Have you ever wanted to write a short story? Maybe you plan to release a collection of short stories on Kindle? Or do you simple enjoy writing short fiction for pleasure? Here is my ‘How To’ that will give you some simple tips to help you along the way.
In my experience, writing short stories can be a very satisfying way of exploring the writing process. Not only is it fun, but it trains your mind to think more carefully about structuring fiction and starts you thinking about the stories that you read more analytically. Take a look at my steps to success and let me know what you think.
- Set a seed
Every story starts with a little nugget of information; an idea. For the purposes of this article, let’s refer to it as a seed. Unlike with a novel, you only really need one fully formed seed to develop a brilliant short story. This can be an event, such as an accident on the way to work, a chance encounter between two potential lovers or a family day out to the zoo.
- Add a little compost
A short story can require some planning, although that’s not always the case. It can still be organic as long as you have certain things in mind. Without all of the extra padding of a larger novel, you are not quite so restricted in fitting into a complex web of plot, setting and character development. You do need some compost though to root that original idea firmly into the ground and enable it to grow.
A short story still needs one or more of the following:
* A purpose (to simply make the reader smile or to point to a moral)
* To have a strong voice (whether written in the first or third person) which is consistent and relatable.
* An emotional tug (something to involve the reader and draw upon their empathy, thus sustaining their interest).
- Watch it grow
‘A watched kettle never boils’ they say, but a neglected story never finds an audience either. You need to review your writing regularly and be open to making changes as you go along. Reading it aloud can help you to uncover any parts that might sound too clunky. After all, if it doesn’t read well out loud, it probably won’t hold your audience’s attention for very long.
Having said that, taking some time away from your writing to do other things can enable you to examine it with fresh eyes and pick out bits that you want to develop or need cutting completely. Editing is a harsh business but you just have to be confident in your own abilities and snip off some of those dead leaves.
- Keep it out in the open
Sometimes you may be tempted to shelve a project quite early on. You may have that initial inspiration for a story and then life takes over and you file it away in a folder on your computer and before long, it’s just a distant memory.
My advice would be don’t shy away from it. Keep coming back to it, even if only to add a sentence or two. Think about what you like about it so far and what else it really needs to tie up loose ends and bring it to a suitable ending.
- Water it
The most important aspect of writing is editing, especially when you have a first draft. Sometimes the best way to begin with this is to share it with a trusted friend. Pick someone who will take it seriously and give it due consideration. Ask them to discuss it with you or even persuade them to listen to you reading it aloud. Once you have got a feeling for their reaction to it, hopefully they will be able to talk about what they enjoyed the most. Sometimes, without the need for negativity, just being aware of the most appealing sections can help you a great deal with a final edit.
When somebody else shares the highlights with you, it can be easy to focus on those and make sure they are drawn attention to, sometimes by contracting other content or sidelining it altogether. It makes sense to embellish the good stuff but also make sure the overall story stays true to the message that you want to give. It is your story and you should feel comfortable with the direction it moves in. If you feel concerned that other people are changing that initial seed then hold your horses and stick to your guns.
- Put it in the window box for all to see
The last stage of writing a captivating short story is letting it go. By this, I’m not referring to Frozen, but I’m saying simply put it out there in the big wide world. Short stories may be written for you alone and that’s fine. But if you do want to share your work then go for it. Pop it on your blog or include it in a website that allows you to publish your own work for free, such as Wattpad. Shout about it on social media, perhaps utilising one of the #writerslift opportunities on Twitter or shameless self promo threads.
Be proud of what you’ve achieved and celebrate your accomplishment (perhaps even open a bottle of bubbly).
All writing is challenging and takes a lot of effort to complete. So if you have spent time putting together a short work of fiction and have made sure to follow the above steps, you will definitely deserve to celebrate your achievement. I hope that you will begin to love the writing process as much as a I have. You can see some of my favourite short books here:
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