My Short Story Writing Process

My Short Story Writing Process – In 12 Easy Steps

Thank you for the continuing enthusiastic response to our Short Story Challenge. It’s awesome. I have also created a closed group on Facebook: 12 Short Stories In 12 Months.

My Short Story Writing Process – In 12 Easy Steps

This is how I go about writing a short story. Most of the time I just write for myself, but the process isn’t too different when I write for a competition or recently this new adventure. The competitions often have a brief or prompt and strict word counts and that is why I want you to stick to the word counts and prompts for this group.

When I write for myself I don’t have those restrictions and I find that harder at times. Regardless of the purpose of the story, this is the process I use.

Step 1

I study and understand the theme and competition requirements. Most of the competitions have websites. I check out the previous winners and judges, and make sure I understand the brief.

Step 2

I use the theme as a prompt and free write. I set a timer for seven minutes. I put pen to paper and see what happens. I do this a few times, to help me get past the first-base ideas.

Step 3

I let it simmer. If I have time and the deadline isn’t three hours away (true story) I let the idea or theme simmer. Ideas developed when I did the free writing, and I mull them over. I usually have an image in my mind and I need to go figure out how it got there.

Step 4

I pick one and write it. For real, I explore the idea I like the most. Do I have enough story or do I have too much story? The word count helps me here. I may have an awesome idea, but the whole scene is about 600 words. It’ll be a stretch to get to 2000 or 3000 words. Perhaps I should consider a different story? The same goes for a 5000 word story that I need to cut to 2500 words. I might be losing too much. Then, I’ll have to write another story.

Step 5

I fix it. I’ll end up with a first draft. My first draft is almost always mostly dialogue, I do that. So now I can go and fix it and because I have the story on the page I know what is going on.

Step 6

I experiment. That is probably the best part about short stories. I can play around. When I am dealing with a novel, I am hesitant to play around and see what happens, because I’ll go off on sucky tangents. With a short story, I can change genders, viewpoints, settings or even eras. Sometimes I rewrite my story in opposites, just to see what happens.

Step 7

I evaluate. Every word counts. I evaluate each word, each sentence. I read it aloud. Does it still fit the brief? Has the story changed?

Step 8

I proofread, check spelling and grammar. I am officially the world’s worst proofreader. I outsource this as needed.

Step 9

I rewrite, if necessary.

Step 10

I reread and follow the competition instructions carefully. I make sure I am using the correct format, file and font.

Step 11

I submit the story.

Step 12

I forget about the entry and start writing the next story.

This is a little of how I do it, what do you do?

Look out for the next post: Even Short Stories Need Goals

Looking for workbooks on the craft? Buy The Short Story Checklist and How To Show And Not Tell In Short Stories.

Mia Botha by Mia Botha

Buy Mia’s book on how to write short stories: Write the crap out of it and other short story writing advice

If you enjoyed this post, you will love:

  1. 40 Writing Competitions To Inspire You
  2. What Exactly Is A Short Story And How Do I Know If I Am Writing One?
  3. 10 Awesome Reasons For Writing Short Stories

Top Tip: If you want to learn how to write a short story, sign up for our online course.

This article has 1 comment

  1. Nicola

    Thanks for the useful information

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