A/N: Hmmm...what the heck is this story? I dunno. I actually wanted to write something like for a while—a short n’ sweet, simple little list of writing steps but with some fictional meat on its bones to make it a story—and when the right prompt popped up, I jumped on the chance and wrote it in two days :) So yeah, this is a bit weird and another attempt at 2nd person, enjoy!
𝚜𝚝𝚎𝚙 𝚘𝚗𝚎: 𝚏𝚒𝚗𝚍 𝚊 𝚙𝚕𝚊𝚌𝚎 & 𝚏𝚒𝚗𝚍 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚌𝚊𝚕𝚖
You sit on the rusty bench outside the library. The sky is dimming by now, the last trickles of people walking out of the closing building. It’s nearly 6 pm, but you’ve got all day. Or rather, all night, because writers love avoiding the sun and staying up late typing—or getting up early if they’re that determined. (Which you aren’t, duh.)
So you’re in no rush. You sit there, watching, listening, like introverts tend to do. Your locks of gold-brown hair fall in front of your thick round glasses, escaping from your messy bun.
The air gets cooler and cooler until almost everyone is gone, the dark, chilly evening sky clouding over. You pick up your thermos of steaming chamomile tea and sneak behind the library, taking out the key the librarian has gifted you—scrawled with your name, Cellani Bright—and slipping into the library after-hours.
Once in, you take a deep breath, inhaling the musty scent of thousands of words of literature. But you have work to do. You weave between the shelves of books until you reach the back of your second home, a cozy carpet in front of a crackling fire left up just for you. You pull a desk out of a closet and position it in front of the fire, drawing the blinds shut and grabbing a fluffy spinny chair too.
You plop down in the seat, pulling out your slim silver laptop and opening it on the table. You open a Doc and take another deep breath, laying a blanket from your backpack across your lap. It’s dim except for the warm fire, shadows painting the shelves of other writers’ works. You have peace in your favorite setting. Which means it’s time to start writing.
𝚜𝚝𝚎𝚙 𝚝𝚠𝚘: 𝚋𝚛𝚊𝚒𝚗𝚜𝚝𝚘𝚛𝚖 𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎, 𝚏𝚝. 𝚎𝚗𝚍𝚕𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝚙𝚊𝚌𝚒𝚗𝚐
All-about-writing articles always underestimate the thought and heart and restless commitment (not to mention sleepless nights) that goes into every short story, every poem, every novel. You giggle, thinking of that Buzzfeed post a few weeks back, which the author mistakenly titled “The Steps of Writing a Story Story”. More like a staircase instead of just steps, you smirk to yourself.
The white of the blank Doc almost taunts you to write, but you have absolutely no ideas. Obviously.
Restless, you stand up and start pacing, seedlings of ideas in your mind not good enough to grow into plants. You run your fingers across the spines of classics, thinking how though you’ve done this so many times before, it’s always hard to think of a brand-new plot. You try to draw inspiration from your own life: a 19-year-old demigirl named Cellani taking a gap year after high school, perfectly content with a dog and a laptop.
Hmm. Maybe your main character could be around your age. What kind of story would it be? Your favorite genre is realistic fiction, but you like mixing it up and doing different types of realistic fiction. You keep pacing, back and forth, through the dark shelves, and you decide this short story will be romance.
So what’s it about? Could it be a fantasy romance? Maybe this girl is a princess of some other world and has an arranged marriage with someone, except obviously she doesn’t want to be with them, so when her new prince declares war she plays both sides and still meets up with her real boyfriend in another kingdom. Nah, that’s totally cliché. But sometimes cliché plots with a twist are good…
Ugh. Writing is fun, but it’s hard when you have no ideas. You don’t feel writer’s block, exactly, more like a writer’s pebbles. You want to write, and you feel all inspired in the light of the fire, but you have zero idea what to write about.
So you turn to your go-to writer’s block cure: get the genre you want to write, infuse it with a controversial topic you love to show your support to, and create a handful of characters each having a few of your traits so you can write them well. Then a smile spreads across your face...
