Decided not to have the third story in Treading Twisted Lines set directly after the events of the second. I’d been having a little trouble – after a moment of enlightenment I had managed to write about 1000 words, though – but then, a few days ago, I had an informative chat with Mum about short story cycles. She knows a fair bit about these cycles, having written a very exciting thesis on them. Very different from novels, different from a simple collection of unrelated short stories, as well.
Here is a small sample of the short story cycle-related wisdom I gleaned from my knowledgeable mother (who was having great fun re-reading her thesis, remembering terms she’d mislaid and rediscovering exciting similes and such):
The stories in a short story cycle must be independent yet interdependent. I was reasonably aware of this already, hence my difficulty trying to make the third story independent when it came directly after the second in time. So, though the stories can be enjoyed on their own, together they form a complex, incredible web of related themes, characters, plot lines, locations, information, etc.
The experience of a short story cycle is created by both the writer and the reader. For example, there are often gaps left in the lives of characters of whose fictional existence you are privy to only disordered snippets. These are for the readers to fill in themselves – reading a short story cycle is a highly interactive process. They require the reader to think, and do a bit of work themselves.
This isn’t related to style, but it’s still relevant, I think – there are not enough short story cycles available for general consumption. Maybe they’re not as popular as novels because they’re more challenging to read. Many readers, I assume, prefer to be spoon-fed their words, and don’t like being left wondering. Maybe it’s because, in general, these cycles are more difficult to write. In writing a novel, sometimes you can just (in want of a better word) spew forth your story. That doesn’t really work with a short story cycle. They take more discipline to write.
Why did I start writing this? I haven’t been disciplined a day in my life. At least, not when it comes to writing. I write horribly unpredictably. 5000 words one day, nothing the next, the next, or the next. Or the next few weeks … but not so much of that, recently. Thank goodness …
I love it, really. It’s intriguing, trying to write like this. