Five 10-Minute Fixes For Your Short Story

A conservation journalist friend jokes – at least I think she’s joking – that she keeps an emergency bottle of vodka under the seat of her 4x4 for her field trips. Sometimes we all need that metaphorical quick fix for our writing. (We all know drinking is a bad idea for writers, don’t we?)

Maybe you’ve written a short story for an upcoming competition and it requires an emergency edit. Perhaps you’ve dusted off a story that has been languishing in a drawer and feel it needs some spark. 

Here are five 10-minute edits for your short story to get you to the deadline:

  1. Stop and check out the view. Spend 10 minutes freewriting on the world of your story. Describe the setting around your characters. A messy teen’s bedroom. The smell of an empty church. Be as specific as you can.
  2. Get quirky. Spend another 10 minutes focusing on your main character. Give him a quirk – maybe he buys a paper from a street vendor every day. He doesn’t read it – he just feels sorry for the guy on the side of the road.
  3. Think bad thoughts. Take 10 minutes to vent on the page. The catch? Do it the 1st person in your antagonist’s viewpoint. List all the nasty things you want to do to the hero. Don’t hold back – let it all out.
  4. Plant a bomb! Squeeze in another 10 minutes brainstorming some radical plot points for your story. Does your character find a suspicious parcel on a park bench? Does she burn her soufflé just before a first date? Shake things up for your character.
  5. Arrange the flowers. Take 10 minutes to skim through your story and highlight the parts you feel are working. These are your best blooms – could they be a clue as to where the story could be stronger?  

Keep all these notes with you when you do your final edit and see if your story doesn’t emerge as tighter, quirkier and more vivid.  You may not have time to write a new story from scratch but you may be able to give an existing one a second shot at life. If not, just reach for that vodka under your seat.

Join us for Short Cuts - How to write short stories. If you want to learn how to write a book, join our  Writers Write  course in Johannesburg. 

If you enjoyed this post, read:

  1. The Top 20 Literary Quotes About Short Stories
  2. Finding Inspiration for a Short Story - Three writers who inspire me
  3. How to outline a short story for beginners
  4. Cut to the Chase - Three ways to get your short story started
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