How to Write a Short Story in 6 Simple Steps

As you follow this series, I challenge you to begin writing at least one short story a week. I’ll be giving you in-depth tips on creating a compelling story as we go along, but for now, I want you to write. That habit is the hardest thing to start and the hardest thing to keep up.

short story opening example

Step 1. Identify a short story idea

Before you can put your head down and write your story, you first need an idea you can run with. Some writers can seemingly pluck interesting ideas out of thin air but if that’s not you, then fear not. Here are some tips and tricks that will get your creative juices flowing and have you drumming up ideas in no time.

Start with an interesting character or setting

Short stories, by their very nature, tend to be narrower in scope than a novel. There’s less pressure to have a rich narrative mapped out from A to Z before your pen hits the paper. Short story writers often find it fruitful to focus on a single character, setting, or event — an approach that is responsible for some true classics.

John Cheever’s “The Swimmer” is about one character: a suburban American father who decides to swim through all of his neighbor’s pools. While Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” has a larger cast of characters, the story takes place perhaps over one hour in a town square. By limiting yourself to a few characters and one or two locations, you may find it easier to keep your story from getting out of hand and spiraling off into tangents.

Mine your own anecdotes

When it comes to establishing a story’s premise, real-life experiences can be your first port of call — “write what you know”, as the old adage goes. While you might not have lived through an epic saga akin to Gulliver’s Travels, you probably have an anecdote or two that would easily form the basis of a short story. If there’s a funny story you always reach for at a party or a family dinner, you could repurpose for a piece of writing or let it serve as a launchpad for your imagination.

Eavesdrop and steal

There is beauty in the mundane. Writers these days often have a document open in their phone’s notes app to remember things that might spark their imagination at a later date. After all, something you overhear in a conversation between your aunties could be perfect short story fodder — as could a colorful character who turns up at your workplace. Whether these experiences are the basis for a story or function as a small piece of embellishment, they can save your imagination from having to do all the heavy lifting.

It’s not just your own life you can take inspiration from either. Pay extra attention to the news, the stories your friends tell you, and all the things that go on around — it will surely serve you well when it comes to brainstorming a story.

Try a writing prompt on for size

If you’re still stumped, looking through some short story ideas or writing prompts for inspiration. Any stories that are written with these resources are still your intellectual property, so you can freely share or publish them if they turn out well!

Once you have your idea (which could be a setting, character, or event), try to associate it with a strong emotion. Think of short stories as a study of feeling — rather than a full-blown plot, you can home in on an emotion and let that dictate the tone and narrative arc. Without this emotion core, you may find that your story lacks drive and will struggle to engage the reader.

What is a short story?

Because of this length constraint, short stories tend to be less complex than longer works—in certain ways. In a short story, you can build a world, but not to the extent you can build a world in a (longer) novel. Similarly, you can have multiple fleshed-out characters, but you can’t give every character a full backstory and meaningful character arc like you can in a lengthier work. Generally, long, intricate plots with multiple subplots are better suited to novel-length works than a short story.

Don’t take this to mean your short story’s theme can’t be as deep as a longer work’s theme. You don’t need an extensive world with a complex magical system and an entire cast of three-dimensional characters to express a theme effectively. While short stories have fewer words, simpler settings, and smaller casts than novels, they can have just as much of an impact on readers. If you’re looking to read a powerful short story and see how other authors communicate substantive themes in just a few thousand words, check out these famous, impactful works:

How long are short stories?

Type of writing Word count Pages in a typical book Example
Short story 100 – 15,000 1 – 24 pages “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry
Novella 30,000 – 60,000 100 – 200 pages “A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess
Novel 60,000 – 100,000 200 – 350 pages “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”: by JK Rowling
Epic Novel 120,00 – 220,000+ 400 – 750+ pages “Game of Thrones” by George R.R. Martin

Ready to write YOUR book?

How to Write a Short Story: The Short Version

Write the story in one sitting

Obviously, if you’re in the 10K range, that’s probably going to take more than one writing session, but a 2,500-word short story can easily be written in one sitting. This might seem a little daunting, but you’ll find your enthusiasm will drive you to the ending and your story will flow better for it.

Take a break

Don’t immediately edit your story. After you’ve written anything, books included, you need to take a step back. Your brain needs to shift from “writer mode” to “reader mode.” With a short story, I normally recommend a three-day break.

Edit with a mind for brevity

Now that you’ve had a break, you’re ready to come back with a vengeance. This is the part where you “kill your darlings” and have absolutely no mercy for the story you produced less than a week ago. The second draft is where you get critical.

Remember we’re writing a short story here, not a novel. You don’t have time to go into each and every detail about your characters’ lives. You don’t have time for B-plots, a ton of characters, or Stephen King-level droning on.

Get feedback

I highly recommend getting feedback from someone who knows about writing, not your mother or your best friend. People we love are great, but they love you and won’t give you honest feedback. If you want praise, go to them. If you want to grow as a writer, join a writing community and get feedback from other writers.


