Get expert tips on language, grammar, style and vocabulary
How to Write a Story in English
We're half way through National Novel Writing Month (#NaNoWriMo), which means writers around the world are working hard to complete 50,000 words by the end of the month. Each November, hundreds of thousands of people challenge themselves to complete a whole novel in 30 days, but the challenge isn't necessarily limited to just that. This is the perfect opportunity to write that story that's been in your head for years. As long as you're writing something, you're playing an active part in this global phenomenon. So how do you plan to challenge yourself this year? Do you think you're ready to try writing something in English?
We suggest you start small; see how it feels to write a short story in English. There's no denying that it's not an easy feat to write a compelling story, and it's all the harder when you're not writing in your native language. If you're still learning English, engaging in the practice of writing short stories will help you find new ways to express yourself and force you to learn extra vocabulary. So what are you waiting for? Take a look at our top tips for planning and writing an amazing short story.
1. Pick a theme
Base your story around something you’ve already learned in English. If you’re still a bit uncertain around the language, this might seem difficult as you could find yourself limited to talking about pets, but you can still be creative about it. If you’ve learned about animal vocabulary for example, then set your story in a zoo. If you’ve learned about how to talk about yourself in English, have the story be about someone telling the reader about themselves.
This will give you a little bit of confidence before you start. It will encourage you to learn more words and vocabulary around the subject and will naturally make you revise what you already know.
2. Make a plan
No matter how short you intend your story to be, make a quick plan beforehand. This will stop you from getting lost and will help you spot any problems you are going to have before you start.
You might find it useful to make the plan in your own language first and then make your first task to translate your plan into English. This can be a good test to see if you are going to struggle with writing the story once you get more into it.
3. Pick a point-of-view
Decide how you’re going to tell your story. It is most likely that you will want to tell the story in the first person (ie. I did something) or the third person (ie. she did something). It is unusual for anyone to use the second person (ie. you did something) so don’t try and start with that.
Making this clear from the beginning will give your story with a sense of cohesion and keep it tied together. A single point of view like this will also make it easier for your reader.
4. Write the actual story in English
With the plan, it might work out for you to write the plan in your language and then translate it. This is so that you can get your thoughts in order so you’re not trying to make yourself be creative and think in an unfamiliar language. Once you come to actually writing the story however, try and stick to English. Writing a story in English will force you to start thinking in the language more and you will get more out of the exercise if you’re not just translating everything.
5. Keep it simple
Remember that you’re not writing a multi-book series packed full of characters, political intrigue and dragons. If you enjoy writing your short story, you can get to that later, but to start with, make sure you keep your short story simple!
You also might want to have a specific length in mind. Stories can be really short and still be effective. Flash fiction for example is between 150 and 1,000 words long.
6. Finish it
This might sound stupid, but it’s very easy to give up and leave a short story unfinished, but if you can get to the end, even if you don’t think it’s very good, you will likely find that your English will have improved at least slightly. It is also a great confidence booster to have finished a little project like this.