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Posted by Dennis

Big Update From Chuck On Our Workshop Anthology!!!

Chuck Palahniuk, photographed by Sarah Lee

As we approach the midway point of nominating stories from our Writers Workshop for possible inclusion to the Anthology, momentum and excitement builds.  But along with this comes more questions from students.   To date, we have plowed through 5 months of story selections to go before Chuck, which he then reads, reviews and provides incredibly helpful feedback on.  Currently, we are screening stories from June, which will go before Chuck soon.

The mission here is for Chuck to get through a full year's worth of the best Workshop submissions and then choose the best ones for inclusion into an Anthology he will be helping to publish, hopefully for 2010

Today, Chuck took some time out of his very busy schedule to answer some of the more pressing questions you have all had for him.  He also lends some words of encouragement, with regards to marketing this book, what will sell best, and what sort of impact we can make for the future and going forward with more Anthologies from this site each year. All in all, this is very exciting stuff.  Check out Chuck's letter beyond the break!


Perhaps this is why writers need to hire agents and work with editors.  Ever since I began writing, my focus has always been on the storytelling, the research, the editing and revising.  Actually marketing my work has always been an afterthought – a task best done by someone else -- and I expect that’s the case for almost all writers. 

To date I’ve put all my attention into reviewing work from the workshop, praising it and suggesting changes.  This is not the only project in front of me: I’m always editing a new book of my own, researching another, and writing the first draft of a third.  This summer I’m also working with a dozen first-time writers as they prepare manuscripts for submission to agents.  I’ve never hired an assistant so I work on at least one of the aforementioned jobs every day of the year.

In doing so I’ve neglected to plan for the eventual anthology.  My goal has been to collect an inventory of strong, clear stories, and then choose the best from among those.  To increase the market value of the eventual book I wanted each story to illustrate one or more rules of “minimalism” which I’ve described on this website.  Editors and agents tell me that short story collections are the bane of publishers, seldom earning a profit despite the quality of the writing.  If we could harness the stories to an effective how-to book about writing fiction, the finished product would have greater long-term appeal. 

These are not easy rules to follow.  It took students of Tom Spanbauer years of writing in order to internalize and practice them.  The stories I look for including in the planned anthology/writing book must illustrate these rules to perfection.  If you have any questions, please, review the past lectures.

In addition, publishers will be looking for original stories, new to readers.  It’s less likely a publishing house will invest in work which has been previously published elsewhere.  That said, if you can write one excellent story, you can write another, better story.  This consistency and dedication is what creates careers.  In fact, what you consider your best work will likely pale against the work you write in the future.  I agree, the timeline toward this publication might seem long, but our effort is to create a book which lasts for decades.  Once a useful craft book gets into classrooms, it can have a long, long life, selling for generations.  A magazine editor can offer you faster acceptance, but you must also bear in mind that an issue of a magazine exists in the market for a shorter length of time. 

Dennis and I are discussing how to re-submit rewrites for my review.  I’ll continue to offer feedback on stories, but I can no longer consider previously published work.  Again, this process might seem slow, but someday this time won’t matter.  Tom always says, “The longer you can be with the unresolved, the better the finished story will be.”  If we’re careful and patient – not rushed -- the finished product, the book, can be a classic.  Beyond that, if we get this first book perfect, we can create future volumes, presenting stories which illustrate additional rules.  The first of anything is always the most difficult, but if we get this done correctly it will generate a vast new future.

I’ll Shut Up Now,

Chuck Palahniuk

If you'd like a recap of what exactly this all is, check out this post which gives details of the Workshop Anthology project.

Last, if you still haven't signed up to be a part of this, I think it's time to get serious about your writing.  Do you want to try and make a potential career out of tihs?  Then quite stalling and...

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