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Writing

Creativity Exercise: How to Write a Story in One Week or Less

Written by the MasterClass staff

Last updated: Oct 2, 2020 • 3 min read

Even the best fiction writers experience writer’s block. Sometimes, the story ideas just don’t come, and writing fiction feels like a chore. Instead of lamenting the fact that you can’t come up with an idea as good as Harry Potter, you can try writing a single short story within a strict time limit. Making yourself complete a creative writing project in a short amount of time can help you push through writer’s block, develop better writing habits, and ensure that you emerge with a finished draft of a short story.

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How to Write a Story in 6 Days

Great short stories can be written in a very short amount of time, but it requires discipline and dedication. The first stage is telling yourself: “I will write a story in one week.” Once you’ve committed to the exercise, here’s a step-by-step guide of writing tips that will help you write a good story in one week:

  • Day 1: Choose and develop your story idea. The first step of short story writing is settling on an idea. Maybe you’ve been sitting on a list of great short story ideas that you haven’t had time to fully flesh out. Maybe you have an idea for a main character or a plot element that needs expanding. If you’re completely out of ideas, try using writing prompts to help you brainstorm. Once you’ve settled on a good-story idea, spend some time outlining the basic details of your short story. What’s your point of view? Are you writing in the first person or third person? Will we be hearing the characters’ thoughts out loud? What’s your basic storyline? Does your story take place all around the world, or in a single location? The more you outline, the faster you’ll be able to write your first draft.
  • Day 2: Write your first act. On your second day, focus on writing the first act of your three-act story structure. Good writers establish the characters, conflict, setting, and tone of their story in the opening pages. The first act should contain the seeds of character development and a healthy dose of rising action in order to hook readers. If you’re writing a thriller, these pages should establish the stakes of your hero’s mission or dilemma. If you’re writing a comedy, your first act should have plenty of humor to entice the reader to keep going.
  • Day 3: Get through the climax. Once you’ve laid the groundwork of your story’s characters and plot, it’s time to push through act two. How can you ratchet up the tension for your protagonist? What have you established about your character or the story’s central conflict that can pay off in the second act? What seeds do you need to plant in order to arrive at a satisfying end of the story? Answering these questions should propel you to your climax by the end of your third day of writing.
  • Day 4: Finish the story. By the end of day four, you should be looking at a completed story. In order to get there, you need to land at your third act resolution. What are the consequences of the climax for your protagonist? How has your main character changed from the beginning of your story? Do you want the story to end on a hopeful or melancholy note?
  • Day 5: Edit. Now that you have a draft, it’s time to go back and revise. Read your entire short story or novella with fresh eyes. Are there plot holes? Does your character act in a way that feels consistent and plausible? In addition to resolving big-picture questions, now is the time to dive into the minutiae. Make sure your choice of words is specific and vivid. Look for typos or grammatical errors.
  • Day 6: Analyze. Now that you’ve finished an entire short story, all that’s left is to decide what you want to do with it. Maybe you’ll want to submit it to a literary magazine that specializes in flash fiction writing. Perhaps you’ll choose to publish your story on your own blog and tweet out a link to it. Maybe you’ll choose to set this single story aside and write an entirely new story. Remember, even the best writers occasionally write bad stories. That’s okay. The purpose of this exercise is to see a short story through from start to finish. The process is its own reward—and once you've developed the ability to write a short story in a week, you can increase the speed of your process to write a story a day.

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