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Sometimes, in the midst of a scene or character interaction, we're struck by inspiration.
For example, I just opened my Raymond Carver collection and read these two first sentences: “I knew it was a mistake to let my brother have the money” and “I was in my room one night when I heard something in the corridor.” There’s a reason he masters the form, eh? There’s no room for lazy dialogue or repetitive scene descriptions in a short story; every word counts.
I’d started and stopped so many stories when I was a kid because I was always aiming for something huge.
One thing I’ve noticed in my writing is that when I write long-form fiction, I get focused on reaching the destination and making sure each scene is going to take me there.
But when doing that, it’s easy to forget about the scene itself.
Let it sit, give yourself some mental space from your creation, and then return with fresh and critical eyes. This is all well and good if everything is flowing along smoothly, but what happens when you hit a storm? Do you give up and let the story be lost in the tempest? Trained writers have resources and tools to combat these moments of darkness and confusion. He's a teacher, writer, father and amateur mountain man.
On the other hand, writing the story without a plan, and discovering the narrative as you progress, is exciting and challenging. Either way, when you come to a conclusion, I recommend stepping away from the piece for a few days. Deus ex machinas encircle you like sharks armed with laser beams. Derrick Craigie serves as the associate dean of faculty for creative writing and literature at Southern New Hampshire University.
Alicia Rades is a professional blogger and USA Today bestselling fiction author who holds a bachelor's degree in communications.
Learn more about her writing services at aliciarades.com, or explore her books at
Writing a successful short story – which I’ll define as executing a captivating, engaging narrative arc in roughly 3,000 to 5,000 words – is a great way to hone your skills in narrative structure, character development, and setting, all rendered in elegant prose. So sit down and, in one sitting, write out the story.
Don’t worry if it sounds terrible or meandering – this is only your first draft. One rule of short stories is that there’s generally only space for a single protagonist within the piece.