Thursday, 31 October 2013

A great Russian tradition

We received a story from Russia today, still a rarity for us, which is a pity because talk ‘Russian short story writing’ and you soon encounter some of the true giants of the literary landscape.

Among those who have written short stories are Pushkin, Gogol, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and Chekhov, their stories ranging from the fantastical to the bleak down-to-earth, each one made distinctive for the richness of the imagery and the language.

In Russia, as in most countries, the short story battles to survive in a competitive publishing world but the country, which is mainly associated in many minds with the Great Novel, can certainly look back on one of the finest traditions of them all when it comes to the shorter form.

* You can enter the Global Short Story Competition at

John Dean

September winners to be announced

We will announce the winners of the September Global Short Story Competition on Thursday November 7.

John Dean

Great chance to go for first prize

There are eleven hours to enter the October Global Short Story Comp and it‘s the quietest ever. A great time to have a go at the £100 first prize. You can enter at

John Dean


Friday, 25 October 2013


10,000 is the key number at the moment.

Since the Global Short Story Competition launched almost six years ago, we have paid out more than £10,000 in prize money to writers from all over the world.

And today we passed 10,000 reads of this blog with its mixture of news, views and handy hints.

Thank you to everyone who has helped us pass this landmark.

You can enter the competition at

John Dean

The importance of the Indian short story to the world

A lot of our blog readers (and a few entries into the Global Short Competition as well) come from India and, as I often do, I research the art form in the various countries from which we receive entries.

While doing that, I came across a terrific article by M. S. Nagarajan, published in 2010 in The Hindu and reviewing the book Themes in the Indian Short Story in English by Murli Das Melwani (Prakash Book Depot).

Charting the growth in the Indian short story since 1935, M S Nagarajan wrote about its growing importance on the world stage, saying: “There are more women writers now than at any time in the past. Altering perspectives in man-woman relationships, alienation in modern life and the impact of feminism and feminist theories on the academia have supplied meat and juice to a potential creative writer.

“As readership expanded across the world, Indian stories tended to get translated into foreign languages. The author is quite right in his assessment that the short story has covered a wider range of subjects with a larger gallery of characters and that the record of Indian life is more authentic in this genre than in the novel .. we need more — and yet more — of such narrative histories that can discuss changes in artistic trends, materials, techniques, et al. The scope for the Indian short story is indeed boundless.”

A classic case of writers responding to, and changing, the world around them.
The full text is on, which includes more about Themes in the Indian Short Story in English by Murli Das Melwan.

* You can enter the competition at

John Dean

Reviews heap praise our ebooks

We love the ebooks we publish but don’t just take our word for it. Check out the excellent reviews that some of our ebook authors are receiving on Amazon ( the links should take you to the Amazon pages - may come up second in the list when you key the address in).

Harry’s Torment by Michael Beck

Harry’s Torment is set in the fictional east coast port of Thirlston and is centred on the heroin trade. Unlike some other crime novels this is not a ‘who done it’ as we very soon discover identity of the local drugs baron. We see how the officers try to piece together various bits of information in their pursuit of him and how he attempts to stay one step ahead of them. This takes place alongside a personal feud between two senior customs officials and this impacts upon one of the officers in particular as he is used as a pawn in their struggle. His close working relationships with a local detective inspector also causes problems and pressures for both parties as the story comes to a dramatic conclusion.
Reviews at


Cyber Rules by Myra King. The novel by Australian writer Myra tells the story of a farmer’s wife in isolated rural Australia. Caught up on the addictive side of the Internet, she holds a secret which may prove to be deadly. Price £2.05.

Reviews at

White Gold by Roger Barnes A thriller by first-time author Roger Barnes taking the reader into a world of intrigue and danger set amid the poachers of Africa. £2.23

Reviews at
* We have also published:
Lost Souls by Roger Barnes

When young women start to go missing in Africa, the kidnappers warn not to investigate but the police do and the women’s hideously mutilated bodies are returned. After that the investigations are stopped and a continuing flow of traumatised victims are returned alive, having being used in the most brutal and degrading ways.

This continues until another four are abducted and the British Government decides it must act and recommence the investigation, but this time using a very different approach. A Special Forces Major with an uncanny knack for finding people is teamed with an unorthodox politically incorrect police officer, and both are asked to volunteer to try and find them.

