Back in 2012, Esquire magazine held a short short fiction contest in celebration of its 79th anniversary. The only two rules were that you had to compose a story that did not exceed 79 words in length (excluding the title) and you could only submit one story.
Piece of cake, right?
I worked on several stories that took me a couple of weeks to write, edit, re-write, re-edit, until I finally settled on the one I thought was the strongest and submitted it. Writing short, in this case very, very short, is much more challenging than one might think. The stories were judged on the following criteria: 25% plot, 25% characterization, 25% theme and 25% originality.
I didn’t win.
That’s okay, though. I’m of the belief that no writing effort is a waste of time. I had a lot of fun challenging myself to keep my writing tight and expressive in just 79 words. Not sure I succeeded, but the process is just as important as the end product.
Below is the (non-winning) entry I submitted to Esquire. It’s a bit dark, but that’s how I roll sometimes. It’s loosely inspired by an alleged real-life event that took place in my hometown when I was a kid.
I’ll post more of these 79-word stories over time and attempt to write some new ones.
Off the Beaten Path
I’ve learned a lot not only from reading other people’s writing, but also from reading about how they write. You don’t have to adopt their practices or even agree with them. However, it does help to have some different perspectives on the craft. You might glean a kernel of an idea that could help you with your own writing. At the very least, you’ll learn that even for the most experienced (and famous) writers, the writing life can be lonely at times, they all have to write more than one draft, and they all have had their work rejected at some point. These are my picks for the top ten books about writers and their writing, in no particular order:
- The Paris Review Interviews – The Paris Review (any in the series)
- Writers on Writing: Collected Essays from the New York Times – The New York Times (any in the series)
- On Writing – Stephen King
- On Becoming a Novelist – John Gardner
- Zen in the Art of Writing – Ray Bradbury
- Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott
- Writing Down the Bones – Natalie Goldberg (any book by her)
- On Writing Well – William Zinsser
- The Writing Life – Annie Dillard
- The Writing Life: Writers on How They Think and Work – Marie Arana
Which books on writing would you recommend? Give me your top three.
I am now accepting guest posts for my interview blog, Vox Laurus. This link will take you to my guest blogging page, where you will find the guidelines for having your post approved. I include a list of potential topic areas, but I’m open to suggestions, as long as they fit within my blog platform.
If you are interested in writing an article for my blog, please contact me via the email address found on the guest blogging page. If you know of someone else who might be interested, please pass this along.
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