Continuing from last week’s post, it’s time to talk about how I write short stories.
Starting from the idea. I don’t really go searching for ideas for anything longer than flash fiction. I keep an idea folder on Evernote that I’ve had for years and years. It has bits of poems, sentences that come to mind, descriptions of characters, photos or artwork that made me go “there’s a story in there”. There are even a couple of titles in there just waiting for a story to happen (thanks Charlie!). Stuff like “Koschei the Deathless but make it internet!”. Some of that stuff sort of lives in the back of my head rent-free (“Koschei the Deathless but make it internet!”) all the time, and some of it is just stuff that I needed to get out of my head (“Grief as a chest-burster”).
Every now and then the stuff at the back of my head comes together to form a whole story. When I need to write a story to match a specific theme, like for an anthology call, I just freewrite, much like I do at the beginning of flash fiction, but for short stories, I also try to figure out what drew my attention to the theme.
Once I have the general situation of the story figured out, I pull out the MACE quotient, taught to me by Mary Robinette Kowal. I use this to provide me with an outline of sorts for how I want the story to go. I set up a project on Scrivener using my outline. And then I just start drafting on 4thewords. When I’m done with a scene draft, I save that scene to Scrivener as well. I keep going until I have a draft, and then I put the story aside for a few weeks.
When it’s time to edit, I export my draft from Scrivener. I read it through and mark it up. Then I edit accordingly. If there’s something fundamentally wrong with it, I freewrite on where I think it’s going wrong.
When the story is as good as I can get it on my own, I send it to my beta-readers who always give me great feedback. I then use that feedback to formulate an action plan. And then I execute that plan. And when I’m done, I read it out loud. This always comes with changes to word choice. So I make those changes and send it off.
How do you write your short stories?