So, You Wanna Write a Short Story? LitReactor Workshop Review

Written by Shawn Funk

Have you ever had a great idea for a story but never got around to writing it because you didn’t know where to start? Maybe you scribbled an idea on a napkin once and never looked at it again. Ideas are easy; developing those ideas into something that resembles a story is hard. Experts are waiting to help you! You have written your share of essays, reports, memos, emails, and letters during your time in university. These are all great practices, but if you really want to develop your writing skills, workshops are available from countless online and offline sources tailoring to various writing styles.

I decided to check out a creative writing workshop from the LitReactor website to see what all the fuss was about. I chose this site because the workshops had excellent reviews online, and I am a huge fan of the author, Chuck Palahniuk, who has contributed a lot of content to the website. The site also boasts tons of free articles and essays about reading, writing, and the like. The site offers a variety of workshops that vary in price and length.

The class I signed up for was called Short Story Mechanics, presented by the author Richard Thomas. It was a two-week workshop. The syllabus consisted of seven lectures and seven assignments. The last assignment being the completion of a 4000-word short story. The class was constructed with beginners in mind. Most of the other students had minimal story writing experience.


You get to write a complete story from start to finish. I had two new pieces in two weeks! The instructor provided excellent and timely feedback on assignments and was helpful throughout the class, answering questions and offering advice. His criticism was constructive rather than destructive; he found a way to work with everyone’s ideas. All assignments are posted to an open forum, so you get to see what others have turned in and the feedback they have received. It was nice to see in his comments; he wasn’t just blowing sunshine.The class was very well structured. I never felt confused about what needed to be done. The class size was small, about 20 students, and retention was very high. The instructor was also lenient about the final story submission, giving us up to two weeks extra to put it all together. Once the story is submitted, the instructor will edit, give feedback, and provide some information on where you could submit your story for publication.


This class is too expensive for a two-week course. Coming in at $299USD; it is one of the more expensive workshops on the site.  I used some money I received for Christmas to help with the cost. Otherwise, I probably would not have ponied up. Moreover, I was a little disappointed to learn that the classes were not live: this wasn’t really made clear on the LitReactor website or any other reviews I read. Lectures consisted of a small write-up, introducing the topic with links to the stories and essays he assigned for reading. These were adequate, but I prefer live classrooms. Lastly, I did have a small issue with accessing some of the assigned readings on the website. While all work, questions, and comments were posted to an open forum which all students will have access to indefinitely, some of the assigned readings are hidden behind a paywall and are no longer available after the class is over. This problem was partly redressed, as he posted some (not all) of the readings in a word doc in the forum.

Do I recommend this class?

The information in this class is organized well. I left with a clear idea of the structure of a short story, and the assignments were  practical. The workshop has lent me another angle of analysis in my reading. Indeed, I was very satisfied with this class. The instructor cut right to the bones and did not waste time on nonsense. His directions were clear, and his feedback was good. It is nice to see the work of others on the forum as well. You can secretly compete against them!

But, I still have a hard time justifying the cost on this one. Compared to a four-month creative writing class at the University for a few dollars more, I am not wholly convinced that the value is there. Did I say he was a professional author with contacts in the publishing industry? That is worth something, but damn.

Overall, I was very satisfied with what I had learned in the class. Like going to a fancy restaurant, the food is going to be great and your tummy will be satisfied, but your wallet will not. I would only recommend this class if you are serious about writing stories, have the money to pay up, and do not have access to a university level creative writing class.   

Find the short story called “Good Boy: A Six Sentence Story” inside this issue. The story was written using the structure taught in the workshop. Each sentence represents one structural component: narrative hook, rising tension, conflict, setting, mood/theme, and resolution. Check it out!

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