writers.com



Cliff Garstang


The Short Story

Writing the Short Story
Short Story Workshop
Publishing the Short Story

About Cifford Garstang
Student Comments
Complete List of Writers.com Classes

Writing the Short Story: make your story great (10 weeks)



Designed for writers with an understanding of fiction fundamentals, this is a workshop for writers who have or will have completed a draft story before class begins and want to take that story to the next level and make it great. In addition to responding to posted lectures that explore elements of the short story (and occasionally reading exemplary stories available online or in popular anthologies), students will submit a draft of a short story (up to twenty pages, double-spaced) and one revision (after receiving feedback from the instructor and other participants), and will also provide substantial comments on the work of other participants. There is no required text for this course - we will read and discuss classic short stories that are available online.

Much learning about the writing of fiction takes place in the process of reading and evaluating the work of both accomplished, published authors and other student writers. Through an analysis of great craft we gain an understanding of what works well and what we might want to emulate, and through the critique of unfinished stories we often identify problems that may also appear in our own work. The discussion and written evaluations force us to articulate our impressions, and articulation helps to reinforce our understanding of the craft.

Each week of the course will combine brief lectures with critiques of student work. Lectures will address the following subjects - Introduction; Beginnings; Point of View; Plot; Character; Setting, Description and Imagery; Dialogue and Scene; Time; Aboutness: Theme and Symbol; and Endings. In addition to the student work, we will read and discuss stories by Chekhov, Cheever, Tim O'Brien, Steinbeck, and others.

The goals of the course are as follows:

1. To deepen understanding of fiction fundamentals and short story elements.
2. To create and workshop a draft story up to 20 pages in length.
3. To revise this draft with the aim of learning the craft and discipline of revision.
4. To engage in the critiquing of draft work by other writers, with the aim of recognizing strengths and weaknesses in our own fiction.

Writers in the course are expected to offer feedback on each story presented. Generally speaking, we will workshop two stories a week (depending on the number of course participants), starting with new material and then transitioning to revisions. Summary comments should first address positive aspects of the works-in-progress, keeping in mind the apparent objectives of the work, and then move on to constructive suggestions. We will be discussing how to critique manuscripts effectively during our time together as well.

Course Outline:

Week 1.

Introduction. Overview of the elements of fiction. How and why we read fiction. We'll look at a classic short story and consider why it has the effect that it does. Principles of the fiction workshop and tips for critiquing. Participants sign up for critique slots in subsequent weeks. (The exact schedule and supplementary discussion will depend on the number of participants; note that the stories under discussion will include revisions.)

Week 2.

Beginnings. How should a story begin? At the beginning? Or in the middle of things? How much does a reader need to know? How can we get the reader to keep reading past the first sentence? We'll look at some classic and experimental beginnings. Critique two draft stories (two participants, up to twenty pages double-spaced)..

Week 3.

Point of View. The point of view of a story is a fundamental choice made by the author that readers often don't notice. How does the choice affect the reading experience? What is gained or lost in a story by looking at it from a different angle. We'll read excerpts from stories using different points of view. Critique two draft stories (two participants, up to twenty pages double-spaced)..

Week 4.

Plot. Although literary stories may put more emphasis on character, setting, or language, without plot there is no story. We'll look beyond the classic definitions of plot to consider what makes a story, and we'll read a modern classic. Critique two draft stories (two participants, up to twenty pages double-spaced).

Week 5.

Character. Stories are populated by characters in one form or another, and they are typically what make the story come alive. We'll explore "roundness" and the role of flat or stereotypical characters, as well as elements for building a character-driven story, by looking at a published work. Critique two draft stories (two participants, up to twenty pages double-spaced).

Week 6.

Setting, Description and Imagery. Some readers want a story to transport them to an exotic locale. Others want to be firmly grounded in a familiar and realistic time and place. The writer uses description and imagery to evoke a story's setting, and we'll look at examples. Critique two draft stories (two participants, up to twenty pages double-spaced)..

Week 7.

