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Mastering the Short Story

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With the short story, you are up against mortality. I know how tough they are as a form, but they’re also a total joy.” – Ali Smith

Short stories are probably among the most difficult stories to write, solely for the fact that you do not have all the time to introduce characters and reveal plot that you do with a full-length story. There are more stringent perimeters to operate within when writing a short story. Here are some tips to help you maximize your efforts:

Exclude unnecessary words, phrases or sentences. Anything that doesn’t enhance your story, develop a character, or move your plot along should be omitted. Each word must be deliberate and have purpose. It is as Hunter S. Thompson once said, “Not a wasted word.”

Make your plot clear and concise. Don’t drag it out. Remember, this is a short story. You don’t have time to build mountains of suspense. If you’re story is intended to be suspenseful, you may want to start it as close to the climax as possible. Otherwise, it is best to save the suspense and show the reader all of your cards from the beginning.

Don’t waste your time on pointlShortStoriesInsideess characters. Like your sentences, each character you include must enhance your story in some way. Only introduce characters who do/say important things to move the story onward. If you are introducing your protagonist, you do not need to introduce (or even make mention of) their family members too, unless they are vital to the plot.

Read. If you are not much of a reader, it is advisable to pick up a book or two and give them a read before you begin any writing endeavors. Reading will open your mind and enhance your imagination, as well as show you what a well-written story looks like.

Outline. An outline will give you a clear understanding of exactly where you want your story to go – what you want to happen, to whom you want it to happen, and when you want it to happen. This will make the writing process much smoother.

Write. Just write. Get your story onto paper and don’t worry about making it perfect. The important thing is to just get it out and get it finished. You can worry about the fine-tuning later.

Re-write. This is when you can go back through what you’ve written, pinpoint what you’d like to change, then re-write your story, making those changes.

Edit. Proofreading and editing are important aspects that must not be overlooked or omitted before submitting your story for publication. You need to make sure your story is as perfect as possible before submission, otherwise it is likely to get rejected by a publisher.

“You become a different writer when you approach a short story. When things are not always having to represent other things, you find real human beings begin to cautiously appear on your pages.” – Zadie Smith