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Brilliant tips for writing a short story

13 November 2018

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It’s often said that writing a short story is somewhat harder than writing a full-blown novel.

That’s a debate we won’t enter ourselves, mind; we’ll leave you all to fight it out!

We do recognise, however, that there are plenty of first time authors out there who have a brilliant idea for a short story but who have stumbled at the first hurdle.

Putting pen to paper and getting started is probably the biggest challenge you’ll face, but there are thankfully plenty of tried-and-tested ways to get that short story out of your head and into something your audience will devour.

Get to know your character

Chances are, your short story will centre on one particular character, and in order to make the tale as engaging and true to your original concept as possible, you need to know them like the back of your hand.

Spend some virtual time with the character; write notes about their back story, personality and the things they do to fill their spare time.

This might seem a little indulgent, and you obviously use very little of this material in the finished story, but it will slowly build an important bond between you and your main character, and that will make the writing process far easier.

Spend lots of time on the outline

For some novelists, the outline of their short story is longer than the story itself. This is absolutely fine - it’s the building blocks of the story and helps focus your mind as the writer.

Outlining a short story is actually a bit easier than a full-blown novel, simply because there aren’t quite so many pages to take into account, but the purpose of an outline is to give you ample time to nail down the narrative and ensure you plug any plot holes that may otherwise have crept in.

Spend as much time as you can on the outline - you won’t regret it.

Catch their attention immediately

The key to engaging the reader from the start is to grab their attention with something out of the ordinary within the first few sentences.

You main character doing, saying or witnessing something weird or unusual is a great way to immediately pique the interest of your audience.

Don’t give anything away - just start with a bang, and make sure the pace remains similarly fast throughout.

Write the first draft quickly

You don’t need to worry at all about writing the perfect short story to begin with.

Just write.

Polishing, tweaking and editing can come later. The most important thing now is to get those ideas out of your head and onto paper.

You’ll find the quicker you write that first draft, the quicker and more passionate you’ll become about the story and the more easily it will flow out of your brain.

Get several people to read the first draft

Pick a bunch of people you know and trust and ask them to read your first draft before you perform any kind of editing yourself.

Several sets of eyes on that draft will help you nail down any inconsistencies, plot holes or stuff that simply isn’t attention-grabbing enough.

Ask your test readers to be as honest as possible. Although some of the feedback might be hard to bear, it’ll be worth hearing.

Wrapping up

Short stories are fabulous ways to express yourself as novelists and encapsulate big ideas in small packages.

Our tips above are non-exhaustive, but they’ll certainly put you on the right track!

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