1. Caldenfor
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    Caldenfor Member

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    Writing a Novel as a Collection of Short Stories (Serial Talk?)

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Caldenfor, Jun 10, 2012.

    I will admit to only doing brief searches, but it is something that has come to mind as of late. There are many people out there that may feel a novel is too large an undertaking, but this came to mind as an alternative way to tell a story.

    How common is it to have short stories written that when you read them all, they combine to tell one large tale, aka a novel length story?

    This could be where the term "serial(s)" comes into play. But that would be sequential story telling, what if they weren't written/published in any particular order?

    Do serials require a finite ending to each piece, or can they have open endings due to their nature of not being a complete tale?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you don't have one story for your novel, with a rising action and a climax, good luck selling it to a publisher, especially as a first novel.

    An established author will probably be able to get away with a themed group of short stories, but not an unknown.
     
  3. Show
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    I tried that once but it ended up morphing into one longer novel that, while a bit on the episodic side in some places, still had one coherent story all the way through. It's an interesting endeavor though. If you ever get established, it might be a fun idea to try.
     
  4. Caldenfor
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    Caldenfor Member

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    There would be one main story that it all builds up to in an eventual conclusion.

    The premise would be that it all revolves around the one story, just broken down into parts, but the parts can be written/published out of order. Bits and pieces could be filled in over time, but there would be a primary line that they lead towards eventually.

    I guess the easiest, most recognizable, comparison would be to the Chronicles of Narnia books, but on a smaller/shorter per segment scale. The primary difference being that one main story would continue throughout the books, not conclude after each one, like Narnia does. The Narnia books were published in one order, but the chronological order is almost entirely different.

    It just seems that writers are being confined by "the biz" where there might be other less traditional ways for them to flourish. To some, as mentioned above, the prospect of completing an entire novel may be too much to digest all at once. If it is broken down into smaller parts it becomes much more manageable and they can get their work out to readers at a more gradual pace rather than the massive build up to just one release.
     
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    ^^^^I think the same would hold true. It sounds like an interesting/doable enough idea. But I think it's one that is best tried when one is more established in the industry and has a bit more clout in what can get into print. When you're still an unknown, I am not sure such an idea will be very sellable.
     
  6. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street series springs to mind, although he was already an established writer and it was commissioned in that format. The individual stories were published in a newspaper, then complete sets of the stories anthologised into books. That might be an approach to sell it, though -- get a few of the stories in hand and submit them together with an overall treatment to a periodical that deals in your genre.
     
  7. larryprg
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    larryprg Senior Member

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    Charles Dickens was famous for writing his novels as serial short stories. Back in the 1800s, there were large groups of American people craving to get there first. They would be on the dock in New York, waiting for the ship (that just crossed the Atlantic) carrying the next chapter of "Great Expectations," or some of his other works.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Many well-known novelists have "novels" comprised of related short stories, but these were not first works.

    One example is Larry Niven's The Flight of the Horse, a sequence (yes, there is an importance to the ordering of the stories), about the mishaps of time traveler Svetz.

    Asimov's Foundation series began as a group of independent, previously published short stories, but much of the continuity comes from material specifically written for the novelization.

    Both were well-established authors first.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the message here is: don't try 'fancy' till you're famous!
     
  10. Caldenfor
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    Caldenfor Member

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    The percent chance of becoming famous is slim to none, so don't try anything fancy, or different.:)
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Let's leave it as 'slim'. People do succeed, with perseverance and hard work, and some of them do become famous.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    exactly... if no one did, there'd be no such thing as 'famous'! ;)
     
  13. psychotick
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    Hi,

    As a sort of counterpoint to the others, I would suggest that if you aren't intending to go the traditional publishing route, there is potential for you to write each story as a complete novella or similar, and release them one by one. No agent or publisher would accept this from a newb I expect, and the sales through self publishing would be small - novels really are where it's at. But it is doable.

    As a example I'm currently writing my second novella in the Wizard at law series, a good eight or nine months after the first one came out, and enjoying the process. Its nice to be able to write a book, and then put it away for a time, only to return to it some time later. And publishing them one by one means that I can actually write one and then forget about it entirely until I'm ready to return to the series.

    Some famous authors have done similar things. Think Agatha Christie and her detectives, or Conan Doyle's Sherlock. The original stories for all of their cases were usually very short, but they added together to give you an overarching picture of the progression of the characters. So Sherlock's battle with Moriarty was sort of slowly built throughout the series. Several of Mrs Marples cases / friends, grew as they moved from adventure to adventure. Tommy and what's her name aged, and so forth.

    Each case was a complete story in itself, but they also built on one another.

    It's not impossible, but it does require you to make some decisions about the direction you want to take your writing in, and be prepared for a tougher road.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  14. Cayo Costa
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    Sometimes you can slide by with that approach. Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine (among other works of hers) is usually defined as a novel but most of the chapters can stand on their own and resemble short stories (to me). The Things They Carried is more often explained as "related stories" (and maybe only because a chapter was published as a short story first and then expanded) but it is really on that line. Hell, Spoon River Anthology is a book of related poems that tell the story of a fictional town. So obviously it's conceivable. I'm not too knowledgeable on marketing, but I guess I would wonder why you would want to advertise it as a short story collection when you could probably get away with labeling it a novel. I'm not sure, but I think lines are getting mushier.
     
  15. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would wonder why you would want to do either when it's probably easiest to market it as separate short stories (ideally to the same market). If it attracts attention then you have an argument for publishing them collection. If it doesn't then at least you've published the short stories.
     

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