Writing Short Stories: The Essential Guide
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Writing Short Stories: The Essential Guide

Discover how to create short fiction for magazines and other markets
Bestselling
4.4 (174 ratings)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a course's star rating by considering a number of different factors such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
2,475 students enrolled
Created by Jane Bettany
Last updated 8/2016
English
Current price: $10 Original price: $95 Discount: 89% off
5 hours left at this price!
30-Day Money-Back Guarantee
Includes:
  • 2.5 hours on-demand video
  • 2 Articles
  • 40 Supplemental Resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
What Will I Learn?
  • By the end of this course you will understand the different elements of short fiction writing and how to weave them into a completed story.
  • You'll learn how to identify suitable markets, and how to edit, prepare and submit your manuscript.
View Curriculum
Requirements
  • You don't need any prior knowledge or experience to complete this course and you definitely DON'T need any academic qualifications - although students who complete the course usually enjoy reading, have a love of words, a creative imagination, and a burning desire to write.
  • There are no specific course requirements, although access to a word processor will be required to type up your manuscript before submitting it to an editor.
Description

If you want to write fiction, then short stories are a great place to start and they can be a good source of income. This course will show you how to find ideas, how to put your stories together, and how to submit them to an editor.

You'll learn the essential elements of short story writing such as plot and structure, dialogue, characterisation, setting, tense, viewpoint, and much more.

Why not give it a try? Sell one short story and the course will more than pay for itself!

With over 1,500 students, this is my most popular course. Sign up today and learn the art of short fiction.

And don't forget that the course is backed by Udemy's 30 day money-back guarantee. If you're not completely satisfied, you can ask for a full, no-questions-asked refund - which means you've got absolutely nothing to lose by enrolling on the course TODAY.

During the course we'll look at:

  • story openings
  • conflict
  • using flashback
  • creating characters
  • writing dialogue
  • viewpoint and tense
  • settings and description, and
  • how to end your story.

You'll be able to download writing exercises, a list of current short story markets (including how much you can expect to be paid), lecture handouts, and short stories.

Towards the end of the course we'll look at one of the most important parts of the writing process - editing. You'll also get tips on proofreading, and how to prepare and submit your manuscript to fiction editors.

And in case you get struck down with it, we'll look at how to overcome writer's block.

The course will be delivered using video lectures, writing exercises, information sheets, stories to read, and a recap quiz.

Who is the target audience?
  • This course is aimed at anyone interested in learning the craft of writing short stories. No previous experience is necessary - all you need is a creative imagination, plenty of enthusiasm, and a willingness to write!
Students Who Viewed This Course Also Viewed
Curriculum For This Course
48 Lectures
03:33:53
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Introduction
2 Lectures 08:05

This welcome video looks at how the course will help you as a writer and considers one of the most important characteristics you'll need - persistence. There's also an insight into my writing background and why I decided to create this course.

Preview 05:08

This short, 3-minute presentation provides a quick overview of what the course will cover.

Course overview (the 3-minute tour)
02:57
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So what are short stories?
3 Lectures 10:50

Here we define the term 'short story' and the ideal word count for your story.

How short is short?
04:14

This video looks at some of the different short story genres. Also included is an exercise that will help you focus on the kind of story you'd like to write (you will need to download this as a PDF from the downloadable materials section on the dashboard).

Story types - what kind do you want to write?
06:36

This is Writing Exercise 1, which was included as a download in Lecture 4 - What Kind of Stories Do You Want to Write? I've included it as a separate lecture here so that it can be easily viewed by students who are accessing the course using a mobile app.

DOWNLOAD - Writing Exercise 1 - What's Your Story Type?
5 pages
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Identify your market
5 Lectures 25:28

In this video you'll learn why it's so important to find a market before you start to write your story. You'll also discover the best ways to analyse a magazine's requirements and find writing markets for your work.

Also included is a downloadable list of some of the most popular short story markets in the USA, UK and other countries.

