Free creative writing course - Drafting and Editing

Free Short Story Writing Course – Drafting and Editing

Creative Writing, Free Writing Course, Short Story Writing

Writing is not easy – be prepared to make numerous drafts of a piece.

Save all your drafts. You will often find you want to refer back to them.

Be prepared to try out different points of view, settings, and timelines.

For some writers, myself included, drafting a story is not a continuous process. I might start in the middle and work outwards, at the beginning, or occasionally at the end and then jump back to the beginning.

Think of an artist creating a painting. First, they make numerous sketches and notes. Some of these sketches have colour added and develop into rough paintings.

Then work starts on the main canvas but, as this progresses, and the compositional elements are added from the sketches, they may be moved about or changed. Even when the painting is very advanced elements may still be moved, added, or painted out.

For me, writing a short story or a novel is the same process. I may move scenes to earlier or later on my timeline and wipe out whole chunks of text or even complete characters.

Other writers also amass numerous notes and sketches. These are filed and added to a plan until their story coalesces at which point, they start writing at the beginning and work their way through to the end.
There is no right or wrong method to your first complete draft.

Once you have a complete draft, put it to one side, forget about it, go off and write something else and let it mature like a fine wine or cheese. This can mean leaving it for days or even weeks – you need to be able to approach it from a fresh viewpoint.

I usually run the draft through a program like Grammarly before I start rereading it. Copy and paste your story into the program (do this in chapters or sections if it is long).

Note: Grammarly is neither foolproof nor aware of your writing style. Think of it like a sat nav – it only works when used by a person with some common sense.

I find it useful for finding misspellings, some grammatical errors and extra spaces. This means, when I start editing, I am concentrating on my writing rather than being distracted by typos. Apply the corrections you agree with and then copy and paste this version into a new file (Your story title) first edit.


I do a first edit on screen. I am looking for sections that are over written, words that jar, the inevitable typos, and reading out loud to get a sense of the rhythm of the story. This edit will hack out around twenty to thirty per cent of the story.

It is OK to add scenes at this point as well. Close to the end of your story, your main character produces a gun and you realise your reader is going to think, where the hell did he get that from? Go back and write a paragraph where they pick it up/find it/take it off a bad guy or even just, pat the comforting weight in their pocket.

Save your first edit and then save it again as a new file called, you guessed it, (Your Title Second Edit).
You can do this edit on screen, but I prefer to print the story out double-spaced. Read it out loud checking the rhythm and flow and make notes in the margins.

Now do a slow read looking for typos and grammar mistakes.

Repeat as necessary until you find yourself putting back commas that you took out on the last edit.
Try to finish something.


‘Everyone has a novel in them’ or so the saying goes but only a tiny proportion of writers have a finished draft on their desk. Start small, or rather short. Many established writers honed their craft, got into the rhythm of writing regularly and even made some money writing short stories.

Short stories can be anything from 100-500 word micro-fiction to 20,000 words (at which point, according to publishers, they become novellas. Short stories hover around 1500-5000 words. Online, they are often towards the lower word count.

Lockdown and being furloughed gave me time to get my first book written, submitted to publishers and then published. Since then, I have self-published another that the publisher accepted but now, with the return to normality and the need to earn a realistic income, I find short stories less demanding on my time and easier to finish.

One of the benefits of writing short stories is that I now have two or three collections of them that I would like to expand the themes of into books.

Throughout these lessons I have tried to provide guidance and suggestions that will help you begin to write short stories. I have only covered the basics and there’s a lot more to learn.

None of my advice should be thought of as rules or a sure fired way to success. Writing is about finding methods, rhythms of work, and style that suits you.

Good luck

Read my short stories and poetry

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