Love And Writing 3: Short Story Special

Hello writer pals, and in this third lesson on love and writing, I look at short stories.

For Complete Freelance Writing Course students, the full version of this with helpful practice activities is now added as Lecture 58, in Section 11 Writing Motivation.

Not considering myself an expert on this subject, I consulted friend Diana Powell, who is. Diana has won short story competitions and published an anthology. We’re both appearing at a local literary festival here in West Wales in August, talking about Welsh women writing crime... and if you attend, please come and say hi as we love to chat.

Diana suggests considering:

1) Basics

Crazy/unfair as it seems to the writer, format still matters to a lot of editors/competitions. Some clearly state that if your work doesn’t adhere to their requirements, it will not be considered. So check out font, size, spacing etc and follow their needs.

Similarly, with spelling and grammar. Although we are told by some that such things should be overlooked, so it is simply the work that is judged (diversity is being considered here), I listened to a well-respected editor/publisher only yesterday, who said these were important.

Word count. Some actually state ‘not a word over’. Two thousand words is a favourite. Annoying, if you like to write longer stories. American publications take more.

2) Write For Yourself 

‘Submitters should study our magazine first’ is a favourite line …. It’s true, though, in as much as you don’t send the same work to Granta as you would to Woman’s Weekly.

BUT… to me, at least, you can’t fashion your work for a particular target. Just write the story you want to write, make it as good as you can, edit it (several times, if need be). Be happy with it. Think ‘I’ve written a good story here’. Then send it out. Whatever happens to it, you will be satisfied with your work. You will have that.

3) Resilience

Talking of which… You will (almost certainly) be rejected, and rejected and rejected. This is part of it all. It is hard. But… KEEP GOING. And going and going. You will get there. That good story you have written will be taken by somebody, or feature in a competition.

Be proud of the smallest success (don’t let people say it’s small, either!) Each boosts your confidence, as a antidote to those rejections. Build a C.V, – useful if you ever want to put a collection together.

Thanks to Diana for these great tips from the short story writing front line.

You can find short story collections in every genre, and top writers like Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, George Saunders and Zadie Smith have created them. The New Yorker Fiction podcast with Deborah Treisman is a great place to listen to a selection, and recommended by writer friends for inspiration. Here’s a post on short story collections, which may be useful if you’re planning holiday reading.

And when you’ve written your short story, where might you place it? Here are some useful twitter accounts:,, (UK and Ireland), and on instagram and may be worth a look.Writing magazines local to you should have information, too.

Acclaimed American writer Ray Bradbury suggested writing a short story a week and reading a short story every night to develop writing craft. He also emphasised the celebratory and joyous side of writing:

‘Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for’

So here’s to us all crafting something we’re proud of over the summer, and please feel most free to share your achievements in my direction and with other students.

Peace and writing love to you all!