Reading Short Stories

Every year Dahlia Publishing hosts two students from the University of Leicester for a 10 week placement. The scheme run by the university provides students with an opportunity to gain work experience in a small press to enhance their learning. Students often work remotely and are supported by editor Farhana Shaikh to pursue a personal project – something where they can channel their interests and make a difference. During the 2018/19 academic year we were joined by Amira Richards who had an interest in editing. Following our Short Story September project we were inviting short stories to read and Amira was keen to work on this. Our meetings were joyous – filled with passionate response for the work we’d pondered over, and often found ourselves battling with the question: what makes a short story?  Here’s Amira on what she learnt during the process… 

Writing short stories can be hard and surprisingly reading them can require the same kind of effort. From a personal perspective, knowing what to look for, what works about a story and what doesn’t is a process that one must discover for themselves. Everyone reads differently.

For my placement I have had the opportunity to read many submissions for Short Story September. I have really enjoyed learning what people like to write about and what urges them to produce a piece of work that will be read by other people. I have learnt that people like to write about the mundane but also the extraordinary and the little things in between. There are stories that captured my attention straight away, and others that left me feeling a little unsatisfied.

However, the most important thing I have learnt is that stories – especially short ones – need a purpose. They need to illustrate a clear message to the reader, which doesn’t have to be personal but nevertheless allows the reader to understand why the story was written. I found that the stories with a clear aim and purpose were the ones that were the most pleasant to read. I understood why the writer decided to send the story in and what they were trying to convey through each carefully formulated sentence.

“The formula seems to lie solely in the aching urge of the writer to convey something that feels important to the reader.” ~ John Steinbeck

So when you write a short story, think about what you want to convey. I would love to see stories that not only show me something but also make me question myself as a reader. And while short stories can lack the detail and intricate backstories of longer works, in my opinion, a good ending makes a short story. Think about how you want to end your story and how it relates to the content as a whole. After all, they are short for a reason. But short doesn’t mean lesser just as long doesn’t guarantee better. I look forward to reading more short stories in the future and urge writers to never stop practising.

Amira Richards is currently reading English at University of Leicester. 

Dahlia Publishing is currently inviting submissions to the Leicester Writes Short Story Prize 2019 until 15th April 2019.

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12 Writing Tips To Get You Started

As Anne Frank poignantly wrote: “I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” Writing can be an incredible outlet, but sometimes there are stumbling blocks along the way.

Which is why the team at READ Foundation has put together a list of 12 Writing Tips to Get You Started.

Children writing in a classroom

READ is an education charity which builds schools and enables children from poverty-stricken backgrounds to access schooling. We’re currently running a writing competition for short stories, poems and personal essays which will inspire children in their educational path. Scroll down for more details on how to enter.

The charity has gathered the best tips from well-known writers, blogs and the wider web to help writers in their pursuit of the perfect prose.

  1. Write from the heart. A book without a pulse is like a person without a spirit. – Linda F Rad
  2. We love the tips in this Guardian article on the Top 10 Writers’ Tips on Writing. Particularly this one from Katherine Mansfield: “Looking back I imagine I was always writing. Twaddle it was too. But better far write twaddle or anything, anything, than nothing at all.”
  3. Enter competitions, send off examples to agents, read up on literacy festivals to attend, join writing clubs either locally or online – research as many places as you can which can help you on your writing journey, whether the aim is to get published, receive feedback, or simply learn more about the writing process from the people who do it professionally.
  4. Write on a computer which is disconnected from the internet (after you’ve finished reading this blog, obviously). It’s a distraction you can do without.
  5. The “show don’t tell” mentality is well-known for a good reason: it’s true. As fiction author Anton Chekhov puts it: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
  6. Oxford Dictionaries has some excellent general advice on better writing, whether it’s a letter, speech, email or something more creative. We like the tip “guide readers through what you write”. The advice is to “help readers understand your message quickly and precisely. To do this, it is necessary to show them clearly how the different parts relate to each other.”
  7. How about a writing tip from a Nobel winning author? Alice Munro, who was given the Nobel for Literature in 2013, has spent most of her writing life focussing on short stories. She said: “Usually I have a lot of acquaintance with the story before I start writing it….stories would just be working in my head for so long that when I started to write I was deep into them.”
  8. Proofread proofread proofread. It’s relly obviously when a sentennce has speling errors in it. If you’re entering a writing competition, judges may penalise you for the errors and it could mean the difference between winning or losing a contest.
  9. Write, even when you don’t feel like it. Get into the habit of writing on a regular basis. If you can commit to writing for a certain amount of time each day, for 30 days, it’ll soon become second nature. About 30-40 days is all you need to make a new habit stick.
  10. Recognise it’s not just your characters that are human – you are too! So if you have periods of struggle, you’re not alone. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
  11. Don’t wait for the perfect moment. Julie Duffy, founder of Story a Day, says “Don’t wait to write until you’re older/wiser/invited to the party. Don’t wait until you have something ‘important’ to say.” Other experts have revealed their best writing tips for beginners.
  12. Enjoy the process! It’s a journey you’ll be proud you’ve taken. Good luck!

While you’re here, we have some exciting news for you. Education charity READ Foundation is running its very first writing competition and needs people like YOU to take part. Read all about it here. The deadline for entries is Wednesday, 10thOctober 2018.

Don’t Betray Your Calling!

One of the fun aspects of putting together The A3 Review is coming up with the themes and prompts for each month’s contest. This month’s theme is particularly rich. One of those themes that you really need an entire novel to tackle, and we’re inviting you to do it in no more than 150 words! Betrayal. In 12-and-a-half dozen words or less. Do not betray your risk-taking disposition as a writer and an artist! This month’s theme is for you.