Global Shorts - an anthology of short stories taken from the early years of the Global Short Competition. Price £2.23

Vegemite Whiskers - a selection of some of the finest writing from Australian authors who have entered the Global Short Story Competition. Price £1.48.

Haghir the Dragon Finder by John Dean, a comic fantasy for older children. Haghir and his hopeless comrades are dragon slayers seeking a new challenge. £1.48.

All can be obtained by keying their titles into the search field of the Kindle shop at Australian readers will have to purchase via Amazon US at

* If you don’t have a Kindle, there is a free Kindle reading app for your PC at
John Dean



How's this for a reading list?

A team of experts have selected 35 of the best books around as part of World Book Night U.S, an ambitious campaign to encourage reading and giving.

A half million free paperbacks will be handed out across America all on one day — April 23, 2014 — by enlisting 25,000 volunteers to give the specially printed books to light or non-readers and those without the means or access to them.

The 35 World Book Night U.S. titles for 2014 were chosen by an independent panel of booksellers and librarians

Carl Lennertz, World Book Night U.S. Executive Director, said: "This year’s book selection is the most diverse ever, and we've increased the total number of picks this year to 35 in order to welcome in more authors and publishers. We have our first graphic novel, our first university press pick, and the first Asian-American authors. As before, we have a book in English and Spanish, and two of the picks will also be available in Large Print editions.”

The online application process opened up at 9 AM EST on October 24 for those wishing to become a volunteer book giver in America next spring, and continues through January 5, 2014. Applicants must state where and to whom they intend to give out their 20 WBN special paperbacks. Book descriptions, guidelines, and the online application are at

The 35 World Book Night U.S. titles for 2014, alphabetical by author, are:

The Zookeeper's Wife, Diane Ackerman (W.W. Norton)

Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain (Ecco)

The Weird Sisters, Eleanor Brown (Berkley)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky (Simon & Schuster)

After the Funeral, Agatha Christie (William Morrow Paperbacks)

The Ruins of Gorlan: Ranger's Apprentice Book 1, John Flanagan (Puffin Books)

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Jamie Ford (Ballantine Books)

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet in Large Print (Thorndike/Gale; Cengage Learning)

The Lighthouse Road, Peter Geye (Unbridled Books)

The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (Back Bay Books)

Wait Till Next Year, Doris Kearns Goodwin (Simon & Schuster)

Catch-22, Joseph Heller (Simon & Schuster)

The Dog Stars, Peter Heller (Vintage)

Hoot, Carl Hiaasen (Knopf)

Pontoon: A Novel of Lake Wobegon, Garrison Keillor (Penguin Books)

Same Difference, Derek Kirk Kim (First Second Books)

Enchanted, Alethea Kontis (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Miss Darcy Falls in Love, Sharon Lathan (Sourcebooks)

Bobcat and Other Stories, Rebecca Lee (Algonquin Books)

Young Men and Fire, Norman Maclean (University of Chicago Press)

Tales of the City, Armistead Maupin (HarperPerennial)

Waiting to Exhale, Terry McMillan (New American Library)

Sunrise Over Fallujah, Walter Dean Myers (Scholastic)

Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson (HarperTrophy)

The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan (Random House)

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs (Quirk Books)

When I Was Puerto Rican, Esmeralda Santiago (Da Capo)

Cuando Era Puertorriqueña, Esmeralda Santiago (Vintage Español)

Where'd You Go, Bernadette, Maria Semple (Back Bay Books)

Where'd You Go, Bernadette in Large Print (Thorndike/Gale; Cengage Learning)

Wild, Cheryl Strayed (Vintage)

Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (Grand Central Publishing)

Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein (Disney Hyperion)

This Boy's Life, Tobias Wolff (Grove Atlantic)

100 Best-Loved Poems, Philip Smith, ed. (Dover)

John Dean

A great time to enter the short story competition

Seven days to enter the October Global Short Story Competition and it‘s still quiet. I mean, really quiet. A great time to have a go at the £100 first prize. You can enter at

