Archive for the 'Short Stories' Category

Doing the Writer’s Happy Dance

Last week I had an occasion to indulge in the Writer’s Happy Dance.

Well – I didn’t actually do a proper dance – more of a geriatric gyration. With lots of clicks and groans in my ancient bones.

The reason for this joyous occasion was a notification that one of my stories has been accepted for publication in an anthology. It also means that I am in the running to win a prize in a writing competition. The competition was jointly run by Radio 1079 Life (Life FM) and Tabor College. Tabor was where I did my Masters Degree in Creative Writing; I can highly recommend their creative writing programme which can be studied externally.

The competition is called “Stories of Life” and are based on true-life experiences and must contain some element of one’s Christian faith. I initially found it challenging to come up with a viable story concept, but once I started, the words flowed easily. I must admit that I put myself under a little pressure, leaving my submission to the very last day and posting it the website at 11:35 pm, just 25 minutes before the closing time of midnight. I always say that I shouldn’t put myself under so much stress, but it happens far too often.

The story I wrote was based on one of my experiences while travelling in Nepal about ten years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed my holiday in Nepal and vividly remember many of my amazing experiences. You can read some my experiences here.

Competitions

Submitting stories and poems to competitions is an excellent way of improving your writing skills. I must admit that I don’t do this nearly often enough. By pitting one’s writing against other writers, you get to hone your writing, editing and proofreading skills. Some competitions even give feedback from the judges. This helps you to further improve your writing until you regularly get listed in the short list or get a commendation from the judges. Winning some prize money is wonderful, of course, but this should never be the prime reason for entering. A prize is a lovely bonus. Constantly improving your writing should be your main aim.

When writing for a competition follow these simple hints:

  • Write the very best story you can.
  • Rewrite, edit and proofread the story until it sparkles. Or grabs the readers’ throats.
  • Read – and reread – the rules set out by the organisers.
  • Stay within the word limits, not too short and never over the maximum word count.
  • Read your story out aloud, or get someone else to read it – this will help you to find typos and errors in grammar.
  • Submit before the due date.

Poetry

The same rules apply to poetry, except that the organisers usually stipulate the maximum length and sometimes the theme. A few years ago I was delighted to actually win a national poetry competition. I not only did the Writer’s Happy Dance, I think I also gave a yell of delight. The prize money was a wonderful bonus, too. I can now put “Award-winning poet” on my resume – how cool is that? You can read some of my poetry here.

A personal goal

As I said above, I don’t enter nearly enough competitions. I have hundreds of suitable poems and dozens of good stories ready to go. It is one of those things I always intend to do, but I need to enter far more regularly. I do have this as one of the goals for this year, but I am a long way off reaching my goal.

Good writing. 

Trevor

The importance of revising your writing

A love of writing

One of the reasons I am a writer is that I really enjoy the process of writing. I love the creative process that occurs when an idea pops into my head. It does not matter if it is a poem, a short story, a novel, a blog post, a non-fiction article or even an email to a family member, the same joy of creating is there. This joyful feeling is what keeps me going. It has enabled me to write almost three and a half million words in the last twenty-four years. It has kept me pressing on while spending over twenty thousand hours at my computer keyboard.

The unexpected creative process

One of the exciting things I find about writing, especially when writing fiction, is that I discover unexpected outcomes via the creative process. I might have a general idea of where the story is heading, I may even have a clear plan of the plot, when suddenly a character does or says something unexpected, out of character or just plain startling. The plot can take some bizarre and unplanned twists when this happens. I even find that my thoughts can be railroaded into a side-track when writing blog posts or other forms of non-fiction. It’s all very exciting.

A Problem

As fascinating as this is, such a sudden turn of events, or change of direction, or unplanned content to one’s writing can have a serious repercussion. The writer can get seriously off-track. A short story about a woman’s struggle with depression (yes, I have had one such story published) could take off in the direction of telling all the woes of her childhood. This is back-story; it is probably not necessary in a 2000 word story. In a 100,000 word novel – perhaps.

The importance of revision

I have discovered over many years of writing that revision is crucial to the whole process of the art, as is rewriting, editing and proofreading. I should write articles on all of these aspects of writing – and I probably have over the years. (You can find them by using those terms in the “search” box at the top of the page.)

In this article, want to focus just on “revision”.

What is Revision?

The process of revision can include the following:

  • Reading back over the piece of writing, checking for errors of fact, especially in non-fiction. It can also be crucial in fiction, too; you can’t have a character using a mobile phone if the story is set in the 1960s – unless it is a time travel story, but then, the phone wouldn’t work.
  • Correcting the wrong use of words, or constant repetition of words and phrases.
  • Recasting sentences which demonstrate poor grammar.
  • Checking for spelling mistakes and typos (though this is usually regarded as editing or proofreading, two other important processes of writing).
  • Deleting a sentence, a paragraph or even as much as a whole chapter which is unnecessary to the whole work. In one novel I wrote, I had to delete large chunks because it read like a travelogue and didn’t advance the plot.
  • Rearranging the order of sentences, paragraphs or chapters to create a more logical flow.

How other writers revise their work

I have included only a few ways in which one can revise your writing. There are many different ways of doing this important process. Each writer is different, and individual writers can vary their own approach, depending on what they are writing.

I recently came across an article 12 Contemporary writers on how they revise. Each writer has a different approach to the same process. At the end of each writer’s segment, there is a link to further articles on that writer, including blog posts, podcasts, interviews and more. I hope that you find it useful.

Further reading:

 

 

More short story starters

Over the years, I have posted many of these articles. They have become some of the most popular posts on this site.

