September 23rd 2014
Short Fiction, Anthologies, and an Ongoing Kickstarter Campaign
I often encourage aspiring novelists to write short fiction, which is a bit ironic, since I began my career writing novels and didn’t sell my first short story until I had my fourth novel in production. But this is a classic case of “do as I say and not as I do.” Or did.
Writing short stories can help hone one’s craft. The challenge of short fiction — the need to tell a complete story in a limited amount of space — forces us to write leaner, to develop character and plot more efficiently, to choose which details are vital to our narratives and which are superfluous. And all of these are skills that we can then apply to our novel writing to great effect.
Usually, I encourage young writers to use short fiction as a means to explore ideas for their larger projects. Using the shorter medium to learn more about aspects of our worlds or key events in the backgrounds of our protagonists or antagonists can be enormously useful in a variety of ways. Short fiction allows us to fill in those details in the history of our settings or characters that would otherwise remain vague. At the same time, these stories offer us the opportunity to create and refine the voice we intend to use for the larger project. And, if the short fiction turns out well, we have a story that we can try to sell while we’re still working on the book, potentially giving us welcome exposure, a professional sale, and even a bit of income.
At other times, though, writing short fiction has nothing to do with that larger novel, and everything to do with just having fun. For the adventurous writer, one fiction venue in particular is worth exploring. I refer, of course, to the themed anthology. A themed anthology is just what it sounds like: a collection of short stories by a variety of writers, all of them writing from the same writing prompt. Sometimes themed anthologies are defined by subgenre. There are themed anthologies for epic fantasy, military science fiction, military fantasy, space opera, paranormal romance, and host of other categories. I recently had a story called “The Spelled Blade” (written as D.B. Jackson) come out in Realms of Imagination: An Urban Fantasy Anthology (edited by Kimberly Richardson for Dark Oak Press).
Other themed anthologies rely more on set focal points for the narratives — for instance a requirement that the lead character in the story be of a certain socio-economic standing, or a certain gender. I have another story coming out shortly in an anthology that required me to write from the point of view of a character who would be considered a villain. My story in this anthology (Big Bad 2: An Anthology of Evil, Volume 2, edited by John G. Hartness and Emily Lavin Leverett, also for Dark Oak Press) is called “The Cully,” and it is written from the perspective of a young Sephira Pryce, who would later become the nemesis of Ethan Kaille, the hero of my Thieftaker books.
Finally, some themed anthologies take on more conceptual prompts, challenging authors to build a story around a single broad idea. I am currently involved in raising funds for such a project, and I’m incredibly excited about it. The anthology is called Temporally Out of Order. No, that’s not a typo, although the idea for the collection did begin with a misspelled sign in an airport. One of the project’s editors, my friend Joshua Palmatier, saw a sign that said “Temporally out of order” on a pay phone, and after laughing at the obvious mistake, it occurred to him that it could be turned into a kick-ass themed anthology about objects that somehow wound up out of their appropriate time. And so the project was born.
Currently, Temporally Out of Order is in its Kickstarter phase. We started raising funds for the project last week and are already well on our way to our funding goal. The project has several anchor authors, including Laura Anne Gilman, Faith Hunter, Stephen Leigh, Gini Koch, Seanan McGuire, Laura Resnick, and me. It will be edited by Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray, who have collaborated on a number of anthologies, including After Hours: Tales from the Ur-Bar, which was published in 2011, and which included my story “The Tavern Fire.”
This should be a great project, and if you are so inclined we would love for you to contribute to the Kickstarter campaign. We have several premiums that you should check out, but the best premium of all is going to be this terrific collection of stories from the writers I’ve already mentioned and, we hope, stretch goal contributors Jack Campbell, Jean Marie Ward, and Juliet E. McKenna. And for those of you who find the theme intriguing, you should know that if and when the project is successfully funded, there will be an open call for submissions to fill the remaining slots in the anthology. So make a contribution and start thinking about your story.
And most of all, give some thought to writing short fiction. ANY short fiction. It will improve your craft, and it will open you to professional opportunities you might not have considered before.
David B. Coe
David B. Coe (http://www.DavidBCoe.com) is the Crawford award-winning author of the LonTobyn Chronicle, the Winds of the Forelands quintet, the Blood of the Southlands trilogy, and a number of short stories. Writing as D.B. Jackson (http://www.dbjackson-author.com), he is the author of the Thieftaker Chronicles, a blend of urban fantasy, mystery, and historical fiction. David is also part of the Magical Words group blog (http://magicalwords.net), and co-author of How To Write Magical Words: A Writer’s Companion. In 2010 he wrote the novelization of director Ridley Scott’s movie, Robin Hood. His books have been translated into more than a dozen languages. Visit site.
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