I have a feeling there’ll be some disagreement from the Editor community that a collection of short stories should be a haphazard free-for-all, but that’s why indie publishing is so great.
(Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t not jump all over a traditional publishing deal and all of its benefits. But, if indie publishing has any benefits, the primary one is that it’s all D-I-Y. It’s a thrill to choose/design your own cover, decide on your own title, etc.)
I do plan to eventually write a collection that has a connecting thread, and I hope to publish it traditionally. But Carol’s Aquarium is exactly what I want it to be–a mishmash.
The mishmash doesn’t end with the writing, either. The publishing history of the pieces is just as varied. Most of the stories are previously published, but some can no longer be found online–this is the only place you’ll see them. Others are prize/award-winning, and two are previously unpublished.
I’ve been meaning to put together this collection for some time. I’ve tossed stories in, taken them out. Put them back in, taken them back out. Arranged and rearranged. All that regular stuff. Finally, though–after a last minute elimination of a story that simply shouldn’t be there (some nonfiction is best left unpublished, yes?)–it’s just about ready to go.
My favorite thing about it? The collection is absolutely (mostly) unpredictable. Drama leads to magical realism jumps to humor bleeds into emotional terror blasts into war.
Early in my writing life, I knew the one thing I wanted to do, if I were “allowed,” was to create a short fiction collection in which no one story was very comparable to the next. I considered it a shame that many collections had themes, a consistent tone, a voice with no inflection. It disappointed me to read collections and know what to expect from one story to the next. I might not know the ending, I might not know the plot, but the rest would often fail to intrigue. (I don’t get bored easily, but I do thrive on variety. That’s why I end up with so much food I don’t eat at restaurants–I must have the options!) Writing is the thrill it is because it’s–I imagine–like acting. The actor, when not acting, is always herself, but as soon as she steps in front of the camera, she becomes someone else whose way of speaking, moving, behaving, and reacting will change with every story.
So it should be (I believe) in a fiction collection. A novel is largely consistent from the first page until the last. Readers will pick up the novel, read it, and think they know how the writer writes. But what if that’s just how the writer wrote that particular story?
It is only in a collection where a writer can, in one place, jump from world to world and immerse readers in each world fully and completely with the use of a wide range of styles and voices.