Write a Short Story Every Week — It’ll Help Your Writing Career

Write a Short Story Every Week — It’ll Help Your Writing Career

I have worshipped Ray Bradbury ever since I first read Martian Chronicles in high school, which immediately become one of my favorite books.

As I started researching him more as a writer, I discovered that his philosophy for success is incredibly simple:

Read a ton. Write a ton. Submit a ton. Repeat.

It is, perhaps, not the most elegant approach—it’s the artist’s equivalent of slamming your head into a wall, over and over, until you finally break through to the other side (especially when you think about all the rejection letters you’ll collect along the way).

But it is also a remarkably democratic approach to art—anyone can do this, and anyone can find success, if they simply persist. As a writer trying to work my way up, I find this comforting.

Even better, it seems to be a very effective approach, based on my own anecdotal observations of the authors who “make it.”  A few get lucky, sure, but the vast majority simply persist.

So I take Bradbury’s advice pretty seriously.

One of his most specific tips for writers is to write one story a week.

Why short stories?

New writers typically set their sights on writing a novel.

There are good reasons for this—it is the most popular form of written fiction, and by no coincidence, it is the form most of us are familiar with.

But most writers who tackle novels have to write a few of them before they actually get published.

A few.

My first novel took five years to write. I’ve gotten a bit more efficient since then, but still. That’s a massive time investment to simply learn the craft.

But what if you took a fresh stab at the foundational elements of storytelling every week instead of once every few years?

You’ll hone your craft a lot of faster.

Writing Short stories is the perfect way to do this.

Playing the odds

Writing a story a week also allows you to create a large body of work, which increases your odds of creating something publishable.

Or, as Bradbury put it:

“It’s not possible to write 52 bad stories in a row.”

When you put it that way, writing a story a week is simply putting the odds in your favor—something very few writers feel they have, and would do almost anything to gain.

And you’re not only improving your odds by quantity. You’re also improving your odds by quality.

With every new story, you’re learning something new about writing well and building up those creative writing muscles.

Get published

What do you do with all of those stories, once you have them? Submit them for publication.

Getting your work out there is another key element of Bradbury’s recipe for success.

In fact, he felt persistence in submissions was so important, he recommended focusing on the process itself (submissions), rather than the results (publication).

Bradbury recommended picking a wall and setting a goal of covering it in rejection slips. And, he promised that before you can reach this goal, you’ll be published.

Commit to stick with it

Writing a story a week is not for the faint-hearted. I have done this before, and it was a lot harder to do than I anticipated.

But it also forced me to come up with completely new ideas, focus on my craft and prioritize my writing.

If you work full-time or have other major demands on your time, I don’t recommend doing this all the time. Consider it a creative exercise for a shorter time period, like a few months.

Expect it to be hard, and be prepared to stick with it. In the end, you will be a better writer and have some great work to share with the world.

How do you practice your craft?

Filed Under: Craft
Danny Iny from Firepole Marketing

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20 comments

  • Ann Evans says:

    New Year’s gratitude for this. I go through a phase of submissions every year, for about a month, I submit and write and submit. Every year one or two stories get published. It brings my resume up to date and also hones my skiils. With every book I read, I learn something, and every year the stories are a bit different.

    Thank you.

  • Brenda Hill says:

    Emily…this is one of the best blogs I have read on
    writing. It is inspiritation for my 3 writing groups in
    Mexico, California and Sarasota, Florida.
    I knew Ray when he published his first short story with
    Boys’ Life Magazine. I was the book editor, and didn’t
    change one word or coma. As I recall his check was
    for 36 dollars. We met again at Barnaby and Mary Conrad’s Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference, after I published my first book. Ray, a wonderful and humble man, told me that he put that check on his rejection wall.

  • For the sheer honing of craft, I have preferred a different discipline, the daily writer’s sketch. Just as a visual artist will keep a sketchbook that is not intended for sale but simply to experiment frequently with ways of rendering forms, textures and moods, a writer can grow a lot by writing short passages with no preparation or revision, especially if this is done every day for a significant period.

    I give myself a time limit (my favorite is just five minutes), read a short prompt such as a title or opening sentence, and start writing. When time runs out, I stop, mid-sentence if necessary.

    The first several times I tried it years ago, I struggled a bit, and the results were nothing special. But then I got the knack, and I started producing short pieces that sometimes amazed me. Did that actually come from ME???? The exercise was never going to produce publication-ready material (and was never meant to), but it gave me a sharp focus that helped with other work for money, and occasionally brought to the surface ideas for future projects.

    I’m a believer in scheduled daily writing, even if all you can fit in your schedule reliably is five minutes, and I’m a believer in using creative prompts to spark your thoughts. I sell collections of prompts or “sketch starters” in my shop on my website, but I still use them myself, too, when I want to polish my writing skills.

    It doesn’t collect a wall of rejection letters, but it does serve the purpose of honing the craft.

