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


Adult Learners’ Week 2013

Adult Learners’ Week – 18 to 24 May 2013

Adult Learners' Week 2013
Adult Learners’ Week 2013

Adult Learners’ Week is the UK’s largest annual festival of learning, inspiring thousands of people to discover how learning can change their lives.

It is the perfect opportunity to raise awareness of the benefits learning can bring, and to inspire adults of all ages to try something new. We have events in five of our libraries during Adult Learners’ Week -we hope to see you there!

What makes people happy?

Birkbeck University of London
Birkbeck University of London

Sharing the practical lessons from well-being research – Birkbeck academics have put together a series free of workshops which unpack cutting-edge research from a range of disciplines to help you better understand the science behind the smile, as well as giving you practical tips to increase your well-being.

  • Please book your free place for these sessions on Eventbrite.

 How to be happy: some quick wins (and losses)

  • Saturday 18 May, 10 to 11.30am, Brompton Library

This workshop will focus on what psychologists have learnt about the science of happiness, in particular the characteristics that allow people to remain hopeful and optimistic in the face of challenging and busy lives. We will also explore how this knowledge has been translated into practical interventions that increase hope and optimism. Participants should leave with ideas around how to translate this information into small and meaningful improvements to their own levels of hope and optimism and those in their care.

Using positive psychology to stay healthy and happy in your work

  • Monday 20 May, 10 to 11.30am, Brompton Library

Find out how to safeguard and improve your happiness and well-being in professional settings. This workshop will help you better understand the science behind the smile, as well as giving you practical tips and strategies to increase your well-being.

Crocheting Divas

  • Saturday 18 May, 10.30am to 1pm, Notting Hill Gate Library
  • Friday 24 May, 12 noon to 1.30pm, Brompton Library

Learn, chat and make with the Crocheting Divas. All materials and equipment will be provided – all you need to bring is your enthusiasm and creativity. There’s no need to book a place – just come along.

Online taster sessions

Computer training sessions
Computer training sessions

Want to do more online? Please book your free place for any of these sessions at Chelsea Reference Library.

Social media: how to make the most of Facebook, Twitter and more

  • Tuesday 21 May, 2 to 4pm, Chelsea Reference Library

Beyond Google: high quality learning materials available free from your library

  • Wednesday 22 May, 10am to 12 noon, Chelsea Reference Library

Career information online: finding the best career and training information for you

  • Thursday 23 May, 12 noon to 2pm, Chelsea Reference Library

Colville Community History slideshow and talk

Tom Vague
Tom Vague
  • Tuesday 21 May, 5.30 to 7.30pm, North Kensington Library

Colville Community History Project’s Tom Vague presents a slideshow and talk about the history of the area. Come along to join in the discussion, share your experiences and find out more about the Colville Community History Project. Please book a free place for this event at North Kensington Library.

Writing Creatively in Kensington – a creative writing workshop

Creative writing
Creative writing
  • Wednesday 22 May, 1.30 to 4.30pm, Kensington Central Library

Using photos and other artefacts from our Local Studies Library to inspire creativity participants will be encouraged to write their own pieces. Please book a free place for this event at Kensington Central Library.

Deep Recording Studios – information stall

Deep Recording Studios
Deep Recording Studios
  • Wednesday 22 May, 12 noon to 4.30pm, Chelsea Library

Want to find out more about music technology or sound engineering? Then come along to our information stall run by Deep Recording Studios in West London. They run Levels 1,2 and 3 City and Guilds accredited Music Technology and Sound Engineering Courses (no qualifications required). Deep has a fully operational recording studio facility near Ladbroke Grove tube station in West London, running Logic Pro and Pro Tools music software .

Hand Sewing Workshop – make a felt badge with Eithne Farry

Eithne Farry
Eithne Farry
  • Thursday 23 May, 2 to 4pm, Kensington Central Library

Are you passionate about clothes and accessories? Would love to create something of your own, but are unsure of how to get started? Then come along to our hand sewing workshop with Eithne Farry, where you will create your own badge out of felt.
Please book your free place for this workshop at Kensington Central Library.

How to Use Skype – over 50s session with Open Age

Open Age
Open Age
  • Friday 24 May, 10am to 12 noon, North Kensington Library

Are you over 50? Have you heard about Skype? Skype allows people to talk for free to friends and family around the world via a computer using the internet. Come along to this session to learn how to use Skype. Places are strictly limited for this class, so please book your place early at North Kensington Library.

More information