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word imageIf you entered last month’s six-word short story contest (see my previous blog post), you’ve already practiced the concept of how to say a lot in a little space—a really little space. But most people who write short pieces write more than six words. A short piece can be anything from a three-sentence filler to a half-page recipe to a page-long children’s article. In fact, there are all kinds of opportunities for writing short. Not everyone can pull it off, though. It takes skill to write something engaging, useful, and complete that’s also brief. Still, writing short pieces can be a fun and lucrative way to write. Here are a few tips to help make the process a little easier:

  1. Avoid clutter.  Clutter, or wordiness, is a problem for many writers. For short pieces, there’s simply no room for it. Unnecessary adjectives, most adverbs, redundant phrases, and even whole sentences and paragraphs that add nothing new or unique to your writing all constitute clutter. Avoid it.
  2. Get to the point. If you’re going to write short, you can’t waste time with lengthy, rambling introductions. Zero in on what you’re trying to say as quickly as possible. A crisp, snappy lead-in works well for shorter pieces.
  3. Strive for smooth.  No matter its length, every piece of writing should have flow. You can scale back on words without diminishing readability. Alter short sentences with longer ones, use transitional words between sentences and paragraphs, and be coherent. A smooth read is key.
  4. Make it matter. It doesn’t take a lot of space to say something important.  A brief article or sidebar can be every bit as relevant and engaging as a longer piece, as long as you keep your target audience in mind, entertain or enlighten them, and write with confidence and flair.
  5. Flesh out the prime details. Some details may seem too important to leave off, but when writing short, you may be forced to do some weeding out. Stick to the details that relate directly to your message and that offer something new and unique for the reader.

Besides being a fun, lucrative activity, writing short is a great way to hone your writing skills. Try your hand at writing a helpful “front of book” tip for a women’s magazine, a craft for a children’s e-zine, instructions for a manual, or a how-to article for a newsletter. There are all kinds of markets for short pieces. Blogs, popular magazines, websites, anthology books, journals, and newspapers all accept them. Check out Writer’s Market for more ideas.

Image by Maria Reyes-McDavis

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Sharpened_pencil_next_to_sheet_paperIf you like to write short stories - and I mean really short stories - you might consider entering the Lake Regions Art Council's 2014 Six Word Short Story Contest. This is the Minnesota-based LRAC's second annual contest, and the rules are simple: write a short story using six words. You can use any punctuation you want with your six words. Just be creative, have fun, and keep it short! The grand prize winner will be award $500 plus publication and publicity. A second place winner is also announced.

For more information on this short story contest, check out the website at ShortWritingContest.com. Entry deadline is April 30, 2014. Cost is $10 for up to three stories.

For information on other short story contests in and around Minnesota, see last year's post, Spring 2013 Writing Contests for Minnesota Writers. Many of these same contests renewed this year; however, some deadlines have passed, so be sure to check dates.

Good luck to all contestants. And kudos for getting your writing out there!

Image by Thomaseagle