This is the third and final part in our Short Story Week Series. You can view part one 'Why You Should Write Short Stories' here, and part two 'Top Ten Classic Short Stories' here.\r\n\r\nSo, now we\u2019ve come to the end of our Writer\u2019s Edit Short Story Week, you may be thinking of composing a short story of your own. But how exactly do you go about doing so? To help you out, we\u2019ve created a basic, \u2018How To\u2019 guide, for anyone considering turning their talents to the wonderful genre of the short story.\r\n1. Know what a short story\u00a0is\r\nBefore diving into any genre, it is important to understand the basics of that genre. Most definitions of a short story focus on the following key points:\r\n\r\n \tA short story is a prose narrative\r\n \tIs shorter than a novel\r\n \tDeals with limited characters\r\n \tAims to create a single effect\r\n\r\nOther definitions, however, are more concerned with word count, stating that a short story may range anywhere between 1,000 \u2013 30,000 words. Anything over 30,000 words, however, tends to be considered \u2018too long\u2019, and crosses into the classification of a novella. For more information on the difference between the short story and novella, click\u00a0here.\r\n\r\nKnowing how to write a short story starts with knowing what a short story is. Do you research. Read short stories. Image Credit: Jonathan Reyes via Flickr Creative Commons.\r\n\r\nBut how important are word counts? Well, if you are looking to have your work published, the word count can be extremely important. For instance, most literary magazines prefer their short story entries to be kept brief, and even stipulate a limit for all their submissions. The general limit for most leading Australian literary magazines is 3,000 words.\r\n\r\nHowever, you should always check the submission guidelines of any magazine you wish to send your work to. These guidelines can generally be found on the magazine\u2019s website. For a few examples, check the submission guidelines of\u00a0the Griffith Review,\u00a0Voiceworks\u00a0and\u00a0Mascara Literary Review.\r\n\r\nIt is also crucial that you never underestimate the importance of reading. Read the form you hope to write in. A list of recommended short reads can be found here.\r\n2. Develop an Idea\r\nOnce you know a bit about the genre, and what is expected from a short story, you can begin creating one of your own. As with any fiction writing, this all begins with an idea. But where does a writer find ideas? When faced with this, very question,\u00a0Neil Gaiman\u00a0stated:\r\nYou get ideas from daydreaming\u2026 You get ideas from asking yourself simple questions. The most important of the questions is just, What if\u2026?"\r\nWith this answer, Gaiman highlights the importance of the writer\u2019s imagination in the process of developing a story. But what if your imagination needs a little prompting? Although daydreaming can be an excellent tool in crafting a story, sometimes our imaginations need a little external stimulus to help light the spark. So what sort of external stimulus can be helpful in sparking a good short story idea?\r\n\r\nUse everyday occurrences to inspire your short stories. Image Credit: Markus Spiske via Flickr Creative Commons.\r\nHint: Eavesdropping\r\nPolite society will tell us it is wrong to listen in on other people\u2019s conversations, but a sly bit of eavesdropping every now and then can be quite invaluable for a writer.\r\n\r\nThe people in the world around us \u2013 whether they be on a train to the city, on the phone in the supermarket, or enjoying a family barbeque in the park \u2013 provide an exceptional case study of human character and behaviour. By acting as an observer of daily life, and fusing together what we see and hear with our own imaginations, we can come up with all sorts of story ideas we may otherwise have never considered.\r\n\r\nAn example of this practice can be seen in \u2018Rest Stop\u2019; a short story by Stephen King, published in his collection, \u2018Just After Sunset\u2019. This story follows the experience of a writer who stops at a service station to use the bathrooms, only to find himself witness to a case of domestic violence. The writer then faces the tough decision of whether to play hero and intervene, or whether to save himself from a possible beating of his own, hop back in his car, and drive away.\r\n\r\nIn the notes provided by Stephen King in the back of the book, he admits to this idea sparking from an experience of his own, in which he stopped at a rest stop and overheard a couple engaged in a very heated argument. King writes:\r\nThey both sounded tight and on the verge of getting physical. I wondered what in the world I\u2019d do if that happened...\u2019\r\nIn other words, King started with an overheard conversation (or, in this case, argument), then used his imagination to ask himself \u2018What if\u2026?\u2019 \u2013 \u2018What if the argument developed into a physical fight? What would a writer, much like myself, do in this situation?\u2019. \u2018Rest Stop\u2019 is therefore an excellent example of how the odd bit of eavesdropping can help fuel our imaginations, and allow us to create an engaging short story.\r\n\r\n'What if' and 'Why' are two extremely important questions when it comes to writing short stories. Image Credit: Eric via Flickr Creative Commons.\r\nHint: Use a memory\/experience of your own\r\n\u2018Rest Stop\u2019 is also a good example of how we can use our own experiences\/memories as a starting point for a short story. Possibly the greatest advantage of this technique is the degree of tangibility it lends to our work.