Archives For Fiction

AL Kennedy's Ten Rules for Writing Fiction

A.L.Kennedy was born in Scotland in 1965. She is the author of six literary novels, one science fiction novel, seven short story collections and three works of non-fiction including the wonderful writer’s resource On Writing. In 2010 Kennedy shared the following advice with readers of The Guardian, published as part of a series  inspired to Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing.

1. Have humility. Older/more ­experienced/more convincing writers may offer rules and varieties of advice. ­Consider what they say. However, don’t automatically give them charge of your brain, or anything else – they might be bitter, twisted, burned-out, manipulative, or just not very like you.

2. Have more humility. Remember you don’t know the limits of your own abilities. Successful or not, if you keep pushing beyond yourself, you will enrich your own life – and maybe even please a few strangers.

3. Defend others. You can, of course, steal stories and attributes from family and friends, fill in filecards after lovemaking and so forth. It might be better to celebrate those you love – and love itself – by writing in such a way that everyone keeps their privacy and dignity intact.

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15 Short Story Competitions to Enter Before the Year of the Year

Boston Review’s Aura Estrada Short Story Contest
is one of three contests run each year by the literary magazine.The winner of the contest will receive US$1500 and have his or her work published in the July/August 2016 issue of Boston Review. The runners-up stories may also be published. Entries close 1 October.

Calvino Prize
is an annual fiction competition sponsored by the Creative Writing Program at the University of Louisville. The prize is awarded for writing in the fabulist experimentalist style of Italo Calvino. First prize is US$1500 and publication in Salt Hill Journal. Stories must be less than 25 pages in length. Entries close 14 October.

Margaret River Short Story Writing Competition
is open to all authors of any age or nationality. Winning and shortlisted stories will be selected for publication. First prize is valued at AUD$1000 and includes $500 cash and $500 contribution towards an airfare to attend the Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival in Western Australia plus a two-week residency in Margaret River to be taken up at any time .Entries close 14 October.

London Magazine
is England’s oldest literary periodical, with a history stretching back to 1732. Entries for the magazine’s prestigious short story competition are welcomed from writers around the world. The winner will receive £500 and publication. Entries close 31 October.

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What We Look for in Unsolicted Submissions

A guest post by Kim Winternheimer, editor of The Masters Review

The Masters Review is a publication that focuses entirely on new and emerging writers, offering a quality platform for readers, agents, and editors to discover new voices. In addition to our printed anthology, we have submission opportunities year round including a short story award for new writers, workshops, and a fiction contest running throughout September and October with guest judge Jeff VanderMeer. Nearly all the stories we publish are unsolicited, which means most of our work comes from the slush pile. So how do you make your story stand out? Here’s what we look for when reading stories.

1. Clarity 

Especially at the beginning of a piece. Assume any story you submit is being read by editors who are also reading many other stories that week, day, or even hour. A difficult beginning is disastrous because it informs the reader’s opinion on the rest of the story, making her less forgiving of small errors or lulls later. The start of your story should read clearly on the sentence level and avoid too much exposition or throat clearing. Our favorite pieces show intention, finesse, and clarity from the start, and introduce the story in a way that is easy to understand, even if the piece is experimenting with structure or other style.

2. A Good Hook 

The opening line in this year’s anthology is: “Almost everyone agreed that the death of Rodrigo Bradley had been an accident.” This is a great example of a piece that begins in the action of the story. When reading a large number of submissions, it helps to begin with a plot element that immediately draws readers into the world and has them wondering: “What will happen next?”

3. Productive Ambiguity 

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19 Short Story Competitions in 2014

The Sunday Times Short Story Prize
is the world’s richest short story competition with the winner receiving £30,000 (US$47,000). In 2014 the prize was won by Adam Johnson for his story ‘Nirvana’. The longlist for the 2015 Sunday Times Short Story Prize will be announced in February and the winner in April. Entries for the 2016 prize are expected to open in July 2015. The six stories shortlisted for the 2014 prize are available here.

Bristol Short Story Prize
is open to  stories up to 4000 words. Entries can be on any theme or subject and are welcome in any style including graphic, verse or genre-based (crime, science fiction, fantasy, historical, romance, children’s etc). Twenty stories will be shortlisted and published in the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology Volume 8. Entries close 30 April.

Zoetrope All-Story’s Annual Fiction Contest
has the aim of seeking out and encouraging talented writers, with the winning and runners-up’s work being forwarded to leading literary agents. A first prize of US$1000 is also offered. Stories can be up to 5000 words. Entries open on 1 July and are expected to close on 1 October.

A Midsummer Tale Narrative Writing Contest
is open to both fiction and creative non-fiction. Stories must be between 1000 and 5000 words and there are no entry fees. Entries are accepted between 1 April and 21 June each year.

PRISM International Short Fiction Contest
offers a CA$2000 (US$1800) first prize for stories up to 6000 words in length. The 2014 prize was judged by novelist Joseph Boyden. Entries close 23 January. Continue Reading…

15 Ways to Write a Novel

25 November 2014 — 8 Comments
15 Ways to Write a Novel
Max Barry is one of Australia’s most exciting writers. His speculative fiction novel Lexicon was named as one of the 10 best fiction books of 2013 by Time magazine. In this post Max shares some of the methods he and other authors use to write a novel. 

Every year I get asked what I think about NaNoWriMo, and I don’t know how to answer, because I don’t want to say, “I think it makes you write a bad novel.”

This is kind of the point. You’re supposed to churn out 50,000 words in one month, and by the end you have a goddamn novel, one you wouldn’t have otherwise. If it’s not Shakespeare, it’s still a goddamn novel. The NaNoWriMo FAQ says: “Aiming low is the best way to succeed,” where “succeed” means “write a goddamn novel.”

