Publication Date
Publication Status
Out of print
Creative writing & creative writing guides
Trim Size
234 x 156mm

Short Circuit: A Guide to the Art of the Short Story


Short Circuit is a unique and indispensable guide to writing the short story. A collection of 24 specially commissioned essays from well-published short story writers, many of them prize winners in some of the toughest short story competitions in the English language. The writers are also experienced and successful teachers of their craft.

Each essay picks up on one or more craft or process issues and explores them in context, within the creative practice of the writer. Each writer has given of themselves very generously, exploring what it is that helps them produce strong short fiction, looking at their sources of inspiration, revealing more than a little of what goes on ‘behind the scenes’. They share favourite writing exercises, and suggest lists of published stories they find inspirational. Much of the guidance can equally be applied to writing longer fiction.

Contributions include five essays from winners of The Bridport Prize. There are interviews with Clare Wigfall – winner of The National Short Story Award – and with Tobias Hill whose short story collection won the PEN/Macmillan Silver Pen Award. Other prize-winning writers in this book include winners of The Asham Award for New Women Writers, The Fish Histories Prize, The Fish Short Story Prize, The BBC Short Story Prize, The Commonwealth Award, Writers Inc. Writer of the Year, The Willesden Herald Prize, NAWG Millennium Award for Radio Short Story and the Per Contra Prize.

Praise for this Book

‘An essential read. Short Circuit is a collection of essays from writers who are passionate (and successfully!) about short fiction. A real gold mine of insights and ideas for aspiring writers and for those seeking a refresher.’ —The Bridport Prize

‘This is a generous book, rich in ideas. It’s a practical book, giving a kick start to the imagination with its suggestions for overcoming the tyranny of the blank page, and it’s also a realistic book. Short Circuit updates Chaucer’s advice about life being short and the craft long to learn, without ever losing sight of why it’s worth the effort.

As a teacher of creative writing, I recommend it to students. I believe in the apprenticeship system and this is an excellent manual. As a writer, it reminds me why I write, and why there’s nothing else I would rather do.’ —Bridget Whelan, Lecturer in Creative Writing, Goldsmith’s College, University of London

‘At last!  The definitive guide to writing short stories, put together by a team of experts who are passionate about this most elusive, maddening, beguiling and ultimately satisfying of art forms. 

Cleverly constructed – a book which you will want to dip into for years to come.  And a book which will do much to raise the status of the short story in contemporary fiction.’ —Carole Bucham, The Asham Trust

‘As full of inspiration as it is of sound advice. An invaluable tool kit of a book for practitioners and scholars of the short story.’ —Mike McCormack, lecturer, MA in Creative Writing, NUI Galway.

‘This is rich book – full of insight and interest. 'Short Circuit' will be a essential addition to my undergraduate book list – it is written by those who have first hand understanding of the problems, as well as invaluable knowledge of the craft of writing short fiction.’ —Gill Lowe, Senior lecturer, University Campus Suffolk

‘Once a lover of the short story opens ‘Short Circuit’, one quickly realises it is indispensable – to a degree that has one asking, why hasn't it been done before? Like all the best story anthologies, the essays and interviews are varied in style and structure and possess all the attractiveness and excitement of good gossip.’ —Patrick Cotter, Director, Munster Literature Centre, home of the Frank O’Connor Prize

‘Here is a ‘How To’ book that is hard to put down. If there is anything you still need to know after reading the varied authors here, you probably haven’t read it properly. Read it again. Not that you’d need to, wisdom and insight hop off the page like light on water.


This book lacks the aridity of a textbook. The writers give of themselves and their experience, and information, advice and insight is fortified with example. Respect is given to the process and to the reader. In a scintillating and provocative series of chapters the art of writing is explored with excitement and passion. If Alex Keegan’s essay on ‘Theme’ doesn’t inspire you, check your pulse. You may be dead.


There is a mystery at the heart of writing. It’s the experience of characters and stories developing lives of their own; of characters arguing with their author and creator, of stories going places the writer did not know about. It is the marriage of this mystical, that a writer must learn to listen to, and the craft that a writer must learn, that makes fiction sing and dance on the page, and one of the joys of this book is the illumination given to this vital process.’ —Clem Cairns, Founder, The Fish Short Story Prize

‘How refreshing to have a book on creative writing that is neither abstract theory nor banal 'how to'. What we have instead are insights into the short story from a marvellous variety of accomplished writers; an invaluable resource for anyone tackling this tricky but highly rewarding literary form.’ —Paul Munden, Director, National Association of Writers in Education

‘Vanessa Gebbie has compiled an indispensable guide to crafting the short story. The subjects represented here – all written by contemporary authors – will stimulate advanced writers and instruct newcomers. There's nothing like hearing from people who have learned a technique or a way of approaching a problem through experience. These authors are generous with what they know, to our benefit.’ —Alice Elliott Dark, Writer in Residence at Rutgers-Newark University author of ‘In the Gloaming’ and ‘Naked to the Waist’