by Emily Wenstrom
As a fiction writer eager to improve my craft, I’ve long wanted to try out the story-a-week approach recommended to aspiring writers by Ray Bradbury. After all, he said, it’s impossible to write fifty-two bad stories in a row.
For years, developing my novel took precedent over short stories, as I tried to fit any writing in at all into my schedule around work, family and the rest of life.
But then I started freelancing full-time, and I’m officially out of excuses—if I can’t manage to find time for short stories when I have total control over every aspect of my schedule, I’ll never do it.
So I started cranking them out this month… or at least trying to. Turns out that writing a story a week is even harder than I thought.
But with some experimentation, I think I’ve found a way to get it done. Here is a day-by-day plan to write a story in a week:
Monday: Settle On Your Story Idea
First, pick an idea to build your story around.
Maybe you’ve got a running list of those idea spark moments from eavesdropping at the coffee shop. Or maybe there’s a concept that’s been sticking in your head that you want to play with. This is your chance. Or, there are plenty of creative writing prompts and exercises out there to choose from.
However you get your idea, take some time on Monday to fully flesh it out to get to know your characters and identify the key points of your plot.
I know you pantsers out there will scoff at the idea of outlining, but I’ve found it to be absolutely critical to .
Tuesday: Write Your Opening Act
Following the classic three-part plot structure, on Tuesday, draft out Act One.
This opening act should establish the key characters, as well as the setting. You also need to clearly define the conflict and motives.
These are the key factors that will serve as a foundation for the rest of your story, grab or lose the attention of readers (and editors), and move the plot forward.
No lies, it’s a lot to accomplish. But put in your time here and the rest of your story will come a lot easier.
Wednesday: Write the Climax
Today we’re going to pick up right were we left off by writing act two.
Now that the story’s key elements are established, it’s time to up the tension and stakes. Go ahead, cause your protagonist some true pain, and don’t forget to make your conflict three-dimensional.
When you wrap up your writing time today, you should be at the story’s climax.
Thursday: Resolve the Plot
Now, all that’s left to write is act three: the resolution.
In this final section of your story, you’ve got to pull its elements together into a resolution. What are the consequences of your protagonist’s choices in the story so far? Let them unfold and come to a conclusion.
Then, rejoice—you’ve got a complete draft!
Friday: Revise Your Story
You’ve got a complete story now, but that’s only the beginning. Today, go back and revise your draft.
This is your chance to take a close look at what you’ve created and make it the best it can be. Fill out those details. Nitpick over word choices. Finesse those transitions.
And most importantly, this is where you assess how much more investment this story is worth. Is it good? Is it publishable?
For stories you deem worthy, you may want to continue revisions into Saturday and Sunday to make sure it’s the best it can be. Then, submit it for publication or share it as a freebie on your author website.
Writing a Short Story a Week Will Make You a Better Writer
Sure, writing a short story a week may sound like a lot of work, and it is. But it will also pay off exponentially.
For writing, as with most creative work, quantity breeds quality. This means that the more your write, regardless of how good any specific story is, the more you will improve.
So don’t worry about making every single story a jewel of perfection. That’s not the point. The point is to constantly cycle your brain through the stages of storybuilding, from concept to final product. Every time you do it, you’re making yourself a little bit better.