John Dean

In praise of Scandinavian storytelling

One of the great things about running this competition is the way that it connects you with the great literary traditions of the world.
Entries from North America remind you that it is credited with creating the short story, tales from Australia that there has long been a thriving writing community, stories from England that the country was home to William Shakespeare (now whatever happened to that lad, did he do OK for himself?), stories from Africa that the continent has a remarkable heritage when it comes to creating compelling stories, and so on.
And stories from Scandinavia? Well, this blog started because we have had one or two recent entries from that part of the world into the Global Short Story Competition.
Scandinavia has a proud literary tradition and it is one that goes back to the very birth of stories - storytelling.
For all storytelling can be a different art - watch a storyteller hold an audience in his or her thrall to see that - there are, of course, a great many affinities with the writing of fiction.
There is the creation of characters and places, of pace and tension, of evoking strong emotions in the reader/listener, of leaving people changed even if only in a small way. Both a storyteller and an author would regard that as job done.
I tried my hand at storytelling a few years ago. I was a real novice and relied on notes the first time I did it. The kids were ok but I felt it lacked something so I threw away the piece of paper and next time just winged it and let the stories tell themselves. It was a liberating experience and I was such a success that I was never asked back!
I cannot finish this blog, though, without pointing out, as a crime novelist, that Scandinavia has produced some of the very finest exponents of the genre in recent years.
Still time to enter the October competition at

John Dean

Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Jane Austen effect

Back in my student days, I studied the works of the great 17th/18th Century English writer Jane Austen and recall one scholar praising the way she worked like a fine artist painting on porcelain.
I know what he meant and so does the author of a story which came into the Global Short Story Competition today. Its use of details, sparingly but effectively, is terrific.
I have always believed that what differentiates good writing from less effective writing is detail; a look here, a colour there, an observation, a vivid phrase, they all lift the story of the page.
How do you do it? Well, for a start:
* Create details about character. Ask questions about your character. What does your character look like? How does he walk or talk? Does she part her hair? What kind of clothes does he wear? What nasty habits etc? And which facts are relevant? What matters, what does not?
* Create details about your settings. What does your character's living room look like? Is it messy or is it tidy? Are there paintings on the wall etc etc? Create details that bring the settings to life. A story comes alive when the reader can see, smell, taste, hear, and touch the world you’ve created. But if it does not matter that a certain painting is on the wall, don’t mention it.
* Observe and recount - tell the reader what a character is doing, what the weather is doing, if it’s getting dark.
Writing may have changed dramatically since Jane Austen’s day but details made the story then and, used judiciously, they do now.
Plenty of time to enter the October competition at (still a quiet one, a good time to go for the £100 first prize).

John Dean

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

In support of library campaign

UK crime novelist Peter James has launched a new initiative called the Author Fund designed to help authors support libraries and those who struggle with reading.
Authors are being encouraged to use their position to raise money for charity The Reading Agency and to support projects such as the Summer Reading Challenge.
Writers are being encouraged to hold bucket collections at events, to tweet and blog in support of the charity and to donate stories for use in competitions.
The Reading Agency said: “£5,000 could help The Reading Agency reach an additional 5,000 disadvantaged children through the Summer Reading Challenge, £10,000 could train 50 librarians to support adults taking the Six Book Challenge and £20,000 could create skills-boosting, reading-inspired volunteering opportunities for 2,000 young people in areas of high unemployment.”
The Author Fund has already gained the backing of authors including Neil Gaiman, Cressida Cowell, David Nicholls, Karin Slaughter, Andy McNab and Julian Barnes.
The Author Fund is supported using public funding by the National Lottery and Art Council England’s Catalyst programme.
This is a worthy campaign and you can find out more at

John Dean

Monday, 21 October 2013

Beginning in the middle

A wonderful example of the storyteller’s art came into the Global Short Story Competition over the weekend.

It started in the middle of something, effectively saying to the reader ‘ah, you’re here, well tag along, you’ll pick it up.’

Full of hints of drama, stories yet to be told, tragedies experienced, it kept the reader hooked to the very last word.

Plenty of time to enter this month’s competition at

John Dean

Latest free flash fiction competition is launched

We are launching our latest free flash fiction competition now that our poetry one has gone for judging. It’s a challenge - make us laugh or make us cry, make us feel wistful or make us feel angry, make us rebel or make us think, just as long as you make us feel something. And all in no more than 20 words.
Deadline January 20, 2014. Prize £50. You can enter at

Friday, 18 October 2013

An American tale

We had another short story from an American author entered into the Global Short Story Competition overnight.

America has a strong association with the short story and I had always been taught that the modern short story began with American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Then I came across the excellent web entry, which pays tribute to the role of magazines in the development of the form and suggests an earlier chronology:

l74l -- First American magazines appear: Andrew Bradford's American Magazine and Benjamin Franklin's General Magazine, and Historical Chronicle.

l789 -- Beginnings of short fiction in American magazines: "Azakia: A Canadian Story" in Monthly Miscellany and Vermont Magazine, "The Story of the Captain's Wife and an Aged Woman" in Gentleman and Lady's Town and Country Magazine 6 (Oct-Nov).

l8l5 -- The North American Review established. l8l9 -- Washington Irving's The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. published serially in the United States, and in volume form (l820) in England.

l82l -- The Saturday Evening Post established. l822 -- Irving's Bracebridge Hall: or, The Humorists published in England.

l824 -- Irving's Tales of a Traveller published in England.

l830-2 -- Nathaniel Hawthorne's earliest tales ("Provincial Tales" and "Seven Tales of My Native Land") published individually in Token, Salem Gazette, and Atlantic Souvenir.

Clearly, America has played a key role in the development of the genre for well over 250 years.

While we’re on the subject, I can heartily recommend the anthology containing some of the finest American short stories ever written, at

Plenty of time to enter the October competition at

John Dean

Spreading the word

Since the Global Short Story Competition launched almost six years ago, we have paid out more than £10,000 in prize money to writers from all over the world.
We have also watched with pleasure as the writing careers of many of our winners have developed and they have broken into print - indeed, we report on a few of them in these blogs.
Our commitment to short stories run deep but, since we are a small company who does not receive any subsidy and does not have a big marketing budget, our capacity to continue running the competition and paying out prize money is based on attracting entries. And that means making sure that people know about our competition site at
Which is why we thank each and every one of you who has promoted the competition on your blogs and social media sites. And why we would love you to keep doing so. Or give it a mention if you have not done so before.

John Dean 

Why short stories matter

I came across an interesting article on the BBC website the other day. It relates to their BBC National Short Story Award. Part of the article was quotes from celebrities about the importance of the short story in the modern world. Reading the comments makes for encouraging reading.
BBC Radio 4 broadcaster James Naughtie, who has acted chair of the judging panel, said: “The short story is still a writer's opportunity that offers something distinct and exciting. The best of them are alive with passion, perfectly crafted to make every word count and beautiful artefacts that can't be pulled apart. They are also tales for our time. A short story can sit happily on the ear, and on the page, on your phone, or your screen; it travels well and it fits into even the busiest life.“
Di Speirs, another panel judge, said: “Five years ago, there was a very real sense that the short story form was endangered. Year on year since, we have seen a resurgence of interest and commitment to the form from readers and listeners, and from publishers and authors. More published collections are crossing my desk and every year a broader church of writers recognise and respond to the unique appeal and deceptive simplicity of short fiction.”
Very true - we are indeed seeing a renaissance in the short story as people realise that, like a endangered animal, it would be a disaster if it disappeared.
And, for all we would not dare to compete with the might of Aunty Beeb, we would like to think that we at the Global Short Story Competition are playing at least a small role in the conservation effort!
Still plenty of time to enter the October competition at

John Dean

Good time to enter competition

It remains a quiet October Global Short Story Comp. Good time to have a go at the £100 first prize as the odds of winning improve. You can enter at

John Dean

And it's all free

Last day of our free poetry comp (£50 prize). Launching new free flash fiction comp next week. All at

Thursday, 17 October 2013

That's me, that is

We are half way through our October Global Short Story Competition and it’s been a fairly quiet start. For all that, the indications are that the quality will again be high.

I have written in my blogs before about writing with power and some of the stories have been terrific examples of that.

Good writing is good writing because it triggers responses in its readers. Readers say ‘I have been in that situation, ‘I know someone like that’, ‘what a terrible thing to be faced with’ etc etc.

If readers feel like that, it means that they are being drawn into the story. They stand next to your characters, they fear for what is about to happen, they simply must know what is on the next page.

If a reader does not really care what is happening in the story then you have lost them and your story has failed. But if they feel part of it, they are experiencing the sheer power of the writer. And that’s a terrific thing to achieve - and the way to impress publishers and competition judges.

Plenty of time to enter £(£100 first prize) at

John Dean

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Me, me, me and how to achieve it

So how do you persuade a publisher to read your work? Here’s some thoughts.

Preparing your manuscript
Most publishers have specific requirements for work that is being submitted. For example, some fiction publishers want to receive a sample chapter(s) and a brief synopsis of the plot, others prefer a full manuscript. Before you send a manuscript, it is a good idea find out what is required.

Usually, they want to see a manuscript that is double spaced, with generous margins, and printed on one side of the paper only.

The pages should be numbered. It is usually best not to bind or staple the manuscript; use a fastening that is secure but will allow the publisher to read it easily.

Sending your manuscript to a publisher
Accompany your manuscript with a brief covering letter. The main purpose of this letter is not to "sell" your manuscript, but simply to touch base with the publisher and provide them with your contact details.

You might wish to give a little bit of background about yourself and a short description of the manuscript. It may be worthwhile mentioning your publishing history. For example, if you have won a story competition or had short stories published in magazines this will be relevant. Include a stamped self-addressed envelope for the return of your manuscript.

Hearing back from publishers
Publishers receive many manuscripts so it is not surprising then that it can take some time to hear back.

Many publishers will send you a brief note when they receive your manuscript – often a pre-printed card – to say they have received the manuscript. Most publishers will take at least a month or two to look at your manuscript and get back to you, and some will take much longer.

If you have heard nothing after two or three months, and have not received an acknowledgement of receiving your manuscript, it may be worth ringing the publisher to make sure the package arrived.

Final tip? Don’t get too dispirited if the manuscript keeps coming back. Very few writers crack it first time.

John Dean

Speaking up for libraries

Here at Inscribe Media, we have always supported libraries (my father was a librarian and my crime novels are borrowed thousands of times a year) and it was good to see author Neil Gaiman say this week that closing libraries is ‘like stopping vaccinations‘, and that the ‘insidious‘ effects will be felt by our children.
Delivering the Reading Agency lecture at the Barbican centre in London, the Neverwhere author said it was the duty of all ‘human beings and citizens‘ to foster a love of reading in children.
Neil added that, while he felt sympathy for hard-pressed local authorities, ‘I feel more sympathy for people in towns and cities and rural areas who are now having information denied to them.’
As UK libraries fight for survival amid Government budget cuts, we applaud the stance taken by Neil Gaiman and many other authors like him.
Several years ago, the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA), of which I am a member, launched a campaign to help promote libraries at a time when the service is under such threat from public sector cutbacks (I was on the steering group that launched the initiative).
The CWA, which represents the interests of published crime writers, say that with millions of visits to UK libraries each year alone, it is crucial that authors help them to survive and thrive. The CWA campaign included asking all its members to consider staging at least three events in their local library each year.
As then CWA Chair, the best-selling crime novelist Peter James, said at the time: “We feel passionate about libraries and want to do everything that we can to help in these difficult times.”
All writers should echo those sentiments and those of Neil Gaiman. Not everyone can afford new books an libraries fulfil a crucial social function.

John Dean

Show and tell

There is a growing debate within writing circles about what has become known as ‘show and tell’.

No, this is not about small children excitedly showing manky things found on the beach to their classmates, rather an important writing technique.

The argument goes like this: for you to truly engage your reader, you must make them feel that they are there when the action is happening.

It matters because if you fail to draw your reader into the story, your tale will lack something, an immediacy, a sense of drama, a sense of narrative.

How do you do it? Think of it like this: reach out a hand to your reader and say ‘come into my world, walk alongside me.’ Make them feel it is really happening now and to them.

Do that and they are hooked,

John Dean

Monday, 14 October 2013

Reaching into the reader's mind

Continuing the theme of evoking reactions in your reader. Good writing is about triggers - words, phrases, images, places, sensations - that reach deep into the readers mind.

That reaction will be based on something the reader has actually experienced, or maybe something that the reader dreads ever having to experience. It is why horror and ghost stories work so well.

Yes, you are messing about with the readers head, yes, you may be forcing them to confront difficult truths, but isnt that sometimes what writing is about?

If every story, every book, was about sugary-sweet people in lovely situations, then writing could never really move the reader as it should.

So, yes, writing can, on occasion, make the reader feel uneasy, uncomfortable, scared even, but, lets be honest, isnt that sometimes the way we feel in our daily lives anyway? Its simply art reflecting reality.

John Dean

Aother quiet one

Another quiet start to the October Global Short Story Comp. Good time to have a go at the £100 first prize. More at

Time running out for free poetry competition

Five days to enter our latest free poetry competition (£50 prize) at

Are you sitting uncomfortably?

I am always struck by the way many writers are drawn to the very toughest of times in people’s lives and it is a theme to which I return after an entry into the October Global Short Story Competition over the weekend.
Brilliantly told from a first person point of view, it went into the head of a person whose thoughts were so disturbing that they made the skin crawl. And if the reader is so engaged it’s a powerful read, uncomfortable or not.
Story after story entered into our competitions focuses on tense moments, difficult encounters and powerful emotions and draws you into the drama so that you can feel the tension, experience the pain and empathise with those in the story (or recoil at their mindset).
I am always heartened when I read writing like that. Sometimes, you read a story and think, good set up, decent writing and yet something is missing. Something essential.
For me, if you are going to tackle a tough subject - serious illness, death, betrayal, separation - the best writing is the writing in which the author plunges him or herself deep into the action and drags the reader with them whether the reader wants to go or not.
And after that cheery message, a reminder that there is plenty of time to enter our October Global Short Story Competition at

John Dean

Friday, 11 October 2013

So what makes our winners winners?

When we announced the winners of the August Global Short Story Competition earlier this month, we passed £10,000 in prize money awarded since we started.

Cash prizes have gone to well over 150 writers from all across the world, who have either won the monthly competition or been highly commended, with a further 450-plus being commended. Many more have just missed out.

So what are they doing right? What makes a good short story? Well, it is all very subjective, of course, but what links them all is an ability to tell a story in a fresh and original way. It may be an ages-old theme but in the hands of the writer, it is recounted in a new way with new insights.

Many of the successful stories also had depth, a sense of substance, and all had believable characters and a strong sense of place, creating for the reader a sense that they were there.

A lot of them evoked reactions in the reader, surprising and challenging and sometimes even shocking.

Many also used humour well, the most successful ones doing it with a light touch, producing the funny lines and moving on.

All were tightly written and all had stories containing words each of which deserved to be there.

We also like to see stories from writers who take risks and push the boundaries of form, using different structures etc.

And they all started well. There’s little time to waste with the short story so it really does need to grab the attention from the first lines. It might be to do with language or subject matter, characterisation or structure, but it needs to draw the reader in right from the off.

Get some of these things right and you’re on the path to success.
Plenty of time to enter the latest competition at

John Dean

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Prize a shot in the arm for the short story

How brilliant that a writer best known for her short stories has today won the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature.
Making the announcement about Canadian author Alice Munro, Peter Englund, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, called her a "master of the contemporary short story".
The 82-year-old, whose books include Dear Life and Dance of the Happy Shades, is only the 13th woman to win the prize since its inception in 1901.
Presented by the Nobel Foundation, the award - which is presented to a living writer - is worth eight million kronor (£770,000).
Mr Englund said: “She has taken an art form, the short story, which has tended to come a little bit in the shadow behind the novel, and she has cultivated it almost to perfection."
Munro, who began writing in her teenage years, published her first story, The Dimensions of a Shadow, in 1950. She had been studying English at the University of Western Ontario at the time.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Getting back to basics

It’s always useful to go back to basics and refresh our memories from time to time. Here are some thoughts:

The rules of writing

Some general rules as you develop your story

* Consider the reader - do not write for yourself, always write for the reader.

* Be disciplined - you may wish to pack lots of information in but does the reader need it?

* You may not have put enough information in - you can imagine where a scene is set but have you given the reader the information they need? You may have drawn a character but can your readers see them?

* Be brutal - if you have overwritten, chop out the fat.

Rules of the short story

1 . The best stories are the ones that follow a fairly narrow subject line: too many plotlines and you end up with a novel!

2. An effective short story often covers a very short time span. It may be one single episode that proves pivotal in the life of the character.

3. Don't have too many characters. Each new character will bring a new dimension to the story, and too many diverse dimensions dilute the theme. Have only enough characters to effectively tell the story.

4. Make every word count. There is no room for unnecessary expansion in a short story. If each word is not working towards putting across the story, delete it.

