When I was in my teens at school, but didn’t write seriously (with a view to becoming a published author) until I was in my 30s.
Do you write with an audience in mind?
Yes. If you want to be published I think it’s important to do that. I like to see my stories in print, so I usually write with a publisher and their audience in mind.
Would you be happy to outline your writing process?
I don’t really have one. The only thing I try and do with every story, is to write with an end in mind. If you don’t know how a story might end, it’s hard to drive it in the right direction and therefore it can turn into a mess.
What are your favourite short stories? Why?
There are SO many chose from… One of my favourite short stories is ‘Zombies on a Boat’ by Mel Ciavucco. I love it because it’s very funny and pushes the boundaries of taste while managing to appeal to a wide and varied audience – it’s perfectly pitched.
Do you get people to read your work before the final draft is sent off?
Yes. Always. You have to. Proof-readers don’t just pick up typos, they point out issues with the story itself. I belong to a writing group in Bristol and we all read and critique each other’s work and that results in more publishing success for all of us. It’s easy to get too close to a story when writing it and become blind to errors. You need to have it proofread by others.
What advice would you give aspiring short story writers?
Never give up. If your first story sucks, bin it and write another. The more you write, the more you learn. Keep on writing.
How would you define ‘good’ writing?
The story and characters come first. The style comes second – a writing style or technique should complement a great story.
How does a short story differ from a novel, aside from length?
A short story needs to be fast paced and engaging – you have little time for character development. Every word counts. So a short story will often be about one event and a small number of characters, where a novel could be about multiple characters and contain sub-plots to support the main storyline.
What are the most important things to consider when writing a short story?
The reader. Write something that will entertain and engage them. Don’t write for yourself, unless you want to be the only person that reads your stories.
Finally, what do you think the short story does better than any other form?
It can deliver great depth and meaning in a surprisingly succinct manner, when written well.
Christopher Fielden is author of the acclaimed thriller Wicked Game. He has also had a number of short stories published and his website is of great help to aspiring writers. His book How to Write a Short Story is an invaluable guide for short story writers.
Rupert Dastur is a writer, editor, and founding director of TSS Publishing. He studied English at Emmanuel College, Cambridge and is Associate Editor at The Word Factory, a leading short story organisation based in London. He’s also Events Coordinator for the Society of Young Publishers (London) and Curator for WritingCompetitions.org. His own work has appeared in a number of places online and in print and he is currently working on his first novel.