Today’s book review is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey.
The Short Story Writer’s Toolshed
Synopsis: Originally written as a series for Writers’ Forum Magazine, this snappy, no-nonsense guide has been expanded, amended and updated. Using new examples from her own published short fiction, Della Galton takes you from ‘story idea’ to ‘final edit’, and demonstrates how to construct and polish the perfect short story, ready for publication. Available from http://www.amazon.co.uk/Short-Story-Writers-Toolshed-Straight-To-The-Point-ebook/dp/B00A9WATS2 and http://www.amazon.com/Short-Story-Writers-Toolshed-Straight-To-The-Point-ebook/dp/B00A9WATS2.
Just looking at the contents pages of this short (95 pages in the paperback version) book is a little… to use my mum’s favourite word at Christmas / on her birthday… overwhelming, but just like those celebratory days, this promises a wealth of goodies.
After the ‘About Della Galton’ page, there is an ‘Introduction’, ‘How the Toolshed Works’, ‘A Look Around The Toolshed’, then the index is split into shelves: 1. Ideas and Getting Started; 2. Plot; 3. Characters and Viewpoint; 4. Dialogue; 5. Structure; 6. Time Span, Pace and Theme; 7. Flashback; 8. Cutting and Editing; 9. Putting it all together; 10. Rejection and Motivation; and then some closing sections including ‘A Last Word From Me’. Just looking at how many sections there are in each shelf, I know I’m in for a treat. Mmm… goodies, treats… can you tell I’ve been on a diet healthy-eating kick since last June?
After Della’s impressive CV (selling more short stories per year – 80 – than many short story authors have in total), the introduction explains that the toolshed was originally written as a series for Writer’s Forum magazine. I’ve been a subscriber to that (and others) since 2005 so in theory I’ve read everything contained in this book but – and I’ve probably mentioned this before – I have a terrible memory so I’m sure most of it will feel new. That said, I’ve been a short story writer for more of the last nine years than not (I’ve written a mere 400+, mostly flash fiction) and teach creative writing for my local county council (have I mentioned that before?) :) so in theory I know quite a lot about short stories but Della is without doubt the queen (what’s higher than a queen… goddess?) of the form so I’m sitting comfortable and am ready to begin.
In answer to ‘What is a Short Story?’, Della compares writing a short story vs novel to painting a miniature vs a full-size painting. As she so brilliantly says, “It should have all the depth and colour that a full-size canvas allows, but there is no room for waffle.” She then talks about lengths of short stories (how long is a piece of string?) before moving on to characters. As most writers know, they are what makes any kind of story, short or otherwise. If we don’t care about our characters (and Della confirms this), then the story can have the most fantastic plot but by the time they’ve saved the world, we won’t care whether they’re OK or not. In this section, Della says that one of the most important things she’s ever learned about short story writing is that you don’t add characters when adding length to your story but add depth to the ones you have. She adds that it applies to serials and novels too. Interesting.