Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular
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Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  208 ratings  ·  24 reviews
Here is a practical guide to writing short stories that explains all the essential techniques of fiction - from character and plot to flashback and foreshadowing - in a way that is both understandable and useful to the beginning writer. Long considered a classic in the field, WRITING IN GENERAL is the product of a lifetime of reflection by one of our best literary minds.
Paperback, 208 pages
Published September 6th 2000 by Mariner Books (first published January 1st 1977)
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Aloha
Maybe the lit majors would give this a different rating. For a reader like me studying the literature itself without any background in literature beyond basic school requirements, this is a terrific guide that lays out the basic meat of a short story without pegging the writer into a certain style. This is important since I've been reading creations of wildly diverging styles.
Emanuella
Dec 01, 2008 Emanuella rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: all prospective writers
Shelves: writing-aids
This is one of the best writer's guides I've ever read about the structure of the short story. Some of Rust Hill's opinions on popular fiction get pretty elitist. But his advice on how to write a quality short story has given me a lot to think about. It's a very good book.

One of my favorite passages is when he talks about how Joyce Carol Oates claims to have conquered writer's block. "She says writer's block is caused by some problem in the work that the mind can't consciously solve, and that th...more
Krista H.
Good book, and contains my favorite quote to date on most suspenseful dime-a-dozen novels, which can also be applied to bad fiction in general.
"Before one knows it, he's nearly through with the book and then must continue so as to 'find out what happens at the end.' These are the sort of book of which publishers say 'Once you pick it up, you can't put it down,'and one of the major reasons you don't want to put it down is that you don't ever want to pick it up again." ---page 34.
Laura Neu
This is an excellent craft book, one of the best I've ever encountered. If you truly want to improve your writing, as a novelist or a short story author, pick this up. Hills makes things unmistakably clear and explains himself beautifully. His techniques are valid and applicable to such a wide range of writing. It is certainly on my re-read list.
Taka
Meh--

I didn't take away much from this, probably because I've read so many books on craft, but I did find some interesting things:

- the distinction he makes between "tension/anticipation" and "conflict/uncertainty"
-the dichotomous stereotype that combines two contradictory characteristics in a character
-how literary characters' motivation isn't all clear precisely because they're conflicted
-his Jamesian insistence that a truly artistic short story ought to have unity where every part contributes...more
Michael Burnam-fink
This book is like a tactical nuke: small, dense, and explosive. Rush Hills was a literary editor of the old school, in charge of fiction at Esquire in the days when you could say with a straight face that you read it for the articles. In WIGSSIP he explains what the literary short story is, how it differs from the sketch or 'slick fiction', and how to go about writing one yourself. This isn't a manual, more of a mediation on that most elusive and evocative of forms, the literary short story, but...more
Androo
While proving insightful on some points for the beginning writer, I didn't see the utility in the book for the 'seasoned pro' as so claimed by the back of the book. Additionally, Hills takes an awfully condescending tone when discussing anything outside of the short story (plays, screenplays, novels) as if to say "Sure, a novel has x, but it can't do x as a short story can." Or "A stage play may be able to do x, but a short story doesn't need to/is challenged in a different way."

Some bits are go...more
Jay
I think if you get one good insight, a book like this is worth it. This one provides at least a half a dozen worth thinking about.
Gail Gauthier
I just reread this book, mainly reading what I underscored my first time through. I would have rated it a little higher, but I didn't find it particularly well organized. Back in 2005, when I first read it, there was a lot of new information for me.

"Hills insists over and over again that short stories should be about something happening to someone--the someone should change as a result of something happening to her."

Excerpt from Original Content.
Megan Jones
Although I haven't read numerous craft books yet, this one stood out from the others I have read. It was very approachable and seemed to be able to explain both basic and advanced concepts in a very practical way without the reader feeling like the author was trying to make them feel inferior. I found endless amounts of helpful advice even though there were a few concepts that seemed obvious, it was still helpful to be reassured. I would recommend this to anyone looking to improve their short st...more
David
Feb 17, 2014 David rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Short Story Writers
Shelves: non-fiction
This had a lot of good information in it, largely just breaking down the many aspects of a short story, and how they all have to work together to make a good one. Unfortunately, the pretentious tone and dated feel made the whole thing quite a slog. It read like a textbook, and addressed what makes a short story rather than any sort of methodological advice on writing. Not bad, but so far the least useful craft book I've read.
Misha
Oct 22, 2012 Misha marked it as to-read
Found in a treasure trove of my old stuff at my dad's house in Ohio. Two boxes of books! I filled a bag and carried back as many books as I could on the plane. I'm enjoying this so far. It's more about how short stories work than telling someone how to write them, and it's somewhat narrowed in on literary fiction, so it's speaking to me in a way a lot of "how to" books don't.
Malrubius
This is subtitled "an informal textbook," and, boy, is it informal. I read it cover to cover and never found anything about "the Short Story in Particular." Often rambling, seemingly in no particular order, the book is saved by the author's hilarious and absolutely scathing denouncements of commercial fiction.
Shelby Harper
I wrote my first short story, then bought this book to see if I could use it to prove I didn't really write a short story.

It was filled with info that seemed pretty basic, like it would have been helpful to have read this book before I spent two years working on my first novel and starting a few short stories.
Jenai
This book was annoying as hell. It had no useful tips or information, and the overall voice of the author was pompous and dry. If you want real help with writing, pick up Strunk and White and read other short stories to get a sense of how to write. Don't listen to this guy.
Oliver Ho
I read this several years ago, and I'll definitely re-read it. I love how it's not only a sort of primer on the basics of craft, but it also works as a critique of other books and theories about storytelling. It's exactly what I needed to read right now.
Dan
I'm going to try to teach undergrads fiction with this, which might be a fool's errand—but I was 18 and still woozy from Nine Stories hitting me in the face when I found it in Lincoln Library, and look at me: Now I'm in debt!
Ris
Rust Hills (yes, that's the author's name) has some terrific insights into writing short stories. I was a little disappointed that I had to sift through some rather obvious stuff to get there, but I think I'm being a little choosy.
Nan
Okay, the book is a little dated. Still, even the stuff about New Criticism is thoughtful. His thoughts on academia and literature are invaluable. He goes against tradition sometimes, but is always wise.

Eric
An indispensable resource for the beginning fiction writer, and useful for writing teachers, as well.
Alex
A great book for teaching reading and writing short stories. I use it my my 12th-grade English elective.
Ezzy
Good information on the elements of a short story but painful to read.
Don
May 25, 2008 Don is currently reading it
Shelves: writing
Another impulse used-bookstore find. Been meaning to get this for awhile.
Hannah Goodman
Incredibly helpful about the parts of plot. Will use this again and again!
Lindsey Smith
Lindsey Smith marked it as to-read
Sep 22, 2014
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