Northern Lights Writers Conference 2019 – tickets available now

Creative Industries Trafford (CIT) is running its popular Northern Lights Writers’ Conference for a sixth year, at Waterside in Sale, a short hop by tram, bus, car and bike from Manchester city centre.

Northern Lights Writers Conference 2019

Northern Lights Writers Conference 2019

The day-long event for emerging and established writers includes one-to-one advice sessions on writing, editing and submitting short stories, poetry and creative non-fiction; workshops on creating scripts for TV and collaborating on graphic novels; talks and panel discussions on funding, training and development opportunities for writers, pathways to publication, and diversity in the publishing industry; networking possibilities and book signings, plus a keynote speech and ‘in conversation’ session looking at different genres, platforms and adaptations by bestselling author Jane Rogers.

Saturday 21 September, 11am–5pm (registration from 10.30am), Waterside, Sale, £35 (£25 concessions). Book online or call 0161 912 5616. More here.

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.

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 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

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.)


Words Away January Salon: Writing Short Stories with Stella Duffy


Words Away is a new series of monthly creative writing salons taking place at the Tea House Theatre Cafe in London. Each month, over tea and cake or a glass of wine, writers Emma Darwin and Kellie Jackson meet up with a different guest author for a focussed discussion on aspects of writing fiction. The audience plays a key part in the evening; exchanging ideas, asking questions and with a chance to socialise after.

We have some great guests lined up for 2017 including, Ruth Ware, Essie Fox, Sara Grant and Francis Spufford.

Our next salon, Writing Short Stories with Stella Duffy, is on Monday 23rd January at 7.30pm. All welcome.

Venue: Tea House Theatre Cafe, 139 Vauxhall Walk, London, SE11 5HL

Cost: £10 to book online or or £12 on the door.

For more info and to book:

Words Away October Salon: Creating Characters In Fiction


Words Away is a new series of monthly creative writing salons for writers taking place at the Tea House Theatre Cafe in London. Alongside Emma Darwin, each month, Kellie Jackson will be meeting up with a different guest author for a focussed discussion on aspects of writing fiction, be it short or longer form. The salons have been created with the audience as a key part of the evening, to exchange ideas, ask questions and mingle.

Our next salon, Creating Characters In Fiction is on Monday, 17th October and features author Elizabeth Fremantle. We have some great guests lined up this winter including Caroline Green and Essie Fox.

Be inspired. Nurture your craft. Meet other writers.

Join us at the fab Tea House Theatre Cafe, 139 Vauxhall Walk, London, SE11 5HL @7.30pm. £10 on the door or book online

Words Away

bird-167Words Away is a new series of monthly creative writing salons for writers taking place at The Tea House Theatre Cafe in London, beginning Monday, 19th September, 7.30- 9.30pm. Alongside writer Emma Darwin I’ll be meeting up with a different guest author each month for a focussed discussion on aspects of writing fiction be it short stories or longer form. The salons have been created with the audience as a key part of the evening, to exchange ideas, ask questions and chat.

Our season begins with editor and blogger Andrew Wille looking at Ways To Make Your Novel Shine and exploring how to self-edit your fiction. Following Andrew we have some amazing guest writers lined up including Caroline Green, Essie Fox and Elizabeth Fremantle.

Be inspired. Develop and nurture your craft. Meet other writers.

Join us for one of our salons at the fabulous Tea House Theatre Cafe, 139 Vauxhall Walk, London, SE11, 5HL @7.30pm. £10 on the door or you can book online and find out more about Words Away on our website. WordsAway

The Survival Kit for Writers & a New Contest

The Survival Kit for WritersThis month’s Writing Maps Writing Contest coincides with the official launch of The Survival Kit for Writers.

The prompt for November’s Writing Contest is: Write a piece called “How to Procrastinate”. We all find ways to avoid writing! Teach us how to do it in style, or slothfully, or in never-before-imagined ways. Take inspiration from your own modes of procrastination, or from the techniques of others. Check out Lorrie Moore’s book Self-Help for great examples of “How To…” stories. Write your “How to Procrastinate” as a short story, a graphic story, a snippet of memoir, a poem, or a prose poem. In 150 words.

The Survival Kit for Writers includes 3 Writing Maps, a Notebook, a pen, some postcards and stickers, and a bar of organic chocolate by award-winning chocolate-makers, Seed & Bean.

Please make sure to view our full guidelines here. In brief, the main rules are:

Entry is free. One entry per person. All genres welcome. All writers welcome. 150 words max.

