How to write a great story

Published 3:06 pm Sunday, July 7, 2019

So you have a story idea you want to write? Here’s a completely accurate step-by-step guide on how to do it, including what challenges and obstacles you’ll face along the way. Writing is fun, y’all. I promise!

Step one: Get excited about your story idea. Think about it all the time—in the shower, while you’re driving, during that boring conversation with that person you don’t really want to talk to. Spend weeks, months, or even years just thinking about your idea. Let the idea grow on you like a fungus.

Step two: Make an outline. You don’t want to forget anything, so make a long, unnecessarily detailed list of absolutely everything. Use fancy-looking bullet points so you feel extra accomplished.

Step three: Actually start writing. Sit down and put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard if you prefer). Make sure you find a very cozy spot to write in. (This will be helpful for when you want to take a nap instead of writing.)

Step four: Delete everything you just wrote and start again. Convince yourself those first few paragraphs just didn’t feel right. It was all exposition, and it was SUPER BORING.

Step five: Immediately regret deleting everything because those paragraphs weren’t too bad, right?? Frantically try to remember what you deleted. Get concerned because your outline has more words than your story so far.

Step six: Think about your idea again. Feel enthusiastic like you were at the beginning. Remember all those cool scenes you thought about earlier. Use that excitement to fuel your fingers as you start writing again. Wow, see, you have written so much!

Step seven: Read over what you wrote and realize it’s not as cool on paper as it is in your head. Uh oh. This could be a problem.

Step eight: Have an existential crisis. Question your life choices. Are you ever going to write this story? Does anyone want to read this story? Why are you doing this? Are you even capable of stringing complete sentences together?

Step nine: “Take a break” from writing for a bit. Now is the time to catch up on everything else in your life. Deep clean the bathroom. Balance your checkbook. Go for a walk and smell all of the roses. Learn a second language. Do your taxes five months early.

Step ten: Start to feel guilty because you never finished that story. Think about how excited you were at the beginning, and how much you miss that.

Step eleven: Edit everything you’ve written so far. And then edit it again. And again. And again. And again. Oh, maybe it’s not as bad as you thought it was the first time.

Step twelve: ???

Step thirteen: Wow, somehow you have a finished story, and it’s actually quite decent! Yay!

And there you have it, folks! This is absolutely how stories get written. I mean, I can’t be the only one who does all this, right??

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or 252-332-7206.