Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Multi Story short fiction contest

I am judging a short story competition that will be running in January and February on Multi Story, so get your botskis on over and enter.

The word limit is 1,000, so you won’t have any space for waffle or flab. Writing at this length is damn hard, and every single word counts. I’ve been writing for a quite a while now, at all lengths, yet the hardest thing I ever did was write this 300-word short story. I agonized for days over each and every word in the story, and it paid off when it won Fish Publishing’s One Page Fiction Prize.

While it may sound counter-intuitive, writing short is harder because you still have to cram a story into this tiny space. Your 1,000 words allow you to tease open the door to another world just a crack, but even such a sneaky peek should suggest the richness and complexity of an entire human life. And that means discipline.

While it can be challenging, writing so short is always incredibly useful practice for writing a novel. The temptation when you have 90,000 words to play with is to loosen the straitjacket a little and allow yourself digressions, rambling prose and even whole chapters thrown in because you love the writing or scene rather than because they serve the story. If you can apply the same rigour to a novel as you do to a 1,000-word piece, your chances of producing a strong work are much higher.

Anyway, I’ll leave you with the words of Oscar Wilde, which should give you a strong hint as to what I expect you to do to win this competition:

I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.