Don’t cut any corners.
The literary hook.
Tell the story obliquely.
Check for consistency.
Get someone else’s view.
Write to live and live to write.
Don’t cut any corners
Just because short stories are shorter than novels doesn’t mean that you can get away with a lesser literary standard. Even a 1000 word story, requires good writing, good rewriting, and excellent grammar and punctuation for it to be accepted by a professional publisher. Without those elements you are unlikely to get published, let alone paid. Here are some general guidelines for getting your short stories up to scratch.
The literary hook
A short story has to grab the reader’s attention immediately, so start with an exciting opening sentence or paragraph. If done correctly this will hook the reader and have them asking themselves what happens next. Likewise, have an ending that answers all the questions your story had the readers asking themselves.
Have characters that you believe could be read people. Have them react to events as real people with their personalities would. Create whole histories for them, even if you’re only going to use a tiny fraction of it in your story.
Make your dialogue realistic and believable. One of the best ways to get a feel dialogue is listen to how people talk. Another way is to read writers who are good at dialogue and analyze how they do it. Writers like Stephen King, Charles Dickens, Alice Walker, Woody Allen, and many others are excellent at writing dialogue. There is also a book called Dialogue by Gloria Kempton (Reader’s Digest Books), which goes into array of techniques and exercises that help with dialogue composition.
Tell the story obliquely
Whenever possible use dialog and events instead of outright exposition (explaining directly to the reader) to explain things and move your story along.
Check for consistency
Check and double-check your story for plot consistency, character consistency, spelling errors and so on. Make sure you keep to the same tense throughout the story. Imagine you are reading the story for the first time. Does all of it make sense?
Get someone else’s view
When working on the same story for days – or sometimes weeks – on end, it is easy to overlook its flaws. So, get as many literate people as possible to read your story before submitting it. Writer’s groups are very useful in this regard and for getting much-needed (and it is almost always much-needed in the case of new writers) feedback on your work. Search the internet for a writer’s club in your area. If there are none start one.
Write to live and live to write
As for how a writer should live – these are the simple guidelines: –
Analyse what you read and write,
Have other, literate people analyse what you have written,
Never give up!
And most importantly – Experience as much of life as possible. The more you experience the more you will have to write about.