Working on a novel? Writing fiction stories? Studying or teaching Creative Writing? Online Writing Tips offers free advice videos for novelists, authors, and students of Creative Writing. We also offer a free writing critique service and run the Online Writing Tips Short Fiction Prize. Our tutors are all experienced writers and university Creative Writing lecturers, so please enter your email address at the top of the sidebar to receive regular writing resources – and nothing else. Thanks for visiting! Google+
The 2017 OWT short fiction competition is now closed for entries. We have received exactly 300 entries – exactly! (The round number seems to us in some way significant.) That’s more than double the number of entries we received last year. We are thrilled – and a little overwhelmed – by the volume and range of submissions we’ve received.
The judging now begins. Alas, we have only three prizes to award, so we apologise that there is no way we can give all entries the recognition that they deserve. Please know how grateful we are to everyone who shared their work, and please remember that with so many strong pieces our choices will inevitably be subjective.
Given the volume of entries, we plan to make our selections in two stages. In the first instance our aim is to narrow the field to a longlist, which we plan to announce on Wednesday 29th March. We will announce authors by their name (or pen name), but, so as not to hinder non-winning entrants’ chances of publishing their stories elsewhere, we will not publish story titles at this stage. Please be patient as we try to choose between so many excellent pieces of writing. Thank you and good luck!
Beware the Ides of March! Today is World Book Day, which means you have just under a fortnight to get your entries in for this year’s Online Writing Tips Short Fiction Prize. Remember:
– It’s free to enter
– There are three cash prizes
– We accept stories of 1000-4000 words on any theme
You can find the full submission details here. Good luck – you’ve got to be in it to win it!
It’s a new year and a lot of people will be starting new pieces of writing. In this video we look at how to start a piece of prose fiction. D.D. Johnston considers the differences between the openings of films and novels, and he explains why starting a story is like placing a lonely hearts advert.
D.D. Johnston discusses James Purdy’s short story “Cutting Edge” as an example of how a seemingly insignificant conflict can make for high drama when it stands for something bigger. In “Cutting Edge” the question of a young man’s beard becomes the symbolic terrain on which an inter-generational battle is fought. The story is about moral values and the future of America, but all of this is left unsaid, lurking below the water – after all, when people argue they rarely refer explicitly to what they’re really arguing about. In this sense, Purdy’s short story can be said to demonstrate Ernest Hemingway’s “Iceberg principle.” You can read the full story here.
Michael Scott has written novels, films, and plays in a variety of genres for adults and children and teens. He’s learned that it doesn’t much matter what sort of story you’re writing, or for whom your writing it: “A good story is always a journey. It is about the people the hero meets along the way and how they change him or her.” Now that we’re thinking about the themes of stories, it becomes apparent that a character’s journey is inextricably bound with a story’s theme. And since the theme has to be something general and powerful, something universal and impactful, it’s not surprising that there aren’t that many journeys that really matter.
Have a look at this list of fundamental human journeys, and let me know in the comments whether there are any that I’ve missed:
Fundamental human journeys
(simple transitions based on external changes – these are more likely to work in, say, a young adult genre novel than in a literary short story, but often in genre fiction a material transition will be made possible by a psychological transition)
Peril <-> Safety
Single <-> Married
Powerless <-> Powerful
Poor <-> Rich
Obscure <-> Famous
Picked on <-> Popular
Not seizing the day <-> Seizing the day
Isolation <-> Human connection
Love <-> Loss
Despair <-> Hope
Obliviousness <-> Awareness of mortality
Innocence <-> Loss of innocence
Inhibition <-> Boldness
Desire <-> Contentment
Self-doubt <-> Self-acceptance
No sense of sublime <-> Sense of the sublime
Search for meaning <-> Accepting meaninglessness
Fear <-> Acceptance of death
Faith <-> Lack of faith