Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Writing Book Review - How to Write Short Stories for Magazines -- and get Published!

(Crossposted on and - where I have awarded it 2 stars).

When I first started reading "How to Write Short Stories For Magazines -- and get Published" by Sophie King after I bought it I wondered if I'd made a mistake. It deals primarily with the type of short fiction you find in Women's Magazines like "Woman's Weekly" and "Best", and this is not a genre of fiction I generally read.

However on the principle that a short story is a short story I persevered. I thought I might still get some value from it, and I did.

The stuff about characterisation and plotting was especially useful. The viewpoint chapter is good, but didn't tell me anything I didn't know.

The dialogue chapter, however, is a curate's egg - some of it is good but some of it is horrible. This woman actually suggests using alternatives to said and gives some suggestions that are bad. And the chapter on First or Third Person contains a major editing gaff. Throughout the book there are examples of stories she's had published as examples (and I suspect to boost page count). In this chapter she states that she's using one story at the end and then uses another completely.

The rest of the book is full of reasonable advice, but somehow the whole book feels a bit anaemic. It's the first book I've read on writing short stories, but it seems lacking. The internal layout is odd compared to most books and it and the stories seem to be aimed at boosting the page count. I'm absolutely sure there must be better books about the art of short story writing than this one. It might be worth getting out of the library, but I wouldn't recommend buying it.


Carradee said...

Have you tried any of Holly Lisle's writing books? I recently got her Clinic series, and I'm extremely pleased thus far. I've used the plot one to help me plan revisions for a novel (with a few modifications, mainly involving all-white highlighters and highlighting the top side with a color code indicating how much work I needed to do).

I'm currently using the "Create a Language Clinic" to solidify the rules for the many languages for my world. I haven't yet poked much into "Create a Culture" or "Create a Character", but I suspect they'll be helpful.

Becka said...

Thanks for the comment. :-)

I bought the ebook versions of "Create a Language" and "Create a Culture" a while back. So far what I've discovered is that while I don't mind ebook novels, I find ebook workbooks annoying. They look useful, so I'm saving to buy paper versions.