April 23rd is the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and possibly of his birth. Others who expired on this day include St George, a Cappadocian Greek soldier in the Roman army (303 AD), William Wordsworth (1850) and Rupert Brooke (1915) and this year it’s the penultimate day of the 2023 Bath Short Story Award.
With about 40 hours to go till we close, what should be your focus?
- Tweak your title so it’s arresting. Titles of one or two words can work well: last year’s winning story ‘Dead Dog’ attracted the eye of the reader with the title and then continued to intrigue through a brilliant, deadpan opening paragraph which ended with a sufficient twist to make you read on. That said, don’t make your title quirky or too long unless this matches or complements the style of the story and subject matter.
- Top and tail your stories. You know those small woody parts that stick out on newly picked gooseberries? If you don’t snip them off at the top and at the bottom they can stick in your throat and spoil your pleasure. It’s the same with a story. Consider if the first and last paragraphs (or lines) have the impact you want or add to the story in a meaningful way.
- Add the senses: Is your story enriched with sensory detail: touch, taste, sounds and smell as well as sight? These enable the reader to stay inside your story world.
- Typos: We’re not too fussed about minor typos, but a clean copy in a simple font gives the reader confidence as well as pleasure.
- Word length: If your story is a couple of words over, that’s okay but we’ve had stories hundreds of words longer than the 2200 limit.
- Comb through for cliches: They sneak in as nods, shrugs, sighs. Get your scalpel out. It’s fun to cut away excess flab ─ those double adjectives and pesky adverbs.
- Check your computer ‘drawers’ for old stories and cut them down using the above tips. Remember, we do not have a lower word limit so an old story might shine more brightly if it can lose half its words.
And, who knows, there might be a few of you beginning your story journey today.