Whether you’re going the traditional route and submitting your short story to anthologies and magazines, or you’re more into self-publishing, don’t let your story languish on your computer. Get it out into the world so you can build your reader base.

That’s the short version of how to go about writing short stories. Throughout this series, I’ll be taking a more in-depth look at different elements of these steps. Stick with me throughout the series, and you’ll have a short story of your own ready to publish by the end.

A Preview of My How to Write a Short Story Series

How to Come up With Ideas For Short Stories

How to Plan a Short Story (Without Really Planning It)

Short stories often don’t require extensive planning. They’re short, after all. But a little bit of outlining can help. Don’t worry, I’m mostly a pantser! I promise this won’t be an intense method of planning. It will, however, give you a start with the elements of story structure—and motivation to get you to finish (and publish) your story.

What You Need in a Short Story/Elements of a Short Story

One of the biggest mistakes I see from new writers is their short stories aren’t actually stories. They’re often missing a climax, don’t have an ending, or just ramble on in a stream-of-consciousness way without any story structure. I’ll show you what you need to make sure your short is a complete story.

Writing Strategies for Short Stories

How to Edit a Short Story

Editing is my least favorite part of writing. It’s overwhelming and often tedious. Here, I’ll talk about short story editing strategies to take the confusion out of the process, and ensure you can edit with confidence.

Writing a Better Short Story

Short stories are their own art form, mainly because of the small word count. In this post, I’ll discuss ways to write a better short, including fitting everything you want and need into that tiny word count.


Weaving backstory and worldbuilding into your story without overdoing it. Remember, you don’t need every detail about the world or a character’s life in a short story—but the setting shouldn’t be ignored. How your protagonist interacts with it should be significant and interesting.

How to Submit a Short Story to Publications

There are plenty of literary magazines, ezines, anthologies, etc. out there that accept short stories for publication (and you can self-publish your stories, too). In this article, I’ll demystify the submission process so you can submit your own stories to publications and start getting your work out there. You’ll see your work in a short story anthology soon!

Professionalism in the Writing Industry

Emotions can run high when you put your work out there for others to see. In this article, I’ll talk about what’s expected of you in this profession and how to maintain professionalism so that you don’t shoot yourself in the foot when you approach publishers, editors, and agents.

References: – few words about quality of its services in my new review


Risking your grades isn’t worth it – which is why you should always, as a rule of thumb, read a handful of dependable customer reviews beforehand. Today, we’d like to introduce you to – a company that concentrates exclusively on offering assistance to students based in Great Britain. That is to say, British students alone will find our review of OxBridgeEssays helpful.


Ox Bridge Essays is a company that introduces itself as a top academic in the UK. In fact, the company claims that it works with roughly 2,500 of UK’s best-prepared academics, in order to ensure that the students who pick get the best grades.

In reference to the variety of academic products, some of the most popular services on include essays, dissertations, coursework assistance, Ph.D. writing services, presentations, research papers, so on and so forth. Aside from that, if you need help with a paper you’ve already written, you can get editing and proofreading services on as well.

So, how does everything work? For one thing, you have to communicate your specific requirements. According to the company, there’s no such thing as a subject that is too complex or too challenging.

Regardless of the academic level, Ox Bridge Essays claims that it has your back. Once you do that, you have to pay for your order. Afterward, you can communicate with a reliable expert in your field of study. Supposedly, you can ask for revisions as well, granted that something isn’t according to your individual requirements.

Writing Staff and Customer Support

It goes without saying that an essay writing service is characterized by the professionalism demonstrated by the writing staff. Surely, this particular company makes no exception to the rule. Firstly, the essay we ordered was of decent quality. Nevertheless, this is far from being a praiseworthy thing – that’s because when you place an order on the website that presents itself as being top-notch in the industry, you have high expectations.

And this was the case with Ox Bridge Essays. Even though the paper wasn’t of the poorest quality, it didn’t appear to be written by an experienced, proficient writer in that realm of study. At the same time, the sources used by the writer weren’t appropriate for college-level writing. These concerns were mentioned in some of the customer feedback and customer reviews we’ve found online.

On the flipside, though, the testimonials listed on the company’s official website were utterly praiseworthy. We weren’t surprised, though – this is a common practice used by most companies – namely the action of posting untruthful reviews that are really praiseworthy and positive, to influence potential customers to place an order.

We suspect that this was the case in this situation, as well.

Prices and Discounts

Another disadvantage is that the prices posted on are really high. To be more precise, we paid no less than 100 USD for a 500-word article. We couldn’t believe this, as this is one of the priciest fares we’ve ever paid for an academic assignment.

To make matters worse, there weren’t any other coupon codes to take advantage of, either. In fact, we looked and looked for a promo code created for first-time customers but there wasn’t anything of the kind. We looked for information regarding this online and on the website, as well.

Final Thoughts

While we were positively impressed by this company’s online blog, which can be really helpful to students, the prices are definitely unbelievably high. This is why we believe that you shouldn’t waste your time and money by ordering on It’s true that the firm’s rating isn’t the lowest, but due to the elements outlined in this review, we are hesitant to recommend you this service.