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Christopher Fielden

Short Stories & Writing Advice

I'm a writer. I use my published short stories as case studies in the hope that the information and advice provided might help other writers become published authors. I hope you'll learn from my mistakes and therefore have a better chance of winning prizes in short story competitions or having your work published in magazines. That's the aim, anyway! Of course, if anyone just wants to read my stories, that's great too.

Below is an introduction to the site, but if you want to skip that, then you can go straight to the more popular areas - the short story section, the writing advice section, the short story competition list or the short story magazine list.

My New Humorous Short Story Competition!

Short Story Competition Banner

Chris Fielden on Google Helpouts

I'm now available on Google Helpouts. This is a new service that allows writers to have one-to-one video chat about writing short stories and getting them published with me. Cool! At the moment I'm offering Helpouts for free but will probably charge in the future. You can see my Google Helpouts listing here.

How to get a Short Story Published

Being a new writer and facing rejection can sometimes leave inspiration cremated like a forgotten sausage on a barbecue. But then the observation of any event can inspire a story, creating an escape from negativity. If you’re like me, when inspiration launches itself into a skydive, you’ll find yourself staring at a computer screen at 3am, trying to work out how a demon and a legless soldier might interact convincingly, wrestling to unravel your mental parachute in time to enjoy the view and deliver a graceful landing.

Writers hands at laptop computer, Chris Fielden

OK, I tend to be drawn towards the fantastic; characters and subject matters which remove you from reality. But whatever genre you find yourself writing, I suspect you can relate.

Books are notoriously difficult to sell if you’re an unknown writer. Agents are hard to come by and gaining the attention of reputable publishers is even more of a challenge. So, how can one become a successful writer?

In one of my more despondent moments, after another failed attempt at writing a 300 word synopsis that was turning out to be harder to finish than an 80,000 word novel, I found myself wondering what I could offer the world of creative writing that might be a little different. I’m not famous. I haven’t achieved anything particularly newsworthy. How might I stand out amongst the swarm? Then, a devious plan crawled forth from the darker recesses of my mind like a sneaky brain ninja.

I realised, like newspaper articles, short stories are a lot easier to complete. Once finished, unlike novels, there are many opportunities for publishing short stories and you don’t have to write a synopsis. Bonus. There are many respected short story competitions out there, which can gain a winning writer kudos and credibility. Roald Dahl, Terry Pratchett, Stephen King, Philip K Dick and many other successful authors started out writing short stories, so why can’t I?

So, I started writing a lot of short stories. Due to being blessed with skin as thick as Godzilla, I’ve overcome rejection, developed a style that seems to work, and I’m fortunate enough to have been published. It took a while, but I achieved my first competition win early in 2011. But how could I utilise this achievement to further my writing career?

Currently, the internet seems to be a good way of gaining exposure and readers. The tricky bit is standing out and offering something unique. There are so many good writing resources already out there, and gazillions of excellent self-published authors to compete with, that being noticed is very difficult. I work in internet marketing and, over the last few years, have learnt a lot about making websites work well. Offering useful, interesting content seems (to me) to be the best way of engaging with communities, gaining credibility and giving yourself the opportunity of being noticed.

And that’s what I decided to attempt to do. Rather than having a website that simply showcases my work, I thought I’d use my published stories as case studies to provide other writers with useful information, advice and tips on how to get their own work published. All the short stories on the site (see the short stories section) have been published or been shortlisted or won prizes in short story competitions. By sharing my experiences, I hope I can help more writers achieve publishing success.

I’ll also provide information on the pros and cons of the various writing competitions I’ve entered. OK, this is one man’s opinion, but it is based on experience. I hope you find it useful. And, where I’ve been given permission to use their words, you’ll find comments from editors and short story competition judges, explaining why the stories were chosen and published.

So, what’s in for me? There’s a link on all the pages on this site which will take you to where, if you’d like to, you can buy a copy of my first book, Wicked Game. Other than that, it gives me somewhere to publish my work in the hope it might be read, and (fingers, toes and dangly bits crossed) enjoyed.

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Tom M
Finding your website was  like spotting a gold nugget while panning for months in ice cold water. It has given me hope and the push to keep 'panning'. I have been writing for some time with limited success - you have given me hope.

Chris Fielden
Thanks Tom, really glad to hear it!

Sara S
Awesome, very helpful site. Thank you!

Alan H
Dear Christopher, Great help! Thankyou. Alan

Abdullah H
Your site has proved to be a source of inspiration and I thank you greatly. It's difficult to settle upon a favourite story but The Cat, the Bull and the Madman resonated with me, as I had worked with a paranoid schizophrenic lady a few years ago and this was partially characterised by delusions. Beautifully written and sensitively treated. Humingbee Bumblebird Meadow was an excellent story! The moral was delicately conveyed and the imagery effective in telling the story. And the Ninja Zombie Knitting Circle had a fiendish twist that stayed in my head for a few days! 

I've been writing on and off for years, but this is the first time I've attempted a short story. Novels seem too large a scale project for me and I simply don't think I'm ready to embark on one yet. 

Well done for the site; I really appreciate it. Take care,  Abdullah :-)

Lynda N
Great website, Chris!

Usama L
Extremely useful. It's like finding an oasis in a desert!!

