fullscreen background
Skip to main content

Spring Quarter

Spring Registration Now Open
Most Classes Begin Mar 28
shopping cart icon0


« Back to

FICT 58 W — Leave Out the Boring Parts: Crafting Stories People Want to Read

Quarter: Spring
Date(s): Mar 28—Jun 3
Duration: 10 weeks
Drop By
Drop Deadline: Mar 31
Unit(s): 3 Units
Tuition: $805
Format: Online course (System Requirements)
Limit: Limit 17
Status: Open
"Leave out all the parts readers skip,” says the writer Elmore Leonard. “Readers are not sheep,” says Vladimir Nabokov, “and not every pen tempts them.” But how do we refine our instincts for what will engage a reader? Without including boring bits of connective tissue, how do we get the story to cohere as a whole? Are we to exile from our stores of material anything that’s not obviously suspenseful or exciting? How are we to know whether we should cut a part of a story that isn’t working or try to make it better? In this course, we will read a variety of short stories, some with high action—blazing house fires, sudden death, drug-addled midnight joyrides—and some with quiet, unassuming renderings of day-to-day life. At these poles and in between, we will investigate what makes the writing interesting. At the same time, we will do writing and revision exercises designed to make your work more vibrant and engaging. Each student will complete a short story and have it workshopped. Whether you’re an experienced writer or are just starting to try your hand at stories, you’ll finish the course with a sharpened sense of what makes readers want to turn the page.

This is an online course. For more information about the Online Writing Program, visit our FAQs.

Rachel Smith, William Chace Lecturer in Continuing Studies; Former Stegner Fellow, Stanford

Rachel Smith’s writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The Rumpus, Brevity, and elsewhere. She has taught at Stanford, the Cambridge International Centre in Taizhou, China, and the University of Mississippi, where she received an MFA in creative writing.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Stephen Koch, The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop: A Guide to the Craft of Fiction (ISBN 978-0375755583)