\r\n\r\nFor example, in \u2018Rest Stop\u2019, King is able to create a detailed description of the setting by providing a strong vision of the missing children posters, tacked up all over the walls. This attention to finer detail, pulled from King\u2019s own memory, allows the reader to feel as though they are seeing the service station for themselves. It is more realistic, more tangible, more believable.\r\n\r\nOf course, any fictional setting\/event can be made to feel this way with the inclusion of finer detail, but starting with a memory is great practice. Once you can describe how something looked, felt, smelt, sounded or tasted in your own experience, the better you will be able to describe the fictional experiences of your characters. Try searching your mind for a very clear memory of your own. What did you see? What did you feel? What did you smell? Now use this memory to construct a short story by throwing in the \u2018What if?\u2019 question. For example, \u2018What if this character had a similar experience?\u2019\r\nHint: Read the daily papers\r\nThey say fact is stranger than fiction, and in no place is this more evident than in the daily news. Like eavesdropping, newspapers and news reports can also provide writers with an interesting case study of real life. Try collecting some news clippings of extraordinary stories, and imagine a character of your own witnessing these events. How does it affect them? How are they involved? Does their experience challenge what was reported in the clipping? Perhaps experiment with different points of view \u2013 try writing the story from the varying perspectives of those involved.\r\n\r\nReading about the events from all over the world may inspire a contemporary moment in your short story. Image Credit: Image Credit: Markus Spiske via Flickr Creative Commons.\r\nHint: Make a playlist\r\nAnother excellent prompt for the imagination is music. For example, try listening to a random song on your ipod. What mood does the song create? What images come to mind? What story do the lyrics tell? Now try writing a story around one or more of these elements.\r\nHint: General writing prompts\r\nIf none of these techniques seem appealing to you, the Internet is full of writing prompts that may ignite your creativity. For example, a list of writing prompts may be found at\u00a0Writer\u2019s Digest, and\u00a0Creative Writing Now. Or, alternatively, you can try Writer\u2019s Edit\u2019s very own list of writing prompts, right\u00a0here.\r\n3. Experiment\r\nSometimes just playing around with ideas can actually lead to some of our best work. Before writing your story, try composing a few \u2018test\u2019 paragraphs. Use these paragraphs to trial a number of different voices, styles and points of view (POV). Try writing in first person, then try writing in third person, or possibly even second person (although be wary that second person narratives are rare, and difficult to do well). Experiment with different tenses. Change things around and try to find the style, voice, POV, and so on, best suited for the story you wish to create. For more on finding the right tense\/POV\/etc for your story, try\u00a0here.\r\n\r\nAnother great way to experiment is to try free-writing. Free-writing, much like stream of consciousness, is high speed, continuous writing, free from planning or self-editing\/censorship. This type of writing can unlock phrases and ideas, hidden away in our subconscious, that may otherwise prove elusive due to our tendency to over-think. For more on free-writing and its benefits, try\u00a0here.\r\n\r\nPlaying and experimenting with different techniques and POVs may help bring out the best in your short story. Image Credit: Markus Spiske via Flickr Creative Commons.\r\n4. Plan\r\nDespite the previous point about overthinking, there is also something to be said about the benefits of planning. Once you have a solid idea for your work, it is a good idea to plan your story. Although some writers work better with plans than others, mapping out and structuring your ideas can be a highly beneficial process. American novelist, John Gardner once wrote:\r\nWriting a novel is like heading out over the open sea in a small boat. If you have a plan and a course laid out, that\u2019s helpful."\r\nAlthough short stories may not seem as epic an expedition as a novel, the overall structure of the genres are not so different. Like the novel, a short story is a form of prose narrative, expected to contain a beginning, middle and end. Thus, just as it is helpful to plan a novel, it is also helpful to plan a short story.\r\n\r\nEssentially, what a plan does is provide us with a \u2018print preview\u2019 of our work. It allows us to see clearly any kinks or problems we may need to smooth over before we commit our story to its final form. (For more on the benefits of planning, try Writer\u2019s Edit\u2019s article on\u00a0How To Plan Your Book.) You can plan in whatever way is most helpful to you \u2013 whether this be mind-mapping, jotting down your key plot points, writing character profiles, or mapping out the order of events. You may also want to try planning your story using\u00a0Freytag\u2019s Five Stage Story Structure\u00a0as a guide.\r\n\r\nPlanning your short story can be just as crucial as planning your book... Image Credit: Pete via Flickr Creative Commons.