10 Resources to Help You Write a Great Short Story

by Suzannah Windsor Freeman

Man teaching with book

Those of us who mainly focus on book-length fiction sometimes wonder about the differences between writing a novel and writing a short story.

Can they really be that different? After all, they both have characters, plots, and structure, right?

Larry Brooks of Storyfix says:

You think writing 100,000 words is tough?  That shaping them into a coherent and meaningful story is challenging?

Try writing 1000 words sometime.  Or 5,000.  With the same goal.

Try writing a short story.

As paradoxical as it may seem, short stories are harder to wrap your head around than a novel.  And harder yet to successfully pull off. (read more)

If you’re in the process of writing a short story, or if you’re considering doing so in the future, check out these 10 resources to help you write a great one:

1. Classic Reader Short Stories

If you want to know how to write a short story, start by studying some of the best.

Read classic short stories from a wide range of authors spanning several centuries. You’ll find authors such as Honore de Balzac, Anton Chekhov, Edgar Allan Poe, and many others.

2. ABC Radio: How to Write a Short Story

Listen to an audio interview with short story writer to gain a bit of insight into the genre.

Contemporary Spanish writer Jose Ovejero likens reading a short story to holding a hand grenade when someone else has removed the safety pin.

3. Short Stories: 10 Tips for Creative Writers

Far more than just 10 Tips for Creative Writers—this website features a full run-down of how to write a short story from beginning to end.

A short story begins as close to the conclusion as possible, and grabs the reader from the very first line. It conserves character and scenes, typically focuses on just one problem, and drives towards a sudden, unexpected revelation.

4. Creative Writing Course: How to Write a Short Story

One writer’s take on word counts, the endangerment of the short story, and the differences between writing a short story and a novel. It also gives some tips on structure.

Short stories are the best place for new writers to hone their craft. But don’t be fooled, they’re not necessarily the easiest option.

5. Time Magazine: How to Write a Short Story

This piece encourages us to save the money we’d otherwise spend on an MFA, and instead take a few lessons from legendary short story writer Alice Munro.

Alice Munro spins tales that show us, again and again, and with wondrous grace, how much can be done in a simple short story. Yet the 74-year-old Canadian does it by breaking every rule ever taught in a writing seminar…

6. 10 Tips for Writing a Short Story

Refreshing tips on short story writing, some of which you might not find anywhere else!

A story should lock into one of your obsessions or you won’t bother to finish it.

7. BBC Short Story Web Links for Writers

A huge list of resources, blogs, and books you won’t want to miss.

Information, tips and advice for short story writers. Find out which magazines accept short stories and read advice about submitting your stories.

8. Short Story Checklist: Techniques for Getting Short Stories Published

You’re not finished ’til you’re finished. Make sure you haven’t missed any of the crucial elements.

If you’re trying to get your short prose published [...], this short story checklist will help to increase the chances that your writing will be selected by editors for publication.

9. The Short Story Critique Group

Need some feedback on what you’ve written?

The Short Story Group is a small, friendly and free critique group devoted to the purpose of helping writers to refine and polish their writing skills through group interaction and critiquing.

10. Best Online Literary Magazines

Once you’re finished studying, writing, and perfecting all those great short stories, you’re going to want to find a place to start showcasing your talent. This list features 20 of the top online literary magazines to which you might want to consider submitting.

With the advent of the internet and with so many voices and such large audiences for the taking, it is our goal and we believe should be the goals of others to push the gatekeeper to continue to do the different and riskier thing that helps writing and writers.

What other resources can you recommend to help others who are learning to write short stories?

Do you have any tips from your own experiences writing or studying short stories?

{ 10 comments }

Foisttoni February 21, 2011 at 2:15 pm

It is true that the short story is often more difficult to write than the longer piece. The characters must be fully developed, the plot must move quicker and you are doing more with less. I still struggle to make them strong. You will find less “genre” types of short stories, but the mags both print and e-print publishers are great.

Try a subscription to Glimmer Train … one of the best.
Find a complete list on Poets&Writers web page.

Great post … thanks :)

Rene February 21, 2011 at 2:25 pm

I always wanted to write short stories (beside novels) because I like the small size and the big possibilities. Your list of resources comes at the right time. Thank you so much.

Cathy Yardley February 21, 2011 at 3:17 pm

I write novels on the shorter end of the word count spectrum, but the two novellas I wrote were harder! I’ve been kicking around writing a free read for my author website. Maybe I should challenge myself with a short story. Thank you for the resources!

VFurnas February 21, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Great post! Short stories mean trusting that the reader to pull the meaning from your brief words.

Hedgewriter February 21, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Wonderful! Love Write It Sideways with it’s wealth of information!

gaelikaa February 22, 2011 at 7:06 am

I’m sharing this one with my writing friends…thanks, Suzannah!

The Red Angel February 22, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Thank you for this! Most people think that writing short stories is a piece of cake compared to writing a novel, and in some ways it is…but for me it’s a lot harder to plan a short story than it is to plan a novel. So I must agree that creating short, GOOD pieces is pretty difficult comparatively…short stories are just that. They are short, and thus they are limited. And everything from the characters to the plot development and conclusion must be complete in that short story.

Thanks for the resources!

~TRA

http://xtheredangelx.blogspot.com

Linda S. Prather February 23, 2011 at 12:31 am

Great post. I wrote my first short story in years recently, and yes, for me it is very difficult.

Suzannah February 23, 2011 at 12:39 am

Thank you to all for your comments. Much appreciated!

Julie Duffy February 24, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Ah, a topic close to my heart. This is an excellent resource. Bookmarked and shared!

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