Find your market before you start to write
10:57

This is the list of Short Story Markets that was included as a download in the previous lecture - Find Your Market Before You Start to Write. I've included it as a separate lecture so that it can be easily viewed by students who are accessing the course using a mobile app.

DOWNLOAD - Some Short Story Markets
7 pages

This video lesson will help you to understand how to write a story that meets the editor's requirements.

Analysing the short story markets
06:27

If you've got an idea for a story that doesn't quite fit the magazine markets, you may want to consider other ways to get your story published, including competitions, online publication and self-publishing.

This lesson also includes a downloadable file with tips on how to increase your chances in writing competitions.

Other ways to get your stories published
08:04

This is the Competition Tips handout which was included as a download in Lecture 9 - Other Ways To Get Your Stories Published. I've included it as a separate document lecture so that it can be easily viewed by students who are accessing the course using a mobile app.

DOWNLOAD - Competition Tips
4 pages
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Short story elements
20 Lectures 01:21:39

Where do you get your ideas? This is the question that all writers get asked. In this lesson we'll look at some of the ways that writers can generate ideas and themes for their stories.

The lesson includes some downloadable writing exercises called Cook-Up-A-Story, which provide story prompts for anyone who is struggling to come up with ideas of their own.

Where do you get your ideas?
10:54

This is the Cook-up-a-Story Exercise which was included as a download with Lecture 11 - Where Do You Get Your Ideas? I've included it as a separate document lecture here so that it can be easily viewed by students who are accessing the course using a mobile app.

Also included are downloadable PDFs that includes some bonus Cook-up-a-Story ideas and some extra Cook-up-a-Story ideas.

DOWNLOAD - Cook-up-a-Story
2 pages

Successful short stories are those that have an opening that draws the reader (and magazine editor!) right into the story. A good opening makes people want to read on.

This video lesson looks at some of the best ways to create a good opening and get your story off to a flying start!

Creating a great opening
10:32

This video begins by considering the differences between plot and structure. It then takes a look at the traditional plot of a short story, before explaining some of the different ways writers can structure their story.

This lesson includes materials for you to download and keep, including a Plot Diagram, and a template to help you plan your story before you start to write.

Preview 08:54

This is the Plot Structure handout which was included as a download in Lecture 14 - Structure and Plot. 

DOWNLOAD - Plot Structure
1 page

This is the Story Plan Worksheet which was included as a download in Lecture 14 - Structure and Plot. I've included it as a separate document lecture so that it can be easily viewed by students who are accessing the course using a mobile app.

DOWNLOAD - Story Plan Worksheet
2 pages

Flashback is an useful way to reveal important information about things that have happened before your story begins. It's also a great way to develop character motivation.

In this video you'll learn the best way to approach flashback when writing short stories. You can read flashback in action in a downloadable short story called 'Gently Does It'. You can also download a commented version of the story, which includes insights, notes and observations on how flashback has been used throughout the story.

Using flashback
05:44

This is the Story 'Gently Does It' which was included as a download with Lecture 17 - Using Flashback. I've included it as a separate document so that it can be easily viewed by students who are accessing the course using a mobile app.

DOWNLOAD - Story 'Gently Does It'
4 pages

This is the Story 'Gently Does It' download with my comments as the author and which was included as a download with Lecture 17 - Using Flashback. I've included it as a separate document so that it can be easily viewed by students who are accessing the course using a mobile app.

DOWNLOAD - Story 'Gently Does It' with author comments
4 pages

Before you start to write, you should ask yourself: 'Whose story is it?' Who is your main character? In this lesson you'll learn how to do this and discover how to write in both the first and third person viewpoints.

Viewpoint
07:43

Traditionally, short stories are written in the past tense, but in recent years there has been a growing trend towards writing in the present tense. This video explains the differences between the two and explores some of the pros and cons of using the different tenses.

Tense
04:16

Conflict is the essential ingredient in any short story. It is the problem or barrier that is stopping your main character from achieving their goal. Does it have to be something dramatic or earth shattering? How else can you create conflict? Watch this video to find out.

