The Ditchwalk Book Club is reading and discussing Rust Hills’ seminal work, Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular. If you’re interested in improving your storytelling craft I encourage you to follow along. Original announcement here. Tag here.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking you’re not a short story writer so this book won’t help you with your flash fiction, novellas or novels. Wrong.
Short stories are the smallest form of fiction that can be fully realized. If you can write a short story you can write anything — either by subtracting elements or by adding complexity and scale to increase the length of the work. More importantly, understanding the mechanics of this tightly-knit form exposes the mechanics of all other forms as well, meaning you can directly apply any lessons learned to your storytelling life.
I won’t promise that you’ll click with this book the way I did. For me it was a confirmation of a hundred things I’d felt and come to believe about writing, all compiled in a simple accessible volume. What I can promise is that you’ll never think of fiction writing the same way again, and you’ll have at least one ah-ha moment along the way. Worst case scenario: it won’t make your writing worse, and will almost certainly make your writing — and your writing life — better.
To make sure we’re all on the same literal page I ordered the latest version of the book: First Mariner Books edition 2000. I will be commenting on each section of the book in a separate post, but quoting sparely in order to respect fair use and copyright. While you certainly don’t need my commentary to profit from Hills’ book, you’ll need a copy of the book to fully profit from my commentary. Or the book.
First up: Rust Hills’ introduction to Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular, and why it shouldn’t scare you away.
— Mark Barrett