Last February, I randomly started writing daily short stories (like this one, this one and this one) and, unlike both these articles and the previous short story collections I’ve posted here, at least some of those stories were actually written on the same day that they were posted. In retrospect, I should have prepared a buffer of stories first (seriously, do this!) but it was a somewhat unexpected thing.
So, I thought that I’d offer a few tips about writing daily short stories.
1) Have an idea ready the night before: One of the best ways to make sure that you aren’t stricken by writer’s block when you sit down to write your next short story is to have an idea (or at least a theme) prepared for it the night before.
Even if you only have a general theme (eg: “I’m going to write a story about…”), then knowing which direction to go in before you start writing can make the horror of the blank page significantly less of an issue than it might be if you have no idea whatsoever. The tricky part is, of course, finding a theme that’s interesting enough for you to want to write about.
And, yes, if you have an interesting enough theme/idea/mental image, then your story will pretty much write itself. For example, the best one of the first three stories I wrote last February happened because I remembered that I was fascinated by Youtube videos about abandoned shopping centres in September 2017. So, yes, thinking of a good idea the night before you write your story can help alleviate writer’s block.
2) Read!: Even though I prefer other horror authors, there’s a very famous quote from Stephen King where he talks about the importance of both reading and writing regularly. And, yes, reading is more important than I’d previously thought. After I got back into reading regularly, I knew that it was only a matter of time before I’d start writing again.
But, why? Simply put, reading novels that you enjoy shows you how amazing the written word can be and makes you think “I want to do this!“. It shows you what techniques do and don’t work. Seeing lots of different people’s narrative voices also helps you to refine your own one too. Plus, reading something gripping also helps you to practice the sustained focus that you need whilst writing.
However, and this is the cruel irony of all of this, time spent reading usually means less time spent writing (or vice versa). So, finding a way to balance both reading and writing can be a little bit of a challenge. Even so, it is worth at least attempting to do both because of the motivation that comes from reading regularly can really help your writing.
3) Opening sentences: It’s a good idea to develop an instinct for what a good opening sentence sounds like. This is because coming up with one of these sentences can make you want to write more of the story, which can be a good way to get past writer’s block.
For short stories, good opening sentences usually consist of intriguingly mysterious statements, first-person narration that makes the reader feel like they’re being let in on a secret, moments of dramatic action and/or slightly unusual descriptions. In short, your opening sentence needs to be something that grabs the readers attention and makes them want to read more (in addition to making you want to write more).
This, again, is one reason why reading is a useful activity to do if you’re writing short stories regularly. Because, when you’ve seen enough opening sentences in professionally-published books (the thriller genre is an especially good source of examples), you’ll start to develop an instinct for what a good opening sentence sounds like.
4) Minimalism: If you’re writing short stories every day, then they’re probably going to be on the shorter side of things. The three stories I linked to earlier are all about 600-800 words in length. This is something that can be written in an hour or two. But, how do you tell a story that is this short?
Simply put, you focus on what is essential. In other words, you should only include 1-2 locations, 1-3 characters and one central event or theme. In a lot of ways, a short story is a little bit like a painting or a panel from a comic. In other words, it’s a depiction of a single well-chosen moment that hints at a larger story (through implication, visual elements etc..).
So, yes, part of writing a good short story is cutting away everything that isn’t essential and focusing entirely on a single location, a single moment, a couple of characters etc…
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