Write and Submit a Short Story

The course

Watch your story ideas come to life

This course guides you from initial ideas for a short story through drafting and finessing to submitting a piece to 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, and cover all the writing nuts and bolts – from viewpoint, character, dialogue and body language to transitioning between story stages. 

Working in a small group of dedicated writers, led by award-winning (Saboteur Short Story Collection Prize winner) short-story writer Susmita Bhattacharya, you’ll join live sessions with a guest author as we close-read and discuss one of their stories as a group. And there are masses of weekly 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 and competition judges and a live session with an industry editor.

In partnership with New Writing North

We partner with writing development agency New Writing North to help develop creative writing talent in the North of England with programmes to inspire and engage writers and readers.

New Writing North are offering 10 discounted bursary places, on this course across 2024 as part of the North of Tyne Cultural Skills Programme.

If you are based in the North of Tyne, access more information on the bursary here.

Things to know

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.

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.

Each course is divided into sessions. These sessions are released one by one (weekly or fortnightly, depending on the course). 

There’s no need to log on at a set time. You can work through the learning materials whenever suits you, day or night, wherever you are in the world. Just complete the assignments and join forum discussions by the session deadline. 

Our teaching method is based on the science of active learning: you read/listen/watch, try out, share and reflect. It’s a social experience – you become part of a small group, feeding back on each other’s writing to build a supportive bunch of readers you trust. Find out more here.

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 session live 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 live group Zoom 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 with a guest editor, for advice on the industry and how to get your work noticed.

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.

Your tutor will give individual written feedback on the story you submit (as a tracked changes document) and you’ll have a chance to discuss this in a one-to-one tutorial, where you can ask the questions you need to progress your writing.

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 the New Writing North site. 

This course is open to writers all over the globe.  If you are based anywhere else in the world, you can buy the course now. 

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 a 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.

Taking things further
If you’d like to continue on to another Professional Writing Academy course, please get in touch for more details.

The team

Meet your course team

Susmita Bhattacharya

Susmita Bhattacharya

Short to Long Fiction

Susmita has been a professional writer and teacher since 2005. She has been shortlisted for, and won, numerous prizes and awards. Her work has been commissioned by magazines, as well as for BBC Radio 4. She currently lectures in Contemporary Fiction on the Masters Programme at Winchester University.

More about Susmita Bhattacharya

Course Alumni

Meet our writers

Joanne Harrison

I really enjoyed this course and it surpassed my expectations. It was really well structured, there was lots of really inspiring content and it built up gradually to writing a short story. There were lots of opportunites for writing, and regular submission dates meant you had to stay on track. The Zoom sessions made it much more personal than a regular online course and these were particularly enjoyable. Would definitely recommend.

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