Unbelievably, I’ve gotten through the five-week short story Masterclass already. It’s been very difficult trying to juggle the homework with everything else that’s been going on but I’ve tried to keep up. As well as writing lots of little exercises and gaining a better understanding of the short story, I have also produced at least one new complete first draft of a story that hopefully shows some improvement from my studies.
The course was from Short Fiction Journal. I highly recommend it. You can sign up here and it costs £125. As well on handouts on things like the history of the short story, narrative voice, narrative silence, subtext and themes, you also get pointed to short stories and interviews to learn more about the form and you get feedback on your work from professional writers and your fellow students.
I think what I really learnt was a greater respect for the short story. I must admit, I saw short story writing as the first step you have to take as a writer. It didn’t seem to make sense to me to plunge straight into a novel. I figured you need to practice the craft of writer, study and get to know your own style first, so short stories make sense to start with.
But as I learnt on the course, short stories are more than ‘technical exercises’. They have strengths and advantages of their own. Short stories have to work harder in a shorter time and so can be more intense.
One of the exercises from the course was to read all these interviews with short story writers which is something you could do now, for free, if you wish. I found it quite inspiring. I was particularly fond of the interview with Steven Millhauser. I had not heard of him before but have added him to my reading list. I liked his attitude and the level of experimentation he talks about in his writing.
It reminded me that when I was young I used to read a lot of sci-fi which would use the short story to explore an idea until it was maxed-out and then stop (though often the characters seemed paper thin). Doing this course and reading more widely has reminded me of the power of the short story to stir emotions and thoughts that stay with you much longer than might be thought possible.
As Graham Mort says “A good story has a really big impact, lingering in the reader’s mind” and it seems to me that the ability to reach out to people and affect them with your work is something that would be really worth gaining mastery of!