8 Tips to Start to Write a Short Story
a guest post
by Julie Ellis
So, you want to be a writer, and the short story is your chosen genre. Actually, you are probably in a good spot, because it is often easier to get a short story published than a novel. Why? Because people still read magazines, either hard copy or in e-format, and the magazine publishing industry has adapted quite well to web-based publishing. Plus, so many of them are continually looking for good short stories to include in their issues. If you are new to this genre, but you have great ideas and stories to tell, then half of the work is already done! Your job now it to actually begin to write that first short story.
With that in mind, here are eight tips that a veteran writer can provide, that may make your task easier:
1. Write what you know firsthand: It is said that every piece of fiction, whether a short story or a novel, is a bit autobiographical. You must place your plot in a setting with which you are really familiar, or the events and the descriptions will not be credible. If, for example, you have no first-hand understanding of schools, you cannot set your story in a school, unless you are willing to do a lot of research. Such research should be reserved for novels!
2. Draw from real people as you develop your characters: The best way to have credible characters is to use aspects of personalities that you already know. Look to people with whom you have personal relationships. How do they behave? What excites or angers them? How do they speak? Most of my characters are combinations of people I know.
3. The Plot: I know that many writers spend a lot of time agonizing about setting up a conflict, a climax, and a denouement. What I have found in my own writing, however, is that these things really take care of themselves if I can outline a great plot, focusing on events and characters. Try it!
4. Don’t waste a word: A short story is really a fully condensed novel. You do not have the luxury of elaborate and lengthy descriptions, so don’t use them. Let the plot and characters “carry” the weight!
5. If your plot outline is not detailed, don’t worry about it – just write! I have often begun a short story with a simple idea for a starter, not even knowing where it would ultimately take me. I just start writing from that initial idea. No, it won’t be the final piece, but it will get my “juices” flowing, and I can always revise the storyline later. The key is to get something, anything, in writing, and then see where the idea can take me!
6. Carry a mobile device with you at all times. You never know when an idea will hit, and it is best to have an app that allows you to commit that idea immediately, for later use!
7. Read, read, and read: By reading lots of fiction, I get great ideas that may give me “fodder” for future stories. If you are not reading, you are not “percolating.”
8. Don’t “force” anything: It’s easy to become obsessed with getting a story completed, if only for the personal satisfaction of finishing something. This is a bad practice, and it results in stories that lack “flavor” and “engagement.” If you stall, let it be! I have a large number of short stories in folders on my desktop that are unfinished, and I’m okay with that. Someday, I’ll return to them, but the mood must be right!
Your love of writing is what has brought you to the point of writing short stories. Take any or all of these tips, if you find them helpful. Above all, however, find your own “voice.” Anything else is contrived and will not result in reader appeal.
Author’s bio: Armed with a Master’s in Journalism and strong wanderlust, Julie Ellis set out to explore exotic places, financed by her freelance writing. She is now a regular blogger for Premier Essay and sells feature articles to English-speaking publications around the world.