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Back to School: Write a (Really) Short Story #30DaysofGOOD

You don't have to show it to anyone. And it doesn't even have to be "good." Just take a crack at writing a short piece of fiction.

30 Days of GOOD (#30DaysofGOOD) is our monthly attempt to live better. This month we're going "Back to School" and committing to learn something new every day.

You may not think of yourself as a writer, but it's a good bet that you do a bunch of writing throughout the course of the day. A recent report by a technology research firm called the Radicati Group found that the typical corporate email user writes 35 email messages per day (PDF).

Add to that our online chats, text messages, social media interactions, and blog posts, and we're tapping out quite a lot of words. And while plenty of studies suggest negative links between, say, texting and formal writing skills, some argue that all our online communication has helped us by enabling us to master more kinds of writing.

Wherever you stand on the debate, your task for today requires that you admit that you are, indeed, a writer. You prove each and every day that you're able to put words together in ways that are clear and compelling. But since none of us ever aspired to be great writers of work emails, I want you to put your skills to a more fun and creative use: Write a short story.

It can be really short—even just a few paragraphs long. You don't have to show it to anyone. And it doesn't even have to be "good." The point here is to do some thinking about what ingredients go into stories and then take on the exercise of articulating your ideas. As with everything else, great writing takes tons of practice. You've gotta start somewhere, so start here, now, by taking a crack at it and seeing what you can come up with.

There are many excellent resources for writers online. If you're interested in investigating what's out there, take a look at these to start:

Earlier this year, we wrote about Figment, an online community for writers of all levels. It's worth revisiting. The site has a variety of features that make it simple to share your work, read other people's writing, and connect with writers around the world. Figment also publishes writing tips, hosts contests, and offers ways to workshop your stories with other members of the site.

LitLift is online software for writers that helps you create, organize, and store information about your story's characters and scenes. Originally developed to assist people participating in National Novel Writing Month, it's useful for writers of shorter work too.

Brainpickings has collected short story writing tips from some of the masters. The Kurt Vonnegut entry includes some of the greatest writing wisdom I've ever come across: "Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages."

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