What Exactly Is A Short Story And How Do I Know If I Am Writing One?


I hope you are enjoying the prompt for your first short story. Remember it is due on 15 February 2017. 

You can find the previous post and the prompt instructions here: 10 Awesome Reasons For Writing Short Stories. This week I will be discussing some theory.

What exactly makes a short story a short story? 

The answer is simple, according to Google, and comes down to word count:
 

I don’t exactly agree that a novelette must be light, romantic or sentimental. It may just be that it is more common in the romance genre, so please don’t limit yourself. 

A novel is 40 000 or more, but I’m just going to deal with the shorts in this series. In the months to come we will be experimenting with different lengths. Some stories will be typical short stories, others flash fiction, and some will be longer. 

How do I know which one I am writing? 
When I start writing a short story I ignore the word count. I simply use the prompt and I write. The ideas come out of that. Sometimes I have a cool idea, but I don’t reach 1000 words when I need 3000 words, for example. There are times when you can stretch and add scenes, but that depends on your story. 

Sometimes you’ll have to bomb the story if your word count doesn’t work out, but save it, because you can use it for something else if you love it. We’ll discuss expanding and reducing in detail in a later post. Don’t get hung up on your word counts before you start. Just write and explore your story, it will seem stilted or contrived otherwise. You can hammer it into shape later.
The most important part of this post I want you to keep in mind is the description of the short story: a fully developed theme. The word count might be reduced, but that doesn’t mean we want less story. It is still a complete story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Happy Short Story Writing.

If you are interested in learning how to improve your creative writing skills, join us for Writers Write - How To Write A Book. If you want to learn how to write a short story, join us for Short Cuts

 by Mia Botha

Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

Short Story Challenge – 10 Awesome Reasons For Writing Short Stories


You are invited to a short story writing challenge...

I have been writing a lot of short stories lately and I have been having so much fun. So, I have decided to make it a year-long project. I am going to write one short story per month. Do you want to join me?

Why short stories?

Because they’re awesome, but also because:
  1. You can hone your craft: A short story is the perfect place to practise and to hone your craft. We all have strengths and weaknesses as writers. Some writers excel at dialogue, but suck at setting and description or their plots rock, but their characters are flat and predictable. A short story offers us the opportunity to improve our weaknesses and have fun with our strengths.

  2. There is less pressure: When we write novels, we need to keep our wits about us. We need 60 coherent scenes, in the correct order that shows us the story. With a short story there is less pressure.

  3. Your prompts can be published: Every writer needs to practise and a daily prompt is great, but when you turn that prompt into a short story you have something to enter, publish or stick up on the fridge. Prompts tend to remain in our notebooks; short stories become something you can use. Don’t stop with the prompts though. They help you find ideas. 

  4. They give you a break: Writing a novel is as challenging as it is thrilling. There are times when the words flow and the story works, then there are times when they don’t. That is when you write a short story.

  5. The reduced word count makes you work hard: Novels have space, short stories don’t. If you over write, this is a great way to shorten and strengthen your writing. When you must count, and evaluate each word, it changes the way you write. 

  6. They give you deadlines: There are hundreds, if not thousands of short story competitions. Use them to work towards your goals and deadlines.

  7. They are good for setting short-term goals: When we write novels, they can take months or even years. Short stories offer an opportunity to set short-term goals to keep us motivated and invigorated for the long-term goal achievement. 

  8. You can deal with back-story: Writing short stories is a great way of getting to know your characters. Put them into a situation that you haven’t thought of before or that isn’t included in your book and see what they get up to. Or write that important event in their childhood that shaped them and changed their lives. You won’t necessarily use it, but it’s a great way to layer and explore character.

  9. You can experiment: This is my favourite part about writing short stories. If you always write in third person, try first or even second person. If you have never written fantasy, give it a go. If a scene from your novel isn’t working, change characters and write it as a short story from another character’s point of view. 

