Writers Write is a writing resource. In this post we share American novelist, Curtis Sittenfeld’s five steps for writing a short story.
Her first short story collection, You Think It, I’ll Say It, was published in 2018 and picked for Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club. Curtis has interviewed Michelle Obama for Time, and appeared as a guest on NPR’s ‘Fresh Air’, CBS’s ‘Early Show’, and PBS’s ‘Newshour’.
Her books have been translated into 30 languages. Her nonfiction has been published in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Time, and Glamour.
In a recent article for The New York Times, she included her one-month plan for finally writing that short story. We think her five steps are incredibly practical and useful and we wanted to share some of the advice with you.
We have included excerpts from the article below. Please read the full article here.
Curtis Sittenfeld’s 5 Steps For Writing A Short Story
Step 1: Make A Time To Write Every Day & Decide Where You’ll Write
Before you start writing, you need to decide when you’re going to do it. The author says: ‘Look at your calendar and decide in advance which day(s) and time(s) you’ll write.’
You also need to know where you’re going to write. She goes on: ‘… Also to do in advance: Decide where you’ll write and what has to happen so that when your first writing session arrives, you’re ready.’
Step 2: Decide What Your Story Is About & Create An Outline
It’s a good idea to decide what or who you’re going to include in your story – and to make sure it’s something you would like to do. She says: ‘If you haven’t already, decide what your story is about. The most important criterion is not that it sounds impressive or even interesting to someone else; it’s that you find it interesting.’
She then spends time talking about an outline. She adds: ‘This part is optional… but writing an outline, even if you use almost none of it, can be incredibly helpful.’
Step 3: Spend Your Allocated Time At Your Writing Desk
Step 3 seems self-evident but is probably the most important step. She instructs: ‘Write! Or, during your scheduled writing times, don’t write — that’s totally acceptable, too. Just don’t do anything else.’
Step 4: Finish The Story
Step 4 is so important, especially for beginner writers. It’s all about finishing that first draft. Sittenfeld says: ‘Keep writing… Your goal is not to write a great story but to finish a story.’
Step 5: Decide Where You Want To Go next
She says that you may discover that you’ve finished a story and that that is enough for you: ‘After you’ve finished your first draft, read your story in its entirety once. Maybe this is as far as you want to take it. If so, congratulations — you did it!’
But perhaps you’ve discovered that you want to do more with the story. This will, of course, require more work on your part. She continues: ‘If you want to improve your story, put it away for at least a week then start revising.’
And if the second is true for you, she ends with the caveat that you may have just discovered that you want to become a writer. ‘ If the idea of continuing to smooth out the messiness of your work feels weirdly exhilarating, if multiple additional stories are burbling inside you, if completing a draft or two makes you suspect you’re at the beginning of a journey rather than the end of one, you also deserve congratulations. You just might be a writer.’
Please read the full article here.
Resources For Short Story Writers:
- How To Show And Not Tell In Short Stories – Workbook
- The Short Story Checklist – Workbook
- Short Cuts – Course
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