03
Feb

Literary Fiction and William H. Coles

I have this story that’s been languishing on my hard drive for a couple of years. And I have at least a few others that I wrote in 2004. 2004. I’ve never submitted them anywhere, except one. It was shortlisted in the Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Competition in 2005. It ranked between #4 and #7, depending on which judge was asked, and I even received a nice note telling me that they really struggled with it and it came so close. He also said to let him know when and where the story was published in the future, because he was sure it would be.

I know it’s a pretty good story. I knew that when I wrote it, and I had confirmation of that from someone whose opinion I respect a great deal. And the so close was validation, or it should have been. But I’ve never submitted the story anywhere else. The other stories, I look at them now and then and tinker, but they just don’t seem right to me.

These are non-genre stories. Literary stories. Or at least it was my intention for them to be. I think the short-listed story succeeded, though I read it now and it seems too sparse. I was trying too hard to write short, because when I wrote it in 2004, I thought writing short was the point. No, writing well and skipping the unnecessary words is the point. That doesn’t always mean short, I’ve learned.

In my general frustration at why I can’t seem to make these stories do what I want them to–I was particularly frustrated with the story that’s about two years old, because I think the core is really good, but my execution is not–I started looking for a book on just what it is that makes a literary story good.  Granted, I read them and I compare them to mine, and I analyze them as well as I know how. Why does this story interest me? How does the theme emerge? How did he get me from the beginning to the end and give me that little moment of understanding that ensures I’ll remember this story for a long time?

Analyzing stories is the best way, but I also enjoy reading about the writing process. I stumbled across Story in Literary Fiction, William H. Coles’ website. His stories are wonderful, his essays are interesting and enlightening, and he even posts interviews with various literary writers. There’s so much information here about literary stories and the process of writing them that I’m still making my way through all the information. I’m carefully reading and studying what I find there, including his prize-winning and finalist short stories.

The literary short stories are here–enjoy! If you’re pressed for time, Crossing Over is pretty short. If you only have time for one longer story, try Reddog or Facing Grace with Gloria. You’ll go back, no matter which you read first.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, February 3rd, 2011 at 4:55 pm and is filed under Writing Goals. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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