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What A Short Story Needs

Sep 12, 2023

Does the thought of writing short stories send prickles down your spine? Even though they’re short, the idea of writing a smaller word count can feel intimidating.

Author Danielle Robertson helps us discover that doesn’t have to be the case - you can find joy and creative freedom through writing short stories. 

You might be asking what exactly is a short story. There is no one-size-fits-all formula, but Danielle breaks it down for us through five main criteria.

  1. Focus in on one or a few characters
  2. Establish a single setting or event (or connected settings/events)
  3. Evoke a single type of mood
  4. Center on one main theme
  5. Create it so that it could potentially be read in a single sitting

In addition to these, you’ll want to keep three things in mind:

  • Character development is king (or queen!).
  • Vivid imagery and sensory details are so important.
  • Aim for a “satisfying” ending - whatever that might mean.

Aside from the criteria, you’ll want to aim for a word count of 1,500 to 10,000 words. Danielle shares there is a “sweet spot” of around 7,500 words. 

You have the power to say SO much within that span. Believe in your ability! 

(Oh! Not only is this "sweet spot" word count found in many widely-known short stories, but it’s also often the max for anthology calls and literary magazine submissions. We're excited to offer Quill & Cup members an "in" for these calls for submission within our BRAND NEW #hedgie-classifieds channel in our Sisterhood Slack!)

Writing a short story gives you a chance to find freedom in a shorter commitment, the opportunity to explore a new genre or following a new character or setting, and it can be used as an entrance point to explore a larger work!

Her biggest tip? Learn from the best! While you can certainly read a craft book on short stories, the best education comes from reading short stories.

Quill & Cup is a fiercely supportive community that serves women from all around the world who commit to showing up to their writing consistently. We commit to calibrating our egos -- mainly, by admitting we're "I don't know" babes. Together, we work through roadblocks in the writing process by leaning into continued education on writing craft and research-based practices for an empowered mindset. We offer members an average of five live learning experiences per month! If you can't make it live, that's no big -- we have over 60 hours of content on craft, mindset, and authorpreneurship available for members in our Webinar Replays Library.

Would you like to learn and be empowered with us?  Start your free 7 day trial today! See you at the table soon, sister!

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