𝚜𝚝𝚎𝚙 𝚝𝚑𝚛𝚎𝚎: 𝚙𝚒𝚗 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚙𝚕𝚘𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚒𝚍𝚎𝚊
So once you have an idea, you’re still not ready to type. If you’re a planner, at least. Smirking, you slide back into your chair, adjusting the flannel blanket across your lap and breathing in the heat of the crispy fire. You hover your fingers over the keys of your laptop, and write the premise of this short story: It’s an LGBTQ+ romance, with that cliché love triangle with two boys and a girl, except that the girl realizes she’s asexual and adopts and gets a dog and cat instead and the two boys fall for each other, all while the three of them are struggling to find what college they want to go to and what major or minor during their gap year before college.
You grin wider, pushing a strand of hair behind your ear and taking a slow slurp of your double-tea-bagged thermos. YOU HAVE AN IDEA, VICTORY!!!!
The clock reads 7 pm, and now you have a solid start to build on. Time to plan a little further: Creating your characters, adding all the traits and hobbies that make them 3D. You’ll learn more about them as you write them, of course, but you need a start to expand on.
So who’s the girl? All the characters are 18 or 19 as well, but you’ll be able to write her more fluently. You love names ending in ‘i’ like your own, so maybe...Emmi? Nah, a bit boring. How about...Ammi? Ammi Jimenez?
Yeah. That’s it. She’ll be a writer and reader just like you, but also a runner. She’s kind of a tame, chill character, responsible and determined but also a bit feisty.
You smile. Time for the boys. But picking names for boys is always hard, so you open up Safari and type in Unique male name lists. Of course you browse for way too long—even after you find the right names—and finally decide on the names Tanix and Kayden for your characters, one bookish and outgoing, one sporty and feminine.
You type all this down and over the next ten minutes, you expand their characters further and plan important events in your plot. Soon you’ve got everyone written: what’s happening, who’s there, and what style.
Time for the best part of any short story:
𝚜𝚝𝚎𝚙 𝚏𝚘𝚞𝚛: 𝚋𝚕𝚎𝚎𝚍 𝚒𝚗𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚔𝚎𝚢𝚋𝚘𝚊𝚛𝚍
Click click click, the sound of fingers on a keyboard echoes through the library. The moon comes out, silvery light sneaking through the blinds, the eerie peace of silence at night music to your ears. No little sisters bothering you, no parents saying go to bed, just a plan, fingers, and a Doc.
So you keep writing as the hours tick by. It’s hard to get going at the start; you keep checking texts or Wattpad or Reedsy or reading a bit more of that awesome eBook you purchased last week. But then the story takes off and you find your eyes unable to look away from the screen.
Writing is magical because the world revolves around you, but not around you. You create these other people and control them, yet in a sense they are their own people. At some point in every short story or novel you turn from the controller of this world to the scribe, from the outside looking in, just writing down what happens on its own. You feel yourself immersed in your own words, the rest of the world stopping as you pass between galaxies. You are the characters like the characters are you: each carries a little piece of yourself, whether your beliefs or your ideas, your dreams or your traits.
You become alive at night, fueled by two bags of caffeine and your fingers moving without your input. You reach that point where you’re literally thinking faster than you can type, so your ideas just hang there, on the edge of your mind, waiting patiently for your fingers to catch up.
𝚜𝚝𝚎𝚙 𝚏𝚒𝚟𝚎: 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚍𝚎𝚊𝚝𝚑 𝚘𝚏 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚕𝚊𝚙𝚝𝚘𝚙
Sadly, while you feel like a goddess typing, a writer with the power of creating worlds and people, your body needs sleep. (You can only run on caffeine and literature for so long, alas *dramatic sigh.*) Stupid body. And your laptop needs energy too—it’s about to die, and then you’ll be left alone, your ideas bursting out of your brain but with nowhere to put them. (*Double dramatic sigh.*)
It’s almost 12 am. You’ve written for hours straight. You grab your warm flannel blanket, extinguish the last dregs of fire, plug in your laptop, and collapse on a beanbag, trying to calm your racing mind. Taking a break in the middle of a short story is basically impossible, after all, but finally your eyes flutter shut and you drift into oblivion….
