Adam Marek is back this Summer running a Comma Press Short Story Course at the London Free Word Centre. He’s an award-winning writer and has released two collections with us, Instruction Manual for Swallowing and The Stone Thrower, both of which were acclaimed critically. Here he shares some of his top short story writing tips ahead of the course, for which booking close on Wednesday. Don’t miss out!
I wrote dozens and dozens of short stories before I got my first one published. I made all kinds of mistakes. Wrote stories that failed for reasons that are so obvious now, but were invisible to me at the time.
When I started being invited to teach creative writing classes, I thought through all of the things I wish I had known back then. I came up with a series of principles, which are so ingrained now that I apply them unconsciously. I created a series of workshops in which I explain these principles, and teach you how to apply them with some fun and productive exercises.
For the last few years, I’ve been teaching these workshops at Arvon, the Google writers’ group, WordFactory and a whole bunch of other places, from Liverpool to Beijing. I’m running the course for Comma Press again this year, at the Free Word Centre in London, starting this July.
The six-part short story class consists of one evening session of two hours every month, from July to December 2017. The material is suitable for complete beginners wanting to find their feet in short story writing, up to more advanced writers who still struggle with aspects of their work.
If you’re wanting to improve your short story game, here are three quick tips:
1 Creativity comes from incongruity
Combining unrelated things is the best way to generate original ideas, fast.
2 Create multiple levels of conflict
Inner, interpersonal, and environmental/societal. If you don’t have conflict, you don’t have a story. The most common fault I see when I’m critiquing writers’ stories is a lack of rich conflict.
3 Tap your unconscious mind, then analyse the hell out of it
You’ve grown up immersed in story. Your unconscious mind knows how to do it all by itself. In fact, it’s your unconscious that does all the really interesting stuff. But it can’t plot for toffee. Whether you’re a planner or a make-it-up-as-you-go-alonger, give each part of your mind a turn in the driving seat, and never let them fight over the steering wheel.
I go into these in a much more detail in the workshops, along with lots of other practical techniques for improving your writing and storytelling skills.
Booking closes on Weds 25 June. There are a just a few places left, so if you’d like to invest in your writing career, get in quick.