Winning Short Story Competitions – Authors Tell All

The secrets and motivations behind the publishing of this writing skills-altering book.

Talented authors Lauren E. Daniels and Cate Sawyer

Spend 5 minutes with Cate Sawyer and Lauren Daniels and you’ll learn that thinking about words occupies their minds 24/7. This word obsession resulted in the exceptional self-help writing book, Winning Short Story Competitions.

While new and aspiring writers also love marrying words into powerful and evocative relationships with their readers, structuring stories, crafting language, can be an arduous task and seasoned writers and editors like Sawyer and Daniels, understand the challenges.

Both are veteran wordsmiths who’ve combined their extensive industry knowledge and experience to guide writers in the art of writing, and while short stories is the focus, the rules apply to all styles and genres of writing. 

Winning Short Story Competitions shows readers key writing techniques to improve their writing, but unlike other writing books, it places strong emphasis on building a writer’s confidence. 

‘I believe a lack of confidence is one of the major forces that hobbles the potential for good prose and makes a draft wordy and unfocused. It takes confidence to get to the point through one sharp image or to cultivate a motif in the world of short fiction. I hope this book gives readers a map,’ says Daniels.

So, what prompted these word lovers to publish a book on writing? It appears that wine may have been involved!

‘Yes, it was over the proverbial liquid inspiration in a glass, Merlot in this case. The conversation veered towards our concerns about talented writers often falling short, simply because they didn’t know about publishing standards. We figured if we compiled our collective insights, we could give writers a better shot at making the short list,’ said Daniels.

For both Cate and Lauren, the joy of seeing writers win a competition or land a publishing deal is what motivates them to teach others a craft they love so much. 

‘I feel privileged when I help other authors take their own writing to the next level, said Sawyer. ‘This is why I wanted to write a book with Lauren Daniels. She feels the same way. She’s an exquisite wordsmith – her book Serpents Wake: A Tale for the Bitten – is written entirely in show not tell – almost every sentence. ‘

‘She’s also an exceptional editor, and an all-round good person. We share the same passion for wanting to give writers a space to be heard. And writers need to be published, to be heard. To be published, they must have mastered their craft.’

Both Sawyer and Daniels hope readers will benefit from the formidable combination of industry insight and experience. 

‘We believe that our combined industry experience makes for a powerful book. I’ve worked as a newspaper editor and judge of short fiction stories, while Lauren has a background in publishing and judging. Plus, we both hold MAs in writing, are published authors, and have taught and mentored writing for many years. We bring a wealth of knowledge that we want to impart to our readers,’ said Sawyer.

Daniels agrees. ‘Between us, Cate and I see many of the same amateurish habits and it can be quite easy to edit them from a draft once a writer knows how. Winning Short Story Competitions captures much what I’ve been teaching writers for twenty years, so I know it works. I’ve seen writers grow in skills and confidence when they land a publication and there’s nothing I love more than to see a writer’s story selected for an anthology or to list for a prize.’

While Winning Short Story Competitions is a boon to new writers, even seasoned authors can learn a few tips. 

‘After 20 years of writing experience, I realised there was still more to learn after I had my first book professionally edited. We never stop learning, nor should we,’ said Sawyer.

‘Writing is not a solitary pursuit – not if we want to grow as writers. For example, I read the work of an author who wrote exquisite, original sentences but she couldn’t get published because her writing had a critical flaw. She head-hopped amongst characters. In writing you must remain in one person’s point of view. If you’ve not studied writing, you may not pick this flaw on your own. That’s why we chose to write this book,’ said Sawyer. 

Daniels believes that sharing stories is vital, that they’re a microcosmos of our community and our world and that short stories in particular, ‘skim the cream from the top of the writing world – like poetry. They’re a distillation when done well, and a good one can leave its fingerprints on us for years.’

Winning Short Story Competitions has certainly morphed from just words floating in their creator authors’ heads, into a publishing gem. 

It’s a book you’ll love reading and working with over and over again.

Winning Short Story Competitions is available to buy here.

Read more about L. E. Daniels.

Read more about C. Sawyer.

Learn more about the Sydney Hammond Memorial Short Story Competition.

View on-site and online writing courses available at Brisbane Writers Workshop.

Silvana Nagl

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