How to Write Short Stories | Angelique Noll | Skillshare

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How to Write Short Stories

teacher avatar Angelique Noll, Artist and Writer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      WriteShortStory 01 Intro


    • 2.

      WriteShortStory 02 Why


    • 3.

      WriteShortStory 03 WhatNeeded


    • 4.

      WriteShortStory 04 Process


    • 5.

      WriteShortStory 05 Startup


    • 6.

      WriteShortStory 06 StoryCraft


    • 7.

      WriteShortStory 07 Conclusion


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About This Class

As a writer, I write mostly short stories and articles for magazines and in this class I walk you through the steps that I use when I write my short stories. You can use these same steps regardless of where you want to publish your story, whether it's in a magazine or online.

Even though the class is short, I suggest that you take the time after each lesson to do the homework, because then you'll be writing the first draft of your story as you're watching the class. 

You don't need any prior writing experience - just a willingness to put pen to paper;-) 

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Angelique Noll

Artist and Writer






My name is Angie, and I'm a writer and artist.


My writing journey started many years ago when I took journalism and advanced journalism courses and started writing freelance articles and short stories for magazines, which were published in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. I also designed and hosted a writers workshop, which took place over the course of a month, with weekly in-person meetings and lots of writing from the participants in between meetings. 


My fine art journey started right here on Skillshare, in 2017. I took some fun art classes in many different media because I had never done fine art before and had no experience, but I knew I wanted to learn. Gradually... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. WriteShortStory 01 Intro: Hi, everyone. My name is energy, and I'm a writer and illustrator, and I also teach many other classes here on skill shape. In the short cast, I'll walk you through the steps that I use when I write short stories for magazines, but you can use them no matter where you want to publish your short story. I think you enjoy this callous that it inspires you to write many short stories of your own . I think the follow button above so that you'll be automatically notified when I release another writing illustration Close and let's get started. 2. WriteShortStory 02 Why: in this section. I want to give you some reasons why you should consider writing short stories. Aside from the fact that they were quite fun to write, they are other benefits to this form. For instance, it is an easier former to start with if the idea of writing a full length novel is intimidating to you. Short stories have far these words characters and scenes to keep in mind, making this much frankly, a form for the beginner writer to get started on. Even if you've written a larger novel or book, a short story can make an interesting challenge. Another reason is that getting your first short story published is far easier than getting your first full length novel published. There are various outlets were short story publication such as magazines both in print and online journals, newspapers and websites. All you need is one good short story to be published to make yourself more discoverable. The third reason for writing short stories is that they give you the opportunity not only to write a complete story from beginning to end, but also to practice other aspects of writing, such as the ability to focus on the detail of a scene. Some short stories consist of only one scene that's giving you good practice in honing in on ALS the juicy details of that scene, even if they are two or three scenes in the in the story, that's still a lot less than in the whole novel. The same goes for your characters with so few words to play with. Your choice of each word that describes the character within straight description or through dialogue is really important. Also, when you submit a short story to a magazine for consideration, you'll have edited it at least twice, if not more. By yourself. That's your self editing skills are getting a good workout as well. 1/4 reason is that the short story former makes it easy if you to try new things and experiment with genres, characters and ideas that you might not want to invest in a longer format. These or any of your other short stories actually could form the seeds for larger novels to grow from in the future when you're ready for them. Lastly, I feel that there are some story ideas that we come up with that just naturally lend themselves to the shorter format. It's no use trying to force a novel out of an idea that simply doesn't have enough substance to it for such a long form. Instead of discarding the idea completely, why not try it out in a short story? Years ago, when I did my first writing course in creative writing, it was with the intention to write my Children's books that I had planned, but that you Shortly after graduating from the right in college, I received a short story anthology for my birthday. It was called Thriller, and it was edited by James Patterson. Before that, I never paid much attention to short stories, but I really enjoyed reading the ones in that book because they opened my eyes to the possibilities that the story form offered. However, when I bought all the magazines that published short stories in My in my country and I read them week off the week, I was disappointed. They all seemed so boring. They were mostly about love. We lost love or reminiscence in story form. But the short stories that I had read inthe really excited me, and even though they were much longer than the ones in our magazines. I decided to challenge myself to see if I could write a thriller or adventure