I don’t know if the art of creating a story can ever be taught but you can certainly learn a lot through workshops, reading helpful books and taking feedback from others. Winning Short Story Competitions: Essential Tools for the Serious Writer (Hawkeye Publishing 2020) is an impressive ‘how to’ guide by authors L.E. Daniels and C. Sawyer.
This slim book packed with information is easily accessible to beginning or emerging writers, as it includes some basic rules and advice for writing short stories – definitions of the difference between micro-fiction, flash fiction and a short story; notes on structure, scene, characterisation, style, message and resonance. But it will also appeal to those already on the journey of short story writing, with chapters on how to impress judges, writing groups, peer review as well as more detail on aspects such as point of view, dialogue, themes, passive vs active writing, redundancies and self-editing. It provides a behind the scenes look at what judges assess when choosing a winning short story. There are lots of practical, concrete and specific examples, lots of tips and tricks, summaries at the end of most chapters, and the inclusion of winning published short stories as examples. Importantly, it includes advice about generosity and care when reviewing and providing feedback on the work of others; something that you should also expect from those reading your own writing in progress.
A list of helpful resources is included at the end, along with a 10-week set of writing exercises to hone your craft.
I found this book easy to read, accessible and useful, covering many basic pointers but also delving a little deeper for those wanting to spread their writing wings.