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Our short story competition is back for Off the Shelf 2018 . The prize night venue is top be held again at the fabulous Sheffield University Western Bank Library.

Date: Wednesday 17th October, 7.00 - 9.30 p.m.

Competition Entry Details

The only conditions are that stories must have a Sheffield theme and be 1000 words long. We won't penalise for the odd word or two out - but will mark it down for more than that. A title is always good. The rest is up to you. Look forward to hearing from you. Good luck!

It is free to enter this year, and free on the night.

The six short-listed stories will be announced on the night and read out. This year the audience will vote on their favourites. (If you are short-listed but would rather have your story read out by someone else on the night, that can be arranged.)

Prizes to be announced.

Entries close at midnight on 30th September.

Open to anyone, including members of Sheffield Authors (excepting the judges) - all stories will be anonymised so that the judges won't know who wrote them.

Email your entry (only 1 per person) to:

You can see last year's shortlisted stories here

Short story top tips


What makes a good short story?


Well, it’s a very personal thing. Last year, there was a degree of consistency amongst the judges, with a broad consensus over an approximate ranking, but there was no immediately obvious winner. The judges argued for their own favourites – and some of them were read aloud to try to persuade the others just how good they were. What moves one person, based on their own life experience, may leave another under-whelmed.


That said, here is our top tips:


- You don’t have words to waste in a 1000 word story – every single word has to do its share of the work. If it doesn’t, get rid – your editing time could well equal your writing time.

- There needs to be some “thing” that provokes a response in your reader: something they weren’t expecting (or possibly were expecting once they're part way in), a revelation, a discovered truth etc. That “thing” can make you laugh, move you, kick you in the gut, make you want to curse, or even just roll your eyes or raise an eyebrow. But what you don’t want is your reader to think: "So what?"

- If that still leaves you a bit puzzled go back to your favourite short stories and try to work out what that “thing” is in each. Or read a few Chekhov short stories: he was a master of the form. He said reading a short story “feels rather like swallowing a glass of vodka.” (What do you think he meant by that? An opening up of the senses followed by a warm glow? – can't beat a slug of vodka and a story at bedtime!)

- Julia Casterton has a good take on it in her, highly recommended Creative Writing – a Practical Guide. She reckons all good short stories have an element of change at their root: “like an insistent bass line. Something always happens and someone always has to deal with (or avoid) what has occurred. The character can meet the change head on, in which case we might feel gratified – or sidestep the new knowledge, try to behave as though everything is the same as before. Either way the change sits there for the reader, fascinating, not to be ignored.

- Once you have written it and edited it, read it aloud to yourself or a friend. If it reads clumsily, or you trip over your words, revisit them.

- If you can make you story "really Sheffield" whatever that might be, so much the better.

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