Short Story Writing Tips

Short Story Writing Tips

Why is it so important to have short story writing tips? Simply put, because every style or genre of writing while the same in many ways also has its own little peculiarities and requirements. 
Short story writing, for example, requires the ability to relate a complete story, from beginning to end with every relevant detail in between, within say 500 to 3000 words. 

Many new writers start out on short stories, perhaps because it’s the style they are most familiar with from school, perhaps it’s the easiest one to plan, but it can also be hard to do well. Primarily because everything has to be fitted within a small word count that allows no space for waffle or use of a string of words when one singular one will do.

So here you go, my short story writing tips.

Don’t have too many characters

If you have a limited word count you also have a limited amount of space and time to characterise a person, and every character needs a clear picture painted of them. So, as not to have to cut back on the characterisation, include only those people who are really essential to the story. My personal choice would be no more than four characters in a short story, and only two if the story is less than 1500 words. 

Stick to the story
There is no space for waffle in short story writing. So, if you’ve written something that isn’t vital to the story take it out. 

Use strong, well chosen descriptive words
Often we, as writers, can use a collection of words to describe a setting, emotion or event, when just one word could paint the effect perfectly.

However, choosing the perfect word isn’t usually as easy and quick as writing down the ones we’re familiar with, and while we might get away with using a phrase rather than one word when writing a novel or mid-length story it won’t work in short piece of writing. Take the time to flick through the Thesaurus, because in short stories finding the perfect word is important. 

Don’t overdo the description
This really ties into the last tip. All stories require description, but when you’re working with short story writing it often comes at the expense of the story. This is not saying that you can’t have descriptive short stories, only that you need, like everything else in this genre, to decide if it’s essential and how best to express it. 

Don’t spend all your words building to the story

As you have probably guessed by now the main concept in these short story writing tips relates to word count. This suggestion is no different. All stories need a beginning, middle and end, it’s a standard rule, so avoid using all your words to build the story if it leaves you without enough to finish the work. Write yourself a great first sentence and follow it through with a solid plot and ending.
Don’t watch your word count

Yes, another short story writing tip about word count. Well, kind of. When you’re writing your first draft don’t focus entirely on your word count, it will stunt your story as much as if you were trying to edit while writing. Don’t look at your word count until your first draft is finished and you’re ready to edit it.

If those tips don't answer all your questions and you’re still struggling, consider whether you're trying to fit too big a tale into a short story. 

This might mean the story: 

• is covering too many topics.

• is covering too large a time span.

• has too many characters.

• starts too early in the tale.

• is too wordy. 

As a final resort, print out your story and leave it on the shelf for a week. Then, when you have time, come back to it with a highlighter pen and highlight the essential bits to the story – not necessarily the bits you like, just the bits that the story needs to work. 

If you still have too many words reconsider if you have too big a tale and need to rethink your plot or the chosen word count for your story.
Share by: