10 practical steps for finishing your short story — with examples

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For about 30 years, I slogged away trying to write a novel. But I just never had the plotting smarts or the emotional stamina, and I became like a madman running again and again at a brick wall, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Then, one day, and only a couple of decades overdue, I had a rather marvellous thought. You’re used to writing short things — articles, web pages and the like. You’re a sprinter, not a marathon runner. Why don’t you have a go at short fiction?

As a journalist and content…


Lessons from owner-managers you can apply to your own writing business

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You may not think of yourself this way, but if you aspire to make a career out of your writing, then you are an entrepreneur or small business owner. Like writing professionals, business owners have to wear many hats — production, IT, marketing, credit control, business strategy, finance etc.

They are time-poor and see their business not as some 9-to-5 occupation but as an all-consuming passion. They have to balance planning for future growth
with ensuring present survival.

So here are some classic tips from small business owners that you can apply to your writing business…

Never stop learning

Entrepreneurs are resourceful, self-motivated…


As writers we need to do much of the promotional hustle ourselves — here are some tips on getting started

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Marketing, branding, networking, self-promotion, negotiating… there are many aspects to the commercial mindset that a writer has to get their head around these days. You may be daunted by the thought of having to sell yourself, but by starting small and slowly pushing yourself, you’ll find it gets easier all the time…

Think about your market

Your book won’t magically find readers, so think about what sort of people might buy it. If your book is about AI, you might target people with an interest in tech; if your book is about the Civil War, you might target people with a passion for history.

Meet your audiences where they live


UX writing is a growing area that generally pays well and is specialised without being impossible to break into

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What is UX writing?

UX stands for usability or user experience, which is basically about how easy it is for people to use a website or app. UX writing basically refers to all the little bits of copy that guide people through processes on apps, websites, games consoles, software and more: instructional text, calls to action, labels, buttons, menu items, error messages, Help text and acknowledgment messages.

Why is it growing in importance?

More and more of us are carrying out tasks online, from registering to vote to joining a dating app to buying foreign currency. All these interactive processes — or user journeys — involve an interface between a…


It sounds like the sort of problem any freelancer would kill to have. But having too much work on can present many challenges.

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‘Feast or famine’ is a phrase that’s often used to sum up the freelance workflow — one minute, you’re scrabbling around for commissions, and the next you’re staying up late every night to keep all your clients happy. What’s to be done?

Ask: temporary or permanent?

When you have a lot of work on, the first thing is to consider how long-term the situation is. If it’s a case of making some extra cash with a couple of chunky one-off rush jobs, my tendency is to take them on, be prepared for a busy few days, and reap the benefit. I can always take…


Working out the right sequence for your story collection is an exquisite agony.

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Gwen Goodkin’s A Place Remote (West Virginia University Press) is a collection of stories that examines the lives of characters from a small fictional town in rural Ohio. ‘When I began writing this collection in 2005, I had no plans for it to be a book,’ she says. ‘I just wrote the stories as they came to me. Eventually I realised they belonged together.’ She had a publisher and she had her material; there just remained the small detail of working out how best to put the stories together.

‘I could show you screenshot after screenshot of me working out…


Useful arguments for when you’re trying to convince someone to invest in written content for the first time

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While content is a multimillion industry for big brands worldwide, there are still many businesses sectors — especially smaller businesses — who don’t see that content is worth it for them. They’re not necessarily against content — they may in fact quite like the idea of having a blog or publishing regular articles or ebooks. It’s just that their marketing budgets are finite and they aren’t sure how paying a freelance writer like you to write content for them will yield a decent return on their investment.

Here, then, are some key ways to help you build the business case…


By day, you write seo content; by night, you write slasher fanfic odes. How do you square the circle?

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I’m a writer who wears different hats. In my day job, I do commercial copywriting and content on behalf of brands for a marketing agency; in another part of my life, I write short stories, novels and articles about fiction.

It got me thinking. What’s the best way to go about managing these diverse writing identities?

Start by setting clear dividing lines

I found it helpful at the outset to keep my writing identities quite separate. I blogged and commented a lot about content and copywriting for work, and this felt very different to the tentative steps I was taking to develop as a fiction writer…


What does an ‘item writer’ or a ‘senior UX copywriter’ do all day anyway?

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If you’ve looked at any recruitment pages recently, you may have noticed a lot of jargon creeping into job titles. Here we strip the acronyms and buzzwords away to reveal the — often quite straightforward — roles that lie underneath…

UX writer

UX stands for user experience, and what a UX writer does is to craft the little bits of copy that steer users through key journeys on an app or website — opening a bank account, for example, completing an insurance quote form or upgrading your access to a product. You’ll be writing the little bits of ‘microcopy’, such as button…


How to work out if you’re being paid right

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The issue of freelance pay is a sensitive one, but there are good reasons to benchmark your rates. Knowing what your work is worth gives you ammo to negotiate better rates and helps dive up industry rates overall. Here’s how to work out what you should be paid…

Ask around among your peers

Talking to fellow freelancers about how much they charge and how much they get paid is the first step to benchmarking your own pay. The more transparency freelancers have with each other, the more power they have to drive up rates for all. …

dan brotzel

Funny-sad author | Hotel du Jack @SandstonePress; Work in Progress (formerly Kitten on a Fatberg) @unbounders | Pushcart, Slackjaw, Pithead, X-Ray, Ellipsis

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