Shaping the Story is, as the subtitle says, an introduction to writing fiction. It was published by Sundown Press, an imprint of Prairie Rose Publications, in January of 2019. It is a little over 100,000 words all together, with 68,000 in the main text and 36,000 in a short anthology of out-of-copyright stories to illustrate many of the elements and principles discussed in the main text. I hope it is useful to people who want to learn on their own as well as to those who might end up taking a class or workshop with me.

I wrote earlier versions and parts of this work for students who took creative writing courses with me in person and through distance education. I wrote the first chapters in 1998 or so, and I added to the work off and on as the writing courses came around in my work schedule. I wrote the last chunk of it in 2016, then re-worked it and edited it a little more until I submitted it in 2018. By this time, I felt that I had developed it into something accessible to people who did not have the classroom or the instructor for support.

Shaping the Story takes a practical approach to fiction writing, focusing on craft and technique. It describes elements or aspects of stories, gives examples, and offers suggestions for developing those aspects in one’s own work. The chapter discussions contain references to the stories in the anthology section as well as to other well-known, widely available stories and novels. At the beginning of each chapter, there is a note identifying which stories receive attention in the discussion. The book also has a chapter on planning a novel—again, practical and methodical and on an introductory level.

Although I emphasize the practicality and the possible usefulness of this book, in the long run I take a broader view. As an educator and as a learner, I have always been an idealist. I believe in personal enrichment through reading and writing as well as through studying languages, learning the lessons of history, and knowing about people in other times and places. And so I hope this book serves broader purposes, if only small and momentary, for many readers.

Shaping the Story is available at Amazon.

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