Deadline is 22 November 2014.
The two winning entries will be published in The A3 Review, Issue #2. Winners will also receive The Survival Kit for Writers.
Good luck and good writing!

How to Get Published on the Writers’ Hub (and Elsewhere)

Twenty points on how to get published, from an editor’s perspective… by the editor of the Writer’s Hub:

1. Editors do not enjoy sending out rejection letters. This is probably why most publications (Writers’ Hub included) have a long backlog of submissions, yet to be dealt with. There are only so many rejections you can issue in one day without feeling like an awful person. Most publications will accept only a tiny percentage of submissions received. Ours is relatively high—around 5%. That’s one in twenty—nineteen rejection letters to write for each positive response.

2. Selecting submissions is a completely subjective process. There are no scientific measures for good writing. It is personal but the editor is responsible for maintaining the standard of work in the publication and it’s our reputation on the line. That’s why we get to judge.

3. Editors do make mistakes. Of course we do. But it’s better (for us) to reject a worthy piece, than to put up an undeserving one. That’s why most pieces that go up on the Hub will have been read by two of us, but pieces that are rejected have only been read by one person. In an ideal world we would have a team of readers to discuss the merits of each piece, but unfortunately we don’t have the time and the resources.

4. The editor (sadly, these days) does not have time to nurture and develop talent. The writer needs to take responsibility for editing and polishing their own work; whether this is through the input of a tutor on a creative writing course, or paid-for editing by a literary consultancy, or feedback from a writing group. You need to make sure your piece is publication-ready before you start sending it out.

5. We don’t have the time to give feedback on pieces that we are not going to publish. There are many reasons why we might decide not to publish a piece. Sometimes it’s clear that a writer is not at the publication stage yet, but sometimes a piece is well-written and interesting but it’s just not quite right for the Writers’ Hub. But receiving rejection letters is part of the rite-of-passage of any writer. There are many examples of famous writers who received awful rejection letters from publishers; like this list on Flavorwire.

6. When submitting, do not address me as ‘Dear Sir’. Read the ‘About Us’ page. I have a gender, even if you don’t get as far as my name. ‘Dear Editor’ is fine.

7. Do include some information about you. If not we will assume that you are not really taking your submission seriously. This does not need to be in a separate file, in the body of the email is fine.

8. Be polite, please. If your story has been turned down a snarky reply is not helpful.

9. Don’t submit in weird formats that we cannot open. Preferably send a Word file, but if you do not have Word then paste your story into the body of the email.

10. Don’t ignore our submission guidelines. Anywhere you submit will have specific submission guidelines—read them and obey them!

11. Proofread your work for spelling and grammar. Get someone to check your piece before you submit; sometimes there are things that a grammar check will not pick up—we are full of admiration for anyone who writes fiction in their second language, but sometime it is clear that a person has just not taken the time to read over their piece before sending it. If you can’t be bothered to proofread your work then we can’t be bothered to read it.

12. Don’t submit the same story twice. We will remember if we have read a story before, this just wastes everyone’s time. Keep a record of your submissions.

13. Don’t use overly-complicated metaphors, too many adjectives and long ‘impressive’ words. Sometimes these tip a seriously-intentioned piece over the edge into farce. (Case in point—the Literary Review’s Bad Sex Awards.) 

14. Don’t write about suicide, attempted suicide or changing your mind about committing suicide. It’s good to focus on a life-changing moment but this is an obvious one. There are exceptions to every rule but unless you think you have a particularly original take on this, avoid it! Ditto non-specific epiphanies about life and existential crises without context—these are not stories, they are journal entries.

15. We’re not that keen on horror, ghost stories and stories written from beyond the grave—there are specific places that welcome these stories, we don’t usually publish them unless you have a particularly unique take or style.

16. And please don’t write about gorgeous, leggy blonde woman and the amazing sex you have with them/imagine having with them. There are so many potential pitfalls here—a minefield of stereotypes, wishful thinking and general creepiness.

17. Previous publications do help but good work will always speak for itself. If the person has been published before then we may take a second look but we will not turn a good piece down because the person does not have a publication record.

18. Make us laugh, if a piece makes us laugh out loud, and not because of an awful metaphor, then we are immediately more inclined to consider it.

19. Make us cry, or at least be engaging—characters do not have to be ‘nice’ but make us care what happens to them.

20. Be original, and if you can’t be original, be interesting at least.

(First published on the Writers’ Hub)