your favourite part of teaching?

Probably how teaching makes you dig into your own process and really work to understand it so you can pass what you know on.

Other than the help of the world-class authors I read, I taught myself to write. Because of that, it’s only since teaching that I’ve really dissected exactly what it is I do, and that’s helped me take things further.

Could you share your top three tips for writers who want to start writing short stories?

Read.

Work at the craft.

Don’t write to be published.

Read the full interview with Cynan over on the Curtis Brown Creative blog.

Curtis Brown Creative’s brand new Writing Short Stories course led by Cynan Jones is open now for enrolment. It starts on October 17th 2019.

Short Stops readers can get an exclusive 10% off by using code: SHORTSTOPSCBC

 

Live Lit In Leamington Spa

Announcing our 2nd Live-Lit Author Event in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. No matter how you do it come and do it with us as we celebrate through spoken word the colour Yellow. Enjoy this anthology of local authors reading short stories, poems and possibly five-minute plays on Thursday 1st March in the cosy environment of The Stagey Fox Regent Street, Leam. It’s free and it’s fun and it kicks off at 7.15pm. No booking necessary – just rock up and enjoy!

Flash Fiction Competition, London Independent Story Prize

London Independent Story Prize, LISP is holding a writing contest. Their aim is to discover extraordinary artistic approaches to story writing, stories that embrace the diversity of gender and culture whilst being brave and passionate. They are looking for unique and strong voices. BAME, Women, and LGBTQ are especially welcome. They’ll be delighted to read it and you could be in with a chance to win!

Entries can be sent through their website www.londonindependentstoryprize.co.uk

Follow their Facebook and Twitter @LIStoryPrize for the announcements.

Early Bird Deadline: 1st of January 2018

Submissions Close on 10th of January

Winner announcements, on 10th of February

Prizes: £100 First, £30 Second, £10 Third

Check their amazing judge list from this link.LISP-5

Write and Edit a Short Story in a Weekend

This two-day course (8th-9th April) from London Lit Lab is designed to get you both writing and editing, by combining dedicated creative time with an intensive tour through ways to improve your draft.

On day one, we’ll kick off by exploring ways to turn our ideas into full stories, from getting first words down to finishing a draft. You will then have ample time and space (and tea and cake) to write, in the quiet company of fellow scribblers.

On day two, we will work through a series of editing approaches, which you will be able to apply to your own work.

This course is suitable for both beginners and committed writers. By the end of the course you will have a draft piece of work, and a range of editing skills to apply to it!

We’ll be based at a beautiful, luxurious location in East London, and the course will be led by two writers, Lily Dunn and Zoe Gilbert.

For more information about the course, and to read testimonials from previous London Lit Lab course attendees: http://www.londonlitlab.co.uk/?page_id=343

Call for Submissions: HCE’s Toys & Games Issue

The editors at Here Come Everyone magazine (HCE) are seeking submissions for our upcoming issue: Toys & Games. We’re a quarterly literary magazine of poetry, fiction, articles and artwork based around topical and interesting themes.  HCE is published by Silhouette Press, a not-for-profit publishing social enterprise that aims to create a network of artists, writers and thinkers to create new and innovative content, as well as carry out community creative writing projects. Together, we aim to provide an open and accessible platform for readers and contributors.

The new theme: TOYS & GAMES

Deadline: 10 January 2017

We encourage bold/striking interpretations of the theme. If your link to toys/games isn’t self-evident, we advise you to include a few lines in your author bio to provide context.Poetry: you may submit up to three poems of no longer than 30 lines each.

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Fiction: please submit only one piece per issue; stories may be up to 2,500 words.

Non-fiction: please submit only one piece per issue; articles may be up to 2,000 words.

Artwork: you may submit up to three pieces; we accept all visual media (300 dpi and 640 x 640 res)

 
Please see our submissions guidelines for full details. Work must be sent via the Submittable button on our website; stuff we receive via email will not be accepted. Any Word or .doc.x format is fine, but no PDFs. For submissions of artwork, please ensure your files are of sufficient image size and hi-res, otherwise they cannot be used. 

We look forward to receiving your creations…