5 Great Short Story Tips for Writers
  • 3-minute read
  • 5th September 2018

5 Great Short Story Tips for Writers

Short stories are a great way to hone your writing skills before setting to work on your long-planned novel. They’re also an art form in themselves. Whatever your motivation for writing, though, we have some great short story tips for authors. Read on to find out more!

1. Some Stories Are Shorter than Others

A short story will typically be between 1,500 and 7,500 words long. However, some are longer and others are as short as a single sentence. It is up to you! You can see how different short stories are sometimes classified, as well as how these compare to a novel, below:

Fiction Format

Average Length

Microfiction

Under 100 words

Flash fiction

100 to 1,000 words

Short story

1,000 to 7,500 words

Novelette

7,500 to 17,500 words

Novella

17,500 to 50,000 words

Novel

50,000 words or more

Before you start writing, think about which format to use and set yourself a word limit. This can work as a guideline when planning your story.

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2. Work with Limitations

To make sure your short story doesn’t accidentally grow into a novella, set some limitations on the plot as well as the word count. These could be physical (e.g., a story that takes place in a single room) or time based (e.g., a story that takes place in a single day). You could even set a limitation on the number of characters or “scenes” that your short story will involve.

Whatever limitation you choose, working with a narrower scope will help you focus on the core of your story.

3. Think About the World of the Story

The best short stories feel like they belong to a larger, lived-in world. You won’t have space to explain this world fully, but you can think about how it would shape the tale you are telling.

Make notes about the history of your characters and the world they belong to before you begin writing. This can give you a better sense of what they are like and how they would interact with one another. You can even hint at this by alluding to your characters’ pasts in your writing.

4. Edit Ruthlessly!

Thanks to the limitations of a short story, you will almost certainly write too much on your first draft. This is completely fine. The key is to take what you’ve written and then refine it.

Think about cutting anything that isn’t essential to the story you’re telling. And remember the old advice about showing, not telling: i.e., that it is better to use action to show how a character feels than telling the reader directly. In a short story, this can also help cut down on unnecessary narration.

5. Look for a Publisher

If you are proud of your short story, you might want to share it with the world! Check out some of the many magazines and blogs that feature short stories. Once you find one that carries the same type or genre of writing as your own, look up their rules for submitting stories and follow these closely.

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