Beyond the Stars

How to Write Short Stories (and Win Writing Competitions)

ghb comp
ghb comp

Want to win the Beyond the Stars Short Story Competition and be published along with Eoin Colfer, Judi Curtin and Derek Landy? Or simply want to find out how to write a brilliant story? Then read on.

1/ Before you start writing, think about your story and your characters. Go for a walk and mull it all over in your head, then grab a notebook and start scribbling down some ideas.

2/ You could start with your own memories or things that have happened to you or a friend – as this is what will make your story different. For example: Is there a favourite place you love to hide? Do you have a tree house or a club house? Have you ever had a fight with your best friend?

3/ Or try using a traditional story as your starting point and re-write it in a new or unusual way eg an Irish or English (or Welsh or Scottish) Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, based in your home town. You could re-write a traditional legend using modern characters and setting.

4/ Your characters can be children, teenagers, giants, talking animals or astronauts – the sky is the limit. But make them realistic and give them carefully thought out names that suit who they are. Think of Matilda, Charlie and James in Dahl’s books. The Harry Potter books are full of great names, as are Cathy Cassidy’s books.

5/ Once you have mapped out your main characters (for a short story don’t use too many main characters – two or three is plenty), and your plot, give your story an exciting or intriguing opening. Start at the point where the action begins – you don’t need to add back story. Avoid any long descriptions, readers will be eager to learn what happens in the story, not what the sky looks like.

6/ Think about the setting of your story – where will it take place? And add details – icicles, food. Use your senses to add depth to the tale – smell, taste, touch. What does the forest/back garden smell like?

7/ Conflict is vital in any story. Without the Big Bad Wolf, Little Red Riding Hood wouldn’t be a very interesting story. Think of the favourite traditional tales – Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, even Pinocchio – they are full of larger than life characters and HUGE emotions. Love, hate, revenge . . . think big and don’t be afraid to use strong emotions.

8/ Keep rewriting the story until it’s as good as you can make it. I rewrite each of my Ask Amy Green books many times before handing them over to my editor. And finally, ask a trusted friend to look over your work before you submit, a second pair of eyes can make all the difference.

Good Luck!

Yours in writing, Sarah XXX

(Editor of Beyond the Stars)

This post first appeared on the Girls Heart Books website.

All Star Irish Line Up - Beyond the Stars - to Support Fighting Words

Roddy Doyle
Roddy Doyle

Harper Collins Press Release HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISH ALL STAR IRISH LINE UP IN SUPPORT OF RODDY DOYLE’S CREATIVE WRITING CENTRE AND SEEK NEW TALENT TO COMPLETE THE COLLECTION HarperCollins is delighted to announce the acquisition of Beyond the Stars, a collection of short stories from a stellar line up of Irish authors and illustrators, edited by bestselling author Sarah Webb. World rights were acquired by Publishing Director Ruth Alltimes from Philippa Milnes-Smith of the Lucas Alexander Whitley Agency.  All profits will go to Fighting Words, the centre for creative writing set up in Dublin in 2009 by Roddy Doyle and Sean Love. Based on David Eggers’ US-based 826 Valencia project and run by volunteers, it offers free creative writing tuition to children. Beyond the Stars features twelve tales of adventure, magic and wonder, written by some of the most outstanding talents in children’s fiction today, including John Boyne, Eoin Colfer, Judi Curtin, Roddy Doyle, and Derek Landy, with stunning illustrations from the likes of Chris Haughton, Chris Judge, P. J. Lynch and Niamh Sharkey. It will be published as a gorgeous hardback gift edition in October 2014. The Irish authors have contributed eleven short stories and to complete the book HarperCollins is launching a search for the twelfth and final winter-themed tale, to be written by a child between the ages of 8 and 16. The competition closes at the end of June 2014 and the final choice will be made by a panel of experts and illustrated by Irish Children’s Laureate, Niamh Sharkey. The winner will have the chance to work with an editor and see their story published; their school will also win a selection of books for their school library. Full details can be found at Ruth Alltimes said, ‘We are proud to be able to support the wonderful work done by Fighting Words and to bring our publishing passion to a project which builds on the strong relationship we have with Irish talent. Sarah Webb and the writers and illustrators involved have been extremely generous with their work and time – it is truly a creative writing project from the heart, and we’re delighted to be part of it.’ Sarah Webb said, ‘It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with some of the best children’s writers and illustrators on Beyond the Stars. I am extremely grateful for their support. I can’t wait to see the competition winner’s story nestling alongside their stunning work – what a prize!’ Roddy Doyle said, ‘Fighting Words is not state funded, and our existence is dependent on people who believe passionately in what we do – like the writers and illustrators of these brilliant stories. We are especially grateful to a great friend of Fighting Words, Sarah Webb, the creative and driving force behind this wonderful collection.’

Issued by: Mary Byrne, Publicist, HarperCollins Children’s Books T. 020 8307 4541  E. Rights Enquiries: Carla Alonzi, Head of Rights, HarperCollins Children’s Books T. 020 8307 4289  E. NOTES TO EDITORS • HarperCollins UK publishes a wide range of books, from cutting-edge contemporary fiction, to block-busting thrillers, from fantasy literature and children’s books to enduring classics. It also publishes a great selection of non-fiction titles, including history, celebrity memoirs, biographies, popular science, dictionaries, maps, reference titles and education books, and its digital business is thriving. With nearly 200 years of history HarperCollins publishes some of the world’s foremost authors, from Nobel prizewinners to worldwide bestsellers. In addition it publishes the works of Agatha Christie, JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. It was the first major UK trade publisher to go carbon neutral in December 2007. HarperCollins Children’s Books is one of the leading publishers of children’s books, recognised for nurturing new talent as well as boasting a reputable list of established best-selling authors. Respected worldwide for its tradition of publishing quality, award-winning books for young readers, HarperCollins is home to many children’s classics, including The Chronicles of Narnia, Hello Kitty, the Paddington stories, The Cat in the Hat and The Tiger Who Came to Tea, and to some of the biggest names in children’s literature past and present, including J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S.Lewis, Dr. Seuss, David Walliams, Derek Landy, Louise Rennison, Lauren Child, Judith Kerr, Oliver Jeffers and Michael Morpurgo.