How to Write a Short Story in 9 Simple Steps

What is a Short Story?

A short story is usually short-fiction story. Although most stories are no longer than 8,000 words, most short stories range between 2,000 – 5,000 words.

Micro Fiction: upto 350 words

Flash Fiction: 500 -1000 words

Traditional: 1,500 – 5000 words 

Short stories also act as a great tool for marketing. Most contests related tow writing have contests for short stories.

If you’re confused, here is a word count for all types of writing:

Novella: 30,000 – 60,000

Novel: 60,000 – 100,000

Epic novel: 120,000 – 2220,000+  

Why Should Everyone Start With Short Stories?

Even while writing a novel or any other fiction, the knowledge on how to write a short story is beneficial for all. Most writers start off with writing short stories before they write novels. Why?

1.Helps your practice: Writing short stories on a regular basis helps you practice writing to become a better writer. It’s a great exercise.

2. Try new themes/ genres: Rather than starting off with a theme/ genre you know nothing about and breaking your head to write 60,000 words about it, you can explore different genres and themes everyday and find out what works for you. You can try writing about love one day and maybe sci-fi the next.

Tip: Write down the themes and genres you want to explore and set a goal for it (eg. one theme per day)

3. See if the idea works: Your story can be the next best-seller. How do you know? If your readers love it. Hugh Howey, the author of the Wool series, first published a novella. His fans were so adamant for him to turn it into a novel and he listened.

4. Marketing: Like I said before, writing a short story is a great marketing tactic. It helps you gain more followers/readers/subscribers. The point is to keep your audience engaged. You can publish them on websites for free and increase your reach. Try to get published on blogs, magazines, etc. You never know how many potential fans are out there.

5. You’ll learn how to tell: A novel with 60,000 -1,00,000 words gives you ample space to talk about your characters in detail. A short-story consists of only few pages to talk about your characters clearly. Penning down short stories helps you become a master at it.

6. Helps you strengthen every chapter: Many chapters comprises of a book. Writing a short story and a chapter needs the same set of skills. Once you become a pro in writing short stories, writing a chapter will be a cakewalk for you.

How to Come Up With Ideas

Don’t know what to write about? Not inspired by anything around you? Here are few ways to come up with short story ideas:

  • Locate memory:Most stories stories start with the memory of a person, place, fear, conflict that just doesn’t escape your mind. Identify that memory that and let it be the beginning to your short story.
  • Write it:Now that you know the source of your short story, make a rough draft without worrying about the grammar, cliches, etc. Getting a proper plot is the aim.
  • Create characters:Characters are often inspired from people know. Pick the most interesting, quirky people and mix and match their gender, age, looks, voices, tics, habits. You can also add characteristics of your own.

Steps to Write a Short Story

If you haven’t noticed, every basic story goes like this:

  • Protagonist gets in trouble (the trouble varies depending on the genre. A romance story might mean choosing between two suitors).
  • Tries to get out of it, ends of making worse and appears hopeless.
  • Whatever the protagonist learned during his sorrow gives him what he needs to end up happy.

For one to have a great short story, it must be one. Read further to know how to write a short story step by step.

1.Read As Much As You Can

Read how many ever short stories you can. Read the classics by Anton Chekhov, Kate Chopin, Edgar Allan Poe, etc.

Familiarise yourself, evaluate how they wrote it – style, words used and try to copy style. Soon, you’ll know what style suits you and start working on it.

Start off by reading 3-4 dozens of short stories to identify the authors’ writing style and structure.

Remember that you can’t just develop a writing style overnight. Be patient.

2. Find Your Main Emotion

Find the emotion you want to give your readers they will remember your story by. It’s more than just a feeling. Think about the context you want to portray it in. Again, each emotion is distinct in its own way. For example, you might want to write a happy story.

But a story about a girl finding her parents after many years is different from a man winning the lottery. Both fall into happy stories, but different kinds of happy.

Stories on love, redemption, freedom, heroic sacrifice justice is usually what moves readers.

3. Outline It

All writers need to know how to how to outline a story before they begin to write. Outlining saves time and helps you stay more organised. Creating an outline for a short story is much easier compared to a novel.

The outline should consist:

  • How to start the story
  • How you will go to the main issue from the beginning.
  • Climax (what happens).
  • Resolution of main issue.
  • The end

4. Start By Grabbing Attention

You need to get your readers hooked by grabbing their attention so think carefully about how you want to begin your short story.

Starting your story with something like “My life was flashing infront of my eyes. I knew this was going to be the end and closed my eyes wishing it would get over soon.”

What was the end? What happened? How did the protagonist get there?  Make your readers want more.

5. Don’t Be Too Wordy

Remember that you’re writing a short story and not a regular novel. Read every sentence at least twice to make sure it’s not too wordy or else you will just end up wasting space.

Tips to Write

  • Avoid long description.
  • Avoid writing about how the character got to the place. You can just write late evening, he was sitting in a cafe
  • Rather than explaining how an Indian man got to America, merely mention that his 10th birthday was the last he had celebrated in India before he emigrated to the U.S. from India.

6. Have a Strong Ending

You might think that you can have a lousy ending, but no.A strong beginning needs a strong ending. Don’t be in a rush to finish it off. Take some time, write few endings and see which works best. Think go yourself as a reader and have something no-one saw coming.

