Let’s Write a Short Story by Joe Bunting is the sort of writing book we need more of (Okay, so I’m always in favor of more writing books). This book is specifically about short stories, as is obvious from the title. Better still, it’s practical, realistic, and an excellent book for any writer who needs to step their writing to the next level.
A writer who wants to be a good writer practices his writing. And there are few better ways than short stories. Short stories have a much lower time investment than, say, a novel, and you can write many in a year, whereas a novel may take an entire year. Short stories can be recycled from bits and chapters of abandoned novels or other writing you’ve collected. Not to mention, you’re a writer, and you’ll write in whatever medium you can, right?
Having showed us the importance of the short story, the author now sets about helping you to write short stories. The main thrust of this book is writing and submitting a short story to a publisher or magazine. In Joe’s own words,
“If you’re reading this book I want you to promise me something. You have to promise to write and submit a short story in a literary magazine. […] If you can’t make that, then this book isn’t for you. I’d rather you put it down right now. But if you’re ready to improve at the craft of writing, kick off your career, impress agents, dive into new characters, and do what you love: write, then let’s write a short story.”
The book spends a lot of time explaining what a short story is, and more importantly, what it is not. It explains how to write good short stories. Practical ‘Short Story Prompts’ throughout this section ensure that you’re writing and practicing the concepts that are being discussed. The advice you’ll find in this part of the book is useful for any writer, though it’s geared specifically towards short story writers. Especially interesting to me, as a poet, were the sections on actually making language sound beautiful through word choice. The chapter on Writer’s Block is also especially useful to any writers in particular.
Given the goal of the book as described by the author, it follows that a substantial chunk of the book, in addition to explaining about writing short stories, focuses on submitting and publishing the short stories. This isn’t a theoretical book to read and forget about: it’s completely filled with practical applications to actually bring you closer to submitting a short story to a magazine. From a checklist for your cover letters to advice about which magazines to choose and when to submit, this section is incredible. The help given in this section is enough to make me want to submit a short story myself (I suppose, by reading the book, I promised Joe that I would…)
Overall, this is a fantastic book. It’s clear, concise, and practical, and it’s written by someone who loves writing, because it seeps out of every word he types. It’s a challenge to take writing beyond a hobby and into the real world. As much as I love to hide behind the obscurity of my writing, and write for writing’s sake, Let’s Write a Short Story is a challenge to take things to the next level, and to improve my writing even further. Whether you write epic novels or experimental interpretive poetry this book will help your writing. Don’t let the fact that short stories aren’t ‘your thing’ stand in the way.
Published on 17 September, 2012. Last updated on