Woman’s Weekly Fiction Editor Gaynor Davies shares her expert advice on how to write a short story
How long should a short story be?
When writing a ONE-PAGE short story for Woman’s Weekly, make sure the word count is between 970 and 1,000 words long. We also publish longer short stories – up to 8,000 words, please see our general guidelines.
Why do people like short stories?
People like to have something they can pick up and read in a few minutes when they’re on the go. Be it travelling on a bus or relaxing in a bath, a short story can offer the reader a moment of escapism and that makes them very special.
What’s special about short stories?
All fiction should absorb the reader, drawing them into the story with the plot and creating believable characters and dialogue. Short stories are particularly engaging because of their length, they are intense tales that can be told succinctly. Writers of short stories often begin by setting up a question in the reader’s mind. The answer is then alluded to throughout the story with leading clues until the ending, when the question is finally answered.
Do all short stories need a plot twist?
Short stories don’t need a plot twist to captivate the reader but if you are building up to a revelation at the end, don’t let the story fall short of the reader’s expectations. Try to avoid shocking surprises, like husbands buried under the patio, or unresolved endings like, ‘She woke up and realized it was all just a dream’…
What are the most common mistakes writers make?
The easiest mistake to make as a short story writer is to give away too much information at the beginning. Establish the main character in the first couple of sentences and then drip feed the reader information throughout the story.
Just make sure you don’t mention how the short story will end in your covering letter, as it will spoil the surprise for Gaynor and the fiction team when they read your story.
Does the writer need to know how their story will end?
Every short story is written differently and only you, as the writer, can know how to start writing your story. Some writers plan their work meticulously, plotting the beginning, middle and end without deviating from their original plot. Other writers will begin their short stories with the opening sentence and just keep writing from there.
Even with twist in the tale stories, writers often know how they want the story to end but this can easily change along the way.
It’s all part of the fun, so have a go and send your short stories (with word count) to:
Time Inc (UK)
161 Marsh Wall
- We only read typescripts, handwritten work cannot be considered.
- Double line spacing on one side of the paper only and with wide margins.
- Name and number each page.
- Enclose an SAE with your submission if you’d like us to acknowledge receipt of you manuscript.
- Please note that it can take up to sixteen weeks for stories to be considered and that we are unable to enter into any correspondence by email.
Join one of our Fiction Workshops and get great advice from Gaynor and our other guest writers.