Seven Steps to Writing a Short Story

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:

  1. 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.

7. Publish

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.

-Gene Wolfe

Flowers in The Attic – My Thoughts

Yes, I’m talking about the V.C. Andrews novel Flowers in The Attic. It was published in 1979 and is considered a Gothic novel. There is even a Lifetime movie based on the book, and, no, I have not watched the movie., but the movie was the reason why I wanted to read the book. Just so you know, there will be spoilers ahead in this post. That means if you have not read it, and you don’t want anything ruined for you, STOP READING NOW. Thank you.

So, a quick little overview of what this book is about:

Four children and their mother go to live with their grandmother when their father dies. Their grandmother turns out to be a fire and brimstone woman, and their mother, at first, seems to be a sweet woman who is doing the best she can.

The children are forced to live in the attic until their grandfather dies because he didn’t approve of his daughter’s marriage, and he doesn’t know she has children.

The amazing thing about this book is that my emotions followed Cathy’s, the oldest girl and 2nd oldest child. At first, I was sympathetic to the mother and optimistic that things would work out. Then, as the story progressed, and the mother became more and more ostentatious in how the dressed and acted, the more annoyed I became with her. She broke promise after promise to her children, but if they said anything about it, she played the victim. She felt that if she brought them enough stuff and expensive things that they would forgive her. She believed that money could solve every problem. While money may help out with a lot, it can’t replace love or the knowing that somebody is looking out for you.

I’ve had to deal with people similar to this. No matter what happens in somebody else’s life, their life is always way worse. Or, nothing that happens to them is their fault, there is always somebody else to blame.

Chris, the oldest child, got on my nerves from time to time because of the way he was willing to stand up for their mother. I get it, though. He was trying to stay optimistic. Who wouldn’t want everything to work out in their favor? For them become rich and not have to worry about anything else.

Then their mother remarries. The man she marries doesn’t even know she has kids. By this point, they have been locked away for over two years, going on three.  She barely looks at the two youngest twins. Who, in their time in the attic, have only grown two inches between the ages of five and eight. She hasn’t even noticed that Cathy’s body has changed, and still brings her little girls clothing as if she were still 12 and not 14.

Cathy and Chris make the decision to escape the room, for the safety of the twins. Unfortunately, they don’t make their escape soon enough to help Cory.

They make a replica of the door key, and Chris would sneak out of the room on the nights their mother said she would be out with her husband. He would go to her bedroom and take some money. They do this until they have over $300. That may not seem like much now, but the book is set in the 60’s, so that would probably last them a good little while.

Now, I’m not going to go through every little detail here, I don’t want to give away the big realization. All I can say is, I was as devastated as the children when they learned about their mother’s secret.

If you love books that send you on a roller coaster of emotions, then this is definitely the book for you. I have yet to read the rest of the books in the series to see how the three remaining Dollenganger children survive, but I have the books and I plan on starting Petals on the Wind today.

This book really has everything: a mean God-fearing grandmother, a deceiving mother, innocent children, money, sex, incest, and arsenic.

If you’ve read the book, tell me what you thought.