  10. They allow you to brainstorm: Use a short story to explore a theme or an alternative ending to your scene or story. Change viewpoint, gender or genre. There are no rules. The short story is a brilliant tool. Use it.
I hope that I have convinced you that short stories are valuable. It would be awesome if you would like to join me for this adventure.


How it will work:

  1. I’ll be writing a series of posts about the craft of short story writing. These will be published once a week, on a Wednesday(mostly).
  2. On the second last Wednesday of every month I’ll post the next prompt and my short story. That gives you roughly four weeks to write your story. 
  3. You will be welcome to share your story, as well as comment on each other’s stories.
  4. The word counts will vary every month, but more about that next week. 
  5. The goal is to have 12 short stories at the end of the year and a seriously improved skill set.
Please remember: This is not a competition. It’s about discipline, productivity and learning. Not all my stories will be great, but they will, at least be written. 

The Prompt: 

Our first prompt is: The List. 
Word count: 1500 words.
Deadline: 15 February 2017. Post your story as a comment on my short story post on that day. 

NOTE: Some competition rules state that stories must be ‘previously unpublished’. Don’t share your story if you do not want it published or if you are planning on using it for a competition.  

Look out for my next post on short stories: What Exactly Is A Short Story?

If you want to learn how to write a short story, join us for Short Cuts

 by Mia Botha

Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

15 Fabulous Resources For Short Story Writers

21 December is Short Story Day in America. We celebrate Short Story Day on 21 June in South Africa. These days were chosen because they are the shortest days of the year in the two hemispheres.

To commemorate the day, we've included links to our 15 favourite posts on short stories:

  1. The Top 10 Reasons To Write Short Stories
  2. The Secret To Writing A Great Short Story
  3. Five 10-Minute Fixes For Your Short Story
  4. The Top 20 Literary Quotes About Short Stories
  5. 3 Short Story Writers Who Inspire Me
  6. How To Outline A Short Story For Beginners
  7. The Long And The Short of It – The Difference Between A Novel And Short Story
  8. Short Story Day Africa - 21 June
  9. 20 Unforgettable Quotes About Short Stories
  10. 5 Tips For Choosing The Short Story Competition That Works For You
  11. 5 Ways To Kick-Start Your New Short Story
  12. 3 Ways To Get Your Short Story Started
  13. 10 Writing Contests You Should Definitely Enter
  14. Stephen King On Writing Short Stories
  15. A Guide to Short Story Contests in 2017

If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg. 

 by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on  Facebook,  Tumblr,  PinterestGoogle+,  LinkedIn,  and on Twitter:  @amandaonwriting

Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

10 Writing Contests You Should Definitely Enter


Guest Post

If you’re a new writer, chances are you’re not quite sure how to kick off your career. Should you get an agent? Write to publishers?

Writing contests are a great way for beginners to get noticed. By definition they attract more amateurs than professionals, giving you a chance to compete with writers close to your own level. And if you’ve already started your career but want to take it up a notch, a well-known writing prize can really make your portfolio stand out.

It’s scary showing your work to the world. But you have to bite the bullet eventually, so you might as well do it for a cash prize!

1.  Writers’ Forum Fiction Competition

Category: Short Stories
Entry Fee: £3 for subscribers, £6 for non-subscribers
Prize: First Prize £300, Second £150, Third £100.
Deadline: Ongoing

This monthly competition is run by the Writer’s Forum, with winning entries published in their magazine. Entry is rolling; if you miss the deadline you’ll simply be entered for the following month. You can also get feedback from the editors for £5, so even if you don’t win you can still improve your writing skills.

2.  Just Back (The Telegraph)

Category: Travel Writing
Entry Fee: None
Prize: £200 in currency from the Post Office
Deadline: Midnight on Wednesday

This competition runs every week, so there are endless opportunities to win. If your summer holidays aren’t really inspiring you then you can always write about a weekend trip to the country or even your own city. Submissions should be under 500 words. 

