Award Winning Writer Emily Devane Gives Her Top Writing Tips

Emily Devane

We’re excited to have award winning writer, Emily Devane, share her writing tips. Try them and see if they make a difference to your writing. If you fancy learning more and brushing up your skills, Emily is leading a Comma Press short story writing course in Leeds from 31st May. Details are at the end of this article.

1. Look for interesting things. Find story inspiration by getting off the main thoroughfares (to paraphrase Max Sebald). Listen to the radio, follow the news, look inside an old book, visit a museum, eavesdrop on people in the supermarket queue – inspiration comes from everything and everywhere. Pay attention, and the ideas will come.

2. Get the first draft out, however messy, then look back and ask yourself: what’s this about? Cut what you don’t need – but be sure to keep in the magic.

3. Start as close to the end as possible and leave early. Between those points, find a moment where change becomes possible, or at least imaginable, for your character. Think of the plot in terms of movement – what is different by the end?

4. Keep the reader in the picture. Establish the key elements – people, place and purpose – as soon as possible and don’t be deliberately mysterious (unless the plot requires it). According to Kurt Vonnegut: ‘Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.’

5. Short story writing is a craft, but don’t feel limited by ‘rules’. Be bold, experiment, and try new things. Take risks with form, content, style and structure. Write the story only you could write.

6. Use all of your senses when writing and the reader will have a deeper, richer reading experience. Strong imagery is especially powerful, but the reader will respond to a range of sensory details, so include (where appropriate) sounds, sensations, taste and smell.

7. Read, read, read… The best writers are readers, too. Take a story you like and type it out, sentence by sentence, noticing how the sentences are built. You can learn so much from reading great stories and seeing what’s possible.

Comma Short Story Course

Are you still trying to get that first draft down or looking for feedback from peers? Then join Emily Devane as she leads Comma’s friendly short story writing course at the Hyde Park Book Club in  Leeds on 31 May, 6-8pm.

Book here:

Emily Devane is an award-winning writer, editor and teacher living in Ilkley, West Yorkshire. Her short fiction has been widely published, most recently in Ambit, Smokelong Quarterly, Best Microfiction Anthology (2021) and Bath Short Story Award Anthology (2021). She has just been shortlisted for the Mogford Prize. she is a past winner of the Bath Flash Fiction Award, a Word Factory Apprenticeship and a Northern Writers’ Award, and her work has been nominated for Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions and a Pushcart Prize. Emily has a PGCE and is an experienced teacher and facilitator. She is also an editor at FlashBack Fiction, an online journal for historical flash fiction. She co-runs Word Factory’s Strike! Short Story Club alongside Divya Ghelani.

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