When it comes to writing, we all have our routines and special ways of doing things. Writing short stories is no different. I go about writing a novel a certain way and when it comes to writing short stories, I have a slightly different approach.
Ideas are all around us, but when it comes to writing short stories I tend to go along with certain writing prompts – some I get from the Internet and others I come up with on my own. When I write a novel, I typically outline it before I begin writing the first draft. When I write short stories, I just come up with the idea and roll with it. I like to see where the words and characters take me.
The First Draft
When it comes to writing a novel, I can’t write the first draft or any draft in one sitting. With short stories, I write the first draft in one sitting. There are times when I need to stop in the middle of the draft, but I prefer to sit down and bang out all the words at once. My short stories are typically under 10,000 words and I can usually write about 2,000 words in one hour. If I can get all my ideas out at once, that’s what I aim for.
Once I finish the first draft, I let it rest for a day or two. Then I jump into the editing. Depending on the length of the short story, the editing doesn’t typically take me too long. I usually edit a draft or two before I decide it’s ready to either go on the blog, send to me Patrons on Patreon, or possibly submit someplace.
That’s pretty much to it. It’s more or less the same as when I write a novel or novella, but the process is shorter. I find it easier to work with short stories because I’m able to write them in one sitting and I can let my mind focus on it for a while.
What’s your short story writing process look like? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.
No matter what we do in life, it’s always a learning experience. Writing is one of those experiences. Short stories specifically helps with that experience as well as learning about writing as a whole.
I Ramble A Lot
I mean, I guess I kind of already knew this one. I ramble in my novels, I ramble in my blog posts, I ramble when I talk. That’s just how I roll. Writing short stories had made me realize that I really do ramble a lot but also that I can control my rambling. I get surprised when I read through old short stories and then read through more recent ones. I’ve definitely improved on my rambling and have learned to cut back – and not just through editing but by through the first draft as well.
I Have A Lot Of Ideas
There are days when I feel like I’ve run out of ideas, but if I look back at all the short stories I’ve written, I realize that there’s a lot of novel potential out of them all. Some are perfect as short stories but some would be cool to expand on. I have expanded upon most of them too. If my Short Story Sundays are any indication. Not to mention that one of my Wattpad novellas was based off a short story.
I’m Not Too Bad Of A Writer
We all have that self-doubt that plagues our minds as we write. During the first draft of any story, I always feel like it’s not good. I know I’m not the only one who thinks that but I have to admit that writing short stories has made me feel like I’m less inadequate if that makes sense. Writing short stories has allowed me to hone my writing skills and tighten up my words which means I write better dialogue and description.
Overall, writing short stories has been one of the better writing decisions I’ve ever made.
What have you learned while writing short stories? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.
I didn’t start to appreciate writing short stories until fairly recently. I always viewed short stories as something “quick and easy” to write. Of course, they’re not easy to write at all. Just because they can be 5,000 words as opposed to 50,000 words doesn’t mean it’s faster or easier. Another thing I thought was that writing novels was “better” for your writing. I figured the more I write, the more I would improve. Writing one long story isn’t the only way to “write more” though.
Short Stories Help You Tighten Your Words
One great thing about short stories is that it helps you learn how to tighten your words. It’s easy to ramble and to describe something that doesn’t matter. Especially if you’re just trying to get the words down, it’s super easy to get excited about quantity over quality. Writing short stories allows you to recognize what isn’t necessarily needed in your story. Instead of writing paragraph upon paragraph about once certain thing, you’ll soon learn how to cut that down to the bare minimum needed so that you can stay in that short story word count range.
Short Stories Help You With Self-Editing
Similar to tightening your words, short stories help with self-editing in the way that you learn what to edit out when it comes to trying to shorten that length. Personally, when I self-edit my novels I sometimes tend to think everything has to be there. I either think it’s too funny, clever, important, whatever. The truth is, it’s usually not and can be cut out completely. Or it can stay but I can write it in a way that cuts out a good chunk of words.
Short Stories Help You With Plotting
When it comes to writing a novel it’s easy to get carried away with the plot. I know it can be for me. I tend to come up with more and more ideas as I write and eventually decide to have a hundred sequels to whatever I’m writing. Short stories allow me to say what needs to be said and no more. There are no sequels, there are no second parts (well, sometimes there are if we’re talking about my Short Story Sundays), it’s just one full circle with my characters with a beginning, middle, and end squished together.