    Trish O’Connor
    Epiclesis Consulting LLC
    Editorial Services and Writer’s Resources
    epiclesisconsulting.com

    • Definitely Trish, this kind of dedication to creative thinking can be a great way to improve your writing too. However, I think it exercises a different part of your writing mind — there is something unique about taking yourself through the exercise of completing a full story.

  • Bradbury had it right. Short stories teach you how to get the most out of every word. Instead of writing He went to the store, for example, I might say Terry strolled to the 7-11. Same number of words.

    However, I read Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales a couple of years ago. Ray didn’t hit a home run every time. As an editor, I would have rejected a few. The greatest story in the world won’t resonate with every reader.

  • Harish Desai says:

    I have made a resolution for 2017 to write one short story every week starting from the last week of 2016. I hope, I can keep up with the resolution considering I have a full-time job to attend to. Will keep readers posted about my progress.

  • Hannah says:

    i want to try and do this. not as a resolution but rather a challenge for myself. i need someone to help me. i write romantic suspense,horror,and i want to try to write some true life experience. is there someone out there willing to help

    • In many ways, Hannah, writing about real life is not that different from writing fiction, because the best fiction contains truth about the human condition.

      Write your experiences as if they were a story. The same skills that serve you in fiction will serve you in arranging real events into a compelling narrative.

      When you have written something you think might be a good start, you may want to get some professional feedback on it. I’m sure I’m not the only editor who will critique short pieces at reasonable prices. If there is an editor you have had your eye on, check their website for short critiques or coaching sessions, or if you don’t see them listed, don’t be afraid to click the Contact link and ask if they would consider offering such services, and if so what they would charge. If they say they are not available for that, no harm done. Just move on to the next one. You’ll soon find someone who can give you some feedback to help you make your next piece stronger. (It’s also a great way to get a sense of who might be a good fit to edit your next book.)

      I wish you success with the challenge you have set for yourself!

      Trish O’Connor
      Epiclesis Consulting LLC
      Editorial Services and Writer’s Resources
      epiclesisconsulting.com

  • You’re very welcome, Hannah, and thank-you very much, Brenda!

    Trish O’Connor
    Epiclesis Consulting LLC
    Editorial Services and Writer’s Resources
    epiclesisconsulting.com

  • Onindo says:

    Howdy Emily Wenstorm!! I’m quite nervous honestly!

    I tried many, actually bunch of times to participate solemnly crashing my appreciation letters inside this grey color, white formatted frame, under ‘speak your mind’ identity box. I looked always weird O.
    I know writing is not my cup of tea but I still somehow end up wasting time brewing one!
    Yutube has many and many interesting samples of hundreds if not more videos based on approaches, prospectives & ideas best picks for O. I’m thinking all cannot possibly be the essential tools in order to achive a platform but again am not eligible to make that conclusion for myself either. So, in short- is it possible to crank a short story every week? Either that or 2 short stories a month sound ok? Specially for newbies like myself : (
    O.

  • Great piece, Emily – and too right, you can’t go wrong by follow the inestimable Bradbury’s advice.

    A regular writing routine and commitment to completion, even of short projects, is a vital discipline in any long-term writing success and one of the precepts that we foster in our Writing Retreat participants as a necessary ingredient to a fulfilling writing life.

    Most people who come to us have stories they direly wish to tell – the crux of the issue is convincing them of the value in committing themselves to working through to completion on the stories and getting them out into the world.

    A commitment to completion germinates a commitment to a high-quality writing life.

    Write on!
    Scott Stavrou

  • Rosalind Harris says:

    Great advice Emily, many thanks. I predominantly write articles and discovered in a writers support group newly formed whenever a ‘writer block exercise’ comes up I am prone to write in an article format and endeavour to write short stories for the new year. Cannot guarantee weekly but will definitely try and as stated is a great writing exercise

  • Barbara Hammell says:

    I am going to tell how it had been so long since i had had a friend maybe bought my age or maybe not near it as i have never been agist what so ever although ive certainly came across some who seem to be.but i am still looking for friends in the Arlington Tx. area hope thay have some of same interest i do. Writing reading. Chating kicking around together hope to find an activaty partner. Ifyou read this and have same interest let me know.

    • Hannah says:

      not in same area and dont know how old you are,nor do know what type of writing you do. but i would like a person to write with. i write young adult thrilers and romantic suspense. i have one story i would like to be part of an anthology(romantic suspense) would love to get some collaboration with other like mined people in an effort to get published. if you or anyone out there is interested please contact me.

  • Reena Saxena says:

    Starting with micro-fiction also helps. I have started with anything micro – ranging from 3LineTales to 300 or 500 word stories.

  • Bridger says:

    I actually write short stories pretty often anyways. Not once a week, but it wouldn’t be hard to scale up to that, I might just have to do that and start submitting them.

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