8 Unstoppable Rules For Writing Killer Short Stories


Short fiction is the “garage band” of science fiction, claims Tor Books editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden, so it’s time to step on that fuzzbox and thrash as hard as you can without knocking over your mom’s weed-trimmer. Actually, I think Nielsen Hayden was referring to the fact that you can try more crazy experiments in short SF than in novels, because of the shorter time commitment of both writer and reader. But how can you become a super-master of the challenging form of short fiction? Here are a few suggestions.

I wouldn’t claim to be an expert on short fiction writing, but I have written over a hundred of the little fuckers, a large proportion of which have been science fiction-y. Here are a bunch of do’s and don’ts, that I discovered the hardest way possible.

The Shortlist:

  • World-building should be quick and merciless.
  • Make us believe there’s a world beyond your characters’ surroundings.
  • Fuck your characters up. A little.
  • Dive right in — but don’t sign-post your plot in big letters.
  • Experiment with form.
  • Think beyond genre.
  • Don’t confuse your gimmick with your plot.
  • Don’t fall into the character-based/plot-based dichotomy.

For full explanations of each item on the shortlist, click the link.

8 Unstoppable Rules For Writing Killer Short Stories

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