I find it hard to write a goddamn novel. I can do it, but it’s not very fun. The end product is not much fun to read, either. I have different techniques. I thought I should wait until the end of November, when a few alternatives might be of interest to those people who, like me, found it really hard to write a goddamn novel, and those people who found it worked for them could happily ignore me.

Some of these methods I use a lot, some only when I’m stuck. Some I never use, but maybe they’ll work for you. If there were a single method of writing great books, we’d all be doing it.

1. The Word Target

What: You don’t let yourself leave the keyboard each day until you’ve hit 2,000 words.

Why: It gets you started. You stop fretting over whether your words are perfect, which you shouldn’t be doing in a first draft. It captures your initial burst of creative energy. It gets you to the end of a first draft in only two or three months. If you can consistently hit your daily target, you feel awesome and motivated.

Why Not: It can leave you too exhausted to spend any non-writing time thinking about your story. It encourages you to pounce on adequate ideas rather than give them time to turn into great ones. It encourages you to use many words instead of few. If you take a wrong turn, you can go a long way before you realize it. It can make you feel like a failure as a writer when the problem is that you’re trying to animate a corpse. It can make you dread writing.

2. The Word Ceiling

What: You write no more than 500 words per day.

Why: You force yourself to finish before you really want to, which makes you spend the rest of the day thinking about getting back to the story, which often produces good new ideas. You feel good about yourself even if you only produced a few hundred words that day. You don’t beat yourself up about one or two bad writing days. You give yourself time to turn good ideas into great ones. Writing feels less like hard work. (More on this.)

Why Not: It takes longer (six months or more). It can be difficult to work on the same idea for a very long time. It may take so long that you give up. Continue Reading…

Boulevard Short Fiction Contest for Emerging Writers

Boulevard is accepting entries for its annual short fiction contest for emerging writers. The winner will receive US$1500 and have their story published in the magazine.

Boulevard is an American literary magazine established in 1985 and based at St. Louis University in Missouri. Boulevard aims to publish the finest in fiction, poetry and non-fiction and was described by Poet Laureate Daniel Hoffman as ‘one of the half-dozen best literary journals’. The magazine has been edited throughout its history by Richard Burgin, a five-time Pushcart Prize winner.

Boulevard’s Short Fiction Contest for Emerging Writers is open worldwide to people who have not yet published a book of fiction, poetry or creative non-fiction with a nationally distributed press. Stories may be up to 8000 words and must be previously unpublished.

The 2013 contest was won by Terrance Manning Jr for his story ‘Andretti in El Camino’. The story is available to be read in full here (PDF).

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Geoff Dyer's Top 10 Tips for Writers

Geoff Dyer was described in New York Magazine as being “one of our greatest living critics, not of the arts but of life itself, and one of our most original writers – always out there beyond literary Mach 1, breaking the how-things-usually-sound barrier.” He is the author of four novels, two essay collections, and six genre-defying titles (that generally find themselves shelved among the non-fiction). His most recent book, Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. Bush, was published in May of this year. In 2010 Dyer shared the following writing tips with the Guardian.

  1. Never worry about the commercial possibilities of a project. That stuff is for agents and editors to fret over—or not. Conversation with my American publisher. Me: “I’m writing a book so boring, of such limited commercial appeal, that if you publish it, it will probably cost you your job.” Publisher: “That’s exactly what makes me want to stay in my job.”
  2. Don’t write in public places. In the early 1990s I went to live in Paris. The usual writerly reasons: back then, if you were caught writing in a pub in England, you could get your head kicked in, whereas in Paris, dans les cafés … Since then I’ve developed an aversion to writing in public. I now think it should be done only in private, like any other lavatorial activity.
  3. Don’t be one of those writers who sentence themselves to a lifetime of sucking up to Nabokov.
  4. If you use a computer, constantly refine and expand your autocorrect settings. The only reason I stay loyal to my piece-of-shit computer is that I have invested so much ingenuity into building one of the great auto-correct files in literary history. Perfectly formed and spelt words emerge from a few brief keystrokes: “Niet” becomes “Nietzsche,” “phoy” becomes “photography” and so on. Genius!
  5. Keep a diary. The biggest regret of my writing life is that I have never kept a journal or a diary.
  6. Have regrets. They are fuel. On the page they flare into desire.
  7. Have more than one idea on the go at any one time. If it’s a choice between writing a book and doing nothing I will always choose the latter. It’s only if I have an idea for two books that I choose one rather than the other. I always have to feel that I’m bunking off from something.
  8. Beware of clichés. Not just the clichés that Martin Amis is at war with. There are clichés of response as well as expression. There are clichés of observation and of thought—even of conception. Many novels, even quite a few adequately written ones, are clichés of form which conform to clichés of expectation.
  9. Do it every day. Make a habit of putting your observations into words and gradually this will become instinct. This is the most important rule of all and, naturally, I don’t follow it.
  10. Never ride a bike with the brakes on. If something is proving too difficult, give up and do something else. Try to live without resort to per­severance. But writing is all about perseverance. You’ve got to stick at it. In my 30s I used to go to the gym even though I hated it. The purpose of going to the gym was to postpone the day when I would stop going. That’s what writing is to me: a way of postponing the day when I won’t do it any more, the day when I will sink into a depression so profound it will be indistinguishable from perfect bliss.

Read more writing tips from Hilary MantelPaulo Coelho, Teju ColeMeg Rosoff, Joss Whedon and Neil Gaiman.

Text via The Paris Review. Photo by Jason Oddy.