Tip 1: Word Limits
Word limits can feel like a slap in the face if you aren't prepared for one. If you’re submitting a short story for an anthology, find out what the word limit is. They’ll always provide some range, but it’s usually under 7,500 words. Novellas are a little longer and usually fall between 17,500 - 39,999 words. When you find out what the limit is, aim for a slightly lower amount so there is room to add and change as needed.
Tip 2: Outlines
I don’t outline every novel. I usually determine how I want the second half of the book to go and build the first half of the story in order to get there. However, when it comes to novellas or short stories, outlining is my best friend. I’ll organize each chapter so I stick to the important parts and leave out anything that has no significance. Outlining keeps me on track.
Tip 3: Important Details > Filler
Leading into outlining, you’re limited on pages and words, so focus on the plot points that will push your story along and ignore what doesn’t need to be there. “Boring” or “mundane” moments that don’t add anything except pages can easily be cut.
Tip 4: What Does the Story Boil Down to?
What is your climactic moment and how is your story going to get there? What is the point of your short story or novella? Is there some big realization or an action sequence? Determine where your story is headed so you can lead it there. You need to connect with your readers in a shorter amount of time, so make it count!
Tip 5: Just Write Already
Do you have a specific process when working on your current WIP? A short story or a novella, in my eyes, is like a compact novel. You merely reach the action and excitement faster. How do you write a full-length book? Do you take it chapter by chapter? Do you write scenes ahead of time and then fill the in-between? I do the latter. I write scenes that I’m inspired to create, even if they happen towards the end of the book, and work my way to them. It's a similar process when writing a short story. Find a process that works for you and move forward with it. The important thing is IGNORING THE URGE TO PROCRASTINATE. Get down to business and write.
Tip 6: Play Around and Have Fun
It’s a short story. If you’re not happy with the first draft, change it. My first short story had an ending that was WAY too intense for the fun contemporary plotline, so I rewrote the second half. If you’re dedicated to the idea, and have the time, play around with endings and beginnings. You might discover something better than what you first started with. Don't be confined by what you think the readers want, go with your gut and be creative. Enjoy the adventure!