Writing a great story is hard work. An author needs to think of an exciting plot, develop interesting characters, and add details to create a setting that will draw readers in. And with Young Post's 2014 Summer Story competition, all of this had to be done in less than 2,000 words.
Young Post sat down with winner Honor Siu Yiu, 15, a Year 11 student at German Swiss International School, to find out her process for writing our top choice.
"I like writing, but mainly all I do is school writing," Honor confessed.
She says she always has lots of story ideas, but she never gets them down on paper. However, with her first official attempt at fiction, she had a strong plan.
As soon as Honor saw the theme, "Down the rabbit hole", she knew she had to start by reading the Lewis Carroll classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
"At first I was trying to evaluate it the same way you would look at English poems, trying to see if there was a meaning behind it," she says. But this made her feel like she was preparing to write a school essay, rather than a story, so she changed her approach.
"I thought, why not stick with the original characters and play around with them a bit?" she explains. "I thought that would be pretty cool."
Exploring and developing these characters became her focus. "I enjoyed writing the March Hare and Mad Hatter," she says, talking about the two main characters in her story. "I liked how I could make the March Hare a really silly character that everyone would like to read about, while the Mad Hatter is more a sarcastic partner." The more she wrote the characters, the more she enjoyed their development, giving them strong personalities.
"The most important thing was making sure the characters were in character," Honor says, "so their interactions were the most important." Linking the scenes together through the characters' interactions helped her develop the plot further. "It explores whether they have another background, like a frenemy relationship with the Cheshire cat." In fact, Honor was having so much fun developing these characters, she didn't realise how much she had written.
"The 1,800-word limit seemed fine. I thought I'd just write it first and then cut it down later," she says. "But then on the night I was meant to submit it, I had to cut it down from 3,000 words! I ended up sending it in at 11.59pm." This process of cutting to fit the word count was the hardest part. "I had to cut out a lot of the detail, and some parts of the story. I didn't really like how choppy it was without the detail," she admits. But by the end, she had managed to create an engaging story full of rich characters.
For other aspiring writers out there, Honor says the best thing to do is to have your own style. "You just have to follow how you think you would like it to sound," she says. It's important not to try and make your writing sound like anyone but yourself.
Honor also recommends finding a subject that you enjoy writing about. She says that it's important not to force yourself to write about a subject or in a style that you don't enjoy. "If you don't want to write something deep, write about action or something you actually like," she says.
Honor is considering a career in writing, but not writing books. "When you're an author, once you run out of ideas it's not good for continuing your career," she says. "But journalism sounds quite exciting!"