It’s a common dream: to be a writer. I think a lot of people want this. They may want to be a journalist, a blogger, a novelist — the list goes on. It’s been of dream of mine too, ever since I was a little girl.
I would write stories about everything. I had never been able to finish because at that young of an age, I didn’t have a good process. I’d get bored with one and move onto the next, unsure of how to wrap it up. Eventually, I’d think they were worthless. I’ve thrown away many of my stories.
At some point, I decided to switch it up. I’d work on short stories, under 20 pages. In some ways, short stories are more difficult. You have less time to capture your audience and less time to explain things, to create your story. Even with these challenges, I have found that short stories are much easier for me to materialize and finish. Here’s how I do it!
1. Find Your Topic
I wrote this article about finding a topic. Even for me, this can be difficult. Sometimes it’s nice to just write, even if you don’t know where the story is heading. At minimum, just get something on paper. It’s more productive than staring at a blank screen, even if it’s trash. Because let’s be honest, trash happens. All the time. It happens more often than not. So remember, trash is normal.
2. Map It Out
Using a notebook, I like to map out the important aspects of my new short story.
- Character Names
- Character Personalities / Features
- What Does My Main Character Want?
- How Can I Prevent That From Happening?
I don’t like to map out everything. Once I know the basics, I just start writing. The story will develop more and more as you imagine the characters and get to know their desires. The important part, please, just start writing!
3. Jot It Down
Depending on the length of your short story, you can most likely get it all down in one sitting. This provides a general outline and even if it’s not perfect, which it won’t be, it’s a great start.
Don’t backspace, unless it’s a typo. Just write until the draft in your head is out. Write it all. Save it as your first draft. Duplicate it. Then you can start removing the crap. If you delete it right after you type it, you may not remember it the same way and may not be able to recreate it exactly the same if needed.
4. Fill It In
I go back and read my story again. While going through it, I note where I’d like to stay in a moment longer. I expand scenes and add additional conversation if needed and I make sure that everything makes sense. This step is more about enhancing what I have than trying to change the entire story. Since it’s already all down on paper, it’s too easy to change one aspect and not follow through with it the whole story.
It’s grueling to write and edit all in one sitting. I like to take a break from whatever I’m working on for at least a day so I have fresh eyes going back into it. I find it’s much easier to catch simple mistakes this way.
Resting is OK — stories take time.
I like to use Grammarly for basic edits, like duplicate words that my mind skips over. I’m old fashioned, printing out the story and using a red pen is still the most effective method for me. Usually, I’ll do it right beside my laptop so if I find something extensive or have a great idea, I can add it in right away.
Have someone else review it. This is the easiest way to catch things that you may have missed. I typically like to review it myself at least 2 or 3 times before I’ll let anyone else read my work.
After they provide feedback, review it again. Decide what advice you want to listen to. Just remember, they have their opinion, and it may differ than the rest of the world. It’s fine if you don’t want to take all of their advice.
7. Post It!
When you finally feel like your short story is ready, make it public! Sharing my work is generally the hardest part of being a writer. I always fret that there’s an error or that it’s not good enough. But practice makes perfect and you won’t get any better unless you start.
So start, now!