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Five Writing Tips When Crafting Your Short Story

Five Writing Tips When Crafting Your Short Story

So you’ve decided you want to contribute to our 2019 Short Fiction Contest? Well, first off, congratulations, because that’s awesome! However, actually having an idea is just the first step. Now you need to take the time to sit down, write it all out and refine it into something readable. Everyone’s process is different, but here are some tricks that have worked for me and maybe they’ll help you out in your journey to crafting your masterpiece.

Plan it first.
Your plan doesn’t have to be a super detailed 12-page document with detailed backstories on every character. You aren’t George R.R. Martin. However, you should have even just a basic plan of what you want to write and where your story is going to go before you start actually writing it. This will help you from getting stuck or writing yourself into a corner. Plus, having a “big picture” frees you up to focus more on the fun little details of writing, like dialogue and world building.

Don’t edit as you go.
When writing sometimes it can be tempting to stop, take a break and then go back and edit what you’ve already written before continuing, but this can slow down your process and get you stuck on thinking about what you’ve done right or wrong before you’re actually done composing your entire finished work. It’s fine to stop and take breaks. Focus on your personal needs first. However, I would suggest just powering through to the end before you worry about refining anything. That way you’re ideas are out there in a concrete form as soon as possible. Once this is done, then you can criticize yourself all you want. Go wild and be as hard on yourself as possible. I’m kidding. I’m sure you don’t need the encouragement. You’re probably already your own worst critic, which brings me to my next point.

It doesn’t have to be perfect.
There is no perfect movie, perfect book, perfect album, etc. If you look hard enough, you can find flaws in anything. Your story doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be readable, entertaining and convey some kind of message. In the case of this contest, we’ve already provided the message for you. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t edit your story to be as good as you can make it. It just means you shouldn’t get too down on yourself to the point where you edit the thing into something unrecognizable that removes your original vision entirely. 

Get a second set of eyes.
No two people will have the exact same opinion on something and other people might notice something that you don’t. This is especially true of something you wrote yourself. Something might make perfect sense to you, but leave a reader totally baffled. Others might not be as critical of a part you might not be so fond of and they might notice mistakes you may have missed. This is why having a third-party review your work before sending it in is so critical. They weren’t sitting next to you the whole time you were writing, so they don’t know what parts of the story you were struggling with before they start reading. They’re approaching the whole thing fresh. Take advantage of that.

Print it and read it out loud.
Something might sound great in your head and not so good when you actually try to speak it. Storytelling started thousands of years ago as a verbal tradition. It’s rooted in speech, so chances are, if it doesn’t sound good coming out of your mouthhole, it won’t read well going into somebody’s brain… hole? See? That sounds weird, which I would have known had I taken the time to read this out loud before posting it. I would suggest doing a silent edit first, then print an actual paper copy of your story, pick it up and read it out loud. As you notice things like run-on sentences (a lot easier to spot when you’re struggling to get all the words out on a single breath), awkward wording or overused phrases, take a pencil and make a note of it on the sheet of paper before going back and making the final edits in your Word document.

In the end, do what works for you, if you like to write blind with no plan or edit as you write or whatever, go for it! What matters is the quality of the final product, not the process it took to get there. With all that said, good luck on your writing journey. You have a voice. You have something to say that is worth listening to, no matter who you are. So speak up (or write up, in this case)!