We asked London Writers’ Club co-founder Kirsty McLachlan, a literary agent with twenty years publishing experience, for her top tips when it comes to writing short stories.
1. Location – remember to fix your short story firmly in a place. How does the location colour the story? Think about the sounds, the smells and the landscape.
2. Time – what’s the time span of your short story? It’s often easier to set a short story over a short time frame – it could be one event, central to a character’s life.
3. Title – even a short story must have a brilliant title. Often it can win the reader over right from the start.
4. Every word must count – less is more on the adjective front. There is no space for flowery writing – when you are describing something make sure each word is vital to the description and to the story as a whole.
5. Sometimes simplicity rules in a short story – don’t over complicate, introduce twists and turns but ensure that the reader will understand them and that they are central to the plot and the narrative.
6. The first sentence must capture the reader’s attention. As with the title, this is your first impression – think about walking into the room with drab clothes on in comparison to some wonderful peacock clothes – which outfit would you remember?
7. Don’t have too many scenes – it can’t be a series of tiny photos, let the scenes breath. Don’t try and fit too much into the story. Allow your characters space to work out their motives, their problems and the eventual ending to their story.
8. Think about themes/tones/concepts – these must colour your story. Ask yourself what is your theme. What is the underlying message to your story? Make sure you are clear about this before you write your story.
9. Be careful with dialogue – don’t put words in your characters’ mouths to pad out the story. Try and be sparse with dialogue so when your characters do speak they are not just chewing the cud, but their words matter. They tell us about story and the characters themselves.
10. Finally, read and reread your story – be ruthless with your editing.
And only send it out when you are completely sure it is ready.
To find out more about our inaugural short story competition (and the brilliant prizes on offer) click here.