I’ve had some questions about writing short stories, so here’s a quick post which I hope will help.
Firstly, set a goal for your story before you create it.
Your goal could be anything.
It might be to:
- Use the story to promote an upcoming novel, or series;
- Develop interest in a novel that’s been out for several years (you set the story in your novel’s world);
- Turn a failure into a success (if you’re fed up to the back teeth with a problem novella or novel for example — you can carve a story or two out of it);
- Turn a cute idea into something you can publish quickly.
You can have any goal you choose. Pick one that helps you to publish quickly. I’ve lost count of the number of students who, when I said: “it’s done — publish it!” thanked me later because the story did well.
Writing short stories: no rules — it’s your story
Please be aware that there are no “rules” when it comes to writing short stories. A story is what you say it is.
That said, here’s a rule of thumb that I use — the story must provide an emotional jolt of some kind. That jolt can be mild.
Now let’s look at the tips which will help you when you’re writing short stories.
1. Set a deadline and a word count for a short story and keep to them
Setting a deadline for a story’s publication always helps. A deadline prevents you from second-guessing yourself — you just get it done.
If you have a tendency to be a wordy writer (as I do, sadly) set a word count before you start writing. That will help you to keep the explanations and back story information to a minimum
As we said in the article on the unfortunate TMI habit:
When authors break their habits of over-describing and over-explaining in their fiction, their writing improves for one simple reason — a reader’s curiosity ensures that he’ll keep reading.
Readers’ curiosity is gold to novelists and short fiction writers. Readers read fiction to experience by using their imagination, so give readers every opportunity to do that.
2. Prologues often make great stories; dropped scenes do too
Are you addicted to writing prologues? Sometimes, this can be another TMI habit.
When I’m working with students, I sometimes suggest that they remove a prologue and turn it into a short story.
Try it yourself. The story you create will be a great marketing asset when it’s time to market the novel.
Similarly, look through your published novels’ dropped scenes. You’ll often find a scene that you can turn into a short story with minimal revision and editing.
3. Turn a title into a short story you can write in a couple of hours
When you’re creatively inspired and are happily writing, another idea will often jump into your head. Why not turn it into a quick short story?
Here’s another painless way to write a short story: titles. When you’re finding a title for a current novel you may brainstorm titles.
When I brainstorm titles for a novel, I’ll often find a title or two which appeals to me, and which sparks an idea for a short story.
Writing short stories is fun: let your creativity flow
There are no rules. Enjoy your writing, and readers will enjoy reading.
Why write serial fiction?
Everyone's busy today. A serial is by its nature, faster to write, and publish, than a novel.
It's a quicker read too, and many readers appreciate this. While a reader may hesitate before committing hours to a novel, he can read an episode of your serial in minutes.More info →
Want to write short stories? If you answered yes, that's excellent… Here's why. Today, you can make money writing short fiction.More info →