action crime by a short story that is complete and exciting in the allotted word Count off 2000 words Jalen This Way late to my first probably short story within a month, which also led to a good relationship with a short story editor of that particular magazine . He loved the crime based stories that I submitted because they were different, and each story they after found a home in that magazine. It was also based on these short stories that an editor of a magazine in Australia contacted me and asked me to write a short story for her magazine. This opportunity also led to a good relationship with her and over its and many more stories for the magazine. In the years since then, I tell you my journey with short stories to encourage you to try them, because all you really need is one good short story which can lead to other stories, favorable relationships with editors and an increase in your confidence as a writer. 3. WriteShortStory 03 WhatNeeded: before we start writing are for short story. There are four things that are important to deal with in the beginning. The first thing is reading. You have to read many, many short stories to get a feel for them. It's important that you read them all the time in different genres, different formats, because short stories very nailing from the genre. There are many different kinds, so it's important that you get a feel for them by reading as many of them in many different , many different places. So you could buy magazines that publish short stories and read them, especially the weekly ones. They're easily available. And if they're not your genre or not, your thing, it doesn't matter. Read. You could search online for short story websites or publications. You could do an Amazon search for short story compilations by your favorite author, or even in a genre that you prefer. And don't forget your local library. I'm sure there's lots of short stories there that you can read as well. Reading short stories is the best way to learn how to craft them, so pay attention when you read them. The bad short stories will teach you what to avoid the ones that you just don't like will help steer you in the direction off to what you might want to write about. And lastly, the really good ones, the ones that make you feel excited and think that is what you want to write. Those are the ones that you have to pay close attention to analyze them and really take note of how the oughta put the story together. The second thing is to develop your writing skills. So if you haven't done so already, then see if you can take a course in short story writing and then just for fun, write some short stories, but just rough ones. Play around without years and get a feel for how how it works to get a short story written from beginning to end in a very limited number of words. It's fun, and there's no pressure at this stage to be perfect, and you'll get in some good practice for when the great idea, the one that you really want to see name for publication comes around. The third thing that you have to do is get familiar with the requirements of the platform where you think you would like to be published. So after reading widely on short stories, will have a good idea of where you might fit in based. It might be online in an online publication or in a print magazine when a compilation, whatever you think you would fit in based really get to know their requirements before you start writing your short story and definitely no them before you submit this story. Lastly, you have to be willing to edit your story ruthlessly. Your first draft should be just that. A first draft word count is unimportant in this in this stage, but once you've got a decent story done, make sure that you put it away for a few days, at least, been wallet out and start editing one's twice, three times as many times as it takes to cut it down to the required word count and be ruthless about it. Short stories are written tightly, meaning that every word counts with no wasted words. You might want to get somebody else to look at your work as well to make sure that you have not missed anything, and that's about it. Those are the 1st 4 things that you have to do before you even start writing your first short story 4. WriteShortStory 04 Process: When it was first suggested to me that I create a skill shake loss about writing short stories, I didn't think that I would do it because I didn't know exactly how I write them. I just do. I did everything that I told you about in listen one writing courses, writing practice, short stories and reading lots and lots of them. And then I just wrote them. But then I sat down and I really thought about my process, and I realized I had one, and that's the one that will be sharing with you in this class. I have to tell you, though, that they are probably as many different ways to go about writing a short story as they are writers, so you'll find your own way as well. But to get you going, I'll shave my process with you. And for me it always started genre. Even if I'm commissioned to write a short story, I still start with genre with a very broad field that I want to write in, and not with a specific idea. For instance, I know that I don't like writing love by short stories. I really enjoyed crime or suspend short stories, so that kind of narrows down the playing field a little bit. And if you don't know the genre that you want to write in, then it doesn't matter because the more you read short stories, the more you'll come to realize which genre you would prefer. Once under the genre that I went to writing, I normally spend a bit of time imagining different situations within that genre. So, for instance, because they're not writing about crime and suspense, I might imagine hostage situation or perhaps a burglary or a police crackdown, maybe even a crime scene, any of those situations that fit into the genre that I want to write in. If you want to write perhaps a left by short story, what kind of scenario could