Joe Bunting On "Let's Write a Short Story!" [Interview & Giveaway]

A profile picture of Joe Bunting.
Is this picture all right, Joe?
Ever since I finished "Let's Write a Short Story", I've been arranging this! I'm excited on having Joe Bunting on the blog today, even if it was through sending him a lot of questions via email.

The nervousness of having to do it face-to-face via Google+ Hangouts would have resulted in an awkward story.

In any case, I asked him a lot of questions, and he gave brilliant answers. A few of them I think you should take a close look at.

Read the interview really carefully (since I myself is guilty about skipping interviews on other blogs), and stay tuned for the end of the post for a treat!

Interview with Joe Bunting

Me: First of all, how did the book launch go? Did it exceed your expectations?
Joe Bunting: I think most writers tend to be unsatisfied with the results of their work. We have great imaginations, and have a vision for how we want our work to come out. But mostly we fall short. 

I'm so grateful for all the people who helped spread the word about Let's Write a Short Story! But I'm not content yet. I'm not sure if that's okay or not.

What was the most unexpected or unusual incident that happened concerning your book launch? For example, did you get an endorsement from a strange source, or maybe something involving friends or family?
I'm always grateful for Jeff Goins. He's one of the most surprising people I know. It's good to have him as a kind of mentor. If you consider Let's Write a Short Story! as a successful launch, he is the one who tipped the scales.

Have you received the attention of any editors or other staff of literary magazines?
Not yet. The interest from writers, even those who have written for literary magazines, has been huge, but I'm a little nervous to send it to my friends who work with literary magazines. In one section, I suggest something that breaks a major rule at certain literary magazines. The reasons to break the rule are solid, but I'm still nervous I said it out loud. [Editor's note: He has good reason to.]

In the short time you've released your book, how many writers do you think are now writing because of your book? Any notable cases?
Every day I get emails or tweets from three or four people who say they've started writing a short story because of the book. A lot of people apologize for not finishing it because they had to set the book down and go write. I've talked to two or three parents who are working on the book with their child who wants to grow up to be a writer. But my favorite are the writers who are just getting started who tell me they failed writing novel after novel and never knew they could write short stories. I love opening up new opportunities for people.

On The Write Practice

You said on your blog recently that one of your short story submissions were rejected. About how many stories are you currently submitting?

The short story you're talking about was actually from a novel I started about three years ago. I cut the story down from 15,000 words to 3,000 words, and then rewrote it up to about 5,000 words. I submitted it to five magazines and am just starting to hear back. It usually takes one to three months so I should be getting a few more rejection letters soon. :)

I have two short stories, three or four flash fiction pieces, and two poems I'm actively submitting right now. I try to send each piece to five or six magazines at once. It's a lot of work!

Unless I'm mistaken, you have plans to forge a community of writers around your book, perhaps by using your book's website somehow. Can you clue me into those plans?
Some people learn best through community. They thrive on interaction and need encouragement from others to take action. In part, I want to create a community to help those kinds of people who don't learn from books, but learn from people.

The other side of it, though, is that if you want to be successful as a writer, you need a team of people to help critique, curate, and then launch your stories out into the world. Before I submit any story, I send it to five to twenty readers. Some of them aren't even writers, but they help me see the flaws in my story and the places I need to rewrite. Then, these initial readers often are willing to help raise awareness about the book through social media and blogs. Let's Write a Short Story! was critiqued and launched by such a team, and every writer needs to have one if they want to sell more than 20 books.

A few months ago, you considered making a The Write Practice for kids. What are your plans with that concept?
Just looking for the right person to run it. You want to take it on? :)

[No thanks. I have other plans at the moment, but maybe next summer...]

On the Contents of "Let's Write a Short Story!"

Using the six elements of storytelling that you described in your book, how would you describe your own writing style?
Good question, and one I ask myself every time I write. I'm heavy on action and description. I like writing about emotion, but I think there are only so many ways you can say, "He was sad." Instead, I use description, which allows me to narrate emotion through a characters' observations.

You said that lots of internal monologue can make a story sound young. What stories made you reach this conclusion?
Twilight is probably the most popular example. Bella spends a lot of time thinking about her feelings and about Edward and about her feelings about Edward. It can come off as a diary. It's not bad to have a writing style that sounds young, but it's good to know what you're doing and why.

As I pointed out in my review of your book, you reused some blog articles from The Write Practice in some sections. What process did you use to determine which ones would make the book (and therefore represent among the best of your writing advice)? What was one article that almost made the book but was probably removed at the last minute?
I love creating books out of blogs. Blogging is a great way to test ideas. You instantly get a sense of which ideas resonate and which fall flat. I'm always monitoring my blog to see which posts people are responding to, which they're commenting on, which ones they're sharing on social media, and which posts inspire them to practice. When I chose the theme of this book, I picked out about 30 posts that I thought would fit. Then, I started cutting and connecting the dots on the leftovers. 

The only article that got cut at the last minute was a section where I quoted the now infamous Jonah Lehrer and his book, Imagine. About three weeks before the launch of the book, the news broke out that he made up quotes from Bob Dylan and others. His publishers actually recalled the book. I had to find other sources to back up the story I told in that section. 

I feel bad for Jonah, though. His career is over. And that's why you become a fiction writer, so you never have to worry about making up quotes.

[Question for the readers: My mom has the book Imagine. Is it a waste of time reading it?]

Does He Have the Authority?

You said to me earlier that you're yet to publish fiction. Sooner or later, someone might challenge your authority on the topic. How would you defend your credibility?

Good question. The odds of getting a short story published in a literary magazine are about 0.5%, which is 1 in 200. The odds of publishing a novel are even worse, especially considering it takes so much longer to write a novel. 

When I started The Write Practice, I wanted to find a way to apprentice myself to the craft of fiction. I'm on the same journey you are. I don't claim any special authority. 

However, I do make a full-time living writing non-fiction books, writing in magazines, and editing. I've been around the writing world to know a few things. 

The one place I'll claim authority on is practice. I know that if you practice deliberately for long enough, you will not be able to go unpublished. People will find you, strap you down, and force you to publish something. So The Write Practice is my place to practice. And yours too, if you want. :)

[Now I want to be strapped down and forced to publish something! Not literally, of course.]

Just For Fun

Pick one: Aliens, time travelers, or psychics?

How about the robot psychics in Foundation who see into the future with their minds? Does that almost count as all three?

I'll give you that.

Thank you Joe Bunting for taking time out of your day to answer these questions! 

Readers, did you learn anything? Did any of the answers made you think?

YA's Dogtown's 1st Ever Giveaway!

To be honest, I actually didn't approach Joe Bunting for the interview. I just wanted permission to giveaway a copy, but he offered the interview, which is a even better opportunity.

Still, he was kind enough to give one of you the chance to win "Let's Write a Short Story!". The price for it might have gone up today, but that doesn't mean you should've get it, if you don't want to wait.

In any case though, I'm pleased to offer this gift. It's one of many in the upcoming future. 


The prize is simple: One PDF of "Let's Write a Short Story" by Joe Bunting. There are over seventy of you, and the number's going to go up.

Why? In order to be eligible to win, you have to be a subscriber to my email list. You don't even have to follow by GFC or RSS, although that will give you another entry.

Join the giveaway! Once you join my email list and enter that entry, you'll have the opportunities to earn more entries, and therefore have a higher chance of winning. For example, following @joebunting and @chihuahuazero on Twitter gives you six more entries total. Google+ members will also be pleased.

Tip: If you have a Twitter account, share this post every day. I thought about activating daily entries for Google+ and Facebook, but I don't want to spam those platforms.

Other rules: You have to be 13+ or older or have your parent's permission. The winner will be notified within twenty-four hours of being chosen. If he or she doesn't respond upon being notified after 72 hours, another winner will be chosen.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Any questions?

(Yes, one of my intentions for this giveaway is to build my email list, but I promise I won't spam you. Or give your email address to spammers.)