how to write a short story - free ecourse from Indie Author School

Why write a short story? It’s common knowledge amongst writers, particularly indie authors, that short stories don’t sell particularly well. It’s not as if you’re going to get rich from a 3,000 word story (although tell that to Hugh Howey, who’s supersonic indie author career took off when he published Wool, a novella). So, why bother?


Well, in my humble opinion, by writing a short story and publishing it, you’ll actually be winning at quite a few things. Firstly, you’ll gain the confidence that you can actually write AND FINISH a piece of work. This is what trips up a lot of would-be writers – it’s not the starting that’s the problem, it’s the finishing! I’ve written millions of novels (NB. possibly a slight exaggeration) but even I’ve got a few unfinished pieces of work sitting on the hard drive. Writing and finishing a short story is a hell of a lot easier than writing and finishing a novel because it’s, you know, short.

You’ll gain practice and experience in creating the right kind of mindset and in setting a writing routine, which is really important whatever length of fiction you’re writing. You’ll learn about structure, plotting, character development, writing dialogue and description but on a much more manageable scale than writing a novel.

How to write a short story

Short but sweet!

This is something that might not have occurred to you – in writing a short story, you’ll be producing a piece of creative writing that you can sell. Yes, you probably won’t sell many copies but the psychological boost of selling even one or two of your stories can’t be underestimated. You’ll have proof, proper proof, that people are willing to pay you for your work.

With a short story, you’ll also have an asset that you can either sell or give away to build your readership. You’ll have a story to submit to competitions. And in the whole process, you’ll gain experience in finding an editor, cover designer and proof-reader and how to actually publish something on Amazon, iBooks or wherever.

So, now I’ve convinced you that writing short stories is worth your time and effort, how do you actually do it?


Firstly, decide on your genre – what are the conventions? Mystery short stories must have a mystery to solve, romance stories would normally end in a ‘happy ever after’, horror short stories must horrify.

If you’re not sure where to start, think about the ‘what if’. What if a woman saw her husband kissing another woman? What if a school boy thought his teacher had been replaced by an alien? What if a priceless museum artefact went missing from a locked room? What sort of hook can you come up with?

Decide on your characters – what is it that they want? In a short story, it’s probably best not to have too many main characters. Three or fewer would probably be best. Where is your story going to be set? What tense and what person will you write it?

If you fancy some great short story inspiration, check out writers such as Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Ruth Rendell and M.R. James for a variety of different genres.

Longhand or laptop, just get those words down

Longhand or laptop, just get those words down.

Some useful tips for writing in general:

  • Write in sprints or use the Pomodoro method
  • Don’t edit as you go along – just write!
  • Set yourself achievable goals – what word counts can you achieve each day or each week?


After you’ve written your story, you’ll need to edit it. Check out this previous post of mine for tips on self-editing your own work.

As most short stories are between 1000 and 10,000 words, a professional proof-read or edit shouldn’t cost you too much. You could even use a site like – make sure you check out the seller’s reviews to see if they have generally happy customers or not.

You’ll also need a suitable cover. Check out similar books to yours, particularly the top selling ones on Amazon to see if there are themes or motifs that work particularly well on covers in your genre. Use your common sense – a romantic short story isn’t going to sell well if it has a dark and sinister cover. Again, you can use for cover design, or check out this link from Author Marketing Club for a whole lot of pre-made cover designers. If you’re experienced in graphic design, you could try making your own on Canva or Picmonkey.

Before you publish, you’ll also need an enticing blurb or book description for your product page. Check out the Beautiful Blurbs workbook for a step by step guide to writing your own book description.


Check out my video tutorial for a guide to publishing your book on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.


If you’re raring to go with writing a short story, why not check out the FREE online eCourse Sensational Shorts! from Indie Author School? You can sign up and work through the course at your own pace, in your own time and it won’t cost you a penny! So why not get started on writing your first short story today and see where it takes you?




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