Overall, I’ve definitely found a new appreciation for writing short stories. I’ve been enjoying them a lot more than I thought I would and I’ve been learning a lot and improving on my writing in the meantime.
Do you write short stories? What does that type of writing help you with? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.
For a long time, I had always used the terms short story and flash fiction as though they were one in the same. All I knew was that they were stories that were not long… simple as that. Right?
Of course, this was when I was younger. As I got older and dabbled more in the writing world, I realized how wrong I was. Then again, I wrote a lot on the Fan Fiction website and 100-word stories were called “drabbles.” I thought that was the only difference between flash fiction and short stories. 100 words were drabbles and anything higher was a short story and/or flash fiction because they totally meant the same thing.
What is a short story?
A short story is exactly as it sounds – it’s a story that’s significantly shorter than a novel or novella. Aside from length, a short story has pretty much everything in common with a novel. It has a fleshed-out plot, well-rounded characters, and a developed setting and theme.
What is a flash fiction?
A flash fiction is essentially the same thing, only the story is told in a couple hundred words or so. It has a well thought out plot and great characters, but they don’t necessarily need to be fully developed. It helps, yes, but I’ve read my fair share of flash fiction where some things were left up to my own imagination and I personally like it that way.
How many words is a short story?
According to Writer’s Digest, a short story is typically 1,500 words to about 30,000 words which is when it crosses over to novella territory. However, I personally have seen some short stories go up to 10- or 15,000 words. If you know of one that’s actually near 30,000 words, let me know. I’m curious. Whenever I write short stories, they typically don’t get longer than 5,000 words or so… unless I’m writing a short story about George and Lilah. Then I can get up to 10,000 or even 15,000 words. Maybe even 20,000 words. I have a lot of fun with those characters.
How many words is a flash fiction?
Since flash fiction is shorter than short stories, flash fiction is considered to be anywhere under 1,500 words. Flash fiction can vary from being 500 words or as low as 100 words. I’m sure you’ve all heard of 6-word stories before. There are a few fairly famous ones. Then again, 6-word stories may be considered micro fiction… if that’s even a real term. I may be making that one up.
Which one should you write?
Both. Flash fiction and short stories are great practice for writing in general – characters, pacing, plot, everything. It helps to challenge yourself into writing a complete story within a certain amount of words. I’ll admit, I sometimes decide to write flash fiction and then it turns into a short story because I get carried away with the current plot I’m building.
If I think about it, my Short Story Sundays should be Flash Fiction Fridays.
Which do you prefer? Do you read and write shorts, flashes, or both? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.
February is a short month so I decided to talk about short stories. No, that’s not the only reason why, but I think it’s a cool reason anyway.
I never imagined myself writing short stories or flash fiction of any kind. However, when I started this blog I wanted to get more of my writing out there in the world. I very well couldn’t post full-length novels onto the blog. Short stories were the way to go and they’re all starting with a prompt.
Short Story Sunday
I started this blog in 2012 and had the idea for Short Story Sunday in late 2014, early 2015… I believe. If I’m remembering correctly. I had never really written any short pieces before. I tried but the ideas always expanded into bigger, better plots. Thus, I had a five-page list of “novels to write.”
I think it was Kris who told me to start writing short stories and/or flash fiction and post it on the blog.
“What am I supposed to write about?”
All my great ideas were turned into novels – or were being saved for novels. So, how could I give up those “brilliant” ideas and publish them on the Internet in just a few hundred words?
Creative Writing Prompts
You can use writing prompts for whatever you want – whether you’re writing a short story, novel, poem, whatever. However, I’ve never really used writing prompts before. I always felt as though I was stealing someone else’s ideas and, if I turned it into a novel and published it, I’d feel like it wasn’t my own, original idea.
That’s not true, of course. The words are still your own and you turn the prompt into your own ideas. Still, it was a weird concept for me at the time.
So, I found prompts online. I bought a couple of prompt books. Kris would give me a random prompt or I’d make one up myself at the top of my head. Thus, short stories were born for me.
There have been plenty of shorts I’ve written where I’ve taken the idea and set it aside in case I want to expand on it into a longer piece – a novel or even just a novella. However, most of them have just remained as shorts. Some are good, some are bad, and some are just plain ugly. But they’re all ideas nonetheless.