you imagine? Is it a break up for a makeup or long lost lovers finding one another again? Perhaps it's peer and child love any of those situations that you could imagine fitting into your genre, just been sometimes thinking about those and then once have chosen a situation that appeals to me at that point in time. Then I narrow it down a little bit, so let's say for instance, I want to write a short story about a burglary. Then I would ask myself which aspect of the burglary am I going to write about? Is it going to be the planning stage or the stage with a burglary actually takes place? Is it going to be the end of the burglary? The bird? Look, it's court or not caught, um, any of those situations pertaining to the burglary. I narrow it down even more. Perhaps I want to write about a police crackdown. Do I want the scene with is a shootout. Do I want the scene? We things go wrong or with the informer tells them whether with the baddies are to be found , whatever. But I spend time narrowing it down even more, and you would want to do the same with your chosen situation as well. And then the last thing that I asked myself before I even start writing the story is one self chosen. My specific scene that I want to write about is how can I make this scene more interesting ? So, for instance, a burglary is just a burglary, but how can I make that burglary more interesting to make my story more interesting. You could choose to make it an art theft that would be a little bit different. Or perhaps somebody steals a pit, maybe a highly valuable paint. You could think of any ways to make it more interesting. What about the character? Maybe the character, The thief, could be an unusual character. There could be something intriguing about them. For instance, when I wrote a short story about an art theft, the story idea came about because I was sitting at my daughter's school in the morning having a hot chocolate in winter with the other mothers while we were waiting for school to start. And while they were talking, I was thinking about what all of us were going off. We dropped off our kids at school, and I knew I was going home to write, and I was wondering what everyone else was going. And I just imagine what if one of the mothers sitting at that table was not going home to an ordinary thing? What if she was going home to plan her burglary for the evening so that after she's put a daughter to bid, she's going to go out and steal something. Maybe she's a cat burglar or something interesting like that, but that's how that idea came about. And so for the story, she was an ordinary woman who had a daughter that she dropped off at school, and she was in planning her art, if for the evening. And that's how the store evolved. So I made my character more interesting by imagining, um, what could be different about her? The other way that you could think about making your story more interesting is to think about the point of view that you're going to tell the story from. Are you going to tell it from the main character's point of view? For instance, if it was this burglary that you wanted to write about, is it going to be the actual boo glow whose eyes were going to see the story through? Are you going to write it from the perspective off the guard dogs or a nosy neighbor peeking through their curtains and watching everything happening? So the point of view that you choose could also make your story a little bit more interesting and set apart from others in that same genre, 5. WriteShortStory 05 Startup: So in this state, we're going to take a short story writing a little bit further. But now you've got a good idea off the genre that you want to write in. You assumed, you know, in a particular situation, and then you've narrowed it down even more to particular point in time that you want to write about. So when I think about short story writing, I think about a photographer with his camera and assuming in on a particular scenario, that tells a story. And for mutual story, writing is a bit like that. Except that just like a photographer can change the zoom and the lanes and the angle so we can do that without source stories. But what will determine that is the word count. So in the first listen, you would have done your research on reading short stories and finding out where you want to be published and also getting a feel for the length of short story that really appeals to you. Is that the really short sort of flash fiction type? Or is it the slightly longer ones that could go after a few 1000 words, so that will largely determine how much you zoom in on your situation and how much detail is necessary or how much you can fear away from it. However, regardless of the amount of words that that are short, story has to fit into, the first thing that I normally do is I think about a compelling opening scene. So for me, this is always where my story starts. Once I've got the opening scene, and this can sometimes take days to get to, then I'm well on my way to writing the story. And I think this is one of the reasons why writing is often seen as such a mysterious process because it certainly isn't right by number process. I can't really tell you exactly how I get to my opening scenes because I don't know how they just sort of come that dropped down into me. But I know that if I spend time thinking about my short story while I go about my daily life, that's normally when it happened. So you have to let your idea ruminate in the back of your mind while you carry on with whatever it is you do during the day and not obsess over it. and then another good idea to try. Get to your opening scene is also just been sometime in a relaxed way with a pen and paper and journal. Perhaps you could journal about your daily life. You could even journal about your story and just ask yourself as you're writing, what possible good opening scenes could I use, or could I come up with and write those down? But for me, the keys always to stay relaxed and not to