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Writing a Short Story: Tips to Help You

Updated on August 31, 2012
RGraf profile image

Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.


Writing is not just writing. There are so many different kinds of writing including that of the ever famous short story. Now, you might be considering giving a short story a try. That's great! Everyone should try at least once.

But what does it take to write a short story?

It's not rocket science, but here are a few tips to help you.

What is a Short Story?

I'm going to tell you that there is no clear cut answer to this question. Don't you just love answers like that. Well, rest assured that I'm not going to leave you high and dry. I will give you an answer that will make you feel much more comfortable than that.

And no, a short story is not a book printed on small paper. Now, let's get on with a serious answer.

A short story is typically a story that is 750 words to 5000 words. Now, this is not set in stone and can change from genre to genre. For children, a short story could be 300 to 1000 words. For adults you are looking at the larger range.

Let's look further on writing one, now.

Know Your Audience

As I mentioned above, there are a few ways of looking at short stories based on genre. You need to know your audience with anything you write about.

If your audience is a small child, write your story very short and easy to read.

If your audience is an adult, you can go longer.

So much of the short story is based on the audience. Once you know who you are writing to, you can commence writing.

Getting Started

Start your story like any other work. Have an idea of what you are going to write about. Have a tentative plan in your mind so you can get past the first few pages. You might be one that likes it all laid out in an outline. That is fine, if it helps you get it done. You don't have to. Let the words flow and carry you.

But don't write a 100,000 word book. That's not a short story.

Do you enjoy reading short stories?

See results

Not Meant to be Epic

This is not meant to be a full novel. If it appears your story is going to go above 5000 words, you might to look at publishing it as a novella or within an anthology.

Short stories are meant to be short and easily read in one sitting.

If you still want it to be a short story but can see it becoming big, that's okay. Many authors have done just that over the years.

The Appeal of the Short Story

Why is the short story so appealing? That answer really depends on who is answering the question, but most people will say they don't like to read long novels all the time. A short read is appealing at certain times.

Most short stories are not in depth. They are short and sweet or at least to the point. They don't mess around with deep plots or twists and turns. They can easily be read in one evening when you get to be by yourself.

Personally, I don't read many short stories, because I love to read the long plots. Yet, I have written several short stories. I enjoy writing them more than reading them.

Use as a Launching Pad

One of the best things about writing a short story is that it can be a launching pad for more stories and even novels. The last two short stories I wrote are actually going to be the first chapters of books that I'll write later.

Don't let the fact that the story is a short story stop you from developing it further. Use it as a gateway to bigger things.


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    • philipariel profile image

      Philip Verghese Ariel 2 years ago from Secunderabad, Telangana

      Hi RGraf,

      What a pleasant surprise!

      Nice to read your content again.

      Though I am a member here, i could not actively participate here, today while browsing thru twitter my friend David's tweet brought me here again. Wonderful and useful tips for a story writer though i have written some stories and mini stories in my native language and few in English too, these tips are really unknown to me. Yes, These tips are really useful one for me for my further writings. Thanks Dave for the kind notification via twitter. May you have a great writing time ahead.

      Best Regards.

      ~Philip Ariel,

      from Philipscom

      PS. Would like to note that in this comment box spell check option is off, if you keep it on it will be good to tge comment authors can post error free comments. Pl. Check and fix it. Thanks . phil

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 5 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Excellent tips and a good review of the short story genre-- three cheers for a very useful hub.