Writing is a journey, both imaginary and physical. My first book took me to the Arctic to 'catch the colours' of the Northern Lights. Then I hunkered down to catch the wind-blown voices of polar explorers on Shackleton's 1914-17 Endurance expedition. More recently I'm obsessed by space: the race, the rockets, the final frontier.

Hear a BBC Radio Leicester interview about my space poetry at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03wfpyp
Explore my digital narrrative PHILAE'S BOOK OF HOURS, published by the European Space Agency, at:

My prose-poetry collections FIREBRIDGE TO SKYSHORE
and MAD, HOPELESS & POSSIBLE are both published by Original Plus Press at:

Contact me for signed copies or bookings at:

Visit the writers' development service I co-run at: https://www.facebook.com/TheWritersShed/

About Me

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Leicester, East Midlands
As a storyteller, my work crosses boundaries of myth, science, history and spoken word. It has been presented in the British Science Museum, Ledbury Poetry Festival, National Space Centre and the European Space Agency website. In 2014 I ran a digital residency on WW1 for 14-18NOW and Writing East Midlands. I teach Creative Writing at De Montfort University and have experience of leading school events, workshop tuition and mentoring. In addition, I co-run The Writers' Shed, a service for writers, at: https://www.facebook.com/TheWritersShed/

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Anatomy of a Short Story

I'm up against a deadline for a story. Four days and a bit to go and so far I've only typed about 150 words. I do have a pile of notes I've scribbled in bed during my recent spell of illness. Some sheets I've copied from my Google searches. Yesterday I cut out photographs from the local newspaper of faces that would do for my characters. Names from the captions and classifieds - I find names really hard. It must be nearly 2 years since I've written a story and I'm well rusty. But the clock is ticking. Can I pull it off and make the Thursday tea-time deadline?

The title, since you're asking, is 'Metropolis' and word max. is 2,000 words. Gulp! And today is the only full day of writing I can spare. So I need a rough draft by evening. In my early morning sessions before work, I'll then have to edit it. Find out what it's really about since I'm not yet sure. I have a mess of a plot and a heap of problems. The blu-tacked faces of my characters are staring at me from various corners of my computer desk. One is made of stone. Today I find out if their voices will speak, if they can shrug into the bodies I've assembled and walk into their own stories.

Hmm. I've gotten out a yellow highlighter pen and marked up the snippets of conversation and narration from my notes that most interested me. Trying to seek out where the energy of the writing is. I'll try typing these up and see where it goes. I'll let you know ...


So 979 words typed up and it's still a mess but there's sticky raw material. The characters haven't really taken off yet and the dialogue's very one-sided. I wonder if other people are as rubbish at writing stories but I also know that this doubt and fog is part of the process for me. Part of my difficulty was working out whose story it was. Two women on a bus. My narrator's story is missing so far and I think she's the one who's going to arrive somewhere. So she gets the afternoon. Let's see what boiled eggs and crumpets can do for my back-brain ...


Up to 1737 words on paper. A rough draft of sorts. Time to print it up, walk away from it and see if I'm any clearer tomorrow morning.


  1. Good luck, Siobhan. The only way to get a story written is to write it. I do hope all this highlighter pen stuff isn't a diversionary tactic!! Once your keyboard starts flowing it'll be great.

  2. so many diversions! Like planning a Mother's Day outing for my partner's mum yesterday ... But this morning I've gotten down to it and words are adding up anyway. thanks for the cheering on : )

  3. Best of luck with it, Siobhan. I find short story writing a huge challenge - I'm not hot on plot unfortunately :)

  4. Last year I was challenged to write a 2000 word story in seven days...I had no idea what I was going to do or how I was going to tackle it.

    In the end I wrote a first line, and honestly I have no idea where the rest came from but it did get finished. Its surprising what you can do under pressure.

    Anyway, why does it have to be finished in such a short space of time? Have you been challenged too?

  5. No, I'm just DISORGANISED! We've had the title for a while now. But I seem to go through this stage where it always seems hopeless. Then the deadline pressure kicks in and I lock myself away and WRITE IT! so it's done at last. : )