These story starters are designed to get your creative juices flowing. We all have those dreaded times when we just can’t think of an idea to write about. These story starters are designed to get you going. You may end up not using the exact wording I have given. You may even change any names I have used. The setting I have proposed could also change. It is really up to you. Accept my ideas if they suit you; change what doesn’t ring true for you.

These short story starters could be used exactly as I have suggested. They could be the start of a story which you finish, polish up, rewrite, edit, proofread and send off to a journal or magazine or even a writing competition. Or, you may just use some or all of these ideas just as writing exercises – warm-up writing attempts to flex your writing muscles before your work-in-progress gets attention for the day. It is entirely up to you how you use these ideas. Or not.

Short story starters:

  1. Frank found what he was looking for, but not where he had expected. He felt totally perplexed. How did it get in the washing machine?
  2. It was moments like these that Greta enjoyed. The sudden appearance of her best friend in the cafe opened up the day to untold opportunities.
  3. How on earth could Harry complete this task in the time allotted? He knew that his fate was in his own hands. What he did in the next hour would determine the course of his life, one way or the other.
  4. ‘What are we to do now?’ asked Ingrid. ‘That was the last chance we had.’
  5. Finding her husband lying on their bed in his pajamas was the last thing Jenny expected that day.
  6. Karen raced to the check-in desk and stopped. Hardly able to breathe she waved her boarding pass and waited to be served. ‘What if I’m too late?’ She suppressed the thought and smiled.
  7. Tony and Lauren knew from the first day that it was going to be a struggle. Despite the challenges ahead, they stepped out believing that they were up to the task set before them.
  8. At the beginning of the week, Murray had believed that he was on top of the workload for the month. What he hadn’t foreseen was the accident.
  9. Naomi blinked. She couldn’t believe what she had just witnessed.
  10. The children ran screaming towards the open door. They crowded around the visitor, jumping and reaching towards the box he carried.

Conditions of use:

  • Feel free to use any of the story starters listed above.
  • Change anything to suit your needs.
  • Give it your best shot.
  • Edit your work carefully before sending it off to a publisher or posting it on your blog.
  • Let me know in the comments section how it went.
  • If you publish your story on your website or on your blog let me know so I can make a link to it for others to read.
  • Now start writing.

Good writing.

Trevor

Writing prompts: Who lived here?

Who lived here?

Who lived here?

During our tour of Morocco some years ago now we came across many beautiful buildings. Many of them have exquisite tiled floors, decorated walls and ceilings and were architecturally very interesting. As we travelled through the Berber regions in the southeast of the country, through the Atlas Mountains and the intervening valleys, we came across many abandoned kasbahs, similar to the building shown above. In fact, this photo was taken on the Road of a Thousand Kasbahs.

Writing prompts:

  1. The Road of a Thousand Kasbahs has an exotic and interesting ring to it. Write a story explaining how this road came to be so named.
  2. Ask yourself the question: ‘Who lived in this kasbah?” Write about their lives, their romances and perhaps why this was their chosen place to reside.
  3. Write about how this particular kasbah came to be deserted sometime in the distant past.
  4. Write a series of love poems about a person who had lived in this kasbah, and how their love had been thwarted by political or family events.
  5. Research the history of the Berber people or the kasbahs in this region. Incorporate some of your discoveries in a story of fiction, weaving real events into your fiction.

 

Conditions of use:

  • Feel free to use any of the story starters listed above.
  • Change anything to suit your needs.
  • Give it your best shot.
  • Edit your work carefully before sending it off to a publisher or posting it on your blog.
  • Let me know in the comments section how it went.
  • If you publish your story on your website or on your blog let me know so I can make a link to it for others to read.
  • Now start writing.

Good writing.

Trevor

10 more short story starters

Popular articles

Over the last few years, the posts in this series have remained some of the most popular articles on this site. You can use the search facility at the top of the page, or the cloud of topics on the sidebar to search for more of these writing hints.

They are designed to get you thinking before you write. Use any of these story starters to get you going whenever you are struggling to come up with an idea for a story. I have received plenty of positive comments from writers (and teachers) who have used these ideas.

Over to you.

Short story starters

  1. Adele froze on the spot. The eerie noise continued to come from somewhere just ahead of her. She had no idea what it was.
  2. Before Betty could react, most of the ceiling collapsed onto the furniture below, except for the spot where she stood.
  3. Carl sprinted down the path in the direction of the explosion. As he ran he fumbled with his phone.
  4. It was almost midnight when Dave finally dragged himself to his bedroom. As he slowly undressed, he was aware of a presence in the room.
  5. On the first day in this strange land, Ella’s stomach was jittery with anticipation. She could barely wait to explore her new surroundings.
  6. As the storm clouds gathered to the north, Harry lengthened his stride as he hurried towards home. Flashes of lightning lit up the dark cloud, and the thunder cracked ominously.
  7. ‘How could I ever think so poorly of you,’ asked Julia, ‘when I have done so much for you these last five years?’
  8. Katie stood and stared at the sign. ‘Oh, no! Not today. Of all days – this has to happen. I can’t believe my rotten luck.’
  9. As Nola opened the old book, a paper fluttered to the floor.
  10. ‘Can it get any better than this?’ said Peta. ‘This has to be the best place ever.’

Conditions of use:

  • Feel free to use any of the story starters listed above.
  • Change anything to suit your needs.
  • Give it your best shot.
  • Edit your work carefully before sending it off to a publisher or posting it on your blog.
  • Let me know in the comments section how it went.
  • If you publish your story on your website or on your blog let me know so I can make a link to it for others to read.
  • Now start writing.

Good writing.

Trevor