Several years ago I was invited to be a part of a short-story anthology, and I reluctantly declined. I'd never written a short story before, and the idea terrified me. Didn't know if I could manage that kind of distilled writing. About a year later, I was invited to submit to the Once Upon a Crime anthology, and I said I'd try. I cheated a bit, because I actually expanded a flash fiction piece I'd already written.
Since then, I've written about eight short stories, and with each one I think I get a little closer to getting it right.
I don't know the specific rules for short stories other than a length of 1000 - 3000 words, but I do know what I like.
The circle. In my mind, the perfect short story looks like a circle. It circles back to the beginning. Most of my stories don't circle back, but I'm working on it.
A complete story. Unlike flash fiction, I think the best short stories feel complete. Even one thousand words. I want to feel that it's a whole story, beginning, middle, end. This is another thing I'm working on, because mine sometimes feel like a slice of life. A little window. And that can be wonderful too, but not as wonderful as the complete story.
Surprise and delight. I think a really good short story ends with a bang. This can be achieved with a twist, a revelation, humor, emotion. Close on the highest note. Again, I may have achieved this in a couple of my stories, but not all of them.
I'm sure there are guidelines for short-story writing, but I've never read any. Maybe I should. Or not. Any advice for writing short stories?