Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link

Exasperating. With the exception of The Faery Handbag, none of the supposed stories in this collection actually contain a story at all. Some of them contain multiple stories, nested and incomplete, but most are just character and setting with a complete lack of anything happening. Ever. For page after page.

Possibly the worst short story collection I’ve ever read.

Three things it taught me about writing:

  • Story is supreme. Choose your words well, but make telling a good story your first priority.
  • Deliver on your promises to the reader. If you promise zombies, give them some damn zombies.
  • If your story can be summed up in a single sentence, maybe it doesn’t need to be an entire novel.

On the Eyeball Floor and Other Stories by Tina Connolly

A strong collection of stories. Connolly moves from near-future sci-fi to alternate world fantasy to present-day witches, populating each story with strong, unique characters.

Will definitely be picking up her novel, Seriously Wicked, which takes place in the same world as one my favorite stories from this collection.

Three things it taught me about writing:

  • The thinner the story, the shorter the work should be. Don’t make the reader wade through lots of background or context just to get to the heart of events.
  • Writing in the present-day relieves you of a lot of world-building duties, lets you focus on creating great characters.
  • Even stories told via journal entries (or texts, or emails) can have a proper buildup to a climax.