Chris Fielden
Sara, Alan, Abdullah, Linda & Usama - Thank you all very much!!

Andrew N
Hello Christopher, I visited your website today while looking for short story competitions and I've enjoyed looking through it and reading a couple of your stories. I've been writing short fiction for a few years and been placed in a couple of the competitions you've mentioned (made it to the longlist in both Inktears and The Word Hut).

I read your story Hummingbee Bumblebird Meadow and related to your comment on finding it hard to get a children's story published. There doesn't seem to be many around when I Googled. I wrote a children's story called 'The Spider and the Bumblebee' which made it to 3rd place on Writers' Village in 2012, so it's on their site. My plan is to illustrate it and start sending out to publishers, so I'm preparing for a long journey on that one!

Well done on your success so far and I'll look forward to seeing your name pop up in other competitions. All the best, Andrew

Chris Fielden
Hi Andrew, congratulations on your Writers’ Village publication – the amount of competition for that contest makes is pretty tough to succeed, so that’s a great achievement! It’s really good to get a story for children published through them. I don’t know about you, but I find kids stories really hard to write. Still, I enjoy the challenge.

Best of luck with your writing, and getting those illustrations finished :-) Chris

Hi,Chris, I'm an Indian, and you know, this is not the place for dreams, especially when you are not a rich man. Maybe you are talented but at every stage, an uncertain feeling in the core of your heart always makes you remember that you are born in a poor familiy, and poor can only dream of what they never make true. Now why am I telling you this? Bcause I think I am not an Indian but a man, like you, living in this beautiful world, with an extreme endeavour to make my dreams true. And this website has made the blurred way quite easy to walk through. Love you, and thanks a lot.

Chris Fielden
Thanks Abhijit, that's one of the nicest comments I've ever received through the website :-)

Richard S
Hi, your website and the advice it contains may well be just what I'm looking for at this resoundingly despondent juncture; several competitions entered, nil success and (even more dishearteningly) zero feedback - there can't be anything less encouraging than that feeling of being ignored! However, I'll persevere because writing is - and I think always will be - the only thing I've any particular ambition to do. Entered three competitions recently, and only yesterday found self and story unmentioned in the results of one of them, but two still to go. Although I'm now not holding out any particular hope, even if, as expected, I get nowhere fast with either of these remaining, I'll definitely take on board some of the hints and tips you offer, so will be back to this site. Down but not out, then. Many thanks.

Chris Fielden
Unfortunately you rarely hear back from competitions or receive feedback, unless you're shortlisted (sometimes not even then) or win.

I'd advise you to enter competitions that do offer feedback. Writers' Village offer a brief critique to every entrant as part of the entry fee. You can also pay a small fee and receive a short critique from Writers' Forum. Why not try it? I've found the feedback they offer very useful.

Aside from that, never give up! I've had many stories rejected by various publications, but continued to submit them to other competitions and magazines. Eventually they do get published, especially if you take on board any feedback you might receive and make improvements in-between submissions.

Keep at it! It's all about refusing to give up!

Richard S
Many thanks for your reply, and for such helpful and encouraging advice - I'll let you know of any progress!

Chris Fielden
Thanks Richard. Please do! Look forward to hearing about your first published story :-)

Arka R
I found your website while searching through the internet. I have a question. I was planning to enter one of the writers digest competitions for short stories. Since you have won one, I have a question.

Firstly, I'm not a professional writer (sadly), I have a full time job as an engineer. Writing has been a passion of mine since my childhood so I decided to give it a go again. My question to you may seem silly but it would be really helpful of you if you can answer it.

I was wondering whether you had to declare any money you win through competitions for tax? It's important for me to know this since I am on a visa here in the UK so I would like to be well informed about all this.

I know I'm may be jumping the gun here. I mean who wins the first time right? :) But any form of help would be really appreciated.

Chris Fielden
Hi Arka, yes, you do in the UK – I’m not sure if it’s the same in other countries. I’ve written a post about it which you can see here.

And you never know, you might win the first competition you enter! Best of luck with your writing.

Your engaging style and transparency is truly touching. I am certain that at least some of the visitors to your website will be sufficiently inspired to blossom into great writers.

Chris Fielden
Thanks very much P!

Charmian S
Hello Christopher, thank you for your very helpful website.

I read Wicked Game recently - it is brilliant, I gave it 5 stars and wrote a review on Amazon (which I.'m only occasionally moved to do). I've been thinking about the great story, very well written, and realised it put me in mind of Ben Elton's novels. Would love to see a sequel.

Best regards, Charmian

Chris Fielden
Thank you very much for the review, Charmian, much appreciated :-)

I'm really glad you enjoyed the book. There may be a sequel at some point, but I'm currently working on a short story collection for Ink Tears, which I'm hoping they will publish later this year. Fingers crossed!

Eddie L
I like your site and it is v useful to have links to short story competitions and markets. I have written around eight 3000 word stories recently and have really enjoyed the process even if, in the words of F Murrary Abraham's character in Inside Llewyn Davies, 'I don't see a lot of money here'. The lot of the creative artist, I suppose....

Chris Fielden
Thanks Eddie, I'm glad you like the site. Well, there is some money out there; you just have to enter to competitions!

And there is always another Stephen King / Terry Pratchett / J K Rowling around the corner. Who knows - it might be you :-)