Monthly Archives: April 2021

Final Week

We’re in the final week before our 2021 BSSA competition closes at midnight BST on Monday April 19TH! We hope you’ve enjoyed the recent posts full of editing tips and words of encouragement from writers we admire and hope you found some inspiration. As our competition comes to a close, we’d like to share with you Kurt Vonnegut’s eight essential pieces of advice.

Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
Every sentence must do one of two things–reveal character or advance the action.
Start as close to the end as possible.
Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them–in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

But for every rule (well, almost every rule) there is an exception. “The greatest American short story writer of my generation was Flannery O’Connor,” writes Vonnegut. “She broke practically every one of my rules but the first. Great writers tend to do that.”

Good luck!

Ten Tiny Tweaks with Two Weeks to Go!

With two weeks to go until the £1750 prize fund 2021 Bath Short Story Award, judged by Norah Perkins, from Curtis Brown, closes at midnight on Monday April 19th, try these ten tiny tweaks to your story before you enter.

1. Find and remove all your favourite ‘tic’ filler words. Could be ‘just’ or ‘really’.
2. Find and remove all your favourite ‘tic’ action verbs, eg do all your characters get the shakes? ‘he trembled’ ‘he shook’, ‘he shivered’.
3. Similar to the above. Stop your characters shrugging or sighing or arching their eyebrows or winking.
4. Scalpel out double adjectives. Or even most adjectives.
5. Scalpel out all unnecessary ‘ly’ adverbs.
6. Get the cliche police out and search for sneaky cliches eg, ‘gnarled fingers’, ‘tears welled’.
7. Chop off your last sentence. Or last paragraph.
8. Begin with your second sentence or paragraph.
9. If your character is going to dispatch their partner/husband/boyfriend by poison or any other murderous means, change the ending and let them live (not such a tiny tweak). Such murderous stories are very common among our entries. A change of heart is umusual.
10. Change the title to something that draws in the reader. Titles such as ‘The Gift’, ‘Flight’, ‘Dust’ are very common. Try making your title long and arresting (as long as that fits with the story).

Good luck everyone!
The reading team is busy at work. And as a final reminder, they read blind, so don’t add any identifying details on your document. And remember the word count is 2200.
Thanks.
Jude at BSSA Team