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Ron Carlson Writes a Story 1St Edition Edition

38 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1555974770
ISBN-10: 1555974775
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Editorial Reviews


“Do yourself a favor and read Ron Carlson.” ―Stephen King

About the Author

Ron Carlson is the author of several books of fiction, including Five Skies. He directs the graduate program in fiction at the University of California, Irvine.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press; 1St Edition edition (September 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555974775
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555974770
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.4 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #134,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Jason VINE VOICE on November 9, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My experience in finding this book, is just like the other reviewer, I was buying some books, and I was recommended this title.

With a name such as "Ron Carlson writes a story", I really had no idea what to expect. Who is Ron Carlson? I have never heard of this person in my life, is the idea of him being able to write a story worthy of a book, is it a man's triumph over the written word? No, it is a behind the scenes look at the making of a story.

Fortunately, the price was just ten dollars, a very low amount for something that could be of use. I love short stories, and I love writing, my reason for buying this book, was the possible glimpse inside the mind of a writer.

I am writing this review, because this is a great book, and the page here gives very little to go on. The author is a very gifted writer; his thoughts come through clearly, and cite countless ideas, and suggestions that will change the way you work.

I knew buying this, that it was more of a "making of a story" book, not a "how to write" book, hopefully potential buyers note this as well. Ron goes sentence by sentence (or paragraph) and explains what he is thinking while he wrote it. He analyzes only the finished story, not the first draft, we don't get to see him struggle on what elements he decides to keep and why, just how the story came to be, and why he does the things he does.

He also gives off ideas, how he approaches a tough spot, when the author gets stumped, what he likes to do, and gives off examples. I learned a lot from this book, it wasn't mind bending, it didn't change my world, but it did help, and it can help you too.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on December 6, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is directed at aspiring fiction writers. Since I don't write fiction, maybe I should be reading one of Carlson's novels instead. But I press on anyway. I am compelled by the sample story that Ron delivers in crisp, salty little chunks, like so many goldfish crackers scattered on the path through the dark woods of procrastination. But I am also moved by Ron's writing lessons: tips and truisms, warnings and reminders, all of it frank and funny and right, because each one is tied to the wagging tale of the story he's telling.

Ron's emphasis is on process, not craft, and hence on intuition and accident more than control. Writing is discovery; you need to listen to your characters, not tell them what to do. Writing dialogue, Ron tells us, is "like playing tennis against a real partner. It's not like playing tennis against a wall." Craft alone would be mastering the wall; but process means creating characters who feint, parry, and giggle uncontrollably, keeping the writer on her toes.

A lot of the book isn't about fiction writing at all. It's about time management. In a sharp little chapter called "Coffee," Carlson writes, "No one among us suffers the radical appreciation for coffee that I do. It calls to me, but I have learned not to listen." Coffee takes you out of your seat; it breaks concentration; it persuades you that "you might be smarter in the next room." And every coffee machine has a vacuum cleaner as its neighbor. Or an email account. Or a Face Book page.

This is a quick, fun, and enlightening read, a great book for anyone who likes to write, or to read about writing. I recommend it with a cup of Joe.

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By J.D. on February 9, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ron Carlson takes you through the process of writing a short story as he wrote it, with practical steps on things like naming your characters, filling in details when you're stuck, and to keep writing when that second cup of coffee is calling. In fact, that's when some of the best writing occurs: when you stay at your desk writing instead of grabbing that second cup of coffee when things get tough. The book is short but packed with practical advice on how to stay with the process to complete a short story.

It includes his short story "The Governor's Ball." As he says in the book, "The Governor's Ball" was written in a single day and it was a story he remembers how he wrote, so he's able to give a kind of "play-by-play" account of the writing process.

Some of the advice will be familiar to those who've read books of this kind, such as how to write dialogue, using active verbs, and eliminating unnecessary adjectives. But the account of how a writer writes a specific story is unique in my experience and the story itself is a good one to learn from. It's short but a model of the subtleties that make short stories fun to read.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Martha Moffett on January 7, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Years ago, I used to stay in a B&B next to the British Museum where literary workers stayed and often left their bound galleys on the "exchange" bookcase in the sitting room. On one trip, I picked up a collection of stories by Ron Carlson. The story that stuck with me -- for years -- was a story about a guy losing a mattress from the top of his truck on an overpass, and watching it fly away. Now he has written a book called "Ron Carlson Writes a Story" -- and it's about THIS story! From the things that were going on in his life before, to the first sentence, to the luminous ending, I can go right through it with him. It's actually a thrill.
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