We’re looking for stories, poems and artwork that are political, personal or both. Secret betrayals and double crossings. From the banal to the Biblical. Write the Samson story from Delilah’s POV, for example. Or: What would Judas say? Write a poem about feeling betrayed by someone’s Tinder profile. He, or she, is definitely not as cute in real life!

Find inspiration in the words associated with betrayal: back-stabbing, double-dealing, disloyalty, treachery and duplicity.

Or tell the story of the first time you betrayed someone. What happened and where is that person today? Put into words what it feels like to be betrayed. Or what it tastes like, smells like. Write a poem of rage or forgiveness. Possible opening phrases could be: “We knew we’d been betrayed when…” or “This is how I betrayed him…” or “Just before she did it she…” or “It wasn’t the first time that…”

Click here for more prompts, suggestions, and details about how to enter this month’s contest. Deadline is the 28th of October. There’s also info here about the next few contests. If you think “Betrayal” is a juicy one, then there’s “Losing It” and “Brief Encounters” coming up, too.

When you enter our contests, don’t forget our popular (and very affordable) Brief Critique option. For just $15 we provide a line edit of your submission, along with 250 words of feedback on ways to take your work to the next level. Tick the Brief Critique add-on, and you’ll be able to pay together with your entry fee. Critiques are provided once the month’s winning entries have been announced.

We hope you’ll enjoy this month’s theme.

How to turn a short story into a novel

Have you ever had a short story get a little… out of hand? Perhaps it starts out as a mere spark of an idea, maybe just a little piece of flash fiction, and then it grows, and grows, and evolves and morphs and mutates into this enormous monster that’s too huge to possibly be contained in a few thousand words.

So what then? How do you move from writing short stories into the great big daunting world of novel writing?

The short story and the novel are two very different beasts, but the writer’s brain is a wonderful thing, and if the thought of churning out 80,000 odd words leaves you in a cold sweat, what you need is some serious PLOTSTORMING.

novel writing course

Writers’ HQ’s online novel outlining course will teach you the fundamentals of plotting your story from start to finish. Designed to fit around everyday life and a busy schedule, all you need to get started is an idea, and after six weeks’ furious plotstorming, you’ll finish with a comprehensive outline of your novel, so that you’re rip-roaring ready to get that first draft out.

This in-depth online plotting course contains everything you need to expand your short story into a novel. You’ll learn the fundamental elements that make up every good plot and the basics of story structure:

  • Explore who’s in your story, what their roles are, and how to make compelling characters
  • Learn how to add tension and conflict so that your novel is unputdownable
  • Break your story down into chapters and scenes so that it feels more manageable
  • And find out what to do with your outline once you have it (hint: a whole lot of writing lies in your future…)

Exercises, examples, group discussion, tutor feedback, swearing and productive procrastination (eg: research, day-dreaming, tea-drinking) will enable you to grow your fictional world and build your story plan into a detailed outline, taking it from ‘random idea in your head’ to ‘actual real story that’s ready to be properly written’!

The next Plotstormers course starts on the 7th of August. Get ready to help that epic short story reach its full potential and take the leap into novel writing!

If you’re still not sure, try a FREE one-week primer course here, or get in touch with the procrastination-busting whip-crackers at Writers’ HQ who will soothe your fevered brow and bribe you with gold stars. BOOK YOUR PLACE NOW!

And if you’re absolutely, positively sure novel writing isn’t for you, check out the WHQ Writing Short Fiction course instead. It might help you find a way to contain that behemoth of an idea into a self-contained piece of short fiction, and help you make the most of each idea that springs into your head, covering everything from characterisation to structure to narrative voice to getting your stories published.

Find out more about Writers’ HQ online courses and regional writing retreats at www.writershq.co.uk or chat with the WHQ crew on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Try a FREE taster of the Writers’ HQ Short Story course!

The next round of Writers’ HQ’s 6-week online Writing Short Fiction course starts on the 20th of March but you can try out a FREE taster week HERE!

writing-short-fiction

Writing Short Fiction

6 Week Online Course from Writers’ HQ

Starts 20th March, £140 (Get 10% off when you use promo code SHORTSTOPS10 before the 12th of March!)

Short stories aren’t just easier versions of the novel. They’re a broad, complex and rewarding art form in their own right. Writers’ HQ’s new online writing short story course will help you see the bigger picture and compress it into short stories with real punch.

Short stories have been here since the dawn of time. Based in the oral tradition (stop sniggering at the back), they’re the apocryphal family legends our grandmas/weird uncle used to tell us over Christmas dinner; they’re the school-yard urban myths; the sleepover ghost stories; the soliloquies in our diaries; the wine-soaked rants to that random person you cornered in the kitchen at that party after so-and-so dumped you. Short stories are all around us. <cue X-Files theme>

But super short stories are not super easy for writers, natch. In fact, the shorter your story becomes, the harder it is to distil what really matters onto the page. I would have written a shorter letter, so the famous quote goes, but I didn’t have the time.

So what makes truly great short fiction? The kind that leaves you dribbling, slack-jawed, slap-faced when you finish it. The kind you remember forever, like some weird dream-memory. Well. We can’t write it for you, but we can give you a nudge, a shove, and a poke with a sharp stick (whatever floats your boat) to help you on your way. With the help of writing prompts, advice from award-winning short fiction writers, inspiring exercises, and our awesome little online community, you’ll come out the other side at least one fully formed short story to call your very own.

TRY OUT A FREEBIE WEEK HERE AND BOOK YOUR PLACE! (Don’t forget to use promo code SHORTSTOPS10 to get 10% off when you book before 12th March.)

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