Sunday, June 15, 2014

'Love is All You Need'

Sherri Turner is a prize winning writer and her short story FUNNY FACE is featured in a new anthology Love is All You Need - 10 Tales of Love from the Sophie King Prize.

Sherri has been published many times in women's magazines in the UK and abroad under her pen name, Bernadette James, and is well-placed to offer advice, so I've lured her to my blog and insisted she gives us some writing tips.

Being a lovely person (I've met her and know what I'm talking about) she's kindly agreed so take it away, Sherri...

5 tips for writing short stories

These are 5 of the things that I try to do with all of my stories. I won’t claim that they are all my own original thoughts or that you won’t have seen them elsewhere in the hundreds of writing books available. I certainly won’t call them rules or even say that they are my top 5, as I’ll probably think of another one tomorrow that I like better. However, I do believe that when I do use them, my stories become better. I hope there is something that you find useful too.

i) Write what you like to read and write from the heart. If you don’t like your story, why should anyone else?

ii) ‘Cliché’ doesn’t only apply to common phrases. Sentence structures and favourite words can become clichés for you if you use them too often and the reader will get bored and/or irritated. Mix it up. Be aware of your own favourite words and check how often they appear in your story. Then get rid of most of them.

iii) Once your story is written, leave it alone for as long as you can before returning to it.* Try not to look at it until you’ve written something else so that you get some distance from it and from the words you’ve used. Then read it out loud. Does it make sense? Does it sound as good as you thought it did when you wrote it? Reading out loud also helps you to spot typos, missing words and other silly errors.

* I am very bad at this. When something is written I want it finished, gone, sent off right away. Sometimes I let myself do that. Then when it comes flying back from an editor or disappears without trace in a competition I read it back and wonder what on earth I was thinking sending it out like that. Not always – but often enough. Please try to do this one!

iv) Try reading your story without the first paragraph. Or the first two or three paragraphs. Does the reader need/want these or are they just there to get you, the writer, into the story? If the latter then delete it/them. If there is any essential information missing now
that the reader does need you can slip it in later where it is not holding up the story. (I have just deleted the first paragraph of this blog post. You didn’t need it.)

v) If you get stuck part way through a story and you don’t know where to take it or how, or you just think it isn’t very good, don’t abandon it completely. Print it out, write notes of any ideas you had or what is causing you the problem at the bottom. Put it in your pile. (You do have a pile, don’t you? Is that just me?) Come back to it a week/month/year later when you are looking for ideas. Your brain may have worked on it in the background or you may have read something else or had an experience that now helps you to finish the story. It’s that distance thing again. Some of my best stories have been written over months (years in a couple of cases) with huge gaps in between.

I do have piles, Sherri.  Ahem.  Brilliant advice, especially the bit about reading aloud to spot typos and missing words. Many thanks for dropping by.

Love is All You Need (paperback version will be available in August)
Enjoy these 10 great stories with heart - the winning tales of love from The Sophie King Prize 2014, chosen by bestselling author Sophie King.

"I picked those that surprised me and also left a lovely warm feeling. A bit like a love affair, really …" Sophie King

Meet 10 women, from different places, backgrounds and times, and each with a different experience of men and romance.

Their stories in turn hold the promise of romance, reflect on finding love, or show the lengths we'll go to for the special person in our lives.

An anthology of stories which are funny, thought-provoking, and thrilling, with characters you'll empathise with as they discover that ... Love is All You Need.

Stories by Alyson Hilbourne, Yvonne Eve Walus, Johanna Grassick, Pauline Watson, Melanie Whipman, Linda Triegel, Laurel Osterkamp, Helen Yendall, Mary Lally, Sherri Turner.