Your ending doesn’t have to be wordy. It can be in a way that your readers will understand what’s going to happen next. For example, you’re writing about a girl who’s meeting the love of her life at the end after they separated for a decade, you end the story with her looking at him from through the window, and then slowly approaching to ring his doorbell.

The ending is understood. You don’t have to talk about their embrace, the tears, and them confessing their love. 

7. Title

Creating a title is not easy. It’s the first thing people see or hear about so it has to be perfect. Make sure it grabs attention and is memorable.

Here are few ways to create a title:

  • Write anything and everything down. Every word, title, combination of words.
  • Use your protagonist or the setting as an inspiration. Example: Harry Potter.
  • Try common formulas and set phrases like “The _____ of _______” or “______ and the _____”.
  • Use notable phrases. Example: I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max.
  • Be direct. Example: Steve Jobs.
  • Use numbers. Example: The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell.
  • Use Metaphors. Example: Chicken Soup for the Soul.
  • Use alliteration. Example: The Thirteenth Taleby Diane Setterfield.
  • Use Slang. Example:  Ain’t Too Proud to Beg by Mark Ribowsky.

8. Read and Edit

Read your story a few times to make sure it’s error-free before it’s published.

Keep an eye out for:

  • Point of view/setting/grammar/tense consistency.
  • Grammar, spellings.
  • Weak verbs. Replace them with strong ones.

9. Get Feedback

Don’t assume that this is your final draft. Get feedback and see what others have to say. Don’t share your story with anyone and everyone. Get feedback from writers like you or anyone who loves to read.

These steps will help you write a good story. If you are an aspiring writer, try your hands on writing a short story since it will only help in enhancing your writing style, and boost your confidence. Here are a few more tips that will help you write a good short story:

  • Before writing your story try to summarise your story in one line, so you understand what your story is going to be about.
  • The titlemust have the spotlight it deserves. A poor title for your short story will convey your lack of interest. Make it enticing and entertaining.
  • At the beginning of your story, make the first few paragraphs of your story gripping. This should grab your reader’s attention. A good way of doing this is to create a question in the reader’s mind that he wants to know the answer. For example, the story, The Treasure No Thief Can Steal begins this way:Before me is a panoramic view. Usually, beautiful scenery makes me feel calm. I’m tied to a tree, living a nightmare set amongst a panorama of beauty. Over the past week I’ve been dragged up a mountain by my captor, his cruel eyes betraying a desire to which he’s unable to succumb. He needs me as he believes me to be – untouched.
  • This opening paragraph forms the scene and places questions in the reader’s mind: Why is the narrator being dragged up the mountain? Why must she be untouched? What will her captor do when he finds out she isn’t virginal? Your aim is to make the reader curious.
  • Try different POVsto find what fits your story. Narrating the story through a character who is notof prime importance is a common mistake upcoming authors make.
  • Using similar character namessuch as Ben, Jen, Len confuses the readers, so keep different names that don’t sound so similar.
  • Keep it simple. Don’t confuse the reader by having too many characters. Writing between 2,000- 5,000 words (most short story competitions have word count limits between these figures) doesn’t give you much room for character development.
  • Use Active Voice. Readers usually prefer Subject + Verb + Object. Majority of the writers use it often.
  • Brains take more information when its broken down. Any article is usually divided into short paragraphs.
  • In casual, everyday writing a paragraph can be as short as a single word or a sentence. Try to keep the paragraphs short and crisp.
  • See what I did there?
  • Throw out fluff wordslike very, little, and These words are not only unnecessary, but also suck the life out of your sentences.
  • Use the main characterto show the impact of any plot changes and its effect.
  • Your readers will fall asleep if they keep reading the same thing over and over again, so just don’t repeat what you write.
  • Overwriting is not a good ingredient when it comes to writing a story. The reader comes first. Focus on what you want to convey to them.
  • Be realistic. Don’t bend your character to suit your plot.Keep them in their character at all times. Every character should react the way they do respectively, and not as the plot dictates. This will help your story be stronger.
  • Always avoid cliche.Find new and interesting ways of saying something rather than saying it in a trite way.
  • Having an end plannedwhile you plan the outline of your story helps you go in the right direction. Some prefer to keep writing and see where the story takes them.
  • The ending of the storymust be the most satisfying to the reader. Although some books don’t answer all the questions, it can be disappointing.
  • You need to have undivided attentionwhile you write. Protect when and where you write. The only people important while writing are the characters in the story.
  • Always a carry notebook. This way you can jot whatever comes to your mind and put them together later.
  • Read every sentence aloudto yourself to make sure it’s well written. This helps.
  • Know your audience.You need to know what your target audience likes, so you write a book that can create an emotional tie with them.
  • If you can make your readers feelany emotion through your story, then you have done your job.
  • There will always be similar stories to what you want to write, so don’t back out. It’s like eating your favourite dish at every restaurant. With your story being the dish, readers can’t get enough.
  • You need to know more about your story than readers,so you can write with confidence. You only tell your readers what you want them to know.
  • Delete, shorten, rewrite anything that does not add meaning. Omit any extra words unless you need them. The best way of doing this is to write something and set it aside for a few hours. After you return, you’ll know exactly what you want.

These are a few useful tips that might help you in writing an engaging short story. This article has shed light on how to write a short story effectively.Remember, patience is the key to writing a story. Nobody gets it right the first time, and giving up is never the option. Afterall, all good things take time.

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