Pragmatism, The Art, and Publication

- Part I: What is the Pedagogical Strategy Here?
- Part II: Postmodern Tales of Show-Don't-Tell
- Part III: Will You Please Stop Writing, Please?
- Part IV: The Seven Reasons Why Writers Fail to Publish
- Part V: On to Publication and Greatness

What is the Pedagogical Strategy Here?

The PS will not become clear till the very end. To reveal all would be to compromise the approach. Suffice to say, at this point, we will drum the "art of fiction" (as defined in this workshop) and its relationship to pragmatic fiction-writing. We'll read and analyze several different types of short stories written by both contemporary and classic authors, as well as explore ways to extract good publishable story material from your consciousness. We will experiment with log lines, synopses, and titles. Early on, you'll begin to write a short story conceived in the workshop. As we go, we'll study and apply fiction structure and narrative technique till finally, at the end of this workshop, the ostensible madness of the assignments will suddenly transfigure in your mind into sound method and wisdom--the considerable ravings on the part of the workshop leader acting as catalyst to produce not only a new sense of confidence, but a publishable story.

As a side note to take note of: since this workshop is affiliated closely with WebdelSol.Com, the nation's largest publisher of new and high quality periodical contemporary literature, you will have plenty of superb fiction by new and name writers available to be read and referenced. As a matter of fact, most of the short fiction studied in this workshop will be accessible online.

One goal of this workshop is to PUBLISH STUDENT WORK in high quality publications (btw, those accepted readily by the NEA when it comes to receiving grants)

The "Art of Fiction" and Why You MUST Respect It

When Flannery O'Connor was asked whether or not she believed college MFA programs actually suppress young writers, she replied, "Not nearly enough of them." Course, this is humorous, especially to a crowd of crusty editors swapping anecdotes at happy hour, but what are the implications of Flannery's statement? What was her point? Simply this: the earth is populated with way waaayyy too many "writers" sans the necessary vision and skills to write decently. And these days, due to the proliferation of writer magazines, groups, conferences, etc., this is even more true. Imagine those thousands upon thousands of would-be fiction writers expending enough energy every day to light several cities from dusk to dawn. How many will actually publish? Or should I say, how many will actually find their work in credible publications some day?

No matter, forget it. You are now a student in the Algonkian "Art of Fiction I" workshop, and not just anyone at any old conference or network literary party hoping to snag the ear of a well-known published writer who will not think twice about ignoring you for the rest of your life. You're here because on some level you believe the axiom that "you must write well if you are to publish." It all comes down to that. Simple? ... And what does "well" mean? It means, for our purposes, well enough to get published.

An irritating response, yes? It will have to do for now. For a new writer, getting published is perhaps (or possibly should be) the ultimate test of "writing well". And how are you going to arrive to bask in this state of transcendence? Simple. You are going to start by mastering the art of fiction ... Yes. Starting now. And at the climax of this workshop, you'll decide WHAT TO SAY AND HOW BEST TO SAY IT IN THE CONTEXT OF YOUR OWN ABILITIES AS A WRITER. In other words, as a writer, you'll do what works for you, choose an intelligent approach that enables you to become published.

Regardless, the accomplishment of this pragmatic approach can never be a totally selfish exercise. It requires you recognize that you are writing for a reader, and it demands you have RESPECT for that reader. It also requires you possess eclectic SKILLS, endurance, and above all, IMAGINATION. It means you must come to a clear COGNIZANCE of your individual strengths and current weaknesses as a writer, accept them (even if it means taming your ego with self-imposed therapy), and vow to do whatever necessary to exploit the former and compensate for the latter. And not least, satisfying the art of fiction also requires KNOWLEDGE, i.e., you must be very familiar with your genre (literary, mainstream, SF, mystery, etc.). This is necessary in order to assure good original fiction-telling (after all, you might not have a "story," not in the usual sense) and avoid lapsing into the worst sin of all: hackneyed and/or dull writing.

In other words, you understand right from the start exactly what you must do in order to create your own personalized brand of narrative and story élan sufficient to create good fiction, to compel the reader to finish what you started long before.

By the way, "story élan" is the key here--core to understanding what the art of fiction is all about. Once you've made a realistic assessment of your abilities as a writer, you not only choose specific craft technique to improve your story, you also choose original subject matter that maximizes your skills as a writer, i.e., if you're not a masterful prose stylist like William Gass or Jayne Anne Phillips (and how many of us are?), you'll compensate with a crisp voice that tells a provocative or absorbing story. Your models will be writers the likes of Carson McCullers, Saroyan, or Carver.

Your fiction structure and narrative will contain the requisite amount of polish, tension, and interest to create a condition of "story élan," the end result of a synergy of elements working to make the story a successful one.

Have I left out anything?