George Saunders currently has an online story club where he’s encouraging writers and readers to do this kind of work. I haven’t had time yet but I’ve flagged all the emails and at some point will take a month (ha!) and go through them. I have read his book, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, a close analysis of seven classic Russian stories (Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Gogol), essential reading I’d say, for anyone writing short stories. A few years ago, I got into the habit of keeping a reading journal where I keep track of what I’m reading, jot down words, phrases, techniques. I try and do a line or two on ‘what’s it about’ and a bit more on ‘how does it work’ (or not!). That might be something you could try on your own story, especially if you’re feeling a bit stuck. It helps get a different perspective and you might surprise yourself.
Alison Woodhouse, February 8th, 2022.