It’s Time to Build a Great Short Story

It's Time to Build a Great Short Story

Last week I wrote about being museless, today I’m hear to tell you, my lovely dreamers, that I wrote a short story. Last night I crept out of my room, fed up with my brother’s snoring (seriously how the hell can he keep it up ALL night?) I started up my laptop, lit a few candles and went through my hard drive for a starter and found two I liked. I picked one that pulled me a little more intense and started writing. I didn’t really know where it was going but it ended up being a short story from a different book with a character whom I had no experience with at all. I’ve been struggling to find words but lately, when I lie down to sleep all I seem to think about is writing.

The break has been good. It’s been over a month now and my characters are slowly calling me to write. I think this is why I ended up with a story that was both a surprise and a joy. It’s rough, raw but it’s fantastic. Or it will be when I’m finished editing it.

Short stories are hard. I was told by one of my lecturers that it’s just a snippet of time from a whole piece, it needs to be short, meaty and succinct. She made it sound easy. It’s really not easy. I always find that the hardest thing is sticking to a word limit, but here is what you need to do to build a great short story.

Planning can be essential, but with a sliver of time, I always find that it’s easier to just write. Write it out, try not to agonise over what you’re getting down and what you’re not getting down. Don’t worry about tense of over exaggerating anything. Just write. Writer fast, write it out. Short stories are always unpredictable the first time. It’s almost like unwrapping a Kinder Surprise and finding a little toy on the inside. This is why I don’t like actual planning, it dulls the joy of the finished product.

Once you’ve written it, and it’s okay to go over the allocated word limit for now, you need to leave it to the side. Give it a day, or give it a few days and let it marinate in the juices of awesomeness.

This is actually my favourite part after the writing (because the writing is the best part of any creative piece). As much as I bitch and moan about editing, I really love taking my handy pink pen, which has an erasable tip) and graffitting the heck out of it. Normally I get really gung ho at the start and the amount of marks on a page dwindles down to next to nothing, but I’m going to try and not let that happen this time. Once I’ve marked the hell out of it, I leave it again.

I always war with myself about this part. Sometimes I leave it for another day (if I have the time) or I rewrite it fast. Sometimes I use the original as a marker, sometimes I leave it to the side and then I write from memory. It’s harder because sometimes I think I have all of the right things in place for the story, but if I don’t remember them (or I remember a past draft) then it’s not meant to be.

After the rewrite has been done this is where I send it off to someone else to read, to pull it apart for me and tell me what they think doesn’t fit and what doesn’t work. In uni this was hard, because there were only a few of my class mates whom actually gave out enough feedback to work with, so it was harder to sift through it all. Once I get it back I look it over and this is where I cannot stress enough, but you need to have someone you trust look over this second draft. A story, no matter if it’s long or short, is still in it’s infancy this early and it’s a bit of an ego killer if your writer buddy isn’t someone you like because you start to regret giving them your piece. You start to resent them and that’s totally not cool.

Once you’ve worked through the feedback and rewritten the story, you should essentially have something very different to what you started with and you need to be proud of that. You’ve reworked a piece and you’ve made it great. Do you think everyone else can say the same?

Short stories are hard by nature, because they’re smaller in length, but they’re equally as powerful. As much as I dislike them, I have learned that they are a great little tool to have under your belt.

So in celebration of the short story I’ve written and currently on my way to editing, I’m going to hand out some freebies. Three lucky commenters will get the chance to send me a copy of their writing; a raw blog post; a snippet of something longer; a short story; and I will give them some honest (and gentle) feedback. All you have to do is sign up to my emailing list (check the side bar) and like me on Facebook if you haven’t already. The winners will be announced in a week in my newsletter!

Mandi is a writer, reader, dreamer and is breaking procrastinating inner editors, one at a time.


  • wolverine8u

    Short stories, sometimes I feel like they take more commitment then a novel. It’s the same raw unbridled energy being unleashed in a single focused stream. Sometimes it spawns an incredible character, a scene, an image or an idea that will become a spark in your novel, sometimes the short story is just that–a short self contained story that you may never visit again. Every year I start the 365 days challenge, I attempt to write a 1000 words a day (on absolutely anything) every day of the year. These are raw, rough, dreadfully written, pieces. But they are also some of my favourite work, in summary short stories rock–but they also kill me

  • Peta

    I know we’ve had this conversation before, but YES. Rewriting and redrafting is such an important part of story writing. It’s the time where you get to take those raw words that poured from your heart or soul or the universe or your imagination or who knows where and turn them into something readable, relatable and publishable. After a long break from short story writing, you’ve inspired me to craft another one! 🙂

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