If you’re stuck for an idea, use prompts - try interpreting the shape of a Rorschach inkblot, or think about a piece of clothing of a loved one - whatever’s resonating with you.
Don’t think about the audience, the reader. That can be paralysing and you’ll already be a step away from the integrity of the story. It’s between you and the blank page. Don’t be afraid.
When there’s a huge drama you don’t have to make a huge noise. On a lifeboat if a casualty’s screaming and shouting, I talk quietly and the person stops to hear what I’m saying. Do the same with your writing.
You hear the phrase 'it wrote itself'. That rarely happens. Pare it down to its skeleton, what’s essential. Trust the intelligence of your reader, let them fill in the gaps. Adverbs are the enemy of writers.
The story should hold the reader to the end. The last line can be a revelation or a secret. It should have a sense of completion. Remember a good story leaves a residue in the imagination of the reader.
Winning writing competitions certainly gets you noticed. Much is down to luck. Keep to that word count!
Rejections can be soul destroying, but you need to break through the urge to give up. You must persist and try again, as Samuel Beckett said: 'Ever tried. Ever failed. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.'