A lot has happened in the past weeks: tornadoes, thunderstorms, trees falling in my backyard, roof repairs, the end of the semester. So while I search for a distraction, I remembered that I promised an article on how to write a short story a week, and I’m hoping this helps one or two of you. This article will include my step-by-step process as well as six tips on how. You don’t even have to necessarily finish your process in a week. In fact, it’s really better if you treat the end result as a draft until further notice. I always find myself catching errors or things I want to change weeks, sometimes months, later. This is just to help you get started.
Day 1 – Brainstorming
I would, of course, recommend writing prompts. Typically I use my husband’s creative brain for writing prompts. He will come up with a few for me every now and then, and I’ll log them all in Scrivener. I typically time myself for 15 to 30 minutes and just free-write. I only allow myself a few minutes before that to think of the prompt I plan on writing on. You don’t want to overthink it or get stuck. You just want to write. I have maybe a hundred or so results of freewriting saved up, so after writing my prompt, I’ll go and select one of the prompts I’ve already written. That will be the basis for a story, no matter how basic of an idea. I’ll spend an hour or two brainstorming the plot, characters, etc. Don’t forget to take breaks!
Day 2 & 3 – Writing
I typically finish my writing on Day 2, but sometimes we all need more time than that. So that’s two days of writing a short story with the end result being less than 5,000 words (which is my typical maximum for short stories). If you don’t write as fast, perhaps writing a short story every week isn’t a realistic goal, so write at your own pace! Anyways, these two days are solely about writing. Don’t edit. Don’t you dare look back over what you’ve written until you’ve neatly typed “The End” at the bottom of the document. It will be discouraging. No first draft is perfect.
Day 4 – Rest. Seriously. Rest.
Your work won’t run off and jump on the nearest bus to get away from you. It’ll sit there, quietly, on your computer. Let it rest. You seriously need a break yourself. You want to return to the story with fresh eyes, hoping to make it as unfamiliar as possible. In this cramped schedule, the most you can sacrifice is one day. So enjoy it. If you want, look up journals to submit your work to once you’re actually done. But that’s all the work you’re allowed to do. Rest.
Day 5 – Readers
I’m a firm believer in asking the opinions of readers, but make sure you find readers you can actually trust. As in, readers who won’t just shower you with empty praise. You want blunt critiques. What’s working? What’s not working? Is the dog the little girl finds a metaphor for something, or is it just sentimental crap? Well, you won’t know until you get readers. Either join a group to help you workshop or find a blunt friend who doesn’t mind taking a stab at your work. Remember, you’re a writer. You need tough skin.
Day 6 – Revision, Revision, Revision.
Today is the day you buckle down and revise. When you’re done, there should be at least one aspect of the work that is entirely different from the rough draft. And no, I don’t mean capitalizing that “t” you forgot to capitalize. Something about the plot or characters or setting should change. Something fairly big. This is revision. You’re going to correct flaws you found in the original and turn it into a real story. If you want, have your readers reread it and revise it again. There’s no limit to this step unless you really want to finish your work in a week.
Day 7 – Proofread
You made it. Today is the day you simply go over your errors with the step noticed in yesterday’s resource or today’s resource. You can also read your work backward, sentence by sentence, to see more errors. It’s grueling, but it’s the final step! You did it! Yay! Once you’re done, and you feel confident, go ahead and submit your work!
Best of luck to everyone. If you can’t find the will to be productive, remember to go easy on yourself. You’re not the only one with that problem, and it’s not a bad thing at all. Just keep writing once you feel better.