3.  Write On-Site

Category: Short Stories, Flash Fiction
Entry Fee: £4
Prize: £50
Deadline: 6pm every Saturday

This terrifying competition publishes three themes at 5.30pm on a Saturday evening and then gives you half an hour to bash out a few hundred words. Judges choose the three best entries, which are voted on during the following week. If you like the adrenaline rush of tight deadlines you’ll love this.

4.  The Winchester Poetry Prize

Category: Poems
Entry Fee: £5 for first poem, £4 for subsequent poems
Prize: First Prize £1000, Second £500, Third £250
Deadline: 31 July 2016

Any subject and any style is welcomed by this poetry competition, and the winners not only get a cash prize but the opportunity to read their poetry to a captive audience at the Winchester Poetry Festival in October. 

5.  The Prolitzer Prize

Category: Prose
Entry Fee: £4.00 for first entry, £3.00 for any subsequent entries
Prize: Winner £200, Runners-up £50
Deadline: 1 October 2016

No, not the Pulitzer. That might still be a little out of your league. This annual prize run by Prole Magazine is open to any kind of prose writing, fiction or non-fiction, so you can write pretty much anything that takes your fancy.

6.  Cinnamon Press

Category: Novels, Poems, Short Stories,
Entry Fee: £12
Prize: £300 for poetry, £500 for novel or short story
Deadline: 31 May (Short Story), 31 July (Novel), 30 November (Poem)

Cinnamon Press run a clutch of annual competitions as well as numerous mini-competitions throughout the year. The real prize here is not the money but the publishing contract they offer to the winner of every category. It’s only open to the unpublished, so perfect for amateurs looking to break in to the business.

7.  The Notting Hill Editions Prize

Category: Non-fiction
Entry Fee: £20
Prize: Winner £20,000, Runners-up £1000
Deadline: 9 January 2017

Absolutely any kind of non-fiction is accepted by this biennial essay competition. If you’ve got a political essay, scientific article, travel story or memoir to share this could be the place. An anthology of the winners will be published in hardback by Notting Hill Editions.

8.  Spotlight First Novel Competition

Category: Novels
Entry Fee: £16
Prize: A mentoring package worth up to £990
Deadline: 14 February 2017

If you’re struggling to finish your novel then this competition is perfect for you. Instead of a finished draft, all you have to submit is a synopsis and the first page. The prize is to have your work appraised by a literary consultant and a development plan worked out to help make your work really shine.

9.  The Terence Rattigan Society Award

Category: Plays
Entry Fee: Free
Prize: £2500 plus guaranteed production in a professional theatre
Deadline: 31 August 2016

The judges for this year’s prize include Poirot actor David Suchet and Downton Abbey writer Julian Fellowes, so it has some serious celebrity cachet. The competition is incredibly fierce, but the chance to have your play actually performed by professionals is not to be missed.

10.  The Bridport Prize

Category: Novels, Poems, Short Stories, Flash Fiction
Entry Fee: £8 - £10 per submission
Prize: Up to £5000
Deadline: 31 May 2016

Yes, it’s the most prestigious writing prize in the UK. Yes, we’re seriously suggesting you enter. Okay, the chances of winning are slim, but even just taking part in such a respected competition will improve the quality of your writing. What have you got to lose?

Even if you only enter small monthly competitions, the regular practice will make you a better writer. And if your novel or short story has been pushed to the bottom of your to-do list recently, a deadline and a pot of gold at the end might inspire you to polish up that old draft into something spectacular. So get writing!

 by Julie Martin. Julie is a student, freelance writer and blogger. She manages to fill her life with her favourite work and hobbies. She is an editor on MyMathDone, and she writes for resources like GettingSmart, YourStory and ELearningIndustry. You can follow her on Facebook and LinkedIn for more interesting stuff.

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate

Short Story Day Africa - 21 June

When Nigerian novelist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, addressed the TED Conference in 2009, she spoke of the danger of the single story, a distorted, one-dimensional view of Africa that sees the continent only through a prism of war, disease, poverty, starvation and corruption. 

