One of the best ways to practice great writing is to write a short story.  Keeping a story confined within 5-8,000 words offers an opportunity to develop characters and dialogue that does not ramble.  Short stories can also be developed into a much more involved story.   It will unknowingly make your writing tighter.  The Zoetrope contest, deadline is October 1st, not only gives prize money and publication but it also opens up the door to be considered by prominent literary agencies.  Visit for details  LA Carlson