How To Begin A Short Story
Like I said, I never imagined myself being a “short story writer.” I thought I would keep it strict to the blog. I didn’t think I would ever submit short pieces to magazines or contests, let alone self-publish a collection. They’re not easy to write. For novels, you have 50,000-plus words to develop characters, establish the setting, elongate the plot, and even throw in some sub stuff. You need to do all that for a short story in about 5,000 words – obviously sometimes more, sometimes less. Sometimes way less.
So, how do you begin a short story? Well, it’s the same as starting a novel. You just do. I know there are people out there who always say that there’s a “right” way to begin a novel and a “wrong” way to begin it to hook your readers. But still, I always just start them. Sometimes my character is just waking up – which even I find annoying most of the time, but hey – I’m writing.
When it comes to writing shorter pieces, I begin with the prompt. The prompt maybe a character’s name or a single word or phrase. It could be a dialogue cue or a snippet of a potential plot.
Whenever I try to write something without beginning it with the prompt, I always find myself stuck. Then I wonder, “where do I fit in the prompt?” Of course, if you come up with a different idea, then you don’t need to worry about throwing the prompt in somewhere, but that’s beside the point.
Why I Love Prompts For Short Stories
I feel like writing prompts are perfect for short story writing. There’s room to explore your own creativity, but it doesn’t take over. It doesn’t take too long for the story to be told for the most part, either.
If you’re interesting in trying to write short stories, I think using a prompt is the way to go. Not to mention, it opens your mind more to things you wouldn’t normally write. If I didn’t use writing prompts, I wouldn’t have nearly 300 shorts written to this day.
Plus, I love looking back at my old stories and seeing how far I’ve come and how much I’ve improved in my writing since then.
Do you use writing prompts and write short stories or flash fiction? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.
In my opinion, flash fiction is considered a short story. It’s a full tale with fleshed out characters and resolved plot. It’s just super short.
Short stories aren’t easy to write. Neither are novels. Yet, people (myself included on some occasions) say that short stories are “easier” to write than novels because it’s shorter.
Flash fiction, then, must be a piece of cake.
What is flash fiction?
Flash fiction is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a piece of fiction that takes a flash to read.
No, really, it’s very short short story. The typical length of flash fiction stories can be anywhere between 300 words and 1,500 words.
Of course, some people write six-word stories, 100-word drabbles, and so on. As long as it’s pretty short, it’s considered flash fiction.
How do you write flash fiction?
As concise as possible. Write only what matters to the story. Don’t add any filler content, just keep advancing that plot and developing those characters.
Use unique and vivid language to get your point across. Be sure to have a clear ending in mind and figure out how you’re going to get there in 1,000 words or 700 words or 300 words.
Where should you start writing flash fiction?
Explore the flash fiction world first. Read flash fiction stories or even poetry to get a feel for a language. Of course, you’re ultimately writing in your own voice and style, but reading examples doesn’t hurt.
Then, pick up your pen and just write. If you aim for 500 words, just write and see how many you end up with. Then you cut it down just like you would edit your novel.
Writing prompts help come up with ideas and a timer can do wonders if you want to start and finish something as quickly as possible. Can you write 500 words in 10 minutes? Set a timer. If you write more or less, you can add and cut out words after.
Why write flash fiction?
Writing flash fiction can really reel in your writing skills. It tones your writing and teaches you to cut out the filler stuff. Keep what’s only important to the plot and character development.
That, and it’s a fun challenge.
Do you typically write flash fiction? Do you read it often? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll chat!
Just like beginning a short story, the ending should have some sort of purpose as well. It doesn’t do well to just say, “The End.”
No, the ending should do much more than that. It should…
Close all the doors, wrapping everything up neatly
Make the story as a whole make sense
How do you do that?
There are so many different ways you can end your short story, but we’ll just talk about a few.
THE TWIST OR SURPRISE
When it comes to short stories, sometimes you need a little kick in your ending to make it that much more interesting because it’s so short. If there’s room, allow for a surprise or some sort of twist. Let it click inside your readers’ heads and have them say, “Ohh! I get it now!”
Of course, you can’t just throw in any random twist. It needs to be something the readers could have seen coming if they read between the lines.
I read a short story in middle school once in my reading class (unfortunately, I can’t remember the name or the author) and it was a man doing some sort of social experiment. He was locked in a room and had to figure out how to get out even though there was absolutely nothing in the room. I think it was to test his logical thinking or whatever.
Anyway, being 11-years-old, I thought it was extremely boring. But I remember the ending.
