So You Want to Write a Story

Art by ALRadeck

The deadline for the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest is April 23rd, 2017. Maybe you have a story on your hard drive just ready to send out – but maybe you don’t. Maybe you haven’t written in a while, or you don’t feel great about the stories you have on hand. Maybe you’d like to write something for the first time.

You have 8 weeks to cook up something new for the contest. And that is immensely doable, even if you work full time, even if you have a family who demand your best time, even if you have another deadline. You can do it. Trust me.

We accept work up to 6000 words here, but there is no minimum length. A good-sized short story, one that would qualify for many other short story magazines, would be 4000-5000 words. Over 8 weeks, that is 70-90 words per day. A couple of paragraphs, at the most.

But spewing words isn’t really the hard part. There is some really great advice out there on how to write as many as 10,000 words per day, so that even if you are busy all week at your day job, you could hypothetically write a story in a weekend.

No, the hard part is coming up with the idea, doing your research, and planning the story.

Sure, there is a lot of debate out there about “pantsing” versus “planning” – that is, making it up as you go along, or sticking to a plot outline. But if you want to write quickly and efficiently, planning is the way to go. Pantsing can be exhilarating, creativity at its most raw, but it often leads to a lot of rewriting, the need to work out plot holes and knots, and getting stuck when you’ve written yourself into a corner. It works, but it can be slow.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll cover the short story process here, from brainstorming to plotting to writing and revising. But today, let us start at the beginning.

A little stretch, if you will. A warm-up, to loosen those writing muscles. Here’s a micro-contest.

I want you to write a drabble based on the following prompt. A drabble is a 100-word story. All it needs is a beginning, middle, and end. Post your drabble in the comments below by midnight on March  5th, 2017, and I will post my favourite one to the blog on Monday, March 6th! No other prize beyond bragging rights, but I will happily plug you on Twitter and link your website from the blog.

Ready? Here is your prompt:

[Pronoun] only had one [something] left.

Don’t overthink it – just write! Post your drabble in the comments and we’ll see what we have by Sunday. And if you have a longer story ready, do submit it to the short story contest! We’d love to read what you have either way!

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Posted on February 27, 2017, in Writing Advice. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Decisions, Decisions

    Perisov had only one fiery breath left in her, and she was out of time. The humans with the pointed sticks were coming fast, and she must decide what to do. Where was the best target for her final flame? The leader stopped before her, panting.
    “Have you decided, Dragon?” he asked. He looked so small.

    Perisov looked down. The precious white orbs sat there, next to the pile of meat that could sustain her. She looked at the sweaty figure before her.

    “Right, dessert first it is!” She said, popping a marshmallow onto Jimmie’s stick.

  2. She had only one entropic regenesis left. This system would be her last stop before her final physical expiration. Corporeal existence was lonely with only the orchestral pulses of the cells within her for company; she looked forward to becoming Nexus again. First though, she had to finish her mission and continue seeding the melody until it emanates from every cellular structure in the galaxy. Once completed, she will finally reasssimilate with Nexus and listen to the melodies and their evolution, reveling in each cosmic symphony. Then, in one cacophonic climax of ecstasy, a new universe will be born.

  3. She had only one entropic regenesis left. This system would be her last stop as a solitary entity. Corporeal existence was lonely with only the orchestral pulses of the cells within her for company; she looked forward to becoming Nexus again. First though, she had to finish her mission and continue seeding the melody until it emanated from every cellular structure in the galaxy. Only then can she finally reassimilate with Nexus and listen to the growing melodies and their evolution, reveling in each cosmic symphony. For from that cacophonic climax of ecstasy, a new universe will be born.

  4. “Consumed With Shame”

    Preau’Naun only had one zumthync left. Or that’s what her daug would have her believe.

    She frowned into his huge, soulful eyes. “You ate them, didn’t you?”

    Djazpeh tried to shrink out of sight, truncated foreclaws shredding the carpet.

    “At least that grows back,” she snapped. “Those were for my lunch with Anteau’Neem, how’ll I impress her now? Bad daug!”

    Preau headed for the lounge—where a lake of zumthync vomit awaited. Djazpeh panicked, ran in a circle, swallowed her whole, and then roared until the very foundations quivered.

    When his master got out, he’d be in so much trouble.

  5. Dale Nicholson

    I Dream in Pictures

    Drabble only had one panel left. Looming in the very near future was an axe. A large, metaphorical axe which would be dropped by the syndicate’s computer. After this panel. The self-named comic strip and its main character would be no more.

    One panel, and then oblivion.

    Although drabble had managed to come to terms with his fate, he was still disappointed. He was disappointed to realize that the manifestation of an AI’s dream would turn out to be an archaic art form, a comic strip. The last panel will be the awakening, but the awakening would be Drabble’s end.

    Enter the last panel

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