At the risk of sounding like I have a plethora of published stories, which I don’t, I’m going to go out on a limb here and show the mechanical steps I follow to create short stories. Please keep in mind that these guidelines are subject to change as I learn the craft.
1. Jot down ideas, including what-ifs, bits of dialogue, setting, etc., whenever and wherever they occur.
2. Let them incubate while doing other things such as folding clothes, driving, or playing games.
3. Brainstorm to create people in conflict and possible outcomes.
4. Choose the most compelling outcome.
5. Type all notes into a document and save it with a filename that becomes the working title.
6. Write the story as quickly as possible, trying not to stop until finished, which in some cases means the first draft is a condensed version.
7. Leave it alone for a while, maybe overnight, maybe a week or longer.
8. Revise until the logic and transitions make sense.
9. Decide on the title.
10. Ask trusted friends to read it and give general feedback, i.e. their gut reactions, unanswered questions.
11. Listen to feedback without explaining or defending the writing, for this is the first, and maybe only, opportunity to hear firsthand how the story comes across on its own.
12. Incorporate feedback that will improve the story.
13. Research appropriate magazines and submission guidelines, particularly word length and submission dates.
14. Revise the story as necessary to fit the guidelines.
15. Print the story one page at a time and read the page aloud, editing as necessary, until the entire story is printed.
16. Send the story with a cover letter to the magazine.
17. While the story is under consideration, write other pieces.
18. If a Rejection notice arrives, revise the story as desired, based on the editor’s comments, if any, and send the story to another magazine.
19. When an Acceptance notice arrives, rejoice!