Looking through windows: a collection of short fiction

Christopher Overly, Colby College


I worked with Jim Boylan on creating a collection of short stories for a final portfolio as well as reading a selection of books for discussion. The process of writing was the most difficult part of the project. I found that it was harder than I predicted to put out so much fiction. In the end I wrote about 300 pages of completed works but could only justify about 130 for the final portfolio. To help myself in the process I assigned myself small problems, challenges, for each individual story. For one, the challenge was to write in a female voice. For another the goal was the first person narrative. The ultimate goal of my project was to improve my writing, and by setting up these challenges I was able to focus my practice in areas that I might have otherwise avoided. Revision was easier, I found. Once I decided what stories had merit I started with a blank page and completely wrote them again. I found that when I started from scratch on a story I was much more effective at making the story stronger. This was basically the procedure I used: write a few rough drafts, go over them with my tutor, and revise them. If I found an interesting aspect in one of the books that I read, I would see if that aspect might be used in one of my stories. I learned a lot through blundering. I came to recognize when I wrote a story that was better left in the trash can. Then I was able to see where weaknesses in my better stories were. Once I reached that level I was able to tear apart my stories without feeling too attached to them. I became a better critic of my own work and a better writer.