Short stories are very, very useful. They are perfect for entering contests or submitting to magazines, or posting on sites like Figment.com or TeenInk. They also help you with your writing. I think it's always good to write stuff that might be more of a challenge. It helps you grow in your writing. Also, if you win a contest or get into a magazine, you build up your "writing resume" if you will. So, if you don't think so already, I'll just tell you: get on with writing those short stories!
However... short stories are also a huge pain. I'm sure most writers like sticking to writing their novels, where they have all the time in the world to work on characters, plot, etc. I think that's one big reason why short stories are such a pain to write: you have limited time.
Over the years, through writing and reading some good short stories, I've learned a bit about writing them and I'm here to help you, with my limited expertise!!
Step #1: Read short stories.
There are some really excellent short stories out there. Actually, this one teen writers magazine I know of, The Claremont Review has some really awesome short stories. (Anyone 13-19 can submit stories, and I found out recently that it does accept international submissions... the website is here). I'm sure if you search around in your area you can find a Writer's Guild or organization that makes short story collections. Please, please look for good short stories though. You'll know them when you read them.
Step #2: The idea.
I think one of the most difficult parts about writing a short story is the idea. How can you think of an idea that's so contained, that's so limited? Well, I've found there's a few good ways to do it.
1. Use whims of ideas
You know how when you get an idea just randomly like... I don't know... "it would be cool to write a story about the relationship between a brother and a sister". Then you think of how you could make that idea into an entire book. Well, while you're coming up with all these whims of ideas, sift through them and ask yourself: could I make this into a short story instead?
2. Use a scene from your novel
Some scenes in novels can work well just on their own as a short story, with a bit of tweaking. Go through your novel and try to think what scenes might work well as a short story.
3. Think of a topic or message you want to focus on
For our lame provincial English exam, we have to do a "writing task" for the final part. Usually I do a short story. But the exam always has a theme, and we have to do our writing task on that theme. The theme for one of my exams was "Choices" another, "Responsibility". I find sometimes it's easier to think of an idea when you have to stick to a certain topic.
Step #3: The story
You don't have to have more than one problem
You know how in a story, you're supposed to have Hurdle #1 for your characters, then Hurdle #2, #3, to infinity? Well, in a short story you can't have that. There is one hurdle. However, this doesn't mean your short story has to be lame and boring because the character only tries once and the hurdle has been jumped.
In a short story you can focus a lot more on that single hurdle
|And when you're done, you can dance!|
oh wait... there's editing too...
You don't have to resolve everything
Just like a normal novel, not everything has to be resolved. I would say especially in short stories. When you're focusing on one problem or one message, you just have to choose what exactly you want to be resolved about that problem.
Like I said, I'm not really an expert on short stories but I thought I'd share what I've learned... feel free to share your own advice/opinions!
In your experience, what have you learned about writing short stories?