get stressed about having to come up with a perfect opening scene, because once we get stressed about it, it's kind of like the creativity con flow and nothing happened, so this might seem a little bit counterintuitive, but once I've got my opening scene, I don't jump into it and write my story. I then start thinking about the ending because short stories are they usually have a twist in the tale in the ending. So that's what makes them nice and not just a straightforward account off an event. So I spend a bit of time thinking about how could make my ending unusual or surprising, or even just funny. In some way. It must be impactful so that the reader finishes the story and has some emotional reaction towards it doesn't have to be major. It must just be something that can put a smile on someone's face. It then cause it to think about an issue. So you know, it doesn't have to be this huge big surprise ending, but just put something in there. And lastly, once I've got my beginning on my opening scene and then I've got my ending and I might have a variety of endings in mind. So I might think, Well, depending on how the story goes, I could either ended on this note or on this note, that one this note. But I'll see. So that might be the same for you. You don't have to choose the ending that you're going to work with right now, but have a few in mind. And then it's a simple matter off deciding how you're going to get from your beginning to your ending, and that's normally for me. At least, that's the easy part because it's logically has to go from a to be yeah, and you could just fill in the details in the middle. But this is the stage where you actually get to really write to your story. So it's fun. And don't worry about word count just yet. Just tell the story of how you started and how that scene lead to the end in the best way that you can and you will naturally come upon the ending that suits your story based. So, for example, in my art burglary short story that I mentioned in the previous listen, I decided to open the story with her, scouting at the house and lying in the bushes and getting ready to go in and steal this piece of odds. And then the story followed her as she went step by step into the house and the little things that nearly went wrong and she nearly got caught. So I added a bit of suspense as we went. And then in the end, she got the painting. My vision for the story in the end was that she somebody switched on the light and she got caught red handed. But then I wanted to put a twist in the tale for that one, because that's a little bit too, too blunt to ended in a bit too obvious, and so that the twist they was that she turned out in in that she was not a burglar and all . But she was working on behalf off the person who owns the house, who's a really rich person. And he hired an anonymous criminal through an agency to test the security on his property to see if a criminal could get in until his art piece. So that's how come she got caught. But she didn't really get caught because this was her job that she was paid to do. I had another ending in mind I Before that, I thought, perhaps, as she gets there, she could realize that painting has already been stolen. But it was definitely they in the morning stall. So perhaps arrival orthe burglar got the just minutes before her I was before her. But then, as I wrote the story, I realized I wanted to go in the other direction 6. WriteShortStory 06 StoryCraft: so by this stage, she should have a rough form off your short story. And now is the time way. In my opinion, the rial craft of short story writing actually starts, I think, for me at least coming up with a story. The beginning, the ending that twists in it in the story and even writing the first draft for me are the playful easy pots. That's really nice to do. But now the work starts. So the first thing you have to do is put your story away. Just put it away and leave it somewhere where you can't see it took lancet it for at least a week, if not more. But once that time is over, then hold it out and start editing and so black, I said, right in the beginning. One of the benefits of writing short stories is that it does give you practice in self editing. And while it's a good idea to get other people to look at your work, it's also really good skill to develop, to be able to eat it, your own work to some extent, and so that when somebody finally looks at it, they might be no changes to be made or just minor ones to be made. And if you did want to go on to writing books, by the time you handed over to professional editor to be edited or handed into the publishers, you'll be handing in a manuscript that has been self edited and glanced over and polished to the best of your ability, keeping in mind that there are always things that we can't see in our own writing, and it doesn't make you a bad writer. It's just that we we're so used to hearing the way that we write and say things in our head that you don't always pick up on eras in our writing. So having said that, once you hold out your short story, the first thing you have to do is give it a once over read. And so what I normally do is I read through it once, and at this stage it will still be full off. Um, the grandma Lee underlined. Here is a little red lines and green lines everywhere, and I fix the obvious things that really jumped out at me as I go. So spelling errors, grammatical errors, anything That's just that, as you reading it through, that's just wrong. I fix those at this stage, and that's all I do for that day. I went to anymore editing on that day, and then the next day I'll go back and I will give it another one's over. And this is where I start getting into the nitty gritty of editing, so I would read it and see if there is any unnecessary words any long windedness, any adverbs I want to cut out. Adverbs are a big thing because in short story writing, every word counts. And so you have to ask yourself every time your character is