Is your short story the length it needs to be?

Are you writing a short story for our next award? There are just under five weeks to go until the closing date of 15th April. Sometimes writers entering competitions think that if there is a word limit, they need to write to the absolute maximum word count permitted. For our Award, that’s 2200 words. But you don’t need to write up to this line. There is no lower limit, which means you could write in the short-short form (flash fiction) and still be considered.

Very short stories (500 words or fewer) are few among our submissions and our sister competition Bath Flash Fiction Award is the best place to submit micros (300 words and under) but stories far less than 2200 words have been selected for the BSSA short list and have been published in the winners’ anthology. For example, Ingrid Jendrzejewski’s marvellous story, ‘We Were Curious About Boys’, in the 2016 anthology is around 1500 words. You can buy our 2015, 2016 and 2017 anthologies from this website in hard copy and our 2018 anthology from our publisher’s website to see the variety in the lengths of stories. All the anthologies are available in digital versions from Kindle or Nook.

So, don’t stretch your story if it doesn’t require to be longer. The usual cut-off point for stories labelled flash fiction is 1000 words. And you can read excellent examples of short fictions around 750 words at the long established US online magazine Smokelong Quarterly

It’s worth looking at and reading flash fictions for examples of how to condense your writing, but still pack a punch. Much can be implied about character and background in the ‘white space’. This year, the third flash fiction festival directed by BSSA team member, Jude Higgins, whose pamphlet of short and longer flash fiction, The Chemist’s House was published by V. Press in 2017, is taking place in Trinity College Bristol June 28-30th. It’s a couple of months after the closing date of this year’s BSSA Award (15th April), but it is an event packed with workshops, talks and readings by leading flash fiction writers and teachers from around the world on all aspects of the short-short form and is definitely worth going to to spark ideas for short-short or longer stories, learn new skills and meet other writers from many different countries.

We’re happy to have sponsored a half-price place for a writer short of funds and applications for this and 5 other full or reduced places are open on an on-line form on the festival website. We also donated one copy of each our BSSA anthologies for the festival raffle in aid of Air Ambulances in the South West.