When I began writing in the early 2000s, I thought short story writing would be easier, so to speak, because it’s shorter. Short equals less time, right? Wrong. Writing a short story is more difficult in some ways because you need to capture the same elements as a novel and place them strategically throughout the narrative in fewer pages. So let’s discuss how to write a short story.
Why Write Short Stories?
There are many reasons why writers should try their skills at short story writing at least once. First, short stories are a fun and unique way to tell a story. In many cases, short stories can remain open-ended, leaving the readers thinking but still satisfied.
First, short stories allow writers to practice their skills. If you typically write novels, it’s easy to ramble on and write events within the story that will get cut later in editing. We all do that.
Short story writing is similar, but now you have to ensure all the main ideas and purpose of the story is told in fewer pages. Any funny bits that act as filler may have to get cut. It has to go if it doesn’t push the plot forward.
In a nutshell, short story writing helps you tighten your storytelling skills.
Second, in addition to practicing your writing skills, you can use short stories to help you through your novel.
For example, does your protagonist need extra development? Throw them in an unexpected situation and write a short story about it. Do you need to know the origin story of how two of your characters met? Write a short story about it.
It sounds like extra work, but it intertwines with your writing skills and creative projects. Plus, it’s fun.
So, if you want to try writing short stories, how exactly do you go about it?
How To Write A Short Story Step By Step
Short story writing is similar to novel writing. You’ll follow the creative writing process similarly if you plan to write a novel. You’ll want to keep most of the elements of novel writing in your short story but told more concisely.
Step One: The Idea
Maybe I don’t need to include this as a step, but I will anyway. All stories come from an idea. Sometimes multiple ideas. Before you begin writing, be sure you have a few story ideas in your back pocket.
You may need one or a few of them. Or, you might not need any of them at all.
If you’re a pantser or decide to sit down and write one day simply, that works too. However, as you write, ideas will spark. That’s when you can decide what you want your short story to be about.
Step Two: Get To Know Your Characters
Once you have a plot or basic idea, you must decide which character (or characters) would best suit that idea.
What are their motivations? Why are they in this situation in the first place? How do they take on this responsibility?
As you would a novel, you can create character profiles and sketches. Then, you can try to outline the story’s events and figure out how your protagonist would react.
Step Three: Outline
Once you have a story idea and potential characters, it’s time to outline your short story. Yes, even though it’s shorter than a novel, laying out the events is still a good idea.
Of course, not everyone outlines. If you’re a pantser or don’t feel like outlining this time, skip this step. Sometimes our writing flows better when we let our train of thought go wild.
Step Four: Write The First Draft
Craft your short story with relatable characters, an intriguing plot, memorable settings, and well-crafted prose.
If you can help, try not to edit as you write the first draft. Editing and revising will come later.
However, keep notes as you write to make the editing process easier. Also, keep your outline updated if you wrote one. Or, if you didn’t outline, you can create one as you write.
Step Five: Create A Memorable Ending
Whatever mood you set for your story, readers should feel it by the end. So whether you leave your short story ending for interpretation or wrap it up neatly with a bow, be sure your readers are left feeling something and wanting more.
Quick Short Story Tips
Writing a short story is not an easy thing to do. It takes time, patience, and practice. So before you begin writing your short story, remember these tips.
Hook Your Reader From The Beginning
Just because the story is shorter doesn’t mean your readers will read it all the way through. They won’t finish the story if the beginning doesn’t entice them.
Keep Up The Pace
There isn’t much space for filler in a short story. You don’t have 60,000 words to work with. You have roughly 7,500 words instead. However, some short stories have been known to get up to 10,000 words.
Mind The Word Count
A flash fiction vs short story holds a fine line. You’re dipping into flash fiction territory if your short story is too short. If it’s too long, you’ve crossed to novella town.
Who Should Write Short Stories?
Any writer should try writing short stories at one point or another. It’s certainly not for everyone, but it’s a fun writing exercise and a great way to practice your skills.
Rachel Poli is an indie author, podcaster, and content writer working on her debut cozy mystery novel.
Although she favors mystery, Rachel is a multi-genre author with too many ideas and characters in her head, often experimenting with short stories and flash fiction.
When she’s not writing, she’s reading, organizing something, or playing video games. She currently resides in New England with her zoo.