World renowned novelist Stephen King once said, “A short story is like a kiss in the dark, from a stranger.” Irrespective of the profession, it always helps to start small, and in the case of budding authors, a short story could catalyse a potential bestselling novel. Then again, writing a short story poses its own set of challenges; while it may be smaller and more simplistic than a novel, writing a short story still requires the same amount of effort. A lot of authors have made successful careers of writing short stories, and if you ask any of them, they’ll say that the secret isn’t just knowing how to write a story but also knowing what goes into the story to captivates the reader. Here’s a quick guide on how to write and publish a short story.
Writing the short story
Don’t hesitate to put pen to paper and begin writing your short story. Short story ideas are like rare jewels and come to us at the oddest of times and places. Here’s what you must do when the best ideas strike.
- Concise is key
A short story is, well, short, so you will have to think and write concisely. To make things easier, it’s best to set a word limit before you begin. There are many writing tools that allow you to pre-set certain requirements. It also helps if you create a quick synopsis or a wire frame with the key points of your story used as the connectors. The secret of great writing is the rinse and repeat formula, so don’t get bogged down if the first few lines of your story seem meaningless. You can use old material to create something fantastic. Start writing, and when you see your story take interesting turns or develop a plot that has a strong climax, you’ll know you’ve hit the jackpot.
- Establish a theme
Choosing a theme for a novel is essential as it helps writers stick to a certain style and establish the plot, setting, and character traits accordingly. In the case of short stories, you don’t need a theme to start off with. If you feel that your short story has the potential to become a series of books, write with a theme in mind. It could be anything—snippets of horrific tales or fantasy shorts. With a theme in mind, you will be able to write your short story easily and even think about subplots, cliffhangers, and plot twists.
- Take inspiration from everyday incidents
The great thing about being an author is that you will never be short of ideas and inspiration. Inspiration to write can come from anywhere, and you need to push yourself to write the moment ideas strike. Short stories are best expressed when an author writes about day-to-day events that inspire him/her. Even the most mundane of everyday tasks can be transformed into an interesting plot for the story.
- Set a timeframe
Working against the clock is a fun challenge for authors to take on. It gives you that much-needed push when you start slacking over the story you have to write. Writing a huge novel in a short span of time may seem ridiculous, but there are many online competitions conducted by organizations such as NaNoWriMo that encourage writers to finish their work within a set period. As you are writing a short story, challenging yourself to finish on time should be easier. Stick to a 24-hour time frame and segregate the various elements that go into the short story like the ideation, plot, characters, theme and editing evenly.
- Write for yourself
Novel authors write the best stories when they write for a particular audience in mind; it gives them a better idea as to how to write a story that is worth a read. In the case of short stories, you don’t have to write for an audience. Short stories are best executed when you write for yourself; express your deepest feelings in the story, and then work on fitting it into the plot and twisting it so it doesn’t seem too obvious.
- Focus on one character
It is a known fact that characters are crucial when it comes to driving the plot forward. Authors put in an extra effort when it comes to creating relatable characters. Characters matter just as much in a short story, but you don’t have to complicate the plot with too many characters. Stick to a single protagonist/antagonist, and use that character to drive your story. You could also stylise your story in a way where it’s told from that character’s point of view, which gives readers a more intriguing experience.
- It’s all about editing
A novel is not finished till you put it through a strict editing process. You can choose to use basic editing tools or hire a professional editor for some quick work. Short stories are surprisingly harder to edit compared to novels as you may inadvertently find yourself thinking about a revised plot structure, character trait, or theme.
Publishing your short story
If you are seriously considering a career as an author, short story or otherwise, you need to master the art of publishing and promoting your work on the appropriate platforms. Here are a few ways of making sure your short story gets some attention from readers.
- Post your story on blogs
If you’ve got your creative juices flowing, you know that one short story is never enough. Write as many as you can and compile them together into a series. You can start posting one story after another and eventually think about converting the stories you have in the blog into a book.
- Be social media savvy
Social media has become central to all sorts of promotional campaigns, regardless of the industry. For the literary world, social media is doubly essential as the crux of the platform is communication, something writers are especially good at. There are many ways you can utilise social media to publish and promote your short stories. Don’t forget to take a leaf out of the book of authors who have a powerful social media presence.
- Share the story in-person
As much as they are fun to write, short stories are also fun to read out loud. Grab any chance you get to showcase your literary talent and organise a reading session. The best place to do so is in a book café and the best people to share it with are members of book clubs.
- Organise a book launch
A book launch is a very effective promotional method and will help give your book a dose of visibility. Once your book is up and ready, learn how to organise a book launch and build your reputation as a respected short story writer.
Famous short story writers
Some of the most famous and even legendary authors and poets began their careers with a small collection of words. Here’s our list of favourite short-story authors.
- Rabindranath Tagore
One of, if not the most, celebrated novelist/poets India has ever had, Rabindranath Tagore’s collection of poems and short stories are preserved through history. Tagore was noted for his blunt and realistic writing style, which took examples from his time living in a patriarchal society. He would often take examples from real incidents and write about them in the most surreal manner.
- RK Narayan
RK Narayan’s most popular collection of short stories is Malgudi Days. Every story written in the series revolves around the simple yet complicated lives of village folk. There are elements of humour, sadness, anger, and more, which any reader will easily relate to. No wonder his book was adapted into a TV series.
- Tobias Woolf
Tobias Woolf’s work is a perfect example of just how much inspiration a writer can get from his/her own life experiences. His short stories can also be interpreted as memoirs and explore dark and gritty themes involving self-discovery.
- Jhumpa Lahiri
Not many readers were aware of Jhumpa Lahiri before the movie, The Namesake, rolled out. Her writing style reflects her life as an Indian living in a foreign land, and that is strongly evident in her most celebrated short story collection, An Interpreter of Maladies.
Short stories are great fun to write and will help keep your creative clock ticking. If you need further help when it comes to establishing a strong and stable base for your writing career, contact Notion Press – a highly popular self-publishing agency that will guide you on your literary journey.