doing something. Have you described it in the shortest, most impactful way possible? So if your character is running down the road, did you say he ran down the road? Foster. He was a slow runner when you could have said he was adored Low or he sprinted down the road. So choose a verb. That based describes what your character's doing instead of using adverbs, any description that might be unnecessary if we don't need to know what the scenario, what the environment looked like, then cut it out Sometimes that's enough to say, Let's just pretend you have two people sitting on a bench in a park, leaning in, getting ready for a kiss. We don't necessarily want to know about all the plants and the joggers going past him and the dog sniffing at the bench and the beautiful lake and the sun shining on the and the ducks and and end. Maybe we just want to know that there is sitting in the midst of a busy urban park, and that might be enough. So look for any unnecessary descriptions that are in your writing and take them out as well . Another thing that's quite common is in a dialogue again. We don't necessarily need to know everything your characters thinking unless it's going to add to the story. And this is obviously something you have to ask yourself. It's your story. But if we don't need to know what the characters thinking, then just move on now, especially before an action point. It's quite common to one to drag out the action by giving in a dialogue or descriptions and then eventually going back to the action. But unless that's done really skillfully, it's just annoying. So cut all of that out. And if you're at the action point, get to the action because that's what's going to drive your story forward. Another thing to look out for in your editing is your point of view. Are you being consistent in the point of view? If we're wasting the story through the girl's eyes, then we don't unnecessarily want to switch through to the story through somebody else's eyes. Perhaps the boyfriend's eyes. At least it adds to the story. Or that's the flow of your story, but usually one point of your sufficient, especially in a short story where you are limited. So other than those particular and common things, to look out for the other bit of self editing advice I can give to you is to read your story out loud to yourself. So I always do that. I read a story about myself, especially when I think I've done editing, and it's amazing what you hear when you hear it in your own voice. The other bit of advice is that I I only do one round of editing per day. I won't do two rounds of editing unless I'm really short on time, and they know. Try to space that outside, do one in the morning and one late in the afternoon. Babs. Otherwise, you also don't see the mistakes in your writing, and then you want to just listen to the paragraphs and to see there's one paragraph. Flow logically into the next, and you don't have to get all graham early and technical about it. Just read it and listen to. It doesn't make sense where you ended to where you're going next. Does that make sense to you? And if it does, then it's probably find. The last thing I would say is that we might not want to write by committee. So you don't want to hand out your short story to lots of people in Boston for their advice or their opinions, or because you're going to get confused. And writing for me is about learning to trust yourself and your own voice and your own ideas so you don't necessarily want to take on other people's opinions and ideas and criticisms off your story. However, it is always a good idea to get somebody else to read your story, especially if it's your 1st 1 and you don't really have a feel for your own ability to write it. Then it's good to get a trusted other person to read it once you think you're done and just to comment on it doesn't make sense in their heads as well. Because if it makes sense in your head, it's sometimes difficult to see how it doesn't make sense to a stranger. So get somebody to read it. And then he faced nobody that can read it that you trust to read it. Then the next best thing to do would be to record yourself reading it, and they listen to yourself and then you'll be able to hear his anymore sticky points or mistakes that you can fix. So you homework for this listen, would be to start the self editing process, assuming that you have put it away for a few days or a week or two 7. WriteShortStory 07 Conclusion: I hope you enjoyed this course in writing a short story and that you will put the steps into practice, especially the things in the very first listen, which was to read a lot. That was the most important thing to do. And even though you might feel like you're not writing your short story every time you read a short story, you're learning something and you're internalizing some rules off this this format that you don't even know about you. But when you come to write your short story, you'll find it almost naturally, a lot easier than if you went very well. Read with short story for months. I also have some other writing classes on skill. She that I invite you to take a look at these classes on story development and on playful writing. So go have a look at all the other classes, and there's a large community off writers in skill shape, with a lot of ideas to shape. And like I said, every writer has their own way of writing whatever it is that they're right with songs or short stories or novels. Everybody has their own process, but this comes about but just actually doing it and then you'll find your own way as well. So I wish you luck. And I would love to see the short story ideas that you come up with for your project. That would be lovely. If you could send a little snapshot of your short story. You don't have to submit the whole thing. Just your idea. Maybe a beginning middle end, even just a few saints and says that we can read and see all the lovely things that you come up with happy writing and see you in the other classes.