I piled my inventory of stories, published and unpublished, on my desk and read them.
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I experimented with different selections. I added pieces to the book and removed stories. I realized some pieces, even published ones, needed more work. Some were stronger than others.
The themes emerged as I worked on the book. I saw how my fiction had changed over time, saw the obsessions that haunted me as a writer. I had written again and again about relationships, bonds to partners, spouses, parents, children, and friends, as if I were trying to find a solution to a puzzle, to understand those things that strengthen or weaken relationships. Still, it was hard to part with them. When I started to write fiction, my goal was to create a story that worked. This can take years. It did for me. Each story idea was a journey into the unknown.
A writer is never really done with a project, even though he or she moves on to the next one. I had considered many of my stories finished, especially the published ones.
I ended up revising the stories that were part of the collection. Then I set the story collection manuscript aside. Each time I wrote a new story I considered strong, I removed a weaker one and inserted the stronger piece. Next, I turned to the order of stories. In a sense, a reader participates in the order; he or she can choose to read the stories in any order. Still, I felt the arrangement was important and created a flow for the book.
I experimented and settled on an order for the stories. Want to Improve Your Short Stories? Order Crafting Novels and Short Stories now by clicking here! My first collection was published in It had been rejected by publishers and contests, but it finally won a contest, which was thrilling. And even though I started writing short stories to further my novel, I ended up falling in love with this beautiful, compressed form that allowed me to actually finish a story arc in less than five years.
Tip: Even if you are working on a novel or another long project, taking a break to write a short story now and again can help free you from that insidious condition we call writers block. I submitted my short stories to literary journals. I knew to take none of it personally. I was stubborn. I kept revising and submitting, and I started getting acceptances. My most successful year—when five pieces were published—I also got rejections. The only way to fail is by not trying.
There is always more. I started paying attention to the themes I returned to again and again in my work. Loss, love, breaking apart and trying to become whole again. I wrote towards those ideas when I began every new story. Tip: Write towards whatever it is that keeps you up at night, whatever swirls around your heart and your head.
I put what I considered to be my best stories together, in one document, to see how they flowed. Some of them had been published, and some had not.
Review of A Collection of Short Stories () — Foreword Reviews
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