Category Archives: Ray Bradbury

Taking My Umbrella

ray bradbury square

Ray Bradbury

Lately, I’ve been getting ideas for short stories, from things I see, read, listen to, or just find myself thinking about. Ray Bradbury suggested writing a short story every week. His reasoning was excellent: “It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.” But I think a would-be author might find this advice difficult to follow, presuming he or she is employed in some other activity in anticipation of becoming an author. I might be able to write the synopsis for a short story in seven days, however. Extrapolating, I have constructed (concocted?) a 16.5-month time line for penning a 50,000-word compilation of 10 short stories.

poster edgesThere’s a 90 percent chance this is a false start like many others I’ve had. And I’m being generous giving myself a 10 percent possibility of success. (Please, no wagering.) Then again, when a meteorologist predicts a 10 percent chance of rain, you almost always find yourself running to your car with a handbag over your head. I am considering enlisting the support of my creative coach as well as writers at local meetups. And limiting my reading of short stories and my research about short story writing (tempting delay tactics), relying instead on the resources I’ve collected and internalized thus far.

Here are the best intentions paving my road to hell:

  • Week 1: Review the short story form
  • Week 2: Refine my list of story ideas
  • Weeks 3–12: Write synopses for 10 short stories (one per week)
  • Months 4–13: Write 10 5,000-word short stories (one per month)
  • Months 14–16.5: Edit 10 short stories (one per week)

I’m sure I’ll have to make adjustments along the way. Perhaps one story will want to be 2,417 words long. Another might need to be a novella. Maybe I’ve given myself too much time. (Ha. Ha-ha!) If my plan works, I’ll write a book about it. The title will be irresistible, something like, Crafting a Collection of Short Fiction in Just Under 17 Months.

Subtitle: Ray Bradbury Could Have Done It in 10 Weeks.

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Easy Reading Is Damn Hard Writing

Nathaniel Hawthorne penned the pithy statement that is the title of this post. Over the years, famous authors have contributed to an incredible volume of eloquent writing advice. “Never use a long word where a short one will do,” George Orwell ruled. “Try to leave out the parts that people skip,” Elmore Leonard recommended. “Write drunk, edit sober,” Ernest Hemingway advocated. I wondered, with so many persuasive tips out there, how you know which ones to follow. Since you are more likely to take advice from someone you admire, I decided to focus on writers who had an impact on me at various points in my life.

Books

When I read The Martian Chronicles in the fifth grade, I thought, “Ray Bradbury, where have you been all my life?” (He had been busily writing short stories, novels, plays, and poems.) In 1989, Bradbury published a collection of essays called Zen in the Art of Writing, which is now on my Amazon wish list. One of his oft-quoted pieces of advice was, “Don’t start out writing novels.” Oops. He also counseled, “You must write every single day of your life.” I will take this teaching to heart. And I like to think he was speaking to me when he said, “I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you.”

I became a fan of Shakespeare in junior high. I even had a Shakespeare pin, which I actually wore to school. You can imagine how popular I was. Here are some helpful hints gleaned from Shakespeare’s plays:

  1. Be brief. “Brevity is the soul of wit.” (Hamlet)
  2. Read a lot. “My library was dukedom large enough.” (The Tempest)
  3. Express sincere emotion. “Write till your ink be dry, and with your tears / Moist it again, and frame some feeling line / That may discover such integrity.” (Two Gentlemen of Verona)

“Be a literary genius” is also implied.

I discovered Woody Allen in high school, when I saw Love and Death (which I loved and subsequently quoted to death). According to Allen’s character in Husbands and Wives, “Some can write; others will never learn.” I suspect that may be true. Regarding his personal routine, Allen says, “I always write with a yellow pad and a ballpoint pen, on my bed. . . . When it works, I type it up afterward.” He describes the writing process as “wracked with anxiety” and a “battle for survival”—which I find oddly comforting.

Bernard Malamud’s The Fixer and The Assistant amazed me when I read them in college. When asked about his work habits, Malamud replied, “There’s so much drivel about this subject. You’re who you are, not Fitzgerald or Thomas Wolfe. You write by sitting down and writing.” Touché.