As we enter the final hours of our 2022 competition, it’s time to repost the advice of Kurt Vonnegut!
– 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.”
photo by Chris Knight on
One week to go before our £1750 prize fund contest, Bath Short Story Award, 202
2 closes at midnight BST Monday 11th April.
For those last minute writers thinking of entering our 9th award, I’m going to stretch metaphor to its limits and ask you to get under the bonnet of your story.
Yes, if your story was a car, you need to undertake some maintenance before it sets off on its extensive journey via our BSSA readers and hopefully to a winning destination. Continue reading
In just TWO weeks we close – on Monday, April 11th. There’s still time to write a story from scratch, redraft, edit and do the final tweaks so, if you’re at the starting blocks and still searching for inspiration, look no further than Christopher Fielden. Over the years he’s provided many resources for writers and there are some excellent story starters here .Writing the first draft of a flash might feel like a 100 meter sprint, with a novel akin to a marathon. BSSA has a limit of 2,200 words so possibly a middle distance 800 meters with a few hurdles thrown in? But, whatever the length, the start of a race or the opening of a story is vital in grabbling attention and setting the pace for what’s to follow. Continue reading
Start before you’re ready. (Steven Pressfield)
In terms of writing, I think this is excellent advice. Do you wait for the perfect time, or place, or circumstance, thinking that once all your ducks are in a row, THEN you will write the perfect story? I do, especially when my confidence is low and/or the world is overwhelming (ok, nearly all the time). So, if the neighbour’s dog is driving me crazy (he doesn’t, he’s lovely, but some days I can’t filter out the occasional barking) I blame that for the fact my writing feels rubbish and I didn’t meet my goals or start the story that’s in my head or finish the one I began a few weeks ago. And the more excuses I find, the less inclined I am to sit down and write. I go downhill fast, lose a day, a few days, a week or two. Oh no! I’m a failure, but how can I be expected to be a creative genius in these (insert your own bugbears) conditions? Sound familiar? If not, well done! If yes, read on 🙂 Continue reading
We like to hear about previous prize winners’ successes. Hilary Taylor won third prize in BSSA 2018 with her story ‘Sea Defences’ and her story is published in our BSSA 2018 anthology. In this interview she tells us how she extended this prize winning short fiction into a novel with the same title, which will be published by Lightning Press on January 15th 2023. Congratulations Hilary! We also learn how she discovered her short story ‘Sea Defences’ online, analysed for an exam syllabus. A multi-genre writer, Hilary was recently a winner in the Flash 500 flash fiction contest and there’s a link to the story for you to read. She’s also given great advice for editing final short story drafts if you are thinking of entering this year’s Award.
Hilary Taylor grew up in Suffolk and Hampshire, and is a graduate of Edinburgh University. She lives in Suffolk, where she taught for almost twenty years, and now writes, reads, has serial arty-crafty obsessions (paper-making, marbling, wool-felting), and goes for long walks before breakfast. She has five grown-up children, and, at the last count, eight grandchildren. Her short fiction has won or been listed in competitions, including the Bridport Prize, Bare Fiction, the Bath Short Story Award and Flash500, and has been published in magazines and anthologies. Sea Defences is her first novel (although of course there are previous ones ‘in a drawer’, where they should probably stay.) You can find her on twitter @hilarytaylor00 Continue reading
5 weeks to go until this year’s Bath Short Story Award closes on Monday, April 11th.
Perhaps you’ve already written your story ─ or just a first draft? Or perhaps the current world events are so overwhelming you feel as if you’re in quicksand, weighted down and unable to think clearly, let alone creatively.
If a drain is blocked or your car won’t start, you can attempt to fix the problem by working through a series of stages, employing set mechanical solutions. Try the same with your writing, using one or more of the 5 senses as a starting point: Continue reading
I have struggled to write a post this morning and it’s probably true of many of us who are overwhelmed by events and question the point, at times, of writing our stories. I read this on Saturday, written by the inimitable George Saunders in his Story Club email, and I want to share part of it with you. If you’ve already seen it, I apologise, but I think it bears reading again (and again). Continue reading
In case you hadn’t noticed it’s Tuesday 22/2/22 today. A palindrome. Some cultures believe that palindrome dates are a sign of good luck. Some couples marry on palindrome days for luck. So why not take advantage of such vibes, and write a story (or two).
Here’s a few suggestions to get you going: Continue reading
Tree ‘heart’ ring, Cambodia
February 14th is marked by effusions of gauzy froth in shop windows, rose-tinted Prosecco, truffles with just a blush of strawberry, raspberry, in fact, anything pinkish that can be blobbed onto chocolate, with the possible exception of salmon. And then there are the cards: slushy, cutesy, jokey and the predictable ‘pornucopia’ range. We buy for lovers, mates and children so that a big red envelope plops onto the doormats of those we care about or want to tease. For years I sent all my friends’ children jolly Valentine cards (a habit picked up in the US where cards for this most Hallmark of holidays came in in boxed sets of 24 with one for teacher too). Continue reading
You’re a writer, so you read. A lot. Right? We all know how important it is, it’s one of the mantras. You want to write short stories, you need to read them. Find out how they work, what you like, what sparks you? Read outside your comfort zone, read what you love, read what others recommend. Read everything! But how
are you reading? Are you paying attention? Are you noticing what the writer is doing? When I teach short story courses, alongside the writing exercises, we read a story a week, looking at how it works. We take the story apart, if you like, examine the craft (it used to be called practical criticism when I was at school) and then we try it out in our own writing. Continue reading