Short Story Writing Formulas

The Lester Dent Master Formula for Pulp Fiction Writing– Meant for short stories/novellas, but still a useful guide to writing adventure stories by one of the true masters of the pulp genre. (He said he never failed to sell a single story using this formula.) I’ve shortened it down to modified checklist you can find here.

Karen Woodward did a great blog post on different Short Story Structures. She lists four different basic structures you could use when putting together a short story or novella, and you might find them useful in your writing.

Mary Robinette Kowal’s Short Story Building Process is something she has refined and shared over the years while working with young writers and for her own purposes. She uses this series of questions to find the heart of her stories and give herself a solid foundation for later outlining. (See below)

Nelson S. Bond was a contemporary of Lester Dent, and wrote down his own Pulp Story Formula for writing short stories for Writer’s Digest in 1940. It’s a simple formula for writing a 5000 word short story, and is basically a less detailed version of Lester Dent’s formula, however some might find it’s simplicity useful.

Pulp writer Frank Gruber also wrote a “Fool-proof” 11 Point Formula for Mystery Short Stories, which is more of a checklist than a formula, but he claimed it was this “formula” that let him write over 300 short stories and 60 novels that sold.

Mary Robinette Kowal’s  4-Step Outlining Method- a good straightforward example of how to take a core idea and unfold it until you have a complete story. The example is good, but is a short story, not a novel.

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