1. Identify a germ of an idea, which starts with a memory of a problem, a slice-of-life anecdote, a person, or a conflict that resonates in your world. Create your hook and begin the story with it.
2. Brainstorm the plot from beginning to end, letting the imagination run freely. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, punctuation, or clichés, just let the story develop.
3. Use classic structure, which is like a three-act play, with beginning, middle and end.
4. Even in the beginning, keep the end in mind so you’re not wasting time on dead ends.
5. Suggest the backstory but don’t overdo it.
6. Narrow your scope: Draw the reader into your work with a focus. Your story should not be just a string of events without a point.
7. Create composite characters from people you know. Write about an interesting aspect of a person you’re describing.
8. Aim for the heart: (without overkill; be subtle). Readers will remember the feeling they got from your story more than the events.
9. Writing is rewriting. Tightening adds strength. Cut what you can, even if you think the prose is wonderful. If it doesn’t refer to the main point or storyline—cut it out! Don’t hammer the point you’ve already made, for it will weaken the story.
10. Picture your story unfolding as if watching a movie. All details must be clear.