Friday, August 18, 2017

Short Story Writing: A Practical Treatise on the Art of the Short Story

Short Story Writing: A Practical Treatise on the Art of the Short Story - Charles Raymond BarrettA practical treatise on the art of the short story, designed to present concretely the rules of the art. It is a working manual, not a collection of untried theories. It tells how to write a story with reference to the requirements of contemporary editors.

“Both an interesting and useful book. While it is concerned with the special application of rhetorical principles to a particular department of literary art, it carries a general application that all literary workers may profit by, as in its chapters on Titles, Style, and the Labor of Authorship. Perusal of it is likely also to promote among readers a desirable repugnance to the inferior stuff which wastes time that might be better employed. Mr. Barrett’s purpose is in the interest of novices who would learn the art of telling a short story as it should be told. His precepts are pointed with numerous critiques upon specimens of poor work, and enriched by references to various books and articles on the subject which amplify and re-enforce his presentation of principles and rules.” -Outlook

“Based upon deductions made by the author in the course of work as student, writer and critic of short stories. Specially brings out the requirements of contemporary editors. Principles laid down are illustrated by extracts from actual short stories, both good and bad.” -The Book News Monthly

“If the countless thousands of would-be authors who are writing or who contemplate writing a short story would diligently study ‘Short Story Writing,’ by Charles Raymond Barrett, Ph.B., many an over-worked editor would find his burdens lightened. For the would-be author will realize, after he has read Mr. Barrett’s book, that to write a successful short story is an achievement beyond the power of ninety-nine men out of a hundred. The book is no mere presentation of theories on the part of the author. It is the result of careful analysis of the great short stories of the English language. Not only does the author show the inherent qualities of greatness which some of these stories possess, he also gives extracts from various amateur and unsuccessful stories, by which he shows plainly what a writer of short stories must not do. This treatment is one of the most helpful characteristics of his book. Mr. Barrett has treated the subject with admirable fullness….Readers of short stories as well as would-be authors will find the book interesting.” -Public Opinion

“Aims to give directions on all phases of the subject.” -Printer’s Ink

“Competent young writers who seriously desire to do something worthwhile along the line of hte short story will do well to read Charles Raymond Barrett’s ‘Short Story Writing.’ The author makes some very wise and remarkably practical suggestions. He defines the curious limitations and canons of this peculiar art form, the short story, in a clear and discriminating way. He classifies short stories, speaks helpfully of the selection of plots, talks judiciously of good and bad titles, of the use of facts, of character painting, of methods of narration, and of style. In the last chapter he gives sound advice on the quest of a market. Neither Mr. Barrett nor anyone else could turn the average man or woman into a successful short story writer, but Mr. Barrett can give a lot of good pointers.” -The Chautauquan

“A volume of definition, criticism and instruction. Sensible and based upon careful and intelligent study. Young writers will do wisely to read it and heed it.” -Congregationalist

“The book can hardly fail to be of much practical assistance to the novice in short-story writing.” -Review of Reviews


This book is an attempt to put into definite form the principles observed by the masters of the short story in the practice of their art. It is the result of a careful study of their work, of some indifferent attempts to imitate them, and of the critical examination of several thousands of short stories written by amateurs. It is designed to be of practical assistance to the novice in short story writing, from the moment the tale is dimly conceived until it is completed and ready for the editor’s judgment.

The rules and principles here presented embody not what I conceive to be right, but what the great masters of the short story have thought to be right, and what they have proved to be at least successful. I speak only as a delver into the secrets of other men; and if I seem arrogant, it is due to the influence of the company I keep. My deductions are made not only from the artifices and triumphs of the successful, but from the struggles and failures of the unfortunate as well; and I have endeavored to make clear both the philosophy and the application of all the principles so deduced. Though in theory these rules are obligatory on all who essay the short story, they are frequently and knowingly evaded or violated by the masters of the art, whose genius is great enough to excuse their disregard of the conventions, or whose skill is sufficient to smooth over their technical lapses; but for the novice the only safe course is a careful observance of all conventions.

To the aspiring writer this book may seem to be merely a catalogue of “Don’ts”, the gist of which is, “Don’t write”; but that is to misread me. Short story writing is not easy, and I cannot make it so, even if I would; but it is far from my purpose to discourage any person who feels the Heaven-sent call to write, and who has the will and ability to respond to it. But that call is but a summons to labor—and to labor the severest and most persistent. To one who comes to it but half-heartedly, illy prepared, shirking its requirements, I can predict certain failure; but to the earnest, serious, conscientious worker, I would say a word of hope. The promotion from the rank of amateur to the dignity of authorship may be long in coming, but it will come at last. Fame, like all else that this world has to give, depends largely upon downright hard work; and he who has the courage to strive in the face of disappointments will achieve success in the end.

(From the Preface)

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