There is no singular formula. Great writing is a series of choices.

Top Teacher Tips from Alex Quigley (York)

Have you ever read a great story and thought: ‘this writer wouldn’t gain an 8 or a 9 at GCSE – they’d barely scrape a pass?’

Well, it just goes to show that great writing comes in all different shapes and styles. Grades – and writing brilliance – may be out of the scope of a marks scheme. Given this is the case in this competition, enjoy your new-found freedom!

So where do you start? Try reading some great writing.

There is no singular formula. Some authors love metaphors and similes; other authors strip their writing bare of imagery altogether. Some authors swear by lengthy, long-winded sentences, full of adjectives and endless action. And, others go short and simple. Just like that. Some authors break the rules with great pleasure, whereas others carefully colour within the lines when styling their stories.

In short, great writing is a series of choices. Style suits the story; patterns of imagery are deployed for a purpose. Each writer has it within their gift to surprise and excite their reader in they way they choose best.

And do, for great writing, all the guidance you need is ensure that you carefully craft those choices. Accuracy may matter. Written well, it can allow your eager reader to concentrate on the action or beauty. So, don’t let a spelling error slip distract from story. Equally, a well-chosen punctuation mark may be essential to power home your part. Every choice matters.

My advice: read some great writers. Observe their style, their sentences; their openings and endings. Compare and contrast. Consider characters and plots. Seek out generic features, but be ready to break out of the generic limits if you need to do so. Stick within the lines, but then prove ready to surprise.

The only rule you’re beholden to is to stick below 700 words. This may prove harder than you think. You should ask: can you compel the reader with action in not much more than a couple of pages? Can you evoke a potent sense of place in a mere sentence or two? When faced with such a narrow word count, you may want to concentrate on few characters or a single setting, or (remember, there aren’t fixed rules here) you may want to ignore this advice and describe a cast of millions roaming across continents. All the judges ask is that you craft with care and write something compelling, in a mere few hundred words. Write away and enjoy every second.

I’ve avoided your clichéd Top 10 Tips and got for something with a little bit more style…I hope, dear reader!

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