One of the things I see writers get asked all the time at events is, ‘what advice would you give to an aspiring writer?’ It’s a question most writers don’t seem to enjoy answering because, well, everyone works differently don’t they? When The Guardian published an article a few years ago on that exact subject, the rules and tips were so vastly different that one writer might as well have been giving advice on plumbing, another on fitting a fuse. Often, the path one writer takes and the rules they follow don’t apply to anyone else. I’ve learned this over years of writing, and taking on other people’s rules (James Ellroy says ‘never open with the weather’, but has he ever read ‘Meteorology Today’? Exactly.) But, but – one rule that most people agree on, and one rule which should be universal for writers everywhere is – READ.
We’re privileged to have access to all sorts of fiction and poetry. There is very little worldwide which does not wind up published in the UK and which is not available to us. Where prisoners do not have rights like this, where schools in other countries can ban books for all sorts of bizarre reasons, and where other countries can advise people not to bring unwelcome books into the country in the first place; we are able to read what we want, when we want, and have it available anywhere we want (more or less).
It’s important to read, and it’s important to read a huge spread of things. So, with that in mind, I’ve compiled a list below of great short fiction, available free online.
Hilary Mantel – ‘The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher – August 6th 1983’
David Hartley – ‘Marigolds’
Fat Roland – ‘Norway’
China Mieville – ‘Polynia’
Anneliese Mackintosh – ‘Like you’
Simon Rich – ‘Guy Walks into a Bar’
Lydia Davis – ‘Five Stories’
Fran Slater – ‘This Man Alone’
Simon Sylvester – ‘You don’t talk to the Driver, the Driver talks to you’
There’s plenty more online that you can find, so let me know in the comments what else you would recommend people read!
You can also find my own published writing here.