Copyright © 2017 Tim Bancroft. How to Enter | Entrant Eligibility

Shipton Shorts 2017 Shipton Bellinger Short Story Competition

Hints & Tips

It can be quite daunting if entering a short story competition for the first time.  To help, we have gathered together a few hints and tips below.


Your submission should never contain bold, underlining, shadowing or similar font decoration - it makes it hard to read and detracts from your story. Occasionally, very occasionally, italics can make a writer's intentions clear but if you find yourself using them too much, perhaps you should rephrase your story. Italics can be used for the names of films or books (if mentioned).

Story Title

This is always difficult and is part of the art of writing a good short story. Choose a title that reflects the main element of the story, or which illuminates the story. Sometimes it helps if the title is a paraphrasing of a key line in the story. Your title must not be that of the theme as we might not be able to distinguish between entries of the same title. Some top short story and flash fiction writers, such as Kit de Waal*, regard the title as a few extra, free words and really make it illuminate the story itself.

* Source: A writing lecture at Birmingham City University, 2015.

The Theme

The theme really is just that: an idea to inspire and which links all the stories.  Your story should centre around this theme.  It does not mean, however, that your story must be set in Shipton Bellinger or Snoddington and neither does it imply that it has to be about humans or buildings in the village. If you are stuck for ideas, look around you: we are in a beautiful and interesting area.

Age Range - managing expectations

Anyone can enter Shipton Shorts, but entries are not judged on age bands. This means entry may not be suitable for younger entrants who might otherwise have done well in writing competitions meant for their own age range. Having said that, however, it is surprising to find just who can write a good story. We’ve seen stories from 10-year-olds that are stunning.


We’ll admit, structure is a difficult concept. It might be best to look at your story as an arc: it starts in a mundane world, lifts into an extraordinary world, climaxes, then returns to a typically altered mundane world with a great deal of reader satisfaction. It is very difficult to give a reader satisfaction if the story does not have a structure or if the story is just a pre-amble to something else, or is just description, or which does not take us on a (metaphorical) journey.

Some people really like the ‘Mythic Structure’ or ‘The Hero’s Journey’ as outlined for writers by Christopher Vogler from Joseph Campbell’s original research and analaysis. Whilst the concept and theory is excellent, this can be hefty when applied to short stories, however!