Monthly Archives: February 2017

So You Want to Write a Story

Art by ALRadeck

The deadline for the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest is April 23rd, 2017. Maybe you have a story on your hard drive just ready to send out – but maybe you don’t. Maybe you haven’t written in a while, or you don’t feel great about the stories you have on hand. Maybe you’d like to write something for the first time.

You have 8 weeks to cook up something new for the contest. And that is immensely doable, even if you work full time, even if you have a family who demand your best time, even if you have another deadline. You can do it. Trust me.

We accept work up to 6000 words here, but there is no minimum length. A good-sized short story, one that would qualify for many other short story magazines, would be 4000-5000 words. Over 8 weeks, that is 70-90 words per day. A couple of paragraphs, at the most.

But spewing words isn’t really the hard part. There is some really great advice out there on how to write as many as 10,000 words per day, so that even if you are busy all week at your day job, you could hypothetically write a story in a weekend.

No, the hard part is coming up with the idea, doing your research, and planning the story.

Sure, there is a lot of debate out there about “pantsing” versus “planning” – that is, making it up as you go along, or sticking to a plot outline. But if you want to write quickly and efficiently, planning is the way to go. Pantsing can be exhilarating, creativity at its most raw, but it often leads to a lot of rewriting, the need to work out plot holes and knots, and getting stuck when you’ve written yourself into a corner. It works, but it can be slow.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll cover the short story process here, from brainstorming to plotting to writing and revising. But today, let us start at the beginning.

A little stretch, if you will. A warm-up, to loosen those writing muscles. Here’s a micro-contest.

I want you to write a drabble based on the following prompt. A drabble is a 100-word story. All it needs is a beginning, middle, and end. Post your drabble in the comments below by midnight on March  5th, 2017, and I will post my favourite one to the blog on Monday, March 6th! No other prize beyond bragging rights, but I will happily plug you on Twitter and link your website from the blog.

Ready? Here is your prompt:

[Pronoun] only had one [something] left.

Don’t overthink it – just write! Post your drabble in the comments and we’ll see what we have by Sunday. And if you have a longer story ready, do submit it to the short story contest! We’d love to read what you have either way!

The 2017 Submission Period is Open!

“Candies library” by Ryowazza

Today is the day!

Welcome to the 2017 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest! We’re excited to read your short stories!


  • Anyone can enter! No matter how old you are, where you are from, how you identify, how much experience you have, or how many publications you have, you are welcome to enter your work!
  • All entries should be blind. And if you forget to remove your contact information, I will do it for you. The readers and judges will have no idea who you are!
  • We welcome simultaneous submissions! We do not publish any entries, and so you are welcome to submit them to our contest as well as to other publishers.
  • We welcome multiple submissions! There is no entry to how many stories you can send us. The entry fee is $5 per entry and will support a wonderful cause.
  • Entry is only $5 – Canadian! These days, that’s less than $4 US – one of the cheapest writing contests out there!

You can read the full contest rules here. If you have any questions afterwards, feel free to contact Charlotte Ashley, Contest Administrator.

So, pay your entry fees here and then send your speculative stories to The submission period will close at midnight on Sunday, April 23rd, 2017.

Best of luck, everyone!

Announcing the 2017 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest!

Hope you’ve been writing like crazy, short story writers! Because we’re back and ready to do everything we can to give you that boost you need! We are very pleased to announce the 2017 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest!

The Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest is an annual fundraiser and outreach event in support of the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Speculation at the Toronto Public Library. Writers are encouraged to submit their unpublished speculative short stories (up to 6000 words long) for their chance to win the top prize of $500, or one of two runner-up prizes of $50. Each submission must be accompanied by a donation of $5 CDN – simultaneous and multiple submissions welcome! This year’s reading period will open Friday, February 17th 2017 at noon, and close Sunday, April 23rd 2017 at midnight. Winners will be announced at the end of May 2017. For full submission guidelines, visit our contest rules.

Last year, we saw tonnes of entries from writers all over the globe, and this year we hope to do even better! Watch this space for interviews, success stories, writing tips, and more! We hope you will join us in spreading the word, participating, and helping to support this wonderful institution.

This year’s final judging panel:


Photo thanks to Kathryn Hollinrake.

Kelley Armstrong has been telling stories since before she could write. Her earliest written efforts were disastrous. If asked for a story about girls and dolls, hers would invariably feature undead girls and evil dolls, much to her teachers’ dismay. All efforts to make her produce “normal” stories failed. Today, she continues to spin tales of ghosts and demons and werewolves, while safely locked away in her basement writing dungeon. She’s the author of the “Otherworld” urban fantasy series, “Darkest Powers” & “Darkness Rising” teen paranormal trilogies as well as the “Cainsville” modern gothic series, Age of Legends YA fantasy series and “Blackwell Pages” middle-grade fantasy adventure trilogy (co-written as K.L. Armstrong with M.A. Marr). She lives in southwestern Ontario with her husband, kids and far too many pets.

_dsc7893Indrapramit Das (aka Indra Das) is a writer and editor from Kolkata, India. He is the author of debut novel The Devourers (Del Rey / Penguin India), which was shortlisted for the 2016 Crawford Award. His work has appeared in several publications including Clarkesworld Magazine, Lightspeed Magazine, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, and, and has also been widely anthologized in collections such as The Year’s Best Science Fiction (St. Martin’s Press). He is an Octavia E. Butler scholar and a grateful graduate of the 2012 Clarion West Writers Workshop. He completed his M.F.A. at the University of British Columbia (class of ’11) in Vancouver, where he wore many hats, including dog hotel night shift attendant, TV background performer, minor film critic, occasional illustrator, environmental news writer, pretend-patient for med school students, and video game tester. He is currently working as a consulting editor for Indian publisher Juggernaut Books while writing a second novel. He divides his time between India and North America, whenever possible.

alyx-portrait-2014A.M. Dellamonica‘s first novel, Indigo Springs, won the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. Her fourth, A Daughter of No Nation, has won the 2016 Prix Aurora. She is the author of over forty short stories in a variety of genres; these can be found on, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed and in numerous print magazines and anthologies, most recently Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and was co-editor of Heiresses of Russ 2016. She teaches writing in person at UTSC and online through the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program.

Alyx is married to fellow Aurora winner Kelly Robson; the two were able to make their outlaw wedding of 1989 legal, in 2003, when the Canadian Supreme Court conferred full equality on same sex couples.

Dellamonica tells people she is bigendered, bisexual and bisectional. (The latter means she sings both alto and soprano.) Her website is at
Questions? Contact Charlotte Ashley, Contest Administrator, at Potential sponsors are invited to inquire at this address about our sponsorship package.