After being locked in for so many hours, they finally let the man out. He had tried absolutely anything and everything to get out and couldn’t figure it out. The narrator does a quick summary of what the man did and what the results were for the scientists. Then, I remember the last line clear as day, everything was explained: “For the door was never locked.”
Talk about an interesting surprise. I can’t remember anything about the story, just the basic gist of it and that last line. That’s how you do a surprise ending.
This is a must for all endings. Unless there is going to be some sort of sequel for your short story, you can leave it off at a slight cliffhanger (but be sure to resolve some things).
However, every question must be answered. Everyone conflict must have a resolution. The plot should be explained in one way or another throughout the story, or at least make it fairly simple for the readers to figure out.
This is, again, a must. And I don’t really have any tips on how to do so because it’s up to you, your writing style, and your plot.
SHORT AND SIMPLE
Sometimes a simple “The End” is all that’s needed. I know I said otherwise at the beginning, but depending on what your story is about and how it’s written, something short and simple may not be a bad idea.
As long as the conflict is resolved and there are no loose ends, you can get away with backing out of your story slowly, but surely.
Wrap up the conflict, but still allow your readers to wonder what could happen next. This is something I often do with my Short Story Sundays here on the blog only because (ironically enough) I don’t know how to properly end them.
I get many comments asking the next part will be posted and I always say the same thing, “This was it. Use your imagination on what could happen next. Feel free to write it yourself.”
I don’t know how often this is done, but I don’t think it’s a bad idea to do once in a while. If you can write your characters so well that your readers fall in love with them, then you can sometimes get away with leaving an ending open like this. Your readers will want the story to continue in a way so they’ll imagine what your characters do next.
Again, just make sure that you wrap up the actual plot and conflict. Don’t leave that open-ended.
And so, the blogger who worked all day and all night to create awesome content finally came to an end about her short story series.
That’s about it because she couldn’t figure out how to end her post about endings. She was really good at this.
She kicked back with a satisfied grin and then realized one more thing: she still had one more post to write about for her short story series.
(Guys, did you see what I did there? I added an outro instead of an intro. You know, because we’re talking about “endings.” Pretty clever, right?)
How do you typically go about ending your short stories? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll chat!
Once upon a time, there was a blogger who worked day and night to create awesome content for her loyal readers. Each month, she tried to think of a cool new topic to discuss and stumbled upon short stories.
In addition to her many posts about short stories, she thought to talk about how to begin them. Any writer knows that the beginning of a story is so important.
She also knew that the beginning of a blog post was super important as well. Yet, she had no idea how to introduce this “how to begin your short stories” post.
She laughed at the irony.
There are so many different kinds of ways to start a story. However, while every story is different, some beginnings can be a bit cliche or even just seem old.
For example; a character waking up, the narrator or character describing the scenery, or opening with some sort of dialogue sequence that’s either a question or two characters having an argument or simply having a normal conversation.
Each one has been used once, twice, a thousand times over. Yet, each is still unique because they’re different characters, different plots and conflicts, and different writing styles.
What kind of beginning do you need?
The first couple of paragraphs are important, but the first line is really what’s going to hook your readers in. You need something that:
Leaves a lasting effect – Make them feel something in that very first line that causes them to continue reading that paragraph and onto the next.
Make them curious – Throw your character into the conflict right away or ask a question. Let your reader wonder where you’re going with this and why.
Allow the readers to get to know your characters – Start with dialogue, a conversation, an argument. Explore your characters all the while describing a bit of the plot as well.
How can you accomplish these things?
There are probably way too many different openings than we can count. But here are a few anyway.
SET THE SCENE
This can be a hit or miss. Describing a scene can sometimes be boring, especially if you’re trying to draw in an audience. However, it can be worked around in various ways that can work for your book.
For example, maybe your protagonist is going on some sort of journey. Let them soak in the place they grew up as they stand outside holding onto their suitcase. It’s nostalgic to them, maybe it’s even a little sad. Or maybe they’re happy to get out.
Or, on the other hand, have them arrive at their new place and describe that area. What are their first thoughts upon arriving? Have your readers wonder why they’re even there.
I did this in one of my short stories. The protagonist immediately enters a building where the receptionist greets her and lets her know that the doctor will be with her shortly. Why is she at the doctor? Is something wrong with her? Is this her first appointment or a follow-up for something? You keep reading because you want to know “why.”
THE NARRATOR SPEAKS
Some stories have third-person narrators that speak to the reader. It’s almost as though the narrator and the reader are sitting in a coffee shop having a deep conversation with one another. Sometimes this is interesting as it invites the reader to cozy up on the couch and be told a bedtime story.
