Writing the Short Story

Create your story start to finish using time-saving tips about the seven story essentials that will help you break through the competition. Discover where your spark of an idea may arise and how to approach drafting a story that works from the start. Learn how to find publications and organize your submissions. Option 1 and Option 2 writers complete exercises to draft the first 1,000 words of a story and then submit a completed short story (up to 2,500 words) for review by the instructor. Option 2 writers receive additional professional polishing assistance on a subsequent draft (up to 3,000 words).

At a glance

What: Writing the Short Story

When: Start anytime, complete within 1 year

Where: Online

Cost: Option 1: 2.0 CEUs $175 | Option 2: 3.0 CEUs (includes critique) $200

Continuing education credit: 30 hours (3.0 CEUs)

Instructor: Timothy Storm

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For additional information, contact Laurie Scheer: 608-265-3972

The short story is, as writer Cate Kennedy says, “the diving pool: You go in deep on one breath, put out your hand to touch some deep, invisible spot, flex and push yourself back up to break the surface again.” Whether you’re a short story writer seeking to perfect your dive or whether you’re seeking an exercise for treading the water of your longer work, writing the short story will help you hone your craft and understand the inner workings of story.

Who is this course for?

  • Anyone new to the short story form and earnest about a professional approach
  • Intermediate and advanced writers who are returning to short stories after a hiatus or who need a refresher
  • Any writers wanting to improve their understanding and execution of impactful stories
  • Novelists and other writers wishing to market alternate forms of storytelling to their current readers
  • Writers who want to write efficiently and finish what they start

Course syllabus

Unit 1: Roughing Foundation
You dive into your story’s possible opening with instruction on the foundational elements of the short story: rendering the world with concrete, physical detail; giving your character a driving desire; and presenting conflict (problems and/or obstacles). Differentiate between scene-level and story-level desire, and understand how conflict reveals character. Homework will challenge you to get these foundational elements into your story immediately.

Unit 2: Roughing Next Steps
The next steps to “roughing” your story include choosing a POV, crafting your dialogue, plotting, and conceptualizing your ending. Discover the most common POV options for writers and vital considerations for each choice. Learn the rules of dialogue punctuation and attribution, and the keys to engaging and interesting dialogue. Make plotting less intimidating with a differentiation between simple and complex structure. End with impact. Homework will challenge you to put these next steps to practice.

Unit 3: Shaping
The “Shaping” unit takes the seven “Roughing” essentials to a more advanced level so you can make your story tighter and more powerful. Learn how to distinguish significant detail from non-essential detail with a paradigm that breaks details into three categories. Explore the importance of motivation and transformative conflict. Deepen your POV narration with mastery of psychic distance, and tighten up your dialogue with attention to stage business. Avoid the pitfalls of plotting and learn tips for making your story more meaningful. Homework includes revision of your story-in-progress, so you can put these “Shaping” concepts to the test.

Unit 4: Polishing
Revise for shape and sound. Discover 13 common errors and editor pet peeves. Receive pro advice on time-saving ways to go about finding suitable publications. Understand the tiered submission system and get valuable tips for jumping through the hoops successfully with professional cover letters, proper manuscript format, and attention to submission guidelines. Option 1 students complete their short story for critique. Option 2 students also submit a subsequent revision for further critique and professional polishing with the instructor’s guidance.