\r\n5. Know the Specifics\r\nIf you are composing your short story with the hope of publishing, it is important to take care of the finer details. For instance, who are you writing for? Some writers set out to write a short story with a particular magazine or publication already in mind. However, it is often best not to write this way, unless you have already been commissioned to do so. Writing with a sole publication in mind could not only restrict\/limit your story, but could also be potentially devastating if the publication in question decides not to publish. Instead, it is often far better to write the story that feels right for you, then search for magazines that suit the tone\/feel of\u00a0your\u00a0work, rather than the other way around. In other words, be true to yourself, write what you\u2019re passionate about, and eventually, you and your story will find the right home.\r\n\r\nNevertheless, it is important to demonstrate to any magazine you submit to that you are familiar with their publication, and their style. Before you submit anywhere, ensure you subscribe to the publication, or at least thoroughly read a number of past editions. Make sure that your story suits the publication, and be ready to convince the editors exactly\u00a0why\u00a0your story would be suited to their magazine.\r\n\r\nBut knowing who you\u2019re writing for is about more than knowing the magazines you approach. It is also about knowing your audience. What genre does your story fall under? What themes\/issues does it deal with? Once you know who your story will appeal to, you will be better equipped to find that \u2018home\u2019 your story is looking for. For example, if your protagonist is a teenager, and your story explores issues of coming of age\/crossing the threshold into adulthood, chances are your story falls under \u2018young adult fiction\u2019. You should therefore direct your story to a magazine with a largely young adult readership. If, however, your young protagonist happens to be a skilled wizard\/dragon-rider, fighting a war against evil goblins, your story\u2019s ultimate genre is likely fantasy, and you may be better off researching which publications appeal most to fantasy readers.\r\n\r\nIdentifying your target audience, and finding ways to direct your work towards them will provide your story with the ideal environment and conditions to flourish, so always try to keep them in mind.\r\n\r\nBe courageous and dive into that first draft! Image Credit: This Year\u2019s Love via Flickr Creative Commons.\r\n6. Write it!\r\nOnce you have your idea, you\u2019ve played around with different ways of writing, and you have a clear plan for your plot\/structure, you can begin to write. Often getting started is the hardest step, so try not to put this off for too long. If you need help, refer to your plan or use some of your experiments as a starting point. Remember, you can always redraft and\/or edit later if you are not happy with anything you put down. The most important thing is to get started, and the rest will follow.\r\n7. Don\u2019t Rush\r\nOne of the biggest mistakes writers can make is to become so focussed on the end game of getting published, that they don\u2019t take the time to perfect what they\u2019re writing. Often the result of this is an obvious sloppiness to the work, possible plot-holes, contradictions, inconsistences, and an overall rushed feeling that doesn\u2019t do justice to the story being told. So take your time. Don\u2019t rush. If you want to get your story out there, create yourself a writing habit.\r\n\r\nSet aside time each day that is purely for writing. To maximise your productivity, limit your distractions during this time. Shut off Facebook, find a room with no television (or a quiet spot outdoors), switch your phone to silent, and just get as much writing done as you possibly can. By making this a regular habit, you can afford your writing the time and focus it deserves.\r\n\r\nFinding the time to write is one of the many challenges that come with writing. Image Credit: Stevie Gill via Creative Commons.\r\n8. Edit\r\nOnce you have a completely finished draft on your hands, you can begin to edit. Editing is an extremely crucial process that allows us to mould our work into its best, possible shape. It is through editing that we ensure our writing is as effective as possible. For any writer, the first step to editing is to\u00a0edit your own work, however, when editing your work, it is also important to consider the feedback of others. Try taking your story along to a writing group. Writing groups are a great place to seek\u00a0constructive feedback from other writers. This feedback, along with the workshop nature of these\u00a0groups,\u00a0can prove absolutely invaluable when revising your work.\u00a0During the editing process, it is also highly beneficial to consult the advice of a beta reader. A beta reader can serve as a proof-reader, check the story for effectiveness, plot-holes, consistency, believability, and so on. If you do not already know an\u00a0ideal beta reader, writing groups are a great place to meet them, so get out there!\r\n\r\nWe cannot stress enough the importance of editing your work... Image Credit: Image Credit: Nic McPhee\r\n\r\nOnce you have edited, re-edited, and edited some more, you should finally find your story is in a form you are happy to call \u2018finished\u2019. Now you\u2019re ready to try submitting your work to the magazines\/publications you have properly researched as suitable for your story. This can be a daunting task, and you may well face a number of knock-backs, but if you persevere, you will eventually find that you have a published copy of your short story, right there in front of you, and for all to see.