Monica Ali's Writing Tips

Monica Ali's Writing Tips

Boltonian and author of best-selling novel Brick Lane, Monica Ali is a judge on our 'One Night In Bolton' Writing Competition and has some writing tips to help you get the words flowing!


The best short stories make the back of your neck tingle. They make you feel newly alive to the world. They suck you in fast, and they do it by weaving character, setting, story, voice, and dialogue into a scene that makes you wonder what will happen next, what has happened before.


The opening of a short story succeeds by raising questions instantly in the reader’s mind, creating an immediacy and urgency and desire to delve deeper into the narrator’s life.


Stories that stand out are diverse in almost every way but one. They favour the particular over the general. They make the reader see, and therefore feel, through the judicious use of precise detail. That doesn’t mean relying on adjectives and adverbs! It means selecting nouns and verbs with great care.


Read your story out loud! This is always essential - you will hear the rhythms and cadences more clearly, you will catch any false notes, and you will become aware of how well or poorly the dialogue works. Read in a ‘flat’ voice so that you are relying on the words you’ve written rather than your delivery to make the story sing. If it works when you read it to yourself like that that means when it’s read aloud on the radio by an actor it will truly soar.

Find out more and how to enter the competition