My main tip for would-be writers is to read a lot of good stuff. And of course, to write regularly. If you write contemporary fiction, you can't go wrong in checking out the Provo Canyon Review, whose editorial guidelines are revealing:
They seek short fiction that is "deeply moving without being sentimental," tender, with a mix of grace, vulnerability and compassion. And that shows attention to style and language.
These qualities and more are abundantly present in the recently published volume of short stories, Fine People, by the Review's co-editor, Chris McClelland, whom I have known for some years, starting from his graduate work at the University of Central Florida.
Chris is a master of the short story, having read and absorbed what he has read; as a result, his readers who also write can learn some valuable lessons from his work. For example, about how to have a strong opening sentence that propels you on to the narrative that follows; characters that wrestle with complicated emotional issues and become believable because of what they say; and narratives that are concise, with carefully crafted sentences.
Consider the title story, "Fine People," about the grief and anger of a couple traveling in Mexico sharing their grief unexpectedly with the owner of a cantina. This is the kind of powerful story that makes us want to read the other stories in the collection, which do not disappoint.
Chris McClelland, in his deeply felt and well-crafted fiction, has much to teach the reader about how the short story works. He experiments with various points of view, uses various locales, and never flinches from hard truths about the human heart.
His book would make a fine holiday gift for someone: only $9 on Amazon for the paperback, only $4 for the Kindle edition. Just a suggestion.
And if you're a writer of short fiction, consider submitting your work to www.theprovocanyonreview.net after you have seen what work they are looking for.