Brevity is Key

At the moment I am in the middle of building my portfolio of short stories for the competitions I am entering this year. Two of my stories are currently out and awaiting their fate. This will be revealed on Saturday 27th April at 10am when the Bath Short Story Award website reveals its longlist of about 40 to 50 stories.

I am new to the world of competitions, and whilst I know that beginners luck can count for a lot, I am not holding my breath or expecting great things so soon. But who knows? At the moment there is no way of knowing how many stories have been entered into the competition. People can send more than one – as did I. So the level of competition is basically a mystery.

The main thing is that I am enjoying the process, and in writing these stories I am learning a lot. I am finding that I really love the short story and am actually quite good at writing them. In the past I always believed that I could not do it; that for me, my ideas were too big and…. “extended”, and could not be contained within the confines of a word limit.

I was wrong. And really, it was a logical stage to come to after years of being a writer.

Any writer worth his or her salt will at some point (early on) in their career, realise that they need vast improvement. Writing is like any craft; you need to learn it, practice it, hone it, over many hours, days, weeks and years of sweat. You have to work your apprenticeship. And – most importantly – you have to take critique and advice from those who have gone before.

I remember about 30 years ago being proud of a sentence I had written that contained 138 words! I believed it to be a genuine, honest to god masterpiece of prose and I would have died defending it!

Reading it now, I blush with embarrassment. I have served my time and have seen every mistake I ever made. I believe I am a better writer for it. Today, my writing is concise, clear, no word is wasted. At least, that is what I try to do.

I guess I have been thinking like a short story writer for years. When I am writing, I almost think of my novels as a series of shorts, each scene a complete picture – a flash fiction all its own. And these stories link to make the whole. Thinking of my work in this way makes it tighter and certainly more satisfying to write.

So, my portfolio grows! I am writing my fourth story and hope to be entering the Bristol Prize next weekend.

Working Weekend

The sun has shone today. It’s a rare thing in these here parts… it seems like the whole of last year was a washout, and it was hard to imagine the weather ever getting better. But today was truly lovely, with a crisp, fresh air gently touched by sunshine. It is easy to see summer looming on days like this, even though there is a while to go yet. At least there is hope though.

This weekend is going to be taken up with preparing contest submissions. Two book contests and a few short story ones. I’m up for the task, but it will mean that many hours will be spent working.

I had the encouraging news that an acquaintance on my writing forum has won a flash fiction competition. Well done, Jeanne Gassman for your success. You can read her winning prose here.

It has given me hope and inspiration, and makes me more determined to make this year count and to work as hard as I can to enter all the contests out there.

As soon as I have entered all the immediate competitions, I plan to list all the competitions coming up, and will post about all the great resources that have been at my disposal and made it possible for me to be a part of the contest scene.

Please comment here and let me know about any contests you are entering. If you are not, then let me know how writing is part of your life. Are you published? Do you write just for fun, for yourself, for your family?

Any stories about writing are welcome on this site.

Also, if you have an article or post you would like me to put on here, just email it to me at the email address on my About Me page and I will gladly post it on here for you as a “Guest Spot”. I am willing to trade posts from my blog to yours and vice versa, so just let me know.

I hope you all have a great weekend.