Short stories are the mini version of a novel. It is a form of narrative which has the same elements as a novel but presented in a much fewer word count. While any work which has a word count that exceeds 50,000 can be called a novel, a short story has a word count that ranges from 1,000 to 10,000.
If you are aspiring to become a writer, then short stories are a great way to do it. You will not be burdened with intricate plotlines and lengthy and overlapping backstories of characters in your very first attempt of trying to be an author.
But do not assume that short stories are shortcuts to reaching your goal of writing a literary masterpiece. Short stories do come with their own set of challenges.
Whether you go for traditional or self-publishing, editing your book before submitting the manuscript is a must. Literary agents and traditional publishers won’t be keen to accept your book if they feel like they need to put a lot of effort to make it sellable. The editors at self-publishing companies too will be able to do a good job of polishing your book further if it is already well-crafted.
Unlike novels or novellas, the number of characters in a short story is very limited. Most of the short stories revolve around a protagonist and the rest of the characters are minor. Some short stories do place more than one character at its centre, like two protagonists, or one protagonist and one antagonist etc.
Owing to its limited number of words, the setting of the story—the time and place in which the story takes place–is explicitly mentioned in a few words. Short stories do not dwell deeply on the setting and begin in medias res, which means to begin in the middle of nowhere in Latin.
Short stories mostly talk about a single event (and a crucial one) in the life of the protagonist. A brief backstory of the protagonist may be given. This single event serves as the main plot of the story. Short stories don’t have room for any sub-plots.
Closure is how the narrative ends. If the conflict in the story is resolved, the ending is closed. If the conflicts remain unresolved, it is called an open ending.
Most of the renowned short stories have a theme—a message conveyed by the author through the characters and events. Having a theme largely adds to the impact of the story on your reader.
Even though your work is going to be less than 10,000 words, you are still going to need an outline. What do you have in your mind right now? A theme? A character? An event? Whatever it is, write it down and start developing it into a full story. Determine your setting, the protagonist (and a few, major characteristics of him/her), the conflict and the closure (whether it is open or closed).
Keep in mind that you are working on a rough draft. Do not stress yourself on grammatical mistakes and punctuation rules, at least for now.
Start developing how the conflict is going to affect your protagonist in the particular setting. Do not worry about the propriety of the dialogues—you can get back to it later. Concentrate on developing a convincing and interesting plot with a thrilling twist and without any plot holes. Take your story forward to the closure without any digressions. Keep your draft as concise as possible.
Start working on the dialogues between the characters. Unnecessary dialogues will only bore the reader and take up precious space.
After completing the draft, give it a rest for a couple of days. You will be able to spot what you missed earlier if you come back with a fresh mind.
When you go through your story a second time, you may find that an important trait of the protagonist is not mentioned or that conversation of the protagonist with that storekeeper is totally unnecessary.
Don’t hesitate to give your work to beta readers for feedback. Honest feedback can do miracles for your story.