When I start a short story, I tend not to start at the beginning. I usually get an idea, a phrase, a scrap of dialogue, an image, etc. in my mind, and I start writing about it. I find this to be a much better way to start than to "begin at the beginning". So typically, my stories start somewhere in the middle, or even close to the start, but the actual start as well as the ending come after I've written a bit of the middle.
Sometimes I do start with the ending. I'll know what I want to say--what I want to close with--so I'll write that down and than essentially work backwards from there. But even that is not a steady progression. I'll write bits and pieces of the story and put them all together when I'm forming a first draft.
My recommendation to anyone who's starting to write a short story is to try not to start at the beginning. Sometimes when a writer does so, she or he can get so caught up in it "sounding just right" that writer's block might set in and the writer feels that he or she can't move forward.
I'm sure, however, that there are people who write short stories from the beginning, move to the middle, and then write the ending very successfully--especially if you really know what you want to do or if you've got the story outlined prior to starting. I'm just saying that, in my own experience, I find it easier to write in bits and pieces and then put it all together at the end when I'm ready to form it into some sort of coherent full draft.
In summary, I think it's good to keep in mind that you don't have to start at the beginning. It can be tough to do so, so if you're having trouble with it, try jumping right into the middle! It might help the process to work much better for you.
- Emily Glossner Johnson
- Hello! I'm a writer from central New York who has bipolar disorder. Among other topics, I write about mental illness and writing. I have short stories published in Lynx Eye, Lost Coast Review, The Outrider Review, Sliver of Stone Magazine, The Mondegreen, The Linnet's Wings, Cobalt Review, Breath & Shadow, The Round Up, Postscripts to Darkness, Masque & Spectacle, and several other journals. I have a poem in The Poeming Pigeon, essays about mental illness in The Ram Boutique and Amygdala Literary Magazine, and an essay in Parts Unbound: Narratives of Mental Illness & Health, a book that was published by Lime Hawk Literary Arts Collective. My story "Santa Lucia" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. I've written a novel entitled Purple Loosestrife and a novel entitled Hoping It Might Be So, both of which are as yet unpublished. I'm working on a novel called Dark and Bright as well as a memoir about my experiences with bipolar disorder. I have a B.A. in English from SUNY Buffalo and an M.A. in English from SUNY College at Brockport. I hope you enjoy your visit to my blog!