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Ten Tips for Super Short Stories

April 12th, 2012

For those of you who don’t already know, The Writers Bureau Short Story Competition 2012 is accepting entries, and they are coming in thick and fast. The closing date is not until June, but the sooner you get yours written the better. Why? Because it gives you plenty of time to revise and edit it to perfection. If you’ve not even thought of entering, why not have a go? And, to get you started here are some great tips for writing super short stories.

Short Story Tips

In no particular order:

Tip 1 – Stick to one POV (that’s point of view). That means writing the story as either ‘I’ or ‘he’, ‘she’. Multiples can work, but because of the short word count it’s best to stick to one if you can.

Tip 2 – Much like POV, having too many characters or settings does not work in short stories. Longer stories allow you to develop a wide cast of characters and explore different settings, short stories work best with just the bare minimum.

Tip 3 – Get straight into the thick of it. Long preambles are pointless and take up your precious word count. The action must start from the very first word and every word must count.

Tip 4 – Edit like mad! Once you think you’ve finished your story, put it to one side for at least two days, and don’t think about it. Doing this allows you to come back to it with a fresh perspective, letting you see the bits that do and don’t work. Now apply a super critical eye to your work and don’t be afraid to rewrite it where necessary.

Tip 5 – Proofread carefully. Actually, when you’ve finished, it’s probably best to ask someone else to cast their eye over it too – believe me, you will miss something. This is because your brain has a knack of inserting words where they think they should be, even when they are not there. I miss out ‘of’, ‘to’ and ‘the’ all the time and I’m often amazed when my omissions are pointed out to me. And, that’s after reading through it at least half a dozen times. Pay careful attention to spelling and grammar too. Errors detract from the quality of your writing by jarring the readers’ eye and breaking the flow of the story.

Tip 6 – Finish with a flourish by making sure your last line is a cracker. Your story should linger in the reader’s mind long after they’ve finished reading.

Tip 7 – Stick to the word count. Don’t think that judges will let you get way with it, they won’t, no matter how good your story is. Keeping to a word count is all part of your skill as a writer. In fact, your hard work will probably go to waste as they may not even read it. Likewise, if the story finishes naturally just shy of the word count, don’t feel you have to stretch it out – you’ll probably end up ruining it.

Tip 8 – Make sure you follow the basics steps of a plot. Don’t think that you can disregard plot rules just because it’s a short story. Every story should follow these basic steps: conflict begins, then things go right for a while, now they start to go wrong, move on to the final victory or defeat and then wrap the story up neatly.

Tip 9 – If there’s a theme, stick to it. Don’t be tempted to send in a story that is completely off topic because you think the judges will be so impressed they’ll overlook it. You’ll only be wasting their time and yours.

Tip 10 – Decide on a tense and stick to it. Either the story has already happened, so you should be writing in the past tense or; it’s happening now, which would mean using present tense. Don’t switch between the two.

Stick to these tips and you should produce a decent story. And, if you need any further help we have two great resources, our Novel and Short Story Course and How to Crack the Short Story Market.

Good Luck!

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