Story writing tips
Here are a few guidelines for authors. Stick to them and you'll get plenty of stories published on this site... who knows, you might even become famous. Just don't hold your breath.

  Check your English. You do this last, but it's first on this list, simply because spelling mistakes, poor punctuation, and bad grammar are the most common reasons we reject stories. Just because it's short doesn't mean you can cut corners on correctness. So proofread every story before you hit Submit.

  Aim for completeness. Espresso stories aren't opening paragraphs - they're complete narratives. Bulwer-Lytton's 'It was a dark and stormy night' worked wonders for Snoopy, but it's not an espresso story - it's the first sentence of a longer story. (Not, as it happens, a good one.) So remember the first rule of storytelling: have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

  Get an idea. DON'T start writing before you know what your story's going to be! Think of the characters, plot, and ending BEFORE you touch the keyboard. The story concept is at the heart of every good story, no matter what length. If there's no idea there - or worse, the idea's cliched or derivative - you run the risk of being rejected. So develop your idea first. Before you start writing.

  Start long, then cut. Pascal once apologised to a friend: 'Please excuse such a long letter - I didn't have time to write a short one.' He illustrates what all writers know: brevity is a goal, not a starting point. The best writers let it all hang out at first, splurging out wodges of fat paragraphs that get a handle on every part of their idea... then start cutting. And when they've cut, they cut again. The same applies to espresso stories. Write first, without worrying about length. Then pick just the words that fit best.

  Long words don't make it better. Nor do adjectives, adverbs, or portmanteau words - most of the time. Don't think of that 25-word limit as a straitjacket; think of it as the size of the canvas. There's no limit on the length of words you can use - but there'd be little point in using long ones just because you can.

  It doesn't have to tie up all loose ends. This site's inspiration, Augusto Monterroso's 'The Dinosaur', is a prime example - was the dinosaur in his dream and suddenly became reality? Had he gone to sleep next to a dinosaur? And if so, he must be a pretty amazing guy in a pretty amazing situation. We've learned something about a character, a situation, and an interesting event. And that's what makes the story great.

  So that's all you need to write a great espresso story. Ready to submit one of your own?

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