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Book Review: Short Circuit: A Guide to the Art of the Short Story

Short Circuit: A Guide to the Art of the Short Story.
Edited by Vanessa Gebbie.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

The title of this book suggests it’s a guide to the art of the short story. Let me start by pointing out straight away that it’s not the kind of guide that will teach you how to write short stories, step-by-step. The book is actually a collection of essays by different contributors (edited by Vanessa Gebbie) that explores how other writers approach the various aspects of the form.

I made the mistake of starting to read it like a How To guide, working through every chapter in linear fashion, hoping everything would come together at the end in one spectacular conclusion that would enable me to write perfect, flawless short stories with ease, every time.

That didn’t happen, and no book can ever teach that, but what I did come away with was the deeper recognition of two things I already knew: that there is no correct way to write a short story, and that short stories are neither right nor wrong, but entirely subjective.

Reading this book revealed a few more interesting things for me. One is the fact that the process of writing stories isn’t necessarily fixed for a given writer. Everyone seems to change their approach and try different things. What works for one story might not work for the next. Many stories appear to write themselves, while others require hard graft.

I would recommend this book to writers who are curious to find out how other writers approach the craft, so they can compare it to their own methods, and explore new ways of working. The exercises at the end of each chapter are interesting and useful, and may help those suffering with writers’ block to begin generating stories of their own again.

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