Sophie Morton-Thomas, Flash Fiction Semi-Finalist
- Can you please tell us about you? Where do you live and how is your daily life? I live in West Sussex with my husband and third child and I’m an English teacher (part time at the moment due to the baby!) I’m also a student at Cambridge University on their Crime and Thriller Writing Master’s degree, so that takes up a fair bit of head space. My two eldest children are often here too. - When did you start writing? How often do you write? We want to learn all about your writing life! I used to write a lot of stories as a child but then university, exams and having my eldest children got in the way, as well as then working full time. I suffered with low confidence in my writing so told myself not to bother for years and years. Then I found I was spending a lot of time at home with my newborn baby in 2019 so decided to give it a go and write a short story, Ivy (which was shortlisted in the Wells Literature Festival Short Story competition). I like darker tales, and don’t really know how to write a happy story! At the same time I applied for the master’s degree at Cambridge University as my goal is to write a full-length thriller, and was gobsmacked to have been accepted on the course. The first chapter and synopsis of my novel-in-progress was a finalist in the Adventures in Fiction competition for New Voices, and it got a special mention on their site. At the moment I have to squeeze writing into evenings and weekends. - How did you feel when you learned that you are a Semi-Finalist on The London Independent Story Prize? I was actually shocked as I knew it was a fairly large international competition. I also wasn’t sure I had got the hang of writing flash fiction; Sun’s Game being the only flash I have attempted. So I was thrilled and have been showing a lot of people! - What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing a Flash-Fiction? I definitely found Flash Fiction a lot more tricky than a classic short story, and also novel writing (although I am only a few chapters in with this.) I loved it once I had eliminated all the surplus words and sentences and was left with something I thought was submittable, although this took a lot more time than the writing! - How did you come up with the idea for your LISP selected story? Is there a story behind your story? And how long have you been working on it? This bit will sound very non-exciting; I have no concept of where my ideas come from - sometimes I can just be driving and something sinister will pop into my head. To be honest I wrote Sun’s Game and edited it in one afternoon. I don’t know if that’s a good thing!
- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a 300-word flash-fiction story? I would say to write out the story that you have in your mind, and just let the word count go as high as you need (within reason, no more than, say 600 words.) Then work backwards by eliminating all of the words that are not absolutely necessary. Try to have a strong sense of the characters and the setting, and the general tone of the story. I wouldn’t say there needs to be a ‘twist’ as such.
- What's the best thing about writing competitions? Having a deadline, a motivation to finish the story, the chance of winning, getting recognised by a professional organisation, communicating with other writers or a networking opportunity to meet with like-minded people? I have only entered a few competitions, and been shortlisted in three so far, but I would definitely say all of the above. Deadlines are very important to people like me, otherwise I would just procrastinate and not get the writing done. Obviously being recognised is great, especially if you’ve been plagued with self-doubt about your work for years. The chance of winning is also another pull-factor. Being on Twitter and finding out about competitions such as LISP through other writers has been invaluable.
-Lastly, do you recommend the writers to give it a go on flash fiction story and LISP? Definitely, I’m sure most people say they would never expect to be successful but obviously if you don’t try then you’ll never know! The competition fee is very reasonable compared to some other competitions too, and LISP seems to really support fledgling writers.