Wednesday, 30 April 2014

How to write a CXC English A short story in 45 minutes


So, how do you write a CXC English A short story in 45 minutes?
Well, there are a lot of techniques for short story writing. Many of which will posted here over time. In this post, I just want to give you some "quick and dirty" tips for writing good short stories when you are not so good at it and you are under the pressure of time in the CXC exam room.

Tip 1: Write about the things that you know well.
It is easier, faster and smarter to write about the things that you know well.
When you choose a short story to write, try to stick to a story that you can connect to your own life and or experiences. When you do this, you don't have to reach into your imagination so much. You already know much of the story because you have lived it yourself or you know someone who has.

Tip 2: Write about one short event or short experience.
Write about one event, one moment in time or one emotional experience. When you make your story take place in a short space of time, or focus on one emotional moment, it is easier to start and end the story in 45 minutes. If you don't believe me, check out the CXC best short stories, each one is about an event that happens in a few minutes.

Tip 3: Make your sentences work hard.
Every sentence in a short story has to work overtime. It has to "double up" on what it does. It has to tell the story and build the mood or theme of the story at the same time. It's not just, " the road stretched in front of him", it's, "the road that stretched in front of him, seemed to echo the emptiness of his future". See? In that one sentence I not only talked about the road but I also related it to the character's feelings and future.
Please note that a sentence doesn't have to be long to work hard.

Tip 4: Use short sentences.
It is easier to read short sentences than it is to read long sentences. You don't want the examiner slowing down his reading to try to figure out what you want to say. You will impress the examiner more by using simple, clear language to tell an exciting story, than using complex language to tell a story he can't figure out.

Tip 5: Use simple words.
Sometimes exam candidates think that they need to use "essay language" to impress examiners. They use '10 dollar words' when '10 cent words' will get the job done just as good or better.
One way to tell if you are using 10 dollar words in your essay is to read your essay back to your self as you are writing. If you find yourself stumbling over words, change the ones that you are stumbling over for easier words.
If the essay does not flow smoothly when you are reading it to yourself, see where you can rewrite it so that it is easier to read.

Tip 6: If you are not sure, don't use it.
If you are not sure about using quotation marks and other punctuation signs when writing direct speech, don't use direct speech in your story. Make life easy for yourself, use normal sentences and write in paragraph form.
If you are not sure about the spelling of a word, don't use it. Use another word that you are sure you know how to spell.
This is an easy way to save some marks.

Tip 7: Do not write about sex (or a lot of unecessary violence).
The examiners really, really do not like when CXC exam candidates write sexually explicit stories. They have said this publicly.

Tip 8: Write neatly.
I know this sounds too easy but many people do not write neatly in exams. They are so busy trying to get everything down on paper within the time limit, they don't worry about neat handwriting. This is not a good idea.
When your handwriting is neat and easy to understand, you are reducing the work the examiner has to do to read your essay. This puts him/her in a good mood, you want that. I repeat, you want that.

Tip 9: Leave time to proof read your essay.
Leave 5 minutes out of your 45 minutes to proof read your essay at the end.
We all make mistakes. In the heat of trying to get the whole essay on paper, you may have made spelling and/or grammar mistakes. Take a few minutes at the end of the exam to clean up the essay and make sure it reads well (sounds good to your ear).
Well, that's it for now. If I think of any more tips, I will add them as time goes on.


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