What I Learned from Writing a Short Story


Wrote a new short story!

Just for fun, I sidetracked a little this month and explored a new idea. This was one of those things that you have to try, just to see if it works. So I banged out a nearly 8,000-word story by the seat of my pants (never done that before!) polished it, and posted it to WattPad.com.

It was fun writing a story from scratch, no outline, no plan. I had to meet the characters as I wrote them, and to my surprise, they were fleshed-out from the very beginning. Doesn't always turn out that way, believe me.

There are several valuable lessons I learned, which I want to take a few minutes to discuss here.

1. Accountability Helps You Finish Projects

Who woulda thought.

If, like me, you find it hard to finish a story or novel, you might want to consider posting the chapters as you write them. Yeah, the first draft, unedited. People will be reading the raw stuff. Scary!

But what about editing?

Writing is rewriting, yes. But weigh the outcomes: either you post your first-draft rough stuff and people read it, or you keep everything to yourself, write and rewrite the same chapters over and over, and never find the confidence to share it.

It doesn’t always come down to that kind of choice, but sometimes you just have to put your work out there and give it a chance to fly.

When you write with readers in mind, you will write better. Guaranteed. When you have readers waiting for the next chapter, you'll actually write that next chapter! Even if it means you give a friend a printed-out copy of your latest work, it will motivate you to keep going.

You can always go back and write a second, third, fourth draft. Just because somebody's read the messy version doesn't mean you can't go back and edit it. You might not have had a first draft to edit at all if you hadn't shared it!

2. Sharing Boosts Your Confidence

Cheesy but true.

Why we writers are so dang nervous about everything is a mystery. We're so scared to share our stories—you'd think they contain painfully honest characters, gory details, tender romances, sociopathic villains, or embarrassing thoughts that we never wanted people to know about. Ha.

Writing leaves you vulnerable. When you really pour everything out on that page, it's like giving your heart to absolute strangers and hoping they don't stomp on it.

Which is why some of us hide our lights under a bushel (or, rather, hide our stories on a personal computer).

But when you share your story, something magical happens. You instantly feel vindicated. The reality of being a writer hits home.

And then, somebody will inevitably tell you how much they enjoyed it, and your confidence goes through the roof!

As long as you legitimately put your best work out there and hold nothing back, it will speak to somebody. And that's literally what it's all about! Stuffing your story in a drawer is like talking to a wall. Don't waste what you've been given.

3. Short Stories Are Great Experiments

Man, are they!

If you aren't sure about an idea, go ahead and start writing a short story about it. It's a low-risk way to see if you (and your readers) like it or not. If you write a 5,000-word story and realize that it doesn't work, no big deal. It's usually worth it to try!

Sometimes I'm tempted to go all-in with every idea I ever get, but I've learned that not every idea deserves a full-length novel. Sometimes it's just a short story or a novella. Occasionally, the idea will fall flat on its face. It's always better to find out than to waste time wishing, wondering.

The only way to test your idea is to pound out a short story, hand it to somebody, and wait. If they come back hungry for more and you've got more to tell, then bingo! You have a novel idea, a fan, and motivation. It doesn't get better than that. Well, it does, but ... you know. Success comes in stages.

Joshua Pior

I'm a twenty-something writer of several short stories and (bad) novels, an artist, board game enthusiast, and homeschool grad. God has used stories again and again to impact my life, which first inspired me to become a writer and to help other young authors write their best stories yet!

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