Tips for Aspiring Writers

Last month, we launched our markets-inspired short story competition, which runs until June 30th. Below, author Tamara Pollock (who is also one of the competition judges), gives some top tips on getting your story ready for submission. 

Interested in taking part? Read on for competition details.

Picture of writer Tamara Pollock
Writer and competition judge Tamara Pollock

Tamara’s Top Tips

Congratulations on your decision to enter, we can’t wait to read your story!

Here are some writing tips – feel free to adopt or ignore them, it’s YOUR piece of fiction.

  1. Hit the ground running

Perhaps you have a good idea for a story. Perhaps you’ve already filled your index cards with an outline of your primary character and now it’s time to put the two together. So what next?

In a short story there is no time for opening the front door, leaving the house, getting into the car, driving, parking the car, getting out of the car and entering the supermarket only to find (drum roll, beginning of your story) that a young man is standing in the fruit section with a bomb strapped to his waist. Chances are your readers will never get to the fruit section because they’ll be asleep.

Begin your story in the fruit section.

2. Know your characters. It may help to base your character on someone you know. Consider their age, occupation, loves, hates, nasty habits, physical appearance, what embarrasses or pleases them. The reader doesn’t have to know all that stuff, but you do.

3. Conflict Stick to one storyline, one conflict. Keeping it simple will make it easier to write.

4. Show don’t tell. You will have heard this before because it’s true. Which of these two sentences is more effective?

A short man sat down at the bar and angrily ordered a drink.


Finn clambered onto the stool. “Beer. Now,” he said.

  1. Tell the truth. Not that fiction is truth, or pure truth – write only what you think your character would really do and say and not what sounds dramatic or funny or suits the plot.
  2. Dialogue. Remember. We interrupt and hesitate and cut each other off, contradict each other, contradict ourselves and say things we don’t mean.
  3. Beginnings

Here are 2 great ones:

A woman I don’t know is boiling tea the Indian way in my kitchen.

Bharati Mukherjee, The Management of Grief

Since he had returned from Korea he and his wife lived in mutual disregard, which turned three times a month into animal passion then diminished on the sharp incline to hatred, at last collecting in time to silent equal fatigue.

-Barry Hannah, Get Some Young

  1. Endings Make your ending underline everything that went before. If it doesn’t sound too sacrilegious to fiction, think of it as a conclusion to an essay.
  2. Good luck!



150 Years of Markets: Writing Workshop and Short Story Competition

Have you ever wanted to be a published author? This is your chance!

Join RBKC Libraries and Markets for a unique literary collaboration, inspired by the rich history of our local markets. We are launching a short story competition in May. Winning entries to be published in an anthology produced by the library service.

The following conditions for entry apply: Limit of 2000 words

  • No plagiarism
  • Suitable language and content
  • Open to members of RBKC/Tri-Borough libraries only
  • Entrants must accept editorial input

Deadline for competition entry is 30th June

To register your interest and for full Terms and Conditions please email


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