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On Writing Short Stories Paperback – November 11, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0195122725 ISBN-10: 0195122720

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (November 11, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195122720
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195122725
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 0.9 x 6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #944,796 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Don't overlook the On in the title of On Writing Short Stories. Though there is a chapter by its editor, Tom Bailey, on the elements of short fiction, the book explores a variety of issues of interest to short-story writers. Francine Prose grapples with the what-constitutes-a-short-story question: "Great short stories make us marvel at their integrity, their economy," she writes. "If we went at them with our blue pencils, we might find we had nothing to do." Joyce Carol Oates ponders reading as a writer, Andre Dubus contemplates the habit of writing, and Robert Coles explores "literatures as a means of understanding human affairs."

C. Michael Curtis, writer of 30 to 40 rejection letters daily as senior editor for The Atlantic Monthly, tells how best to ensure that your short-fiction submissions receive "friendly consideration." And University of Iowa Writers' Workshop director Frank Conroy weighs in on the writer's workshop and what he sees as the mistaken belief that workshops imprint themselves upon their students' work. "Art cannot be made by committee," he writes. "The student ... should not be looking for solutions from the other students or from the teacher. The student should be looking for problems in the text that he or she had not been aware of." Also here are writing exercises; a list of magazines, journals, and quarterlies that publish short fiction; and 18 classic short stories, including de Maupassant's "The String," Tillie Olsen's "I Stand Here Ironing," and Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried." --Jane Steinberg

Review

"Terrific compilation of stories, essays on writing, and technique. Excellent for introductory writing courses."--Suzanne McConnell, Hunter College, City University of New York

"Solid advice as well as a selection of readings students really MUST know."--Thomas Cobb, Rhode Island College

"This is the text I have been waiting for!"--Katharine Weber, Yale University

"A concise, effectively organized text that presents the central elements of fiction writing with a number of short stories that illustrate various styles and approaches to storytelling. Unlike its contemporaries, [this text] focuses on the craft, not social or political issues."--Charles Franklyn Beach, Nyack College, NY

"Well put together with clean, practical, uet forthright counsel. The stories selected are engaging and the instructional portion at the front of the book is useful."--James W. Stewart, Northwest College, WA

Customer Reviews

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If you take writing very seriously, and want to take it to the next level, this book is a great start.
T.D. Wingfield
Particularly useful are its dissections of classic short stories, using them as case studies that aptly demonstrate what works in a story and why.
Nathan Beauchamp
If you are looking for a guide through the mire of writing short fiction, you can't go wrong with this book!
"stace8787"

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Jay S. Varner on November 4, 2003
"On Writing Short Stories" is a masterful introduction to the craft of short stories. Editor Tom Bailey (an accomplished writer himself) has compiled some of the best essays by well-known authors that not only serve as inspiration but also as a fine learning tool for young writers.
The twelve stories included within this book are some of the seminal tales that any writer must be familiar with: Updike's "A&P", Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," Tobias Wolff's "Bullet to the Brain," and "A Father's Story" by the much too under-read Andrew Dubus. Bailey points at the genius of these stories in his own chapter "Character, Plot, Setting and Time, Metaphor and Voice," parts of which he expanded into his book "A Short Story Writer's Companion."
Also of note are essays by Mike Curtis who contribute a frank but ultimately moving lesson on the pain or rejection letters-and no one knows this better than the fiction editor of The Atlantic Monthly. The essay by Dubus is one of the best pieces on writing that I've read and illustrates the necessity of "the habit of writing" through his illustrious and gentle prose.

Bailey's pulled off a collection of essays on and about short stories that are not only an introduction for young writers but also have lessons that even the more seasoned veteran can take to heart.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By "stace8787" on November 13, 2000
If you are looking for a guide through the mire of writing short fiction, you can't go wrong with this book! The editors really knew what they were doing when they chose the contributors as I found the comments by published authors very insightful, and the selection of short stories includes some of the best ever written.
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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful By T.D. Wingfield on October 14, 2005
Pound for pound, this may be the best book on, about, or for aspiring writers.

I have read at least 10 books on the craft of writing and a bunch on theory and technique... this book is right up there with the best of the best. If you couple this book with Raymond Carver's posthumous "Call if You Need Me" and mix in a few careful readings of any Richard Yates interview, you've got yourself some tough rope to tow. But if you want to be a strong writer, suck it up and do it anyway!

I hold a BA in fiction writing. I also tend to write literary realist fiction. If you are of the same mind, this book will help you tremendously. It is brutal in it's explanation of what to steer clear of and what to include, but that is how it should be. If you take writing very seriously, and want to take it to the next level, this book is a great start.

You can't go wrong when you have advice from C. Michael Curtis (Fiction Editor of the most prominent publication in America) and Frank Conroy (Chairman to the most prestegious writing institute in America.) Pay attention folks. This is the real deal. Add in some very helpful workshop activites from one Tom Bailey (only a head writing professor at Harvard) and some very heartfelt tips from a true master like Dubus... Forget about it!

"On becoming a Novelist" was good. "ABCs of Reading" was good. "The Lonely Voice" was decent. Forster's guidance was revolutionary, but this book is perfect for now. Go buy it and then read all the Carver and Yates and Dubus and Wolff you can get your grubby little hands on. You'll be a better writer for it. Trust me!
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Verified Purchase
This book is hard to find and has listed at much higher prices in the past. I'm thrilled to own it.
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