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Writing Short Stories: Really Useful Links by Lucy O’Callaghan

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Lucy O'Callaghan 2

Lucy O’Callaghan

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Writing short stories may seem like an easier option than the daunting challenge of a novel but it can be just as tricky, if not harder. Short stories are generally less than 5000 words and every word counts. Neil Gaiman describes the short story as ‘tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and other dreams. They’re journeys you can make to the far side of the universe and still be back in time for dinner.’

Short stories tend to focus more on imagery and exposition than they do the character and plot development. The writer doesn’t have the word space to have a full and detailed character arc but they do have to show an impactful snippet of a character’s life.

The short story is a good way to get your name in print, you don’t need an agent to submit to publications. There are thousands of magazines that look for short story contributions. From lifestyle to literary. Some even pay. There are lots of competitions too.

I have put together a selection of articles and podcasts about writing short stories:

  1. https://soyouwanttowrite.org/blogs/syww/the-top-10-tips-for-writing-great-short-stories

This article is straight to the point with its top ten tips for writing short stories. Keeping the number of characters small is important, no more than three is needed. The writer has to keep up the pace, your story has to hit the ground running. Edit until it hurts is another tip; every sentence has to count.

  1. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-write-a-great-short-story-writing-tips-and-exercises-for-story-ideas#5-things-every-good-short-story-needs

I would highly recommend reading this article. It explains the 7 different types of short stories, and the 5 things every good short story needs. It includes the 5 steps to writing a short story including choosing the mood you want to evoke, having a strong opening, and how to build your story.

  1. https://jerryjenkins.com/how-to-write-short-stories/

Jerry Jenkins believes the most effective short stories evoke deep emotions in the reader. This article breaks down the short story structure. It advises the writer to suggest backstory but not to elaborate too much as you won’t have the word count to be able to do it justice.

  1. https://self-publishingschool.com/how-to-write-a-short-story/

Openings are hugely important. You need to hook the reader straight away. In sharing some examples of the openings of a few short stories, this article highlights how to be impactful immediately. Self-publishing school encourages the writer to be unique and to think of many possible endings to your story before outlining. It has to stand out from others.

Podcasts

  1. https://www.scribendi.com/academy/articles/podcasts_writing_short_stories.en.html

This podcast outlines some of the rules of writing a short story, and how to keep your word count down.

  1. https://www.rte.ie/radio/podcasts/series/33013-rte-short-story-competition/

The RTE short story competition short list is voiced by talented actors from stage and screen on this podcast. There are twenty episodes, and at around 15 minutes a story, it’s a great opportunity to listen and learn what makes a great short story.

  1. https://www.writersdigest.com/resources/writers-digest-podcast-writing-publishing-short-stories-essays-windy-lynn-harris

This podcast discusses how the short form helps to flex your creative muscles, what differentiates short stories, personal essays, and non-fiction. It also explains the 5 steps to publishing short stories.

  1. https://thecareerauthor.com/writing-short-fiction/

Various forms of short fiction are explained and how writing short stories compares to writing a novel. The podcast talks about submitting to publications, and the difference in marketing short fiction versus novels.

Practice makes perfect when it comes to writing short stories. Reading plenty of short stories helps too. Raymond Carver is one of the best-known short story writers ever. Reading his short stories will certainly show you how not to waste words in your writing. I hope this week’s column has been helpful for you. If there are any particular writing topics you want me to cover, please get in touch.

(c) Lucy O’Callaghan

Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31.

Facebook: @LucyCOCallaghan

Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

About the author

Writing since she was a child, Lucy penned her first story with her father called Arthur’s Arm, at the ripe old age of eight. She has been writing ever since. Inspired by her father’s love of the written word and her mother’s encouragement through a constant supply of wonderful stationary, she wrote short stories for her young children, which they subsequently illustrated.
A self-confessed people watcher, stories that happen to real people have always fascinated her and this motivated her move to writing contemporary women’s fiction. Her writing has been described as pacy, human, moving and very real.
Lucy has been part of a local writing group for over ten years and has taken creative writing classes with Paul McVeigh, Jamie O’Connell and Curtis Brown Creative. She truly found her tribe when she joined Writer’s Ink in May 2020. Experienced in beta reading and critiquing, she is currently editing and polishing her debut novel.
Follow her on Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31. Facebook and Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

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