Friday Find: James Scott on Completing a Short Story

I recently mentioned my fondness for the author interviews posted at the One Story Web site. The latest features James Scott, who wrote the story I received most recently, “The Strings Attached.” Here’s one of my favorite segments from the interview:

How long did it take you to complete this story?

This story went through the wringer. It started in a craft class taught by Daniel Wallace at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Then I worked on it off and on (mostly off) for two years or so. Next it went through this amazing class at Emerson’s MFA program taught by Pam Painter called “Revision.” You basically play the part of butcher, eviscerate your story, see what’s edible and what gets tossed, stitch it all back together, and hope it’s delicious (Yes, I know—and am very glad—that butchers don’t actually sew meat together, but the metaphor worked up until then, don’t you think?). I also have to thank Urban Waite, Laura van den Berg, and Taylor Rogers for their close readings. And Hannah and everyone at One Story were so patient and wonderful and kind. So all in all, “The Strings Attached” honestly took at least twelve major edits and I don’t know how many—twenty?—little clean ups and tightenings over the course of three years.

Got that? Three years. We short story writers really do sweat this stuff. And that’s OK.