It can be equally interesting if a first-person narrator talks directly to the reader as well. You can really get into the heart of the story through the character who actually “lived” through the story.
START IN A KNEE-DEEP CONVERSATION
As I stated earlier, feel free to start in the middle of a conversation. A lot of questions will arise, but not only are you going to rope the reader in, but you’ll also develop your characters somewhat. Are they having a normal conversation with one another? Are they talking about work or school? Are they arguing? What are they arguing about? Is it something that has to do with the plot?
For a short story, this is my favorite beginning. Short stories are, of course, short, so it’s sometimes better to establish the conflict right from the get-go. Your readers will wonder, “how did they get themselves into this mess? How are they going to get out of it? What exactly is going on?” If it’s interesting enough to them, they’ll want to see the characters get out of their mess.
I have done this for another short story I wrote. My protagonist was looking over a case file, a case that she has been working on for a very long time that, within the first couple of paragraphs, she and her husband begin arguing about how it’s consuming her life. Why is this case so important to her? How long has she actually been working on it? What exactly is the case? How will it get resolved?
In a way, this one kind of goes along with establishing conflict. I’ve seen this done a few times, but I’m mentioning it because I’ve done it myself and I think it worked nicely.
In another short story, I began it in the “future.” They were already thrown into danger, into the heart of the story. At a type of “cliffhanger,” I used a page-break and back-tracked to a few hours earlier, thus officially beginning the story.
I know sometimes time can be tricky and some people aren’t a fan of it, but I do think it can work well in certain situations.
Beginning a short story can be easy or hard. But I think it all depends on your writing style and the overall plot. It all depends on what information you want to give to your readers and when.
How do you typically begin your short stories? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll chat!
How many times have I talked about outlining on this blog? Too many to count most likely.
I personally love outlining. I’m a super organized person in real life and a tad OCD about things. That goes the same for my novels.
Outlining isn’t for everyone, but it can be used as a means for editing. That’s why I’m asking this question…
When I outline my novels, I make a list of characters, a list of plot points, summarize each chapter, and then bullet scene by scene. I also make a list of editing points as I write the first draft.
I’ll be honest, I’ve never outlined a short story before. When I write short stories, I tend to base them off a writing prompt I found somewhere on the Internet or I’ve created myself. Then I just start to write and somehow I end up with a short story.
There’s a short story I wrote a long time ago. It was for one of my creative writing classes in college. (I’ve been out of college for two and a half years, so… it’s been a while.)
Since writing it, I’ve edited it, and edited it, and edited it. I’ve submitted it to contests and magazines, but haven’t gotten anywhere with it. Still, I’m not giving up on it. In fact, I’m waiting to hear back from a magazine about it at the time of writing this post.
I submitted it to another place this past August. That story I sent in was the seventh draft. Yes, 7.
It’s grown a lot in the past few years. Did I outline it when I first wrote it? No. Did I outline it when editing? Yes.
Why bother outlining a short story… especially when it’s already been written?
Like I said, I love outlining. But I don’t outline my short stories because I just tend to roll with it. I have noticed that outlining the story after it’s written can be a huge help to editing.
I’ve been saying it a lot this week and that’s to keep your short stories simple and to the point. Only add in important aspects about the plot. Give detail, but not filler.
Outlining your short story is prep for the editing process.
What drives the plot forward?
What can I afford to cut out, if needed?
Create a list of characters and write down their purpose. Are they all needed?
Bullet-list each scene and briefly summarize what happens. Is each scene important and paying its rent to the plot? Do some scenes have too much information or not enough? If not enough, is it really needed?
I did this for my short story and gave it one last edit before shipping it off to my writer’s group a few months ago. A car accident happens in the story and everyone agreed that I had put too much detail into that scene.
They said that when you get into a car accident (to the extent in the story), you’re not looking at your surroundings describing the scenery. Especially not if you have big injuries.
Looking at their feedback and then looking at my outline, I was able to easily pinpoint and judge what was too much in that scene. I cut a lot of it out and rewrote what remained. Reading the story now, I agree that it’s much better and flows nicely. Plus, the less description added more tension.
So, should you outline your short stories?
It’s still up to you, but it definitely doesn’t hurt. I know everyone works differently, but this has helped me.
Maybe it’ll help you too.
Do you outline your short stories? Do you outline any of your writing? Let me know what you think in the comments below!