Want to Write? Write A Short Story First

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This week marked a special day in the lives of many practicing writers. A local (online) hero, Joe Bunting of The Write Practice, has published a short book called Let’s Write A Short Story!

In a world of quick-to-print indie authors, eBooks galore, and too many self-pubbed authors chasing a buck, this is one book that I can honestly say is long overdue.

I’ve been following Joe’s work for a few months (I know, I was a little late to the party), but I had the pleasure of working with him through a guest post awhile back, and more recently through email. Like his new book, Joe’s a down-to-earth, to-the-point (in a good way) kind of guy, and he really knows his stuff.

Anyway, I’m reading through his book, enjoying the straightforward, explanatory approach he’s using, and I think to myself, “wow, this would be great information for someone interested in writing short stories!”

Not once did I realize that Joe didn’t write that book for those people.

He wrote it for me. And you.

I posted last week about using storytelling in your writing — whether it’s fiction or not — and how the best stuff we read tends to involve stories. I guess I’d heard this advice plenty of times before, but the actual first realization I had of this truth came in seventh grade.

We were studying Texas History (a very important subject for us Texans), and the teacher’s name was Mr. Piper. I can still picture his white hair and mustached face, disguising his reddish cheeks. He was animated — he loved to jump around the room and act things out.

Anyway, he used the best stories. No books, no assignments, no homework — just his stories. We’d listen, enraptured, until the bell rang, then we’d reluctantly walk next door to Algebra.

His stories stuck with me.

I still remember weird anecdotal things about the history of my home state — things they make you learn if you’re a museum curator. I have vivid memories of many of these events, as if I was there, watching them happen.

They were all taught in a short-story format, a simplistic Three-Act Play. He’d act out lines, leading from A to B then finally to the resolution, C. Sometimes we even clapped.

The best history books I’ve read are written in this way as well, and all of the fiction is written with the story front and center.

Back to Joe’s story about stories

I’ve written a novel, and so I tended to think I was “above” the whole “short story” world. Truth is, I just didn’t understand it. I didn’t really read short stories or novellas, so I had no idea what they were all about.

But as I read through Joe’s book, I stopped in the middle.

I put it down, opened Scrivener, and started writing a short story about a boy who get stranded in the woods and has to survive. It’s very Hatchet-meets-My-Side-of-the-Mountain, but I loved it.

It was a great process, and Joe taught me how to do it.

Best of all, I feel like I’m a much better writer because of it. My longer fiction has been more succinct, more story-focused, and it’s been easier to get the words onto the page.

My recommendation

Grab Joe’s book, Let’s Write A Short Story, and start reading through it. Try not to write a short story afterwards — I’ll bet you can’t do it!

Then, whenever you’re writing something, whether it’s a tome about music theory or a wild adventure chase novel, use the principles in his book to guide your story forward.

Nick ThackerWant to Write? Write A Short Story First
  • Tim

    I was just thinking about Hatchet and My Side of the Mountain yesterday! How funny. The short story idea is one I decided to put into practice a few weeks ago. I’m writing a book called Dragonborn and to lead into that and build momentum for the novel, I’m writing a prequel short story. It’s actually helped me with the novel too. Great post, Nick.¬†

    • Two amazing books! Sounds like a cool book (and short story) — good luck!

    • Somerandompenname

      Bethesda trademarked that name along with Dovahkiin