Short stories aren’t just easier versions of the novel. They’re a broad, complex and rewarding art form in their own right. Writers’ HQ’s online writing short story course will help you see the bigger picture and compress it into short stories with real punch.

Short stories have been here since the dawn of time. Based in the oral tradition (stop sniggering at the back), they’re the apocryphal family legends your grandmas/weird uncle used to tell you over Christmas dinner; they’re the school-yard urban myths; the sleepover ghost stories; the soliloquies in your diary; the wine-soaked rants to that random person you cornered in the kitchen at that party after so-and-so dumped you. Short stories are all around us. <cue X-Files theme>

But super short stories are not super easy for writers (natch). In fact, the shorter your story becomes, the harder it is to distill what really matters onto the page. I would have written a shorter letter, so the famous quote goes, but I didn’t have the time...

So what makes truly great short fiction? The kind that leaves you dribbling, slack-jawed, slap-faced when you finish it? The kind you remember forever, like some weird dream-memory? Well. We can’t write it for you, but we can give you a nudge, a shove, and a poke with a sharp stick (whatever floats your boat) to help you on your way.

With the help of writing prompts, advice from award-winning short fiction writers, inspiring exercises, and our awesome little online community, you’ll come out the other side at least one fully formed short story to call your very own, ready to send out into the world.


  • Six weeks of progressive exercises to help you develop your ideas into a polished story (or two, or three, or more...)
  • Advice and guidance on story structure, narrative voice, characterisation, editing/redrafting and <gasp> submitting your stories to lit mags and competitions!
  • Weekly inspiration, whip-cracking, writing prompts, lots of theory and how to use that practically
  • Top tips from tip-top authors and story examples from the best of the best
  • Access to our LOVELY social media community of Writers HQers to discuss ideas, techniques and get advice and feedback from your fellow writers

Course curriculum

  • 1

    Week 1: Conflict is EVERYTHING

    • READ: Introduction

    • READ: Character + Conflict = Story

    • EXERCISE: Ooh, taboo!

    • READ: Layers

    • EXAMPLES: Let’s read some darn good stories

    • EXERCISE: Capture a character at bursting point

    • RESOURCES (Week 1)

  • 2

    Week 2: Where to start? Where to stop?

    • READ: Where to start. Beginning, middle or end?

    • EXERCISE: Get in, get out

    • READ: How much can you leave out?

    • EXAMPLES: Ready read read

    • EXERCISE: Time for a threeway

    • RESOURCES (Week 2)

  • 3

    Week 3: Structure, tense, perspective

    • READ: Character, setting, action

    • EXERCISE: The past, present and future walked into a bar…

    • EXAMPLES: Moar stories!

    • WATCH: Structure and experimentation

    • EXERCISE: Don’t think. Just Write. The voice will come.

    • RESOURCES (Week 3)

  • 4

    Week 4: Building character...

    • READ: Character drives plot. Plot develops character.

    • EXERCISE: In which identity theft is a totally valid method of characterisation

    • EXAMPLES: Reeeeeeead

    • READ: Character & Dialogue

    • READ: Playing with status

    • RESOURCES (Week 4)

  • 5

    Week 5: Writing is redrafting

    • READ: Remember Week 0 (and 1, and 2, and 3, and 4…)?

    • EXERCISE: Is it worth it?

    • READ: Redrafting like a mofo

    • READ: Cut the fluff

    • WATCH: Don’t give up – find your theme

    • RESOURCES (Week 5)

  • 6

    Week 6: Send your story out into the world!

    • READ: Sooo, there’s this great big enormous world of short fiction out there

    • EXERCISE: Find a lit mag

    • READ: What do editors and competition judges actually want?

    • EXERCISE: Pick a theme, any theme

    • READ: One last treatise on short fiction

    • RESOURCES (Week 6)