How To Write A Short Story From Start to Finish [2023 Guide]

Always wondered how to write a short story? Creating short stories is a great way to build your writing career.

It is great because it is an ideal medium for beginners to get started before they step into writing a novella of any length.

You can literally learn the various forms of writing stories without being overwhelmed.

And you can learn the art of writing captive stories that can make an impact to your readers.

But how do you write a short story that can make such a huge impact on the readers?

Basically, writing a short story has a few basics steps that if followed will help you to create captive stories. And as you keep on writing and reading short stories you will automatically be able to create literary masterpiece like you’ve always wanted.

Although I am not saying that learning how to write a short story is easy.

For me, it is more difficult than learning how to write a novel.

But as most writers do, I started my writing career by writing short stories only.

So let’s start from the beginning.

What Is A Short Story?

In the publishing industry, short stories refer to fiction no longer than 8000 words but a longer “short story” can extend to not more than 20,000 words.

In short,

  1. Traditional short story length is 1,500-5000 words
  2. Flash Fiction can be 500-1,000 words
  3. Micro Fiction short stories can be less than 500 words.
  4. The best range for submitting the short stories are between 1500-3000 words.

Short story writers have a great reputation in the literary community and are highly respected.

This is because they create a story that can be read quickly but have an everlasting experience in the reader’s mind.

If you want to make a name for yourself writing, short stories can make that happen to attract your target readers.

Requirements Of Writing A Short Story

Basically, there are three requirements you should follow for writing your short story from start to finish.

1. Time

You should always try to finish your short story in one go.

Writing a traditional short story of 5000 words will take a maximum of 10 hours.

It may take less if you have a clear story in your mind as you just have to spit it out.

But it varies from person to person and their writing speed.

Always have time in hand because you may need to read and rewrite some parts, again and again, to make your story the way you want.

Along with writing the story, reserve some time for editing and proofreading also.

2. Story Idea

You should be clear on your story idea and what you are going to write.

An idea should be there even if it is just a layout so that you know how you will start your story and how you will end it.

The ending may change sometimes as you progress through the story (almost every writer goes through this), but it should justify the message that you are giving your readers.

It should not be like you started with the message of love then ended with saying love is not real.

So you have to be clear about your story idea.

Though you can change some scenes but not the final meaning.

3. Writing Software /App

Obviously, you will need something to write about.

Though many writers use a notebook, diary, or journal to write their short stories.

Some even use typewriters.

I am not against them. Everyone has a unique way of writing. Some find inspiration using these tools

However, I recommend to write on a digital medium like on a laptop or smartphone.

There are various paid and free writing apps that you can use to write your short story.

But if you are more inspired writing traditionally, don’t follow me. Just get your story ready by any means you like.

How To Generate Ideas For Writing A Short Story?

Generating ideas for writing a new short story is easy.

You can get a ton of story ideas by just observing tiny details around yourself.

The main thing is to present it as a story.

To get ideas for writing your short story you can follow the mentioned steps.

1. Start With The Things You Know

You can literally start writing about the things that you already know or want to write on.

This includes your own emotions on certain things, certain stories, something that might happen with you or with someone you knew.

This even includes writing a short story on something that you want to become or wanted or something different from what it is now.

Write about anything ranging from tension, problems, or whatever you have on your mind.

Present it in a way that it looks like a short story with a proper beginning and ending including having a message for your readers.

2. Create Your Story And Characters From The People You Know

Characters come from the people you already know from your life.

These can be your friends, family, relatives, or even some celebrities, or influential people.

Like if you want to have a story on how XYZ becomes successful, put the characters of some successful people you already know.

Take examples from them and create imaginary short stories around those characters.

Write about the aspects which people don’t know or even imagined.

Take an example, all of us know Abraham Lincoln was the president of the United States of America. But there is a movie named Abraham Lincoln The Vampire Hunter.

They took the real character, real-life, turned it into an imaginary story with a twist.

You can also do the same.

Though you can’t write about every celebrity as first you have to take proper permission.

But you get my point.

Like that you can twist some facts and make stories of your own.

That’s why it is called Fiction.

3. Get Inspirations and Ideas From The Book/Short Stories You Read

To get ideas you have to read a lot of short stories.

This is important because you will learn how a simple incident can be turned into an amazing short story.

You may even have faced the same situation or incident in your life but you don’t know how to present it as a short story.

So when you read short stories of other famous authors you will automatically get ideas for your short story.

Maybe you read some novels or stories and wanted that beginning, ending, or midsection can be changed into something which will bring the different outcomes, create a story around that thing.

For example, a love story is written according to the perspective of girl and her struggles and hardship but the other side (boy’s side) is not written.

So you can create a similar kind of short story with keeping the voice of the other side and their struggles.

Or even you can write about the struggles of both sides.

This will yield a completely different story.

4. Observe What’s Going On In the World

You can observe current as well as previous scenarios and create a short story around anything.

That can include real-life incidents or fiction that you can think of.

War and peace stories do well as it depicts the conditions and their struggles.

There are so many wars fought to date and you can create your version based on some characters, war overview, survival, etc.

So the ideas that you can get here are limitless and only limited by the imagination of an author.

How To Structure Your Short Story?

Your short story structure includes the following (not limited to) :

  1. Crisis or problems (can be anything depending on the genre you are writing) your main character is going through
  2. Things your characters do to overcome it.
  3. How everything goes sideways.
  4. How your character lose hope (or something similar)
  5. How everything works at the end (can be a happy ending or sad depending upon your idea of a story)

Different short story writing formats have different structures.

