News room: 8 resources that will help you write a prize-winning short story

8 resources that will help you write a prize-winning short story by Sarah Juckes

Short story writing takes great skill. You have to engage your reader and get them invested in your characters – all in under 4,000 words. Here are eight awesome resources that will help you master the art of the short story, so you can go on to win competition after competition.

1. Listen to real-life stories at The Moth

Listen to a couple of stories on the brilliant Moth podcast, and you start to notice a pattern emerging. Even though they range in storyteller and topic, the best ones follow the same arc. They start in the middle of the action, outline the stakes, and wrap up by answering a question posed at the beginning. It’s storytelling at its best.

2. Learn from the best, via Paul McVeigh

Paul’s website is a gold mine for short story writers. Read interviews with some of the biggest names in short fiction and stay up to date with the latest competitions and opportunities.

3. Keep Kurt Vonnegut’s advice to hand

There are lots of tips out there on what makes a good short story, but these eight from Kurt Vonnegut are our favourite, especially:

“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.”

4. Write it funny

When we asked three top competition judges what made a prize-winning story in August, it seems that a lot of short stories tend to focus on ‘dark’ topics, such as death, dementia and dystopia. So, stand out from the crowd and write a comedy instead. These tips from ‘The Writer’s Digest’ are a great place to start.

5. Smack them between the eyeballs with a killer first line

Another thing to come from our judges was the importance of a great first line. First lines should make the reader want to read on. They set up the stakes, the voice, the situation – anything that makes your story unique and memorable. Buzzfeed have a great list of great first lines from novels that do just that. Take note!

6. Be concise like @VeryShortStory

If you thought that writing a story in 2,000 words was difficult, what about in 250 words? Or, even better, in 140 characters?

If you can write a brilliant story in this short space, then you should have no problem with 2,000 words. No one does it quite like @VeryShortStory – check out his tweets and try some of your own.

7. Share and grow on Wattpad

Think you’re ready to start winning top competitions? Check by sharing your work with readers. Not only will this help you improve, but you might also build a fanbase – perfect for when your book is published. The leader in writing sharing platforms is currently Wattpad – so get on, read what others are writing and share your own.

8. Keep entering competitions

You’re not always going to win, but that doesn’t mean you should give up trying. Keep your eye out for competitions that inspire you. We compile our favourites quarterly every year, so sign up to our newsletter for updates.

Further reading:

13 Posts

Purple_arrow_down-0d1dfe1ae10f7ada403ca338a776f4e2 Latest response Purple_arrow_down-0d1dfe1ae10f7ada403ca338a776f4e2 Most popular response
Purple_arrow_up-53af132e228e5075307be4092eb6fda7 First Post

Your comment



Written by
Sarah Juckes
Published on
Competitions and Short stories