Our short story competition is back for Off the Shelf 2023. This year's prize night venue will be the Thursday 19 October 2023, 18:30 at University of Sheffield Library on Western Bank.
We are also running The Magic Pen Competition for people with learning difficulties and learning disabilities.
See here for all the details.
Magic Pen Entries
Stories can be up to 500 words long but as short as you want. Your story needs to be typed up but this can be done by a friend, family member or carer. Your story must be about a Sheffield landmark of your choice.
Short Story Competition Entry Details
In summary it is again 1000 words, but should include one of these lines at the beginning or within the story:
Either: The fog hung low, obscuring [landmark of choice] and giving the air an eerie silence
Or: She stood in/by/on/under [landmark of choice], looking out of place in her all-black ensemble.
The entry fee is £5.00 per story. The closing date is the 1st October.
There will be a prize to be announced for each of these winners. The entry fee gives you access to this event, but it is open to everyone.
Prizes to be announced.
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.
Short story 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.
And if you don't like the way we've said it, here are some thoughts by the great Arnold Bennett: