Write and Submit a Short Story
Date: Online courses starting: 15 May 2023; 2 October 2023
Cost: £750 / £300 (bursary places available)
Type: Online Writing Course , Writing and Publishing Skills Hub
A practical course for short story writers
This course guides writers from initial ideas for a short story through drafting and finessing to the submissions process for competitions and journals. We’ll start by working on inspiration and ways to tune yourself into the small details that bring a story idea to life. Then, we’ll look at how to tell a story at sentence level and thematically, cover all the nuts and bolts from viewpoint, character, using dialogue and body language to transition between story stages.
Working in a small group of dedicated writers, led by tutor Susmita Bhattacharya, there will be live sessions with guest authors as we close-read and discuss one of their stories as a group, plus masses of writing prompts, including using found sounds, art and the pictures on your phone as a story starter. Finally, you’ll have two weeks to write a complete story (up to 3,000 words) and learn about the submissions process, with tips from award-winning writers, editors and competition judges.
Duration: 7 weeks
Skill level: Intermediate
Bursary places for North of Tyne residents
Our funding from North of Tyne Combined Authority allows us to offer 60% off the price of this course for residents of Newcastle upon Tyne, North Tyneside and Northumberland.
Susmita Bhattacharya, course director
Susmita Bhattacharya’s collection of short stories Table Manners won the Saboteur Short Story Collection Prize in 2019, finalled at the DLF Hall & Woodhouse Literary Prize and was serialised on BBC Radio 4. She leads short fiction workshops at festivals and universities, and has judged many short-story competitions. Her memoir won the Winchester Writer’s Festival Memoir Prize in 2016 and her novel The Normal State of Mind was longlisted for the Words to Screen Prize at the Mumbai Association of Moving Images (MAMI) festival in India.Currently, she is working on her second novel.
She teaches short fiction at Winchester University, facilitates writing for young people with ArtfulScribe (an ACE funded project), and is a mentor supporting global majority writers for the Middle Way Mentoring project.
She was writer-in-residence for The Word Factory in 2021.
“In six weeks I’ve gone from being terrified to share my writing to looking forward to posting it up for others to read, so a huge thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way!”
- Shelley, Alumni
Full course information
Who is the course for?
This course is designed for short story lovers or writers who want to gain new skills and find a ‘home’ for their work.
It’s suitable if you:
- Are a short fiction writer who wants to hone or refresh your technique, writing or voice
- Have previously taken a beginners’ writing course or would like to continue developing your skills, and don’t feel ready to attempt a novel
- Are a novel writer wanting to try something different, or work on short fiction as a way to explore ideas and overcome blocks during the long haul of writing a novel
- Consider yourself an avid short story reader and listener who would like to try your hand at writing
- Want to broaden your palette of fiction craft skills
- Are preparing for a short story competition or journal submission
- Have already entered competitions and feel that your work is plateauing, and would like help to get to the next stage
- Enjoy the discipline of deadlines and peer feedback
- Can dedicate 5-7 hours per week for the duration of the course
- Want to join a friendly and supportive small group of learners
What will I learn?
This course allows you to:
- Start exploring different types of short fiction
- Find inspiration and ways to attune yourself to details that can turn into stories
- Learn the importance of showing not telling, and other techniques to finesse short fiction
- Get your story ready to submit to competitions or journals
- Gain the confidence to send a story out into the world
- Trust your instinct when selecting and developing ideas
- Become a more effective writer, for recreation and at work
- Develop the transferable skills writers require (eg discipline, attention to detail, ability to work to deadlines)
- Practise giving feedback to other writers and receiving responses to your work
- Build greater independence, autonomy and judgement as you work on a final assignment
What are the sessions?
Session 1: Immerse Yourself
We’ll start by focusing on reading lots of different types of short stories, asking what kind of short fiction appeals to you and what makes you want to write. We’ll look at keeping a journal and a daily senses diary, working on one sense per day to attune yourself to the small details of everyday life that bring a story to life.
You’ll meet your group and tutor for a live session on Zoom.
Session 2: Finding Inspiration
What do you do with all the details you’ve noticed and read? We’ll explore story-starter prompts, including sounds, ways to play with stories at sentence level, working from themes and thinking about why stories work. On the craft technique side, you’ll practise show not tell and the art of reading a story aloud.
Session 3: The Nuts and Bolts
This week is all about character and setting in short fiction. You’ll experiment with character-building techniques, and take a look at a setting through a character’s eyes. We’ll look at stereotyping in character-creation and ways to think differently, especially around cultural appropriation. Have fun playing with Hollywood gender roles, and transporting a setting from your own experience into a story.
This week, there will be a group session with a guest writer to read and discuss one of their stories.
Session 4: Seeing Differently
Let’s talk about point of view and dialogue. We’ll experiment with different ways to present thoughts and speech on the page, and look at the role of dialogue and body language in making transitions in a story. You’ll write an exchange between two inanimate objects.
Session 5: Story Structure
Focus on openings and endings. We’ll look at masses of openings and ask what makes a good (and dull) start to a short story. You’ll explore life experience and how to develop a fictional structure from something that happened to you, and examine why ‘real’ structures don’t make a good story form. What makes a satisfying ending? Your tutor will give you feedback on the start of a story.
Session 6: Find Your Place
Demystifying the competition and journal submission process, and thinking about when you’re ready to go for it. We’ll offer lists of places to submit, with pointers, plus tips and advice from judges and writers.
This session lasts 2 weeks to allow you time to draft, peer critique, and complete a short story of up to 3,000 words. There will also be a Group Q&A on Zoom for tutor advice on your story and next steps.
At the end of the course we’ll run an open mic session to encourage participants to read their work to the group and develop the confidence needed to power a submission.
How much time do I need to commit to this course?
You will need to put in around 5-7 hours each week. The deadline for posting your final assignment each week is the end of Saturday. The deadline for giving feedback to others is the end of Sunday. Other than that, you can work through the course materials each week at your own pace.
What time will I need to log on?
There’s no need to log in at a set time to take part – sessions open to a timetable and you have until the end of each session to work through the materials in the online classroom.
So you can read the tutor notes and listen to the podcasts, watch the videos, analyse extracts, react to prompts and work through mini-exercises at any time of day or night that’s best for you. You can also contribute to discussions on our forums 24/7, so the online classroom feels like a rich and lively shared experience.
Most people on the course fit learning around their work and caring responsibilities, which is why we teach in this non-synchronous way. It also suits those studying in another language, and offers advantages in terms of accessibility and different learning styles. We ask that you submit your final exercise in each session by the deadline, then read and critique the work of some of your peers.
If there are live Zoom sessions in your course, your moderator will let you know the timing. If you can’t make it, you can send in questions in advance and catch up with the recording afterwards. Past sessions and any recordings remain available throughout the course – and in the alumni area afterwards – so you can revisit any of the learning, revise exercises and chart your progress at any point.
What happens after the course?
Join our alumni community
After your course, you can join our online alumni community – a friendly group of writers supporting each other as they continue to explore and develop their writing. There’s no cost for this. It’s easy to access via the online classroom, where you can:
- Revisit all your courses materials, including tutor notes, feedback, videos, podcasts and forum posts
- Rejoin your classmates, and continue working together in a private space
- Meet alumni from other courses to find beta-readers and share work on our critiquing forum
- Network with other writers working in your genre or area of interest
- Take part in regular ‘sit and write’ Zoom sessions, to push forward with your work-in progress
- Join our monthly live alumni events with our expert tutors and industry guests, including agents, editors, publishers, competition and festival organisers, and prizewinning writers
Commission a report on your work
If you’d like to receive a personalised, detailed report on your final piece of writing from your course tutor, this is available at an extra cost. You’ll receive detailed written feedback assessing your ideas and writing, plus advice on what steps to take next.
If you are a writer based in North of Tyne, you may be eligible for a bursary discount through New Writing North.
You can submit your application through this site.
This course is open to writers all over the globe. If you are based anywhere else in the world, you can buy now here.
How it works
We give you the theory in the form of videos, podcasts, written lectures and reading extracts.
You put it into practice by completing the writing assignments.
You share your work with the small group of fellow writers and the teaching team.
Your tutor and fellow learners read your work and give professional-style feedback on your submission. Giving feedback notes helps to build your skills as an editor – a critical part of the writing process.
You reflect on the exercises with the group and share what you’ve learned.
Review and Improve
You use what you learned from the feedback and discussions to review your work and improve it.
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