The essential ingredient: conflict
05:44

In short fiction you don't have time to churn out long descriptive passages about your characters. This video talks about how to take a more subtle approach to characterisation to create fictional people your readers will empathise with.

There's also a downloadable PDF with this lesson on the best way to choose names for your characters.

Creating characters
04:48

This is the Naming Your Characters download included in the previous lecture. I've included it as a separate document lecture so that it can be easily viewed by students who are accessing the course using a mobile app.

DOWNLOAD - Naming Your Characters
3 pages

In a short story, every word must count. Descriptions of your setting and your characters need to be an integral part of your story, rather than being written as heavy chunks of prose. This lesson looks at some of the ways you can describe the setting of your story and the people in it.

Making the five senses part of your descriptions is a great way to bring stories to life. This lecture includes a downloadable PDF handout that will show you how.

Settings and description
05:35

This is the Using The Five Senses handout which was included as a download with Lecture 25 - Settings and Description. I've included it as a separate document lecture here so that it can be easily viewed by students who are accessing the course using a mobile app.

DOWNLOAD - Using the Five Senses
2 pages

This video looks at the three functions of dialogue in fiction and explores how to make the dialogue in your stories sound realistic. It also explains the best approach to introducing dialect or accents in your fiction.

Writing dialogue
09:20

Your resolution will depend on the kind of story you've written. This lesson considers some of the important factors to think about when bringing the strands of your story together at the end.

Included is another downloadable story which demonstrate how 'theme' can be woven into the structure of a story, particularly at the end.

Bringing it to an end
06:19

This is the story 'The Big Freeze' which was included as a download with the last lecture. I've included it as a separate document lecture here so that it can be easily viewed by students who are accessing the course using a mobile app.

DOWNLOAD - The Big Freeze
4 pages

In this short lesson, I explain how The Big Freeze fits in with the plot diagram provided in Lecture 15.

Mapping The Big Freeze to the plot diagram
01:50
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Editing
7 Lectures 12:43

Editing is a vital part of the writing process and can often take longer than writing the first draft. This lecture takes a look at some of the things you'll need to consider as you edit your work.

Also included is a short editing before-and-after exercise.

Kill your darlings!
10:15

This is Editing Exercise Part A, which was included as a download with Lecture 30 - Kill Your Darlings. I've included it as a separate document here so that it can be easily viewed by students who are accessing the course using a mobile app.

DOWNLOAD - Editing Exercise Part A
1 page

This is Editing Exercise Part B, which was included as a download with Lecture 30 - Kill Your Darlings. I've included it as a separate document here so that it can be easily viewed by students who are accessing the course using a mobile app.

DOWNLOAD - Editing Exercise Part B
1 page

Here's another editing exercise to complete.

Another editing exercise
2 pages

This exercise is written in the first person, present tense. As you edit this short piece, consider whether changing either of those aspects could improve the overall effect.

An extra editing exercise
1 page

It's important that you proofread your work before sending it out to an editor. This video and the accompanying PDF download provide some useful tips on the best way to check your work.

Proofreading your work
02:28

This is the Proofreading Tips handout which was included as a download with Lecture 33. I've included it as a separate document here so that it can be easily viewed by students who are accessing the course using a mobile app.

DOWNLOAD - Proofreading Tips
3 pages
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Submitting your story
7 Lectures 10:01

Once you've written your first story and you've edited and proofread it thoroughly, you can submit it to the editor of your target magazine.

This video includes information about how to format your manuscript, the submission process, and what to expect once you've sent the story off.

Included are downloadable examples of manuscript layouts, cover sheets and a covering letter.

How to submit your story
05:25

This is the Example Cover Sheet handout which was included as a download with Lecture 35. It's included here as a separate document so that it can be easily viewed by students who are accessing the course using a mobile app.

The title of the story will obviously have to be changed to your own title, and your own name will need to be included as the author. If you want to write under a pen name, see the next DOWNLOAD example for further details.

