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


Opening the Box – Kensington Palace anthology launched

Kensington Palace anthology launch at Kensington Central Library
Kensington Palace anthology launch at Kensington Central Library

Kensington and Chelsea libraries and Historic Royal Palaces recently joined together to run a creative writing course.

The Tri-Borough Stock Team and Kensington Palace ran fortnightly sessions led by author, Tamara Pollock.  These sessions were aimed at beginners who wished to develop their writing talent and create original stories inspired by characters and tales from the history of Kensington Palace.  At the end of the course 13 participants submitted stories which were collected together and published in an anthology entitled ‘Stories From Kensington Palace’.

Photographer: Justin W Thomas 07768273862
‘Stories From Kensington Palace’ contributors with the book

On Thursday  23 May the writers came together to celebrate the publication of the anthology at a launch event held at Kensington Central Library.   The boxes of the newly printed and just delivered books were opened and the authors saw their work in print for the very first time. 

Author Tamara Pollock and Kim Klug from Historic Royal Palaces unpack the books.
Author Tamara Pollock and Kim Klug from Historic Royal Palaces unpack the books.

A number of extracts were read out by the authors themselves and ideas for new stories and similar course and events were discussed.  Watch this space!

Reading from 'Stories From Kensington Palace'
Reading from ‘Stories From Kensington Palace’

The anthology is available for loan from all Kensington and Chelsea libraries.

Andy Norton
Andy Norton

Andy Norton

Tri-Borough Stock Librarian

More information

The launch made the front page of the Kensington and Chelsea Chronicle on Friday 31 May 2013. The article isn’t on their website but there’s information on the Kensington and Chelsea Chronicle website regarding where to collect a copy.

Cityread London

Have you heard about Cityread London?

Cityread London
Cityread London

Cityread London is a campaign to spread a love of books and reading to the widest possible audience throughout our capital. By choosing one book- A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks – for the whole city to read, discuss and debate, the aim of the campaign is bring Londoners together in a series of special events, across London and online. This year’s Cityread London campaign will launch in our libraries and across the capital on 2 April 2013.

Sebastian Faulks
Sebastian Faulks

As well as opportunities to borrow A Week in December (and other works by Sebastian Faulks) from our libraries, there will also be events for children, families, young people and adults in April 2013.  

A Week In December by Sebastian Faulks
A Week In December by Sebastian Faulks

Cityread events for adults

Trains, Trams and Buses: Images from the History of Transport in Kensington and Chelsea – An Exhibition

Number 73 bus and some interesting pedestrians!
Number 73 bus and some interesting pedestrians!

Come and see images from the Local Studies collection. This exhibition has been curated by Kensington and Chelsea Local Studies Library at the following libraries:

  • Tuesday 2 to Saturday 6 April, Kensington Central Library
  • Monday 8 to Saturday 13 April, Brompton Library,
  • Monday 15 to Sunday 21 April, Chelsea Library
  • Monday 22 to Saturday 27 April, North Kensington Library

Creative Writing Workshop with Tamara Pollock

Tamara Pollock
Tamara Pollock

Wednesday 10 April, 2 to 4pm at Brompton Library

In this two-hour workshop led by writer and workshop director, Tamara Pollock, we will look at incorporating the theme of London in a short story. We will briefly examine the way in which Sebastian Faulks depicts London life in his novel, A Week in December. This workshop is designed to ease writers into the process of short story writing and to answer questions about character, structure and dialogue.

Places are strictly limited for this workshop, so please book your free place early at Brompton Library.

Legends of Underground London

Subterranean City by Antony Clayton
Subterranean City by Antony Clayton

Thursday 11 April, 6.30 to 8pm at Kensington Central Library

Antony Clayton, author of Subterranean City: Beneath the Streets of London, presents an illustrated talk that will uncover some of the colourful folklore of underground London including legends of secret tunnels and passages, pigs in the sewers and buried trains. Please book your free place to this event at Kensington Central Library.

Inconvenient People – Lunacy, Liberty and the Mad-Doctors in Victorian England

Sarah Wise
Sarah Wise

Thursday 18 April, 6.30 to 8pm at Kensington Central Library

Sarah Wise looks at 75 years of psychiatry in 19th Century England bringing to light new research and unseen stories of contested lunacy. Exploring Victorian social history, she provides a unique insight into the sexuality, fears and greed of the Victorian middle class. Sebastian Faulks chose this as one of his Books of the Year (2012). Sarah did some of the research for her book at Kensington and Chelsea Local Studies Library. Please book your free place to this event at Kensington Central Library.

Cityread events for children, families and young people

Drama Workshop with Chickenshed Kensington and Chelsea

Chickenshed Kensington and Chelsea in action!
Chickenshed Kensington and Chelsea in action!

Tuesday 9 April, 2 to 3pm at Kensington Central Library

Age: seven to 14

Join Chickenshed Kensington and Chelsea for a fun-filled, inclusive performance workshop. Inspired by the 150th birthday of the London Underground we’ll be heading off on an adventure exploring London through dance, drama and music. This is a great opportunity for young people to develop their performance skills using Chickenshed’s proven teaching methods and unique performance style. Places are limited so please book your free place in advance at Kensington Central Children’s Library.

Story and Craft Sessions – Kensington and Chelsea Libraries

Story and craft sessions
Story and craft sessions

We’ll be having special Cityread story and craft sessions for children aged four to ten at the following libraries:

  • Tuesday 2 April, 2 to 3pm at Notting Hill Gate Library
  • Thursday 4 April and Thursday 11 April, 2 to 3pm at Kensington Central Library
  • Thursday 4 April and Thursday 11 April, 2.30 to 3.30pm at North Kensington Library
  • Saturday 6 April and Saturday 13 April, 11am to 12 noon at Brompton Library
  • Saturday 6 April and Saturday 13 April, 11am to 12 noon at Chelsea Library
  • Saturday 13 April, 3 to 4pm at Kensal Library

We hope that you will be inspired to join in with this campaign in order to make London’s second Cityread has successful as the first. More details about how to book are on our Cityread events page and for more events across London take a look at Cityread London’s website too.

Jodie Green, Lending Librarian
Jodie Green

Jodie Green

Lending Librarian