John Dean

Putting together a short story

So how do you put together a good short story? Here’s some thoughts:
Beginning your short story

However you start your story, the beginning should have The Question, something that hooks your reader. You need to grab them from those first lines.

One way do to this is intrigue the reader. For instance, “Bill Bloggs was dead” may give the end away but the readers wants to find out why he died and if he deserved it.

The dropped introduction can also work: “Betty was a pleasant woman. She would do anything for anyone. Everyone liked old Betty. A true angel, they used to say. Which was why it was such a shock when she was killed by a Mafia hitman.”

There is another way of hooking readers, in which the writer can draw us in with the sheer quality of their writing, as in books like Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee.

Whatever you do, remember that all stories begin in the middle - the people you write about have already plenty of history. What you are doing is catapulting the reader into their life.

The middle of the story

The middle is there to keep the story going, fill in gaps, create tension and allow the story to develop but it should only be as long as if needed, not overwritten or underwritten.

Write your short story in a series of episodes, maybe only a few lines long. Short stories are a series of small chapters, maybe only a few lines but representing a development in the story.

This requires really effective writing because, whereas in a novel you might have eight or nine pages to recount an incident, that luxury simply does not exist in a short story.

If you take our competition, our limit for a story is 2,000 words. Sounds a lot but not if you let your episodes run too long.

So, how do you achieve such tight writing? Well, it might be that you describe a location in a line rather than a paragraph, produce only sparing details of your character or recount a conversation in four snatches of dialogue rather than a page.

Many winning short story authors in competitions around the world have been those who achieved such effective writing.

All of this is not to say that when you write a novel, you can waffle on to your hearts content. Indeed, the disciplines of short story writing can be invaluable when you tackle a novel. Whatever you write, every word must do its job. its a good mantra to live by.

The end of the story

There are all sorts of ways of ending a short story but the most popular is some kind of twist, something that startles the reader, or perhaps makes sense of the rest of the story.

On the other hand, you may go for a poignant ending. There is also a growing trend for stories that simply stop.

Any of these is fine.
John Dean

Monday, 7 October 2013

In the end

I write a lot of blogs about the importance of strong beginnings to stories and was going to write another one when a terrific first line featured in one of the stories in the October Global Short Story Competition.
Then I read to the end and the final line was great as well. Which got me thinking about endings.
There is no single method of ending a story. Many writers don’t know how their story will end as they write the story so the ending emerges as the story is revealed on the page.
Other writers know how the story will end before they begin so they can focus on the resolution as they write.
There is no right or wrong approach. Short stories or novels can end in many ways. Here are a few common ways in which writers conclude their fictional stories:
Twist Ending: Sometimes the writer concludes the story with a twist ending. Readers are lead to believe that a story will end in a particular way then it ends in a different way.
Resolving Action: Sometimes the story ends with some final action that brings an end to the conflict, complete finality. All the loose ends are tied up.
Ambiguous ending: The story ends but the reader is left wondering what will happen next.
Above all, when writing endings, avoid the tendency to summarize. Don’t tell the reader what to think about the story. Let them discover it themselves.
Plenty of time to enter the October competition at

John Dean

Friday, 4 October 2013

Reaching the world

From the UK to the US, India to New Zealand, the United Arab Emirates to Australia,
Norway to Ukraine, France to China, writers from all over the world are reading our blog here at We welcome you all.

Honours go to Norway and New Zealand in competition

Judge Fiona Cooper has selected her winners for the August Global Short Story Competition and writers from Norway and New Zealand have taken the honours.
The £100 first place prize goes to Seth Townley, of Bergen, Norway. Fiona says of Contemplating Breakfast: “I love it when a writer presents a bizarre scenario as completely normal and sustains this throughout the work, as this writer has done. The surreal lifestyle and totally grungy surroundings are presented with wry humour - this is what happens when life just knocks you down to the underbelly and you're just clinging on and shuffling through. Richard Farina wrote a book in the sixties called 'Been down so long it looks like up to me' and this story could very easily turn into linked scenes and anecdotes which would evolve into a very satisfying novel. Excellent.”
Sally Franicevich, of Auckland, New Zealand, is our £25 highly commended writer with her story Carole Anne. Fiona says: “This writer uses beautifully sparse and evocative language which creates a strong atmosphere from the first sentence. There is that uneasy edge which tells you that something has to go wrong somewhere, but for all that, there is enough surprise to keep the reader emotionally connected and involved. Engaging the five senses brings a story to life and evokes real emotional response and this story is well crafted and satisfying.”
The writers on the shortlist are:

Jonathan Elsom (for Blind Date)

Jonathan Elsom (for Many a Slip)

Philip Corwin, London, England

James Alexander Allen, Redhill, Surrey, England
Winning stories will be posted on where you can enter October’s competition.

