There’s a fine line between writing novels and short stories. As a writer, I’ve made the mistake of aiming to write a short story and then ending up writing an endless script. While some writers stick to short stories as they don’t commit to writing long-form pieces, short stories themselves have their own constraints. Here are the top 10 tips on short story writing.
Similar to playwriting, crafting a short story has its set of limits – to its words, the number of plots, and character detailing. Editing to make every word count is critical here. Anything longer than its word length turns into a novella, and novels once it exceeds that limit as well.
10 Tips on Short Story Writing
1. Stick to a Firm Plot
The length of a short story is between 1000-7500 words. Stretch it to a maximum of 10,000 words and no more. This gives us (writers) a tight window to put in our story outline, story twist, character development, and situation narration.
Since there’s a strong limit to our word count, cut down on the plots and stick to one. Pick the best plotline that you think will keep the readers engaged till its end.
For example; Imagine the protagonist is a businessman who owns a zoo. Plot: is he gets greedy and sells an animal to the circus. Keep this the plot till the end of the story. Stress on the protagonist’s emotions. How did it affect him/her, what did he/she do to face it?
2. Structure your Narrative Outline
There’s a whole world to structuring your short story. Sure, there are two types of writers – plotter and pantser – where one plans out the story outline before starting. The other simply starts and the story goes as a flow. For a beginner, go for the plotter.
Be it a book, a novella, or a short story, begin outlining the structure of your story. When plotting, here are the key elements to cover:
- Protagonist (s) – The state of protagonist, a brief description, mindest of protagonist.
- Conflict – Who/what causes it? How did it affect the protagonist? How does it cause his/her life to change?
- Action– What does the protagonist do about this conflict? Make use a strong action scene or two which can be used to sell the story.
- Epilogue – How does the characters’ lifes change at the end? Is there a change in mindset among them?
Note down these elements and ask yourself these questions as you plot. It’ll help make you get a clear picture of whether it makes a strong impression on your reader.
3. Weed out Unnecessary Parts of the Story
This goes out to all writers whether you’re a beginner looking to begin with writing short stories, or someone who writes novels and wishes to cut down their words.
Similar to cutting down the plotlines to one, keep your story to the bone with straightforward short descriptions. This part is vital when you begin to edit your story. Go through each line of your short story and ask yourself –
- Do I need this character?
- Does this add to the plot of the story?
- Will anything change if I omit it?
- Can I improvise with some changes to this line?
A good tip to eliminate unnecessary phrases or sentences is the description of your characters and the characters themselves.
Novels elaborate on the appearance and development of their character’s thoughts and lives because they can. But short stories need to stick to a limited description. Provide details that primarily add up to the structure and plot.
4. Make a Fixed Time to Write
This isn’t just to write this one short story you have in mind. Story writing is a process. It’s a miracle if your first story turns out to be a masterpiece. Set a time to write every day and follow it.
Schedule how long you’ll write. Sit and begin to write continually and see how much you write. How much are you satisfied with it. Keep your time anywhere between 10 to 40 minutes. It doesn’t have to be your best story.
This aims in improving your writing day by day. This tip goes out to not just short stories but any beginner starting to write.
5. Begin Writing!
Most ‘beginners’ get the best of their ideas only to fantasize about them. Some even make it till outlining but no further. I’ve done this myself while writing a book.
Make a rough outline and once you feel your storyline is firm, begin writing straight away! Don’t worry about editing your first line. Keep writing until you build your first draft. Write first, edit later. You’ll have time for it.
After all, building a rough draft is the first step of writing a story. Then comes the chain of editing your draft goes through.
6. Take up a Story Writing Course
Learning all these through articles is one way to begin writing. But to kickstart where you get all the modules of story writing in one place and in a neat arrangement, take a course. It’s worth it.
If you’re looking to take up writing professionally, the course adds up a great deal to your resume when applying for clients. Here are some courses I picked for you from Udemy along with their ratings. They’re arranged based on pricing, check out and pick the best one for yourself!
UPDATE: To those looking to buy a course on Udemy, watch out – The biggest sale season is here between the 17th to 25th of May, 2022. Make sure to stack up on your favorite courses! Click the link below to avail of your sale deals:
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Name of Course
Creative Writing Masterclass: Start Writing Your Own Stories
Short Story Writing For Beginners
Writing Short Stories: The Essential Guide
The Basics of Writing a Compelling Short Story
Creative writing for kids: write a spy story!
Writing Life Stories - made simple.
7. Build a Powerful Ending
Making the perfect ending for a short story is a whole skill. Unlike writing a novel where you have the ability to drag the final chapters themselves, a short story ends with clarity.
Short stories are meant to be read in one sitting. And its main goal is to make a strong impression on the reader. Bring out a message that affects your reader and make it a topic of discussion.
There are many ways to end your short story. It can go with a ‘happily ever after’, dark, or even an abrupt ending that leaves one to wonder what happens next. Some endings are naturally constructed to be vague where their meaning depends on how the reader perceives it.
Can’t find the right ending? Here’s my list of 11 ways to end a short story.
8. Edit the Draft to your Satisfaction
On completion of the parts of constructing your story with structure and its first draft, then comes the crucial part.
With the rough draft, there’s tons of work to do on your poured-out idea – rounds of editing. The first layer of edit is to make your story error-free from spelling mistakes as well as punctuation. Make use of tools like Grammarly or Hemingway to outsource this part.
The next part of editing involves finding loopholes in the storyline, all the details mentioned are followed till the end, and further. Take some time away from your rough piece before jumping to editing. This way, you’ll be able to edit your own story from a fresh perspective – you’ll find mistakes you hadn’t found earlier.
9. Take Feedback from a Stranger
When you’re looking to publish your short story or a collection, the publishers are bound to read your story before heading to publish it.
But before it makes it there, I’d recommend having someone else read your story and get feedback firsthand. Someone who’s into reading and is straightforward with their critics. It’s better when this person is a stranger, someone other than your family or a close friend.
Ask for specific feedback – which part could’ve been better? Is the story appealing to the reader? Is the plot too easy to figure out? Is it too messy? Take the feedback and get back to the previous step – editing. Keep this process running until you’re satisfied with your short story.
10. Read more Stories
This tip is the most essential for all aspiring writers, not just for story writing. I wrote an article on Medium on how reading has helped me out.
Not only does reading enrich your vocabulary, but keeps you up with different ways to structure and write your story. Writers are artists involved in creativity. You are one among them. But keep up with other artists, there are marvelous ones out there.
It doesn’t have to be books or stories in your niche. Read a variety of works – inspiration stories, literary works, travel magazines, blogs, Medium articles.
Tips on Short Story Writing: Tailpiece
That puts an end to this post on the top tips on short story writing. To conclude, the best way to get ahead of your game is to consistency. There are ups and downs with writing. But keep up with writing your stories, it’ll reap one day.
An addition to the tips on short story writing is to write on/for multiple platforms. Lift yourself up with social media like Twitter and Medium. Build a portfolio with a blog for your clients in case you’re willing to invest in writing.
There’s more to the things you can do. There’s always more. But that ends this post on tips on short story writing for now.
I hope you have a great day :)
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