DOWNLOAD - Cover Sheet
1 page

This is the Example Cover Sheet handout for anyone wanting to write under a pen name. The handout was included as a download with Lecture 35. It's included here as a separate document so that it can be easily viewed by students who are accessing the course using a mobile app.

You will obviously need to change the title to the title of your own story and add in your pen name and real name in the places indicated.

DOWNLOAD - Cover Sheet including a pen name
1 page

This is the Manuscript Example handout which was included as a download with Lecture 35. It's included here as a separate document so that it can be easily viewed by students who are accessing the course using a mobile app.

Obviously you will need to insert your own story title and name and then add in your story in the format show (listen to Lecture 35 for more details).

DOWNLOAD - Manuscript example
2 pages

Here's an example of the first four pages of the manuscript submission for the short story The Big Freeze. This example shows how dialogue should be laid out within the document.

Manuscript example including dialogue
4 pages

This is the Example Cover Letter to accompany your story. This handout was included as a download with Lecture 35. It's included here as a separate document so that it can be easily viewed by students who are accessing the course using a mobile app.

A covering letter isn't essential, but I personally think it's a good idea and will help you make contact with magazine editors. Listen to Lecture 35 for further information.

DOWNLOAD - Example of a Covering Letter
1 page

As a writer, you'll have to get used to rejection. Not all the stories you send off will be accepted, but you can often learn a lot from those that don't make it. This video will prepare you for the prospect of having your work rejected and encourage you to keep trying until you succeed.

Dealing with rejection
04:36
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Wrap up
3 Lectures 08:05

This video looks at some of the best ways to overcome writer's block and get your writing moving again.

Keeping writer’s block at bay
03:18

This final wrap-up video emphasises the importance of writing regularly.

Preview 02:17

12-Step Action Plan
02:30

Test your knowledge and review what you've learned so far

Test your knowledge
20 questions
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Bonus Section
1 Lecture 01:59

Thank you so much for joining me on this course. I hope you’ve found it useful. Please feel free to get in touch at any time if you have any questions about your writing projects.

COURSE COUPONS

If you’ve enjoyed learning with me and would like to sign up for another of my courses, you can use the code STUDENTSPECIAL to get them for $12 (or use the links below):

Write Stories With a Twist for $12

https://www.udemy.com/write-stories-with-a-twist/?couponCode=STUDENTSPECIAL

Writing Non-Fiction: The Essential Guide for $12

https://www.udemy.com/writing-non-fiction/?couponCode=STUDENTSPECIAL

MONTHLY CONTEST TO WIN A WRITING CRITIQUE

If you have completed 85% or more of the lessons in this course, you will automatically be entered into my monthly prize draw to win a writing critique (see the video in this Bonus Section for more details).

KEEP IN TOUCH

Finally, if you’d like to keep in touch, visit my blog at www.writingsuccess.co.uk/blog for more writing resources and updates or follow me on Twitter @JaneBettany

Bonus lecture
01:59
About the Instructor
Jane Bettany
4.4 Average rating
275 Reviews
3,283 Students
3 Courses
Writer, Publisher, Creative Writing Teacher

Jane is a writer of short stories and non-fiction articles that have been published in women's magazines in the UK (such as My Weekly, People's Friend, Yours and Woman's Weekly), as well as in literary magazines and newspapers.

Her journey as a writer began with a childhood love of reading and books. As an adult, she enrolled for an evening class in creative writing and began to produce short stories. Her first story was published in 1992.

In 2004 Jane completed an MA in Creative Writing, which she found both challenging and enjoyable because it gave her an opportunity to try different genres and experiment with writing styles.

Jane has been a teacher of creative writing since 2007, and is always amazed at how much talent is out there and how many untold stories are waiting to be written. She loves helping others to develop their short story skills and find their writing voice.

Jane is based in Derby the UK and, as well as writing and teaching, she also runs a publishing and communications company.