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Short stories aren’t just easier versions of the novel. They’re a broad, complex and rewarding art form in their own right. Writers’ HQ’s new online writing short story course will help you see the bigger picture and compress it into short stories with real punch.

Short stories have been here since the dawn of time. Based in the oral tradition (stop sniggering at the back), they’re the apocryphal family legends our grandmas/weird uncle used to tell us over Christmas dinner; they’re the school-yard urban myths; the sleepover ghost stories; the soliloquies in our diaries; the wine-soaked rants to that random person you cornered in the kitchen at that party after so-and-so dumped you. Short stories are all around us. <cue X-Files theme>

But super short stories are not super easy for writers, natch. In fact, the shorter your story becomes, the harder it is to distil what really matters onto the page. I would have written a shorter letter, so the famous quote goes, but I didn’t have the time.

So what makes truly great short fiction? The kind that leaves you dribbling, slack-jawed, slap-faced when you finish it. The kind you remember forever, like some weird dream-memory. Well. We can’t write it for you, but we can give you a nudge, a shove, and a poke with a sharp stick (whatever floats your boat) to help you on your way. With the help of writing prompts, advice from award-winning short fiction writers, inspiring exercises, and our awesome little online community, you’ll come out the other side at least one fully formed short story to call your very own.

 

Course Curriculum

Week 0
READ: Excuse me while I flash FREE 00:10:00
How long should a short story be?
EXERCISE: So this one time, at bandcamp… FREE 00:30:00
From anecdote to short story
READ: Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin FREE 01:30:00
What's your fundamental chicken nugget of truth?
VIDEO: Paul McVeigh asks how long a short story takes to write FREE 00:05:00
20 seconds? 300 years? Something like that.
EXERCISE: Crack it open and see what’s inside FREE 01:30:00
Not for the faint-hearted. This is where the therapy really begins...
Next week & useful resources FREE 00:10:00
Who likes short stories? WE LIKE SHORT STORIES!
Week 1
Read: Character + Conflict = Story 00:30:00
What's the basic building block of a story and how do you make it?
Exercise: Ooh taboo! 00:30:00
Let's make it awkward
Read: Layers 00:45:00
Conflict analysis for people with no time for literary criticism
Examples: let’s read some stories 00:30:00
Productive procrastination time! Our top picks of short stories to make you FEEL
Exercise: Capture a character at bursting point 00:30:00
Time to start building your story...
Week 2
READ: Where to start. Beginning, middle or end? 00:30:00
Where does your story begin? And we don’t mean the literal beginning, we mean the ACTUAL beginning. Oh, just read the damn thing and you’ll see what we’re on about.
EXERCISE: Get in, get out 00:30:00
Arrive fashionably late, leave mysteriously early…
READ: How much can you leave out? 00:30:00
Once upon a time, stuff happened, the end.
EXAMPLES: Ready read read 01:00:00
Remembering Argos by Lee Bemrose, Glass by Roxane Gay, and The Family by Tania Hershman
EXERCISE: Time for a threeway 00:30:00
Oh my gosh, you’re making us blush. We meant take the same story and write it three different ways. YOU have a dirty mind.
Week 3
READ: Character, setting, action 00:30:00
The literary devil is in the details, yo.
EXERCISE: The past, present and future walked into a bar… 00:30:00
It was tense.
EXAMPLES: Moar reading! 00:45:00
'In This Room Where We Practice Dying Every Night' by Leesa Cross-Smith and 'The White' by Berit Ellingsen
VIDEO: Structure and experimentation 00:30:00
Sean Preston and Vanessa Gebbie scoop the dirt on story structure
EXERCISE: Don’t think. Just Write. The voice will come. 00:30:00
Let everything you've learned so far go and JUST FRICKIN' WRITE.
Week 4
READ: Character drives plot. Plot develops character. 00:30:00
How to create a realistic person in the space of a few thousand words.
EXERCISE: In which identity theft is a totally valid method of characterisation 00:30:00
Officer! Officer! Someone's stolen my personality!
EXAMPLES: Reeeeeeead 00:45:00
War Dances by Sermal Alexia and Words from a Glass Bubble by Vanessa Gebbie
READ: Character & Dialogue 00:30:00
What they say, what they want, and how they react to the shit you throw at them.
READ: Playing with status 00:00:00
Anything you can do, I can do better
Week 5
READ: Remember Week 0 (and 1, and 2, and 3, and 4…)? 01:00:00
What’s the fundamental central truth of your story? Huh? Huh?
EXERCISE: Is it worth it? 00:30:00
Let me work it, flip it and reverse it.
READ: Redrafting like a mofo 00:30:00
How does a story get from first draft to last draft?
READ: Cut the fluff 00:45:00
Re-arrange structure. Tweak the twiddly bits. Editing 101.
VIDEO: Don’t give up – find your theme 00:00:00
How to find your own little niche on the short fiction bookshelf
Week 6
READ: Sooo, there’s this great big enormous world of short fiction out there 00:30:00
And you bet your arse you’ve got a story worth publishing
EXERCISE: Find a lit mag 00:45:00
And call it home.
READ: What do editors and competition judges actually want? 00:30:00
Only your SOUL!
EXERCISE: Pick a theme, any theme 00:40:00
And use a deadline as motivation.
READ: One last treatise on short fiction 00:40:00
On getting into the routine of subbing stories, dealing with rejection, and developing your work

Course Reviews

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  1. Profile photo of Katherine

    Excellent course

    This course is well designed and strikes a great balance between challenge and enjoyment. The course leader is responsive, and quick to respond with a mixture of encouragement and constructive criticism. Highly recommended.

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