Writing a short story can seem a daunting task. Feeling as if you have to get an entire story into a certain amount of words can be scary. I feel ya. I had written a full length book before I ever tried to write a short story. You would think since it’s a short story it wouldn’t be as hard to write, but something about it feels you with dread and despair.
Chances are, the way you write your short story will change each time. But there are some patterns for short stories that you can follow. I’m going to talk you through the seven steps to writing a short story.
First, let’s look at the three requirements for short stories.
First, you will need about 10 to 20 hours to work on the story. Everybody writes at a different pace, and the length of short stories can vary from 500 to 5,000, so there isn’t an exact time.
Secondly, you’ll need an idea. The seven steps assume that you already have an idea.
Lastly, writing devices and utensils. You can’t very well write if you don’t have a way to write.
Here are the seven steps to writing a short story:
- Write out the basic story in a single sitting
This may sound like a crazy step, to tell you to write a story, but there are two types of stories. The short story, which is complete with characters, plot, and descriptions. And a funny story that you tell your friends.
This first step is writing out the shorted, quick version of your story that you would tell a friend. It’s not about all the action, just the quick nitty gritty information.
This needs to be done in a single sitting. Just spew out the story. Don’t worry about all the little details.
2. Find the protagonist
Once you have spewed out the story, ignore your feelings about it, and start looking at the details. Read through what you have written, and find the protagonist. You may think you know who your protagonist is, but it can be a bit tricky.
The protagonist doesn’t have to be the narrator, and they may not even be the good guy. The protagonist is the person that makes the story move forward. They’re the one that holds everything together.
3. Create the perfect first line
That first sentence is what keeps people from setting your story down and walking away.
Here are five ways to create that perfect first line:
- Invite the reader in
- Surprise them
- Establish your voice
- Be clear
- See if your story can be told in a single sentence
4. Break it up into a scene list
All stories are made up of a series of scenes that take place at a certain time a location. Creating your scene list will help to keep your story organized. Don’t feel like you have to stick perfectly to your list, but it’s there to help.
5. Now you can do research
You probably want to do this first. Get as much info as you can get so that you can feel your story with a bunch of detail. The problem is that it can distort your story, which could drive you crazy.
Some writers don’t do any research, which isn’t good either.
Right about now is a good time for research. You know what your story is going to consist of, and now the research can help you add in details.
6. Write, edit, repeat
Now that you have everything you need for your story, you can start to write it. The actual process of writing your story is yours to do as you will. Everybody is different, and I can’t tell you how to do it.
Your story isn’t done until others can read it. That was the point of writing in the first place, right? This can be the hardest and scariest part, but there are lots of different ways to achieve this. You have to put yourself out there, but you’ll feel good once you do.
Now you have the seven steps to writing a short story. Make sure that you continue to practice your writing. Practice makes perfect.
If you’re looking for something new to read, check out Millhaven Press and grab your copy of the first ever Millhaven’s Tales of Wonder. It’s the first issue. Get it here.
You never learn to write a novel. You learn to write the novel you’re on.