A Creative Way to Start the New Year: My Annual Promotion of the Toronto Star Short Story Contest


It has become a tradition at the start of every year that the Toronto Star holds its short story contest. Newspapers might not be what they were when this contest first began 46 years ago, but this is still one of the most respected in Canada and has one of the biggest cash prizes I've ever seen for this kind of contest.

I have talked to several people over the years who tell me that they have a story inside them but they just don't have time to write. Maybe a contest with a $5000.00 grand prize and being published in a well-known publication may be the motivation to find the time. If you are an aspiring fiction writer, live in Ontario, and are 16 years or older then this is the perfect time to get writing that story. You have until February 28 at 5pm to submit it digitally. You can get more details about the contest specifics here.

If you join the contest then you'll be competing with my own short story that I'll be working on over the next two months. From past experience, the biggest challenge for a 2500-word story is actually getting it down to that word count. The month of February is usually hacking away words and trying to make it far more concise. I admit that being someone who tends to be overly verbose a story of that length may not be a struggle for everyone. I often feel I just get the story rolling before it is time to wrap it up.

My advice is to keep the character count really low between two to three at most. Then make it more of a snapshot of a single event rather than a sweeping narrative. The smaller and more contained then the more time you can focus on character development and allowing the main issue to unfold.

As I work away on my story, I'll throw in a few insights and personal experiences that I will have crafting it. I feel the best type of writing advice is an honest sharing of one's experience, and I'll do that over the next two months.

I hope you consider joining the contest, and happy writing!