Progress So Far

  • Romance writer - Historical. Contemporary and Intrigue
  • 2 books written for HarperImpulse

Sunday, 18 July 2010

What I've learnt about....

....writing short stories over the past couple of months...

1. First off I'd thought I couldn't write "short", but with a bit of planning and just actually knuckling down and writing one, I found out that I could!

2. You type "The End" a heck of a lot sooner than when writing a book! This is obvious really, but it does focus the mind somewhat and gives you a much needed boost to reach the end I can tell you - especially when the current ms is on a "go slow".

3. Less is more. You really have to make sure the story is well constructed from the beginning to the end. There is no going off tangent etc. I tend to write 1000 word stories so you don't have a lot of words to play with.

4. Grammar and punctuation have to be spot on. Editors will just disregard a poorly written story.

5. The opening hook *really* has to hook the reader/editor into your story.

6. Don't introduce too many characters. 4 is usually regarded as the absolute maximum. Too many, and you confuse the readers.

7. Show don't tell. It's normally a 70/30 dialogue/narration split - with the dialogue pushing the story onwards the whole time. (Although I have read some stories that do buck this trend and have been almost 100% narration - but this is the exception rather than the rule.) Writing dialogue for my short stories has really helped my book writing. I'm finding my characters appear more human and not so stilted on the page now (I hope!) Although there is a slight difference, as I write historical so dialogue like "Chillax mum" don't quite fit into my historical MS's!

8. The short story market is ferocious. There are very few publications taking short stories and the competition is fierce.

9. You still get "R's". I've had one so far. But somehow a short story "R" doesn't seem as bad (well for me anyway!) as getting a form "R" for a book that's taken me a whole year to write. At least with a short story you can lick your wounds for a couple of hours, the maybe the next day just forget about it as you've written another short story that (IYHO) is better than the last one. Also you can always re-sub the rejected SS to another publication in a matter of hours as well.

10. Idea's for short stories are all around you. I often find that "real life " stories and news items can often be used/adapted for a short story. My latest short story was inspired by an article in a magazine about how school cooks "disguise" vegetables in order to get children to eat their "5 a day".

Well there you go. Caroline's insight into short story writing. On the other side of the coin - the latest WIP is nearly finished/edited and will be winging its way to the NWS at the RNA. Caroline x


  1. Good work on the WIP.

    Yes, it's hard to get short stories published - and getting harder with markets shrinking and competition growing. But, keep trying and you will get there. Besides, they are such terrific fun to write.

    Thought the vegetable one was yours - well done.


  2. Great post, Caroline. I like writing short stories, they're very satisfying. Even more so when a publisher buys them. I agree, there's less invested than in a novel, so its not as awful if an R wings its way over...
    Heres hoping for a great response from the NWS!

  3. Brill post Caroline. You've been busy and your points are great. All the best of luck with the NWS. You'll do fab, I'm certain of it. jx

  4. Excellent post, Caroline! Good luck with the NWS. And great advice re short stories. I don't know that I could write short - maybe it would be good discipline to try. :-)

  5. Hi Suzanne - I'm impressed that you picked my story out! I'm going to guess that your one was the train journey one? Am I right? LOL

    Hi Sally - thanks for stopping by - and good luck with your short stories. Have you had many pubbed?

    Hi Judy - thanks for stopping by - and thanks for the vote of confidence - I need it!

    Hi Jackie - thanks for the lovely support. Ohh I do love blogland - where would you get such a lovely bunch of people all wishing the best for you? BTW - never say never on writing short - I found it quite easy really once I put my mind to it. I'm normally writing 70k + books so 1000 words seemed like a no-no. But it did actually work! Go on - give it a go! Caroline xx

  6. Great post Caroline! I love short stories I wish there were more out there.

  7. Hi Lacey - good to have you over! Glad you like SS - but there are very few publications for them apparently. Caroline x

  8. You are doing well! You're so busy :-)

    Well done on the short story writing and hope you get a great report from the NWS.

  9. What is the market - I presume these are romances? - for short stories?

    That might make a really good blog post, a list of places where you can still submit short stories. Something people would link to.

    Good luck with the NWS!!


  10. Hi Jane - thanks for stopping by - I know how busy you are at the moment! The short stories I write aren't romances - I'm aiming at the short story market in women's magazines. So far I've written dark humour and ghost stories! And there is an excellent blog called that has a ton of information about all the writing guidelines of all the woman's magazines so I don't even have to stress about that either! Good luck with the Embrace launch. Caroline x

  11. A great post, Caroline - sums everything up perfectly! :-) x

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  13. Great post! I must keep reminding myself of point 8 everytime I feel bad about getting an R

  14. Yes indeed LilyS - that's what I tell myself as well! Caroline x