Well done to our successful writers.

John Dean

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Winners to be announcd

We’ll announce the winners of the August Global Short Story Competition here tomorrow (Friday October 4).

The view from the author

Writers must make a major decision before they start writing: which viewpoint?
Most authors go for the conventional third person approach in the past tense. It is my natural instinct, too. I like it because it means I am standing above the action in the role of nebulous narrator.

I can look down and draw attention to events happening in various places, creating tension and variety. It works beautifully for novels: it can be very effective if my detective thinks someone is innocent and the reader knows the opposite.

However, many of the entries into the monthly Global Short Story Competition tell the story from one character’s viewpoint and there is a very strong argument that such an approach is the best one for short stories, that you simply do not have the space to develop different viewpoints.

But is that necessarily the case? As a novelist I use several viewpoints but can it work for short stories when space is so tight? I think so. I often use the example of an aspiring writer which whom I once worked. He told a story of a fishing vessel in wartime. It was moored in a bay when round the corner came a U-Boat. There followed a scene of drama as the attack was told from the crew’s viewpoint. Very nicely written it was, too.

But how much better, I contended, if the scene had been written rather like a film, flicking from viewpoint to viewpoint: a scene with the crew mooring up, a scene with U-boat appearing on the horizon, out of their view but seen to us as readers, then flicking between the scenes, contrasting the crew’s happy banter with the U-Boat crew’s deadly intent, until they came together for the climax of the story?

Other of our entries go for first person, still telling their stories in the past tense. Telling stories that way does give a certain intimacy to the writing, and encourages a more personal way of storytelling in many ways. Trouble is, unless you provide other first persons you are rather restricted to what ‘I’ experiences.

Then there are stories that make use of either first person or third person but tell their tales in the current tense. Don’t be put off by the fact that this is footballers’ favourite technique, along with plenty of cliches - ‘Billy slings the ball over to me and I leaps like a salmon and nods it, wallop, into the old onion bag” - this also can be very effective, giving the reader the strong impression that events are happening here and now.

And which one is right? Anyone who has been reading my blogs, or talked to an author, or attended a creative writing class will know that there is no right, no wrong. If it works as a technique for you, use it.

John Dean

Getting the structure right

One thing that is interesting me at the moment is structure and it is fascinating to see how the writers sending in stories to the Global Short Story Competition the address the problem.

Many of you go for the traditional idea of a beginning, middle and an end told in simple narrative form but a significant number opt for flashback.

Both are effective although flashback does carry the gamble with it that you know what happens at the end of the story. Nevertheless, flashback can work very well. Just look at the Colombo television detective show to see how knowing the end does not ruin the enjoyment of the rest of the story.

A number of you opt for diary entries, taking the story day by day. I think this is a terrific way to do it because it gives your story a natural structure right from the off.

Diaries were hugely popular as a fictional tool in the 19th and 20th Centuries and had started to die off a little before Bridget Jones returned the genre to mass appeal in the Nineties.

I think that another reason why diaries are so popular is the Net and the way writers are increasingly using the structure and language of blogs and emails to tell their stories.

Of course, one drawback with diaries is you can only tell the story from one viewpoint so cannot switch to other scenes, other people etc. But in the short story, the single viewpoint approach can work brilliantly.

* You can enter the October competition at

John Dean.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

New short story competition opens for entries

The October Global Short Story Competition has opened for entries.

Launched more than five years ago, the competition runs every month with a £100 first prize and a £25 prize for highly commended writers.

The competition, which has topped £10,000 in prize money handed out, has had

entries from more than 50 countries over the years.
Each month’s competition is judged by Fiona Cooper, an author in North-East England, where the competition’s organisers Inscribe Media are also based. The competition can be entered at

* Inscribe Media is also running a free poetry competition at its Facebook page at or accessed through The deadline is October 18.