So You Want to Write a Story
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!