𝚜𝚝𝚎𝚙 𝚜𝚒𝚡: 𝚋𝚊𝚌𝚔 𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚐𝚘𝚘𝚐𝚕𝚎 𝚍𝚘𝚌: 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚎𝚗𝚍
You wake up, groggy and tired, but hey, what more could you want than a fully charged computer and a half-finished short story, if one a quarter energy? You roll out of the beanbag with a moan, and basically stay in that half-lidded state as you visit the librarian's desk until your thermos is full again with hot water and three tea bags. (Almost-all-nighters are tough, even for the most experienced and irresponsible authors.)
You relight the fire, do a few jumping jacks, and open your laptop. It’s 1 am. You’ve got six hours to finish—more than enough (maybe). You read a chapter of the eBook to get back in the ~CrEaTiVe SpIrIt~, and once you’re done, you feel inspired and are roaring to go.
So you open the doc, skim the 5k+ words you’d written before, and jump write (HEHEHEHE BAD PUN) in.
That magical feeling sparks again, the outside world fading away as you sit grinning in the dimly lit library, and you keep typing until sunlight streams in through the windows. The plot arc rises and falls, characters growing away from yourself and becoming their own people, everything tying together until you finally write the last line through your half-lidded eyes….
And that’s it.
You lift your fingers up and smile at the screen, reading that satisfying last paragraph over and over. A glimpse at the time says it’s 6 am, meaning you’ve got an hour until the library opens. After a whole night of writing with only a few hours of sleep, the 52-page novelette, your beautiful creation grown from the ink of your mind, is done.
You shut your raging-hot laptop and curl up on the beanbag again, falling asleep to sweet silence and shafts of sunlight just starting to emerge over the horizon.
𝚜𝚝𝚎𝚙 𝚜𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚗: 𝚙𝚛𝚘𝚘𝚏𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚍 & 𝚙𝚘𝚜𝚝
You come back to the library the next day, the librarian greeting you with a smile. You were on first-name terms with her by now, except for the fact that you never remembered names. “Have a fun time yesterday...morning? You were gone before sunrise, but you left your tea.”
You gratefully accept the thermos. “Ah, yeah, sorry, I was totally pooped and barely made it out before the library opened. Must’ve forgotten this. And, oh, yes, of course, it was awesome. Just peace and quiet and caffeine and ideas.”
She chuckles. “You’d better remember me when you’re a famous author, Cellani.”
You laugh too. “Of course.”
“What did you write?”
“An LGBTQ+ romance-type thing,” you say. “It was intended to be a short story but y’know, the plot kinda blossomed into a novelette.”
“And you wrote it all in one night?”
You grin at her, holding up your slim silver laptop and tapping it. “A gazillion hours of writing from sunset to sunrise, yup. I’m totally burned out now, but hey, it was fun. But this story ain’t gonna edit itself.”
That was another annoying step in the staircase of a short story. Once you got the idea and finished the words, you had to skim the story and edit it further. Which wasn’t the best thing in the world.
The librarian gives you a pitiful gaze and ushers you towards the beanbag-chair-ringed fireplace area towards the back. “Better get to it. Tell me when you post it!”
“Of course!” you yip back, making your way to the desk left out just for you.
You open the Google Doc and reread your story with fresh eyes after 24 hours ignoring it. You fix plot holes, correct typos, switch lines and cut enough words to bully the word count under 10k. Since you barely remember anything from yesterday’s blurry-eyed caffeine sesh, you find yourself immersed in the story all over again, this time as a reader instead of the writer.
You run a final spell-check with Grammarly and finally, you declare the story done. You found the time and place and calm to write a story, coaxed the idea out of your half hour of pacing, and spent basically a whole night writing on an hour of sleep and a lot of tea. You’re tired, ignored a bunch of responsibilities, and messed up your sleep schedule for about a week (#writer’sdon’tneednosleep), but you’ve done it. And now, as you open Wattpad with a smile, you’re ready to release your little literature baby into the world. :D