Sheffield Short Story Competition 2020
This year, being a bit of an odd one (!!) - what with Off the Shelf having to go online, and all the other rubbish happening in the world - we're not running our usual short story competition. Instead we'll be helping out with the one being run by Sheffield Libraries . It is open to anyone over 16, who lives or works in the city. The theme is a story with a true Sheffield flavour and a real sense of place. This year there is a special category: The Magic Pen Competition - this is for people with learning difficulties and learning disabilities. We're chuffed to be teaming up with Henderson Relish again too - it's such a part of all our stories!
Your story should be no more than 500 words and must be submitted by the 30th September. Mark your entry "Magic Pen" if you want to enter the special category. Send your submission to:
Prizes - £100 of book tokens, plus some cool stuff from Hendersons Relish.
For tips on writing a great short story see below.
Short story top tips
Also see the Burton Street Foundation's blog for some ideas and tips for the Magic Pen Competition.
What makes a good short story?
Well, it’s a very personal thing. When we've judged our Off the Shelf competetions there has been a degree of consistency amongst the judges, with a broad consensus over an approximate ranking, but with no immediately obvious front-runner. 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 have no words to waste in a 500 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.
- You should make your story "really Sheffield" - there are many ways to do that, and it is very subjective.
And if you don't like the way we've said it,
here are some thoughts by the great Arnold Bennett: