From Writer Unboxed: Focus on Short Fiction
Just glancing at the linked post, this bit caught my eye:
Bad Reasons to Write Short Stories
Short stories are great for your career, they say. Start with short fiction, they say, to
- Build your publication credits
- Help new audiences find you
- Let editors know you’re serious
- Raise your profile by winning contests
- Keep your novel fans happy in between books
And I thought, whoa, that last one looks weird to me. That looks like a GOOD reason to write shorter works. Admittedly, I’m biased, as I’m basically certain I won’t have time this year to write the still-untitled-but-surely-soon-this-will-be-settled 5th Black Dog novel. I mean, I will start it, and I may make considerable headway, I don’t know, but I’m positive I won’t have time to write it and revise it and get feedback and revise it again and so on. No. Too many other things I also want to work on, and October starts to look right around the corner when I think of trying to fit all that work into the months in between March 1 and October 31. So in that case, it sure looks to me like it’s better to bring out a collection of Black Dog stories than nothing. Right? That would be true even if it weren’t time for another collection, which it is.
Now, I grant that many (most? nearly all?) readers who prefer novels don’t much care for short stories. So what I’m thinking of is an exception: shorter work related to the novels in a series. Probably it’s not a totally fair think to think of that particular category of short story in this context.
The rest of the linked post is fine — it’s largely about the difference between novels and short work, and advice for novelists trying to write short work, and for short story writers to move into longer forms. This is all fine and sure, it’s a good post. But now I’m thinking about my own shorter works. I suspect that a majority of readers who like the Black Dog novels do read the Black Dog story collections — and I suspect that relatively few of those readers ever take a look at the stories in Beyond the Dreams We Know. So I do think it’s true that relatively few readers who prefer novels will look at a shorter work unless:
a) It’s a longish novella by an author they particularly like; eg, the Murderbot novellas;
b) It’s a story that takes place in the world of a novel they already like.
Let me see. Hmm. Okay, Beyond the Dreams has sold 28% as many copies as Black Dog Short Stories I. Actually, 28% is better than I would have expected. That’s not too far under a third as many. That’s not bad for stories unconnected to a specific series. Especially since the BD story collection has been out longer.
Somewhat oddly, I don’t see a straightforward list of Good Reasons to Write Short Fiction at the linked post. Obviously the best reason is:
Good Reasons to Write Short Stories
- The story you feel like writing turns out to be short
- Writing a short story lets you focus on secondary characters in a connected world
- Writing a short story lets you write something in a world you enjoy without having to commit to writing a whole novel.
- Some readers will indeed discover your work through reading the stories in a collection.
- A story or collection of stories helps keeps fans of your novels happy in between novels.
See? That last one is a good reason to write short stories and novellas, not a bad reason.
Raise your hand if you particularly like one or a couple of the Black Dog shorter works compared to the novels. Anybody? I’m betting it’s actually everybody. My own hand is definitely up.
Personally, I particularly like the stories that let Ezekiel get to be a pov character.
Also the ones that give Ethan the pov. I only wrote “Bank Job” because I thought Ethan was getting a raw deal, always being shown as nothing but Grayson’s jerk nephew, and I wanted to let him be seen in a more positive way. I had no idea he and Thaddeus were going to be a great team for the rest of the series, but here we are. The novella already written for the next collection is an Ethan pov story.
Keziah’s story was extremely difficult to write, but I think it came out well. Carissa’s story with Keziah was also difficult, but I really like that one too. They may wind up working together on a regular basis, who knows?
If you’ve got a favorite Black Dog story, which one is it?