What are tips you would share with someone wanting to write a fictional story?

There is a craft to writing short fiction:
  1. Learn how to put a story together. Take a class, read a book, do whatever it takes to learn the craft of telling a short story.
  2. Pretend that the story really happened. It should seem real to the reader, so it should also seem real as it is written.
  3. Put the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair, stare at your computer, and start writing. Don’t worry about whether your words are good or not, just get them written and don’t stop until you reach the end of the story.
  4. Now go back over those words and change them just enough to make the story flow. To make it interesting. To make the story seem real. Because the secret to writing good fiction is that it shouldn’t seem like fiction while it’s being read.


Last time I gave out a template for writing short stories and said that, if expanded, it could also become a template for novels.  This post is to explain a bit about how to do that.  Of course, as always, if your writing method differs from mine, do whatever is right for you.

If you wish, you can change the one-or-two sentence descriptions to one-or-two paragraphs to allow for more depth in your characters and in your story.

The big difference, though, is the part that was glossed over in the short story template.  The part that tells you to construct scenes that connect the beginning scene to the conclusion.  In a short story they will necessarily be short scenes, perhaps a few paragraphs each.  But in a book, instead of outlining scenes, you will outline chapters… the story you want to tell divided into segments leading up to the climax… and each chapter may contain several scenes.

When you write each chapter use the template for short stories as if each chapter was a short story.  Which, in a way, it is.  Because each chapter should have a beginning that will outline the problem of that chapter and propel the characters into action.  And a conclusion.  Not the conclusion of the main problem of the book but the conclusion of the smaller but still significant problem that chapter deals with.  And if it doesn’t deal with a problem intrinsic to the plot, then seriously consider deleting that particular chapter.  And each chapter also needs a conclusion, preferably one that resolves the chapter problem and leads the characters towards the next problem they will face.

And that’s a simplified version of how to write a novel.  More in future posts.


When I first started writing, I didn’t start selling.  The manuscripts went out.  And came back.  And went out.  And came back.  And so on…  until I read an article that contained a short story template.  I followed that template.  Why not?  I couldn’t do any worse than I was already doing.

Lo and behold.  I started selling.  Even when an editor didn’t buy my manuscript, they wrote nice comments saying it was obvious that I was a professional writer and that they’d like to see more of my work.

The only difference was that template.  So I’m going to share it with you now hoping that it will help you, too, if you aren’t yet selling.

1) Describe a main character in one or two sentences.  2) Describe a second main character is one or two sentences.  3) If there is a problem between them, describe that problem in one sentence.  4) Describe in one sentence the problem that will be the focus of your story. 5) Describe in one sentence a scene in which your main character will be forced to begin dealing with the problem. 6) Describe in one sentence the resolution to the problem. 

The beginning of the story is where the problem emerges and the main character must deal with it.  The conclusion is the resolution.  The rest of the story consists of the scenes between the beginning and the resolution. 

So there it is.  This template is short and simple and it works,  And if you expand each part of it expoentially, instead of a short story, you have a novel.