'Short Story Day Africa has established a day, 21st June – the shortest day of the year – on which to celebrate the diversity of Africa’s voices and tell you who we really are; what we love; love to eat, read, write about. We want to bring you the scents on our street corners, the gossip from our neighbours, let you listen to strains of the music we dance to.

Short Story Day Africa brings together writers, readers, booksellers, publishers, teachers and school children from all over the globe to write, submit, read, workshop and discuss stories – and foster the love of reading and writing African fiction. Because we have something to tell the world. About us. In our own voices.'

Read our post to celebrate this day: Five Kick-Starts For Your New Short Story. Join our short story course,  Short Cuts.

If you enjoyed this post, read:

  1. The Secret to Writing A Great Short Story
  2. Five 10-Minute Fixes For Your Short Story
  3. The Top 20 Literary Quotes About Short Stories
  4. Finding Inspiration For A Short Story - Three writers who inspire me
  5. How To Outline A Short Story For Beginners

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    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

    Writers Write - Write to communicate

    5 Ways To Kick-Start Your New Short Story

    Short Story Day Africa is on 21 June – the shortest day of the year. To celebrate, Anthony Ehlers has written this post. 


    There’s nothing more daunting that starting a new short story, especially if you’re under deadline for an editor or a competition. To get you started – and finished – without that old enemy procrastination, here are five kick-starts that have worked for me in the past.
    1. Three page thumbnail. Before I wrote my last short story, Breaking the Rules, I wrote out three handwritten pages to outline my story focusing on who the characters would be, how the story would start, what the middle would be, and ideas for the possible ending. It can be quite broad to allow you room to breathe, shape, and change the story.
    2. Raid your diary. To get under the skin of an emotion, it’s always a good idea to look back at your diaries of journals to remind yourself of a time when you felt the same emotions your characters may be experiencing. I found I could lift some authentic descriptions from old journals.
    3. Viewpoint as a lens. Viewpoint, as I always say, can do so much of the heavy lifting for you.  In my story, I made a conscious decision to use a first-person detached narrative because I wanted to show that time had passed and emotions had cooled. Once I had the voice of a woman looking back on a past love affair, the story flowed much better.
    4. Make sure your antagonist is strong. In Breaking the Rules, my antagonist is deeply flawed, very charming, and just a bit mysterious. I made sure I spent a bit of time on making him fascinating, so that he could challenge my heroine, Catherine, and that the story would have conflict and emotion right from the first time they meet.
    5. Write your first draft at white-hot speed. If you want the story to spark – and make that deadline – write your first draft with a time lock. I gave myself just four hours to write this story, from eight until midnight and I think this helped its pace and sense of immediacy.  I spent just a few hours the next day polishing and editing.
    This approach can work.  Last year, Breaking the Rules was included in an anthology for the SA National Arts Council and was published in a men’s magazine. 

    Join us for Short Cuts – How to write a short story. 

     by Anthony Ehlers

    If you enjoyed this post, read:

    1. The Secret to Writing a Great Short Story
    2. Five 10-Minute Fixes for Your Short Story
    3. The Top 20 Literary Quotes About Short Stories
    4. 3 Short Story Writers Who Inspire Me
    5. How To Outline A Short Story For Beginners
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    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

    How To Outline A Short Story - For Beginners

    To celebrate National Short Story Day in the UK, we thought we would post this outlining tool for beginner writers. This day is chosen because 21 December is the shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere.

    Short Story Day Africa is celebrated on 21 June, the shortest day in the Southern Hemisphere.

    Source for Poster

    If you love short stories, you will enjoy these posts:

    1. The Top 10 Reasons to Write Short Stories
    2. The Top 20 Literary Quotes About Short Stories
    3. The Secret to Writing a Great Short Story
    4. Finding Inspiration for a Short Story - Three writers who inspire me
    5. Cut to the Chase - Three ways to get your short story started

     by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on  Pinterest,  Facebook,  Google+,  Tumblr  and  Twitter.  

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    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate

    Five 10-Minute Fixes For Your Short Story

    A conservation journalist friend jokes – at least I think she’s joking – that she keeps an emergency bottle of vodka under the seat of her 4x4 for her field trips. Sometimes we all need that metaphorical quick fix for our writing. (We all know drinking is a bad idea for writers, don’t we?)

    Maybe you’ve written a short story for an upcoming competition and it requires an emergency edit. Perhaps you’ve dusted off a story that has been languishing in a drawer and feel it needs some spark. 

    Here are five 10-minute edits for your short story to get you to the deadline:

    1. Stop and check out the view. Spend 10 minutes freewriting on the world of your story. Describe the setting around your characters. A messy teen’s bedroom. The smell of an empty church. Be as specific as you can.
    2. Get quirky. Spend another 10 minutes focusing on your main character. Give him a quirk – maybe he buys a paper from a street vendor every day. He doesn’t read it – he just feels sorry for the guy on the side of the road.
    3. Think bad thoughts. Take 10 minutes to vent on the page. The catch? Do it the 1st person in your antagonist’s viewpoint. List all the nasty things you want to do to the hero. Don’t hold back – let it all out.
    4. Plant a bomb! Squeeze in another 10 minutes brainstorming some radical plot points for your story. Does your character find a suspicious parcel on a park bench? Does she burn her soufflé just before a first date? Shake things up for your character.
    5. Arrange the flowers. Take 10 minutes to skim through your story and highlight the parts you feel are working. These are your best blooms – could they be a clue as to where the story could be stronger?  

    Keep all these notes with you when you do your final edit and see if your story doesn’t emerge as tighter, quirkier and more vivid.  You may not have time to write a new story from scratch but you may be able to give an existing one a second shot at life. If not, just reach for that vodka under your seat.

    Join us for Short Cuts - How to write short stories. If you want to learn how to write a book, join our  Writers Write  course in Johannesburg. 

    If you enjoyed this post, read:

    1. The Top 20 Literary Quotes About Short Stories
    2. Finding Inspiration for a Short Story - Three writers who inspire me
    3. How to outline a short story for beginners
    4. Cut to the Chase - Three ways to get your short story started
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    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. 

    Stephen King On Writing Short Stories


    If you want to learn more about writing short stories, join us for Short Cuts – How to write a short story.

    If you enjoyed this quote, you will love our Top 20 Short Story Quotes. If you are looking for competitions, read this post: 10 Writing Contests You Should Definitely Enter

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    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate

    5 Tips For Choosing The Correct Short Story Competition For You

    Decisions, decisions – Which short story competition will you enter?

    There are so many short story competitions that you can enter before the end of the year. I find that it can be overwhelming. If you need help, we have a Short Cuts - how to write a short story course .

    How do you choose the competition that works for you?

    1. Read the prompt or find out about the theme. Does it seem like something you can, or want, to attempt?
    2. Pick the competition that suits your writing style. If you do better with stories that are 5 000 words in length rather than 2 000 words opt for the competition with the longer word count or visa versa.
    3. Ignore the prize money. Some competitions have excellent prizes, but don’t force your story to become something it is not, simply to be eligible. 
    4. Don’t try to enter them all. Less entries, mean better writing, better proofreading and better editing from you.
    5. Forget about winning and ignore everything I just said. It is a short story. Take a chance. Write in a new genre, try a different viewpoint. Rattle your own cage. Who knows where it will lead.

    Short story competitions are unpredictable. Don’t take the results too seriously. They are great to enter and they give you a deadline. Try to have fun and write your heart out. Maybe you’ll win, maybe you won’t. It will be a great experience either way.

    Decide on the story you want to enter here: 10 Short Story Competitions To Enter Before The End Of 2014

    If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg.

     by Mia Botha

    If you enjoyed this post, you will enjoy 30 NaNoWriMo Tips and November is When Your Novel Happens

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      Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate