Compression: Susan Rukeyser

Recipe: Compressed Fiction

¼ lb. lean story (revised).
Courage. Do not over season.


  1. Pat story into usual shape.
  2. Apply meat press.
  3. Squeeze. Good. More.
  4. Observe, oozing from beneath cast iron: Tedious explanation. Bland dialogue. Extraneous detail. Fat.
  5. Press harder.
  6. Story may no longer resemble usual shape. That’s good. That’s better.
  7. Observe, released: What the author didn’t trust the reader to know. (She knows. She brings her own story to this.)
  8. When the space around and between the meat matters just as much as words, your story is done.
  9. Serve hot. Swallow. Savor.

— Susan Rukeyser

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