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27 DEC 2021
You’re staring at a blank sheet of paper. You need to write something - anything! - but the ideas are nowhere to be found. Sound familiar?
Never fear, for although that blank piece of paper may seem intimidating, writing a short story is quite simple if you follow these six steps!
How to Write a Short Story in 6 Steps
1) Brainstorm – Stephanie Meyer’s famous Twilight series began with her imagining two people in a field, one of them sparkling in the sun. While it does not sound exactly like the vampire young adult franchise we know of today, the whole story started with this one concept. If you have an idea, take it and roll with it! Put it down on paper and expand it using tools that work for you, like graphic organizers, drawings, outlines, doodles, songs, anything! Using the five senses is a practice our Crimson Rise strategists often use with students in creative writing sessions, and it’s a fantastic way to get your brain’s creative juices flowing!
2) Lay down the basics – You’re probably familiar with the basics of “who, what, where, when, why, and how” that you’ve learnt in literature class while analyzing pieces of text. Try to reverse engineer the process and come up with these for your short story before you write in the details. Who are your main characters? What happens in the story? Where and when does it take place? Why is there conflict in the story? How does the story progress in terms of beginning, middle, and end? This is also a great time to decide where you’ll publish the story (is it a school assignment or a fun TikTok challenge?) and what perspective you want to write it in (first person, third person, etc).
3) Avoid cliches! – Storytelling has been a part of human tradition since prehistoric times, long before we had social media, libraries, or even books! While a lot of ideas have been used and reused over time, try to put your own, original spin on things. If you like science fiction, try to create your own race of aliens! Fancy a realistic story about students at a school? Don’t make your characters perfect, look around your own environment for inspiration and let your imagination embellish it a bit. Art imitates life after all! Also, make sure your main character has a distinguishing feature. You can try closing your eyes and imagining a part of your short story as a movie scene; make sure that your audience can determine who the main character is even in a crowd of people. Whether they have an animal side-kick or a specific hairstyle, having a distinguishing feature will make your main character instantly recognizable.
4) Show, Don’t Tell! – For example, if your main character’s best friend is popular and has a great sense of humor, try to avoid writing that “Bob is popular and has a great sense of humor”. Instead, try showcasing Bob doing things, like telling great jokes at the lunch table (and you should make up and include these jokes in your writing), which is very crowded because everyone wants to sit at the same table as Bob! This is the difference between a mediocre writer and an excellent writer. By showing Bob in his natural element, telling jokes and surrounded by friends (including descriptions of how these friends react to his jokes), your story will seem more vivid and immersive.
5) Draft, Revise, Repeat - Now that you know what your story will be aboutand have figured out the direction in which to take it, pen it down! Whether you’re writing it in a notebook, typing it up, or recording it as an audio first, make sure to put in that drafting time. It might take some discipline to write up the story without distraction; in fact, our Crimson Rise strategists would recommend using time management techniques such as the Pommodoro
technique to ensure you stay focused. Once you’ve written the draft, make sure to double check it for spelling, grammar, and any stylistic errors that you can improve upon. As two pairs of eyes are better than one, try asking a friend or teacher to read it over for you. Once the story is edited, go back and polish it up until you’re happy with it. Sometimes writers find themselves having to go through a few drafting and editing cycles before they get a product they’re happy with, but make sure you’re reasonable about the amount of time you’re devoting here. For example, a second edit if your short story is for an English class grade is a fabulous idea, but you don’t need twelve edits if it’s a story you want to put on social media to share with your friends as it’s supposed to be for fun!
6) Publish – Now that you’re planned, written, revised, and rewritten your
story, it’s time to publish! Take the story you’ve written and share it with the world. Whether it is on social media such as Tumblr or Archive of Our Own, both popular places for young teens to publish their stories, a school newspaper, a literary group, or even emailed to your friend... you’ve put your voice out there to be heard. Well done!
And there you go! By following these six simple steps, you can easily have a short story that can help you explore a hobby further, develop your English language skills (writing will be a part of your university application, after all!), as well as give you something worthwhile to pursue over the summer holidays! Just remember, your voice deserves to be heard and every famous author was once a beginner storyteller too. JK Rowling’s famous Harry Potter series began as notes written on coffee shop napkins, and she persevered after being turned down by publisher after publisher and look at where she is now. If writing is something you enjoy, don’t give up because who knows what doors this skill may open?
Your friendly neighbourhood Rise blogger,
Learn more about Crimson Rise’s strategic mentorship, academic support, and extracurricular coaching for young students, and request a free consultation on your child’s journey!