You may start from the beginning describing the complete journey or you may start at the middle giving just an overview of the past.

As it is a short story you don’t need to elaborate on the background of any character. Just try to give the overview.

How To Write Short Story Step by Step?

1. Evoke Deep Emotion

It is the emotion or impression you want your reader to feel and go through as they read through your story.

Evoking emotion doesn’t mean that you use sad, happy, angry, as emotions as it solely depends on the conditions of your story.

The sadness of failing in the exam is completely different from the sadness of losing the love of your life.

So how you present those emotions matters.

You should know what emotion you want to give your readers at the end.

What do you want your readers to feel?

love, hatred, inspiration, redemption, justice, etc…

Though your story can have various emotions, what will be the final emotion that your readers will get when they reach the ending is what matters.

This will be your message to your readers.

So think accordingly and then write what emotions you want your readers to feel.

2. Create A Proper Starting Scene

Create A Proper Starting Scene for your short story

Writing a perfect opening scene is the best way to write a short story.

It is the hook that will make your reader follow through your story.

Though writing an opening scene that captures your readers’ attention is not easy as you have to strike on your reader’s attention at once.

You don’t have space to build your story and then reveal the most important aspect of your story.

For example, you can write in the beginning as Mr. John killed his wife in front of his son.

Now people will have the urge to know who is John and why he murdered his wife.

Your opening scene can be a beginner of a story or sometimes the climax itself.

You just have to have something at the beginning which will grab the attention of your reader.

This is what we call the HOOK.

3. Build Your Story

While writing the body of your short story do remember that you only have a finite amount of space to build your story.

Your every word, every sentence should move the story forward, or give the back story, and towards the ending you already planned.

So every word you choose should justify the same else you are just wasting your precious space.

Focus on the main agenda of your story and come to point directly instead of going round and round.

Don’t waste your time just setting up your scene. Tell your readers directly.

Tell your readers only as much information that is required so as the story is clear at the end.

But do remember don’t make the body of your story boring.

You have to keep the readers engaged. That’s how you will be able to make your story a perfect read.

4. Keep It Short And To The Point

keep your short story to the point

The reason it is called a short story is because it doesn’t have a lot of details, background story, characterization, etc.

In just one sentence you can define the characters, give required background stories.

So this should be your goal too while writing any short story.

Always write to the point.

For example, don’t describe the weather like it was winter morning with high breeze /snow and John was going to meet her girlfriend. Rather you can write John was wearing a jacket while he was going to meet his girlfriend.

So you can save your space.

The situation here is clear that it was winter that’s why he was wearing a jacket.

This is just an example of how you can save your space and still be understood by your readers.

5. Have A Justifying Ending

No matter how amazing your opening and body of your story is, it’s still trash if it doesn’t have a good ending.

Give proper time writing the ending. It may be tempting just to end the story on a single tone/word.

But don’t.

Instead end with emotion, feelings, and care.

If you don’t know how to end the story, look back at the story, read it again, imagine the same scene again and again, and look what you want the end to be.

Ask yourself :

  • Is this what your readers will want.
  • Will this ending justify the whole story.
  • Is the ending clear
  • Will your readers have unanswered questions.

The story is not for yourself only. It is for your readers.

Always end with your key emotion which you have started from the beginning.

6. Write A Compelling Title For Your Short Story

Work hard on your short story title as well.

You need to make sure that the title grasps the reader’s attention at first sight.

The best practice is to keep it short, usually with a single word or two.

The title can be the theme of your story, or some emotion which you have depicted in your story.

Sometimes it can also be the name of your characters or their life description.

I have a short story titled “Long Legs”, but it isn’t the story of some guy with the physical appearance of long legs rather it is about a thief and he got the nickname “long legs”.

Sometimes your editor can change the title but in any case, it has to justify what your story is all about.

7. Edit Like Hell

After completing your short story your real work will begin.

Your first goal of editing should be checking for spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

To do the editing properly, read your story backward. This will surely help you a lot.

The next thing in editing is to edit/cut the unnecessary parts that might be present in your story.

For example :

  • He blinked his eyes twice for giving the signal.
  • John entered the room whose door was open and sat in front of her.

As it is a short story so you have to be precise with your words.

Now everyone has a different editing style as some edit after their first draft while some edit as they write.

So whatever is your style you can follow the same.

You might be wondering why I want you to edit your own manuscript and not hire an editor?

This is because you know the main theme of your story better than anyone else and as it is a short story, even a minor change in one sentence can give a different meaning if edited by some other person who doesn’t have any idea.

So better do the editing by yourself especially initially.

8. Re-read Your Story

After you are done with your story, edited it, and completed everything you should re-read your story at least twice.

You have no idea how many new errors, new ideas, and loopholes you can find even after your final edit.

The importance of re-reading is to make sure that your story has the perfect ingredients without any errors and loopholes. It is good to read it a couple of days later as sometimes you become a little blinded if looking at it too often.

Make corrections if there are some inconsistencies.

That’s how you can make sure your story will be a perfect read for everyone.

Final World On How To Write Short Story

Writing a short story from start to finish is not as difficult as it seems.

If you follow the steps, like the ones I’ve outlined in this post, and you can write a perfect short story that will be loved by your readers.

The best strategy for writing a short story is to read a lot and write a lot.

That’s how you can master the art of short story writing.

There is no shortcut.

You have to write a lot in order to be perfect.

It doesn’t happen overnight.

So now if you have any questions or doubts on how to write a short story, feel free to ask in the comment section.

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