How to Put a Short Story to Paper
It all usually begins with a vague idea. Write it down, then go about your day. Eventually something else surfaces. Perhaps it has nothing to do with your first idea. Write it down anyway. Repeat over and over again. Maybe get a special dedicated pad for entering these thoughts, like this one from CW&T.
Don’t read the notes as you’re compiling. At least not until you compile a number of pages, enough that feels substantial. Then when you do eventually read it, nothing’s in order, just a bunch of seemingly random ideas.
But then something wonderful happens. You’ll see something on page one connecting to a thought on page 13. All the way through, you’ll trip over these cognates because your mind has been working all this time on its own making linkages you didn’t even realize. The unconscious mind has a very strong sense of narrative. (Think dreams).
I usually type up the notes because I have terrible handwriting. It’s still all out of order at this point, but there’s something about typing it—you begin to run the barebone ideas through your fingers, like muscle memory. I then painstakingly reorganize everything into a rough semblance of chronological order.
It’s only after this that I begin writing. After all that notating, I only wind up reading my sketchy notes two or three times, just enough to get me going.
I’ve included the first page of notes for a story and a link to the eventual published work as proof the system works. You’re welcome. And as a bonus, if anyone’s able to correctly decipher my entire page of indecipherable scrawling, I’ll come over to your house and wash your car.