Dec 3, 2015

Writing Book: Ron Carlson Writes a Story


Ron Carlson Writes a Story is just that: a book about how Ron Carlson writing a short story. It's a short book, just 112 pages, and that's including the short story in question, "The Governor's Ball."

I picked up the book because a lecturer in the How Writers Write Fiction course recommended it. I'm always looking for pointers on short story writing, so I was exited to find a whole book devoted to the short story.  It's very interesting to see someone else's writing process so meticulously explained, and I think it had a nice bit of writing advice sprinkled in between the lines, like how to avoid cliches and surprise the reader, being specific with your description etc. Main point that stuck: Do not give in to distraction. Finish your story, whatever it takes. Just say no to the lure of coffee, the internet, and the outside world.

That said, this is very much a literary writer's book. The process is the pantser process, i.e. starting with an idea or a scene and then just going for it, sentence by sentence. There are snide comments about genre writers, but if you can cope with that, then by all means go for it and read the book.

I did recognise some of the stages Carlson went through, like the part where you really, really just want to quit because you don't know what's going to happen next and it's all too overwhelming and hard. That's why I like to do a bit of planning before I start. I need to have some rough idea of an ending, something to aim for. I think it helps take the pressure off. I don't necessarily have to end up where I planned, and if the story wants to take a detour, by all means, I'm game, but that doesn't change the fact that without a goal I'll just get lost in the story woods and eventually get tired of writing in circles and give up.

This is just one writer's process. We're all different; what works for him might not work for the rest of us.

An interesting read, all the same.

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