Tips on How to Write a Short Story

Writing a short story, though a lot shorter than a novel, presents many problems and hard decisions to the writer. Some writers wonder how to even begin writing a short story. Here are 6 tips on how to write a short story to get you started and on your way to being published!

1. Know Your Story

That may seem like a silly or obvious first step, but really think about it. How well do you know your story? Do you know it well enough to tell someone in one sentence the entire story arc? Besides the conflict, journey, and resolution you need to know who your protagonist is and any other characters you might want to draw into the story.

2. Get it all Out


Write it down! You will get nothing done if you spend all your time researching, writing short scenes for your story, or getting stuck in character development. Thanks to step one, you already know your story as well as you can and the only logical next step would be to take a seat and tell it. Imagine sitting with a friend and telling them the story. That’s all you have to do this first pass. Get the basic three on paper: Conflict, journey, and resolution. Worry about the rest later. While this doesn’t apply when you’re writing a cook book or easy homemade lip balm recipe, getting a complete write up is important. 

3. Create a plot line/scene map


Now that you have all the words out, 1500 to 3000 to be exact, I suggest compartmentalizing your story with a good outline! Now it might seem like adding an outline now is counter intuitive or that it should have been step one but hear me out. Now that you finally have your story written out, making an outline will no longer distract you from the real work and an outline will help you start determining what is essential to your story and what can be trashed. While there are many types of outlines, your basic outline will break up your story into reasonable chunks that you can shift around and redefine based on your initial story arc.

4. Rewrite within the confines of your Outline


Your first rewrite! Yes, I did say first. Using your outline, rewrite your story to fit the pattern you think fits the story arc best.

5. Begin to narrow and refine


This could be considered your second rewrite. Don’t say five words when one word will do. Words are a gift to the short story writer, so treasure each one. Remember your goal is 1500 to 3000 words for a traditional short story and even shorter for flash or micro fiction. Besides cutting out unnecessary words, consider narrowing your story even more by nixing unnecessary chunks of story as well. You not only want your story to be concise but it needs to be concise!

6. Edit for grammatical issues


Get rid of those cliches! Examine and correct all spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence construction. Reevaluate word choice. Avoid redundancies. Using spell check doesn’t always catch every mistake so having a good knowledge of grammar rules comes in handy for the writer. However, there are other ways to check your manuscript for errors. From helpful friends and family to some paid services on the web, you want to make sure that grammar is spot on so that your readers aren’t distracted by mistakes and get the full effect of your short story!


If you follow these steps, you’re well on your way to a written short story!