Saturday Fare

Short Story Writing Tips from Experienced Writers

At a recent Word Factory salon event in London, panellists including renowned short story writer Clive Sinclair and Times Literary Supplement editor Peter Stothard discussed how to write short stories, and also gave their key pieces of editing advice to a crowd of budding writers. The advice ranged from the practical to the thematic.

So what were our panellists’ key tips for editing short stories or novels?

Peter Stothard, Times Literary Supplement editor

Remove everything in the passive. “The party was attended by influential people,” for instance…In its place the passive is fine, but the pluperfect tense and the passive voice are both common ways of pushing a problem away that you don’t want to deal with.

Sheila Llewellyn, short story writer

Read everything out loud. It helps you find the particular flow, and identify parts where the writing doesn’t work. Even the particularly “readerly” bits can benefit, as they still follow that rhythm.

Clive Sinclair, short story writer

…it’s fine to just say “he said”. You don’t have to say “he muttered”, “he chuckled”, “he laughed”. Because if the reader can’t gather in which mood the words were said, then they should not have been said.
William Palmer, short story writer

Cut out all the obvious. I think that’s the most important thing.
So get started on your story today.

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