How to Write a Brilliant Christmas Short Story for Children | Resources | Tips for Winning Short Stories | Writing for Children & YA

Sarah Webb

This week Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin of together with children’s book enthusiast Kim Harte and international bestselling author Deirdre Purcell, judged the TV3 Christmas Short Story competition – the results will be announced on Christmas Eve. There was a massive response to the competition, and many of the stories shared common themes and images. Knowing that there are some keen writers out there who didn’t make the shortlist, Vanessa asked me to give visitors some tips on writing short stories for children, so whether you are writing for publication, to enter a competition, or simply want to write a story that will captivate your children this festive season, read on!

Because everyone is busy at Christmas time, particularly if they have children, I’ve kept these tips to bullet points:

  1. Before you start writing, think about your story and your characters. Go for a walk and mull it all over in your head; then grab a notebook and start scribbling down some ideas.
  2. Once you have mapped out your main characters (for a short story like this, don’t use too many main characters), and your plot, give your story an exciting or intriguing opening scene.
  3. Think about the setting of your story – where will it take place. And add details – icicles, food. Use your senses to add depth to the tale – smell, taste, touch. What does Christmas smell like?
  4. Conflict is vital in any story, even a children’s story. Without the Big Bad Wolf, Little Red Riding Hood wouldn’t be a very interesting story. Think of the favourite traditional tales for younger children – Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, even Pinocchio – they are full of larger than life characters and HUGE emotions. Love, hate, revenge . . . Think big for your story too. Don’t be afraid to use strong emotions. Maybe Santa’s in mortal danger; maybe he’s stuck in a snow drift or has been captured by aliens – the sky’s the limit.
  5. Keep rewriting the story until you think it’s as good as you can make it. I rewrite each of my books up to ten times before handing them over to my editor.
  6. And finally ask a trusted, smart friend or colleague to look over your work before you submit. A second pair of eyes can make all the difference.

Good luck on your writing journey. If you are looking for an outlet for your children’s stories, check out The Caterpillar (click the link for submission information.) And keep an eye on for news of a new online space for children’s stories opening early next year….

(c) Sarah Webb

For lots more writing tips see

About the author

Sarah Webb is from Dublin and writes for both children and adults. A former children’s bookseller, her Ask Amy Green series for age 10+ (Walker Books) has been shortlisted for the Queen of Teen Awards in the UK (twice) and the Irish Book Awards. The latest book in the series is Ask Amy Green: Wedding Belles. She also recently contributed a short story to the teen collection, And Then He Kissed Me (Walker Books).

Sarah combines writing with visiting schools, volunteering at Fighting Words (the creative writing centre in Dublin), reading at festivals, and teaching writing to both children and adults. She currently teaches Writing for Children at the Irish Writers’ Centre.

Her websites are and and you can find her on Facebook or Twitter

Read Sarah’s 10 Tips on Writing Dialogue here, her ideas on How to Write for Children & Adults here, Sarah Webb & Martina O’Reilly on Plotting & Planning

Sarah explains about her Amy Green series here, and her adult books The Memory Box and The Shoestring Club

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