Dialogue and Scene. Writing effective dialogue is the hardest thing a writer does, and yet scene - in which characters ACT and speak to each other - gives a story its momentum. And bad dialogue will kill a story. We'll look at techniques for handling dialogue and some classic stories. Critique two draft stories (two participants, up to twenty pages double-spaced).

Week 8.

Time. Short stories often (not always!) cover a short period of time, whereas novels generally (not always!) cover a much longer period. And yet depth of character and story may require explorations back in time - through the flash back, retrospective narration, or other techniques. We?ll consider aspects of time in fiction, and look at examples. Critique two draft stories (two participants, up to twenty pages double-spaced).

Week 9.

Aboutness: Theme and Symbol. What's the story about? This, perhaps, more than anything, is what distinguishes a literary story from other kinds of stories. How does a story achieve depth and meaning without being preachy or obvious? We'll look at examples. Critique two draft stories (two participants, up to twenty pages double-spaced).

Week 10.

Endings. Should a story be tied up at the end in a neat little package? Or should it raise questions that aren't answered? Is a resolution really a resolution? What makes an effective ending? We'll look at examples. Critique two draft stories (two participants, up to twenty pages double-spaced).

About Cifford Garstang
Student Comments
Complete List of Writers.com Classes

Short Story Workshop - (6 Weeks)



For intermediate to advanced writers. Prerequisite: Cliff's class Writing the Short Story or equivalent.



Designed for experienced writers with, ideally, some workshop experience. Writers should have completed a draft story before or during the course. Each participant will submit a draft of a short story (up to 20 pages double-spaced) and will provide substantial comments on the work of other participants. There will be no formal lectures, although the instructor will use aspects of work under consideration to explore elements of craft and may draw attention to exemplary stories available online or in popular anthologies. There is no required text for this course.

Much learning about the writing of literary fiction takes place in the process of reading and evaluating the work of both accomplished, published authors and other student writers. Through an analysis of great craft we gain an understanding of what works well and what we might want to emulate, and through the critique of unfinished stories we often identify problems that may also appear in our own work. In both cases, the discussion and written evaluations force us to articulate our impressions, and articulation helps to reinforce our understanding of the craft.

During the first week of the course we will read and discuss one or more published stories (available online). In addition, each participant will sign-up for the week in which his or her story will be critiqued.

Each subsequent week will involve workshopping participant stories (and revisions thereof in later weeks) along with discussions of stories available online.

The goals of the Short Story Workshop are as follows:

To create and workshop a draft story up to 20 pages in length.

To revise this draft with the aim of learning the craft and discipline of revision.

To engage in the workshopping of draft work by other writers, with the aim of recognizing strengths and weaknesses in our own fiction.

Writers in the Workshop are expected to offer feedback on each story presented. Generally speaking, we will workshop two stories a week. Summary comments should first address positive aspects of the works-in-progress, keeping in mind the apparent objectives of the work, and then move on to constructive suggestions. We will be discussing how to critique manuscripts effectively during our time together as well.

About Cifford Garstang
Student Comments
Complete List of Writers.com Classes

Get Published! - Publishing the Short Story or Essay (8 weeks)



For intermediate to advanced writers. Lectures, exercises and discussions.



You've written a great story and now you want to get it published in a magazine. This course will show you how.

Designed for writers preparing to find markets for their short fiction or essay, this course is for intermediate to advanced writers. We will identify resources available for conducting market research and, where available online, examine them together. We will also discuss formatting, cover letters, contests, submission strategies, the perils of simultaneous submission, keeping adequate records, and dealing with rejection. Although this course will not include a traditional workshop component, participants will have the option to submit a draft cover letter for critique and one draft story (up to 20 pages, double-spaced) for proofreading and copyediting. There is no required text for this course.

Many traditional writing programs are purely academic. They focus on the craft of writing, with little or no attention given to the "business" of writing: once you've got a finished story, how the heck do you get it published? This is the course I wish I'd had available to me in my MFA program. It is a nuts-and-bolts course in how to identify markets that are right for your story and how to submit to those markets. We'll also talk about publishing contracts, rights issues, and other bits of information that academics usually forget to mention.

The goals of the course are as follows:

1. To prepare a polished (proofread and copyedited) draft story or essay for submission.
2. To research and identify appropriate markets for publication.
3. To prepare a suitable cover letter template for future submissions.
4. To develop a submission strategy for the long term.

Course Outline:

In addition to the main topic for discussion each week, we'll focus on at least one literary magazine to which participants may wish to submit. We'll study submission guidelines and what the various terms mean, and we'll talk about what information can be gleaned from websites and print copies of these magazines.

Week 1.

Introduction. The "how" and "why" of publishing short fiction and essays. Overview of markets: print magazines, online magazines, hybrids, anthologies, contests, story collections. Overview of the process from submission to publication.

Week 2.

Market Research. There are thousands of magazines, contests, and anthologies. How do I know which one is right for my story or essay? We'll look at various resources (print and online) to help identify markets, and we'll also talk about a "taxonomy" of magazines - a method of determining what kinds of stories a magazine might like.

Week 3.

Submission Strategies. If I send out my piece to 100 magazines, surely one of them will take it, right? Maybe, but then what? We'll talk about simultaneous versus exclusive submission, magazine ranking and tiers, and climbing the submission ladder.

Week 4.

Contests. Many magazines run contests in which writers pay for a shot at a prize and publication. Are these contests worth it? (We'll also talk about magazines that charge reading fees for regular submissions.)

Week 5.

Formatting and Cover letters. We'll talk about the standard format for submitting stories and we'll also discuss cover letters. Participants will submit a draft cover letter for critique by participants and the instructor.

Week 6.

Keeping Track. How to make a record of your submissions and how to make use of it. Waiting! When to nudge magazines when too much time has passed. When to give up! Withdrawals when you story is accepted elsewhere.

Week 7.

Rejection. Not all rejections are equal. What does the magazine mean when they invite you to submit again? Rejection isn't personal.

Week 8.

Moving on. You sent the piece out five times and you got 5 rejections. Should you throw it away? No! Should you revise it? Maybe! But probably not, unless you got some very specific feedback. We'll talk about the real key to publishing success: Perseverence.

About Cifford Garstang
Student Comments
Complete List of Writers.com Classes

CLIFF GARSTANG's novel in stories, What the Zhang Boys Know (Press 53, 2012), won the 2013 Library of Virginia Literary Award for Fiction. His short story collection, In an Uncharted Country (Press 53, 2009) received a Gold Medal from Indpendent Publisher and also won the Maria Thomas Award for Fiction. His work has also appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, Shenandoah, Blackbird, Bellevue Literary Review, Baltimore Review, Potomac Review, Cream City Review, Tampa Review, Los Angeles Review, and elsewhere. His stories have won several awards, earned five Pushcart Prize nominations, and received Distinguished Story recognition in the Best American Series. He has been a Tennessee Williams Scholar and a Walter E. Dakin Fellow at the Sewanee Writers' Conference and is a Fellow of the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. He holds an MA in English from Indiana University and an MFA in Fiction from Queens University of Charlotte, as well as a JD from Indiana University and an MPA from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. He formerly practiced international law with an American law firm in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Singapore, and with the World Bank in Washington, DC. He is the editor of Prime Number Magazine.



Student Comments


"I give Cliff Garstang five stars, at least, for his excellent lectures, references to outstanding short stories and his whole attitude. He's thorough, on time and understanding...I have told several people about your courses."

Dorothy A. Koroly Johnson

"This is the first time I had ever taken another class from the same teacher, which I did specifically because of the teacher. His lectures were full of examples which were helpful, and he was extremely attentive to questions and comments, often resulting in dialogue via email to develop a point or respond in depth to questions. I will likely take one from him again - or even the first one again... "

David Ballard

"Cliff is, by far, the best teacher anyone could be lucky enough to have. I'd love to study with him more, even a tutorial. He is a keeper. Give him a raise. Please contact me when Cliff gives a workshop."

Rochelle N.

:: to top of page ::
Complete List of Writers.com Classes


home:about:classes:enroll:services:instructors:tips:store

writers on the net/writers.com
© 1995-2014