Two guides to start any story

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Trying to turn off the editor while you draft those tales? Try this trick from Thomas Hopkins, a short story writer who penned The Samoan Assassin Calls It Quits in One Story. The little lit mag posts a Q&A on its Web site with each of its writers, a chance to pass on lessons on craft. Hopkins said his story started like this:

About a year and a half ago I asked my brilliant writer friend Jessica Anthony for two story restrictions: a topic and a rule. I love challenges like that—I prefer wrapping my mind around a specific task, rather than staring down the nothingness of the blank page, even if the original task gets lost in the final incarnation. She wrote back: “Topic: Leaf-peeping. Rule: Must include Biblical metaphor.”

Hopkins refers to some sound advice in the Q&A: Annie Lamott’s “Write shitty first drafts.” Also:

Something Julio Cortázar said in his Paris Review interview about how he did not write every single day, which I found encouraging. Something George Saunders wrote in his essay The Battle for Precision: “Specificity, precision, and brevity, applied in language, drive us towards compassion.”

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