The Art of Short Story Writing

A short story by M Cid D'Angelo published by The Legendary

A short story by M Cid D’Angelo published by The Legendary

“I don’t write short stories. They’re difficult,” the novelist laments.

I hear it all the time; you’d be surprised how many bestselling novelists avoid writing short works like the Plague. There was a time, yes, when I too couldn’t grasp the concept or the fundamentals of not only getting any of my short fiction published, but to even sit down and pen one.

There are several methods and tips in getting one written and bestowing it a good chance of getting it published traditionally. Let’s set aside good grammar and syntax for a moment (we already know about those) and go for the overall attempt.

Try these methods I use:

  1. Remember that a writer WRITES things. A dangerous author is one who can lay out any format or genre. A horror writer can effectively write romance; a thriller author can pen a literary drama; a self-help guru can turn out poetry. A writer WRITES.
  2. Mull the story around for awhile. Let it roll around in your noggin before committing anything to paper. Work out some of the main ideas first in your head.
  3. Jot down your notes and ideas. There is something about writing it down outside the click-clack of a computer keyboard. I mechanically take a pen and write in a hard-bound journal bought at the nearest office supply or grocery store. I spend a few days with it, off and on, even the most barest of plots and characters. The story might not pan out immediately, but I will always have the notes sitting there in case the idea resurfaces later.
  4. The Theme. Most successful short works operate on a theme – a central concept. What are you trying to convey to the reader? This helps deliver the ending too. The theme will also make your short story concise and help fit it into precise and restrictive word limits that most literary journals and magazines adhere to.
  5. The Ending. Spend time in your writing notes pulling the story over the three humps of Beginning, Middle, and End. I always drive the story to the end by thinking of it first. Characterization, setting, and narrative are all second fiddle to structure. Like a salesman going for the CLOSE, you want to deliver the ending. The theme should help deliver the ending, as stated before. If you cannot come to the ending, you’ll probably waste time writing the story.
  6. Cut Out Tangents. Writing a novel or long fiction work, you can dillie-dallie around with thoughts and subplots and character development because you generally have time to. A SUCCESSFUL short story needs to have every word, sentence, and paragraph succinct and to the point. The final draft must be concise.
  7. Pay Attention to the Genre. Literary short fiction uses lots of flowery verbiage, redolent of metaphors and allusions; horror – sci/fi – action – fantasy, these works generally have direct narration and dialogue, sparing the use of adjectives and adverbs. Fantasy is somewhat a gray area, I’ve found, and a hard sale. You can be colorful and flowery, or direct and succinct, but the markets there are not easily sold. Any short story outside the literary/mainstream vein are trendy and sometimes when a work is well-written, it is ignored because it isn’t in the particular taste of that market’s audience.
  8. Read Short Fiction. You better believe it! I read many and you get a good sense of what is good and what is bad. Libraries have anthologies and short story collections. Also, subscribe to as many literary journals as you can and afford; and search for free online magazines on the Web!

Like anything, writing short fiction takes practice. Work on it. Don’t expect a first sell. They provide an EXCELLENT platform whether you are geared to have your work published traditionally, or self-published. Short fiction grants a wonderful and distinct platform and gets you noticed!

M Cid D’Angelo’s novels can be found at ~

Dead ReckoningBuy it now!

A few of his short stories are published by various for print and online literary magazines. Here are a few:

“Thumbs Up” (Midway Journal):

“Don Quixote de Las Vegas” (Moronic Ox):

“In the Garden” (decomP magazinE):

“Chad and Willie Break a Leg (March, 2013 – The Legendary):


About mciddangelo

"I write because I believe in literature; I believe that the art of words is louder than sound, more colorful than paintings. My novels are written not because of the pursuit of money or even success, but in the FAITH that they exalt our experiences; that not only do they give us enjoyment to read them, but they are meant to open worlds that a reader may not ever imagine." M Cid D'Angelo is published in Aiofe's Kiss, Calliope, Eureka Literary Magazine, Third Wednesday, Midway Journal, and many others. He is the author of Dead Reckoning (J Ellington Ashton Press, 2015), available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions.
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