Julie's Quest

Hello, and welcome to my blog. My blog is about the trials and tribulations of writing, where we celebrate successes and commiserate our near misses. We tell it like it is here and will do our very best to help you on the road to being published and pick you up after the rejections (they will come!) Whether you are a professional or amateur writer you will find something useful here.

I hope you enjoy reading my posts and will visit again soon.

Happy Writing

Julie Phillips - freelance writer - member of the Association of Freelance Writers - member of the Society of Authors

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Want to Write Better Short Stories?

As anyone who has been struggling to get their short stories published will know, it's not as easy as it seems. I've lost count of the amount of times, when I've told people I write short stories for the women's magazine market, the look on their faces when they find out how many stories I've had rejected. They look at you as if to say. "How hard can it be?!" If only they knew, right?

Which is why I am always keen to pick up useful snippets of information and advice from those in the business who know what they are talking about. I've been fortunate to have a few short stories published myself and I am constantly on a quest to improve my stories and increase my hit rate. At the moment I have been concentrating heavily on short stories and from my last post where I told you about some of the books on writing short stories that have helped me, I have putting some of that advice to good use.

I think books on short story writing and blogs/websites are a valid alternative to some of the more expensive courses out there. If, like me, you can't afford to attend these, even though I recognise the value of them, reading a book on the subject and discussing it with other writers can, if done correctly, can be a good substitute.

For example, in Della Galton's excellent book, How to Write and Sell Short Stories, (Accent Press, 2008. www.accentpress.co.uk she details the 'Plot as you go' method of working out your short story. The problem I was having was that I'd come up with a good opening but waned in the middle of the story with no real clue as to where it was all heading. But using Della's advice and examples I decided to follow her What, Why, When, How, Where, Who,  line of questioning which I wrote down for each of my short stories when I started flagging. This gave me a clearer direction and idea of what my story was all about.

Pinpointing the crux of the story then helped me to find the answers I was trying to find. Della says that the ending to a story is usually there in what you've already written. And by asking yourself a few pertinent questions when you get stuck you can get yourself out of a hole and write that all important satisfying ending. I did exactly what Della advises and blow me down with a feather, she's only right! The answers and ending were already there. I just had to tease them out a bit (well, a lot, if I'm honest - they needed a fair bit of wrestling to get them out!)

So, if you're writing short stories and getting rejection after rejection, or you can't seem to make your stories work, take a leaf out of Della's book and you could see your short story sales improve. Even if mine don't, I'm having such fun bringing life to new characters and seeing where they want to take me on their journey. I feel I'm getting closer to my stories being what the editors want and every story I write will get me there. I hope you're getting closer too. Don't forget to read as many stories in the magazines you want to write for too.  I can't impress on you enough the importance of this. Reading them can help you get a flavour for the stories the editors like, structure, pace and theme. Where would we be without the support and advice of those successful writers who are willing to share what worked for them? Successful women's mag fiction writers we salute you!

So what have you learned recently that has taken you nearer your goal of having a short story published? Let us know how your goals are going - I'll keep you posted on mine.

Happy writing
Julie xx


Carole Anne Carr said...

Happy writing to you, too, Julie. After a long break I'm finally writing again x

ClaireLC said...

Great advise Julie, there is always something new to learn with writing. I think short stories are one of the hardest areas to break in to as there is so much competiton. I sympathise with your comment on rejections, I work part time and one or two collegues know I write whenever I can and they expect me to list where I have been published each Month, I wish!!!
Maybe next month...

Julie P said...

So glad to hear that, Carole Ann. I was doing well until the recent incidents intervened - but I'm slowly getting back on track! My head doesn't seem to be in the right space for writing at the moment but I'm pushing through it. We must meet up again soon. Good luck with your edits. Julie xx

Julie P said...

Thanks, Claire. I don't think non-writers appreciate quite how much work, time and effort goes into producing a publishable piece of work. One day soon you'll have a list to show them and I'd love to be a fly on the wall to see the look on their faces!

I've sent four short stories off recently and I'm about to edit and sub a couple more. I have more time to write in the summer hols as I share the kids' holidays through working in a school (yay!) But I had a couple of issues last week: dad in hospital and husband writing the car off within the space of 24 hrs! There are sure to be some short stories in there somewhere, lol! But I'm onto it again now. Good luck, Claire. Julie xx

Carole Anne Carr said...

Hope he is feeling a little better, Julie, know how difficult this can be. Roy has at long last agreed to have a mobility scooter that will go into the boot of the car, so at long last we can go places and I know I shall be able to walk about once we get there and he'll be with me. I'm having to use the car more and more, thank goodness I bought a very old one, thinking it wouldn't matter is I pranged it! Didn't realise that someone else would do this for me, and then drive off without leaving a note. Husband managed to pull out the dent so that the door would close again! Yes, would be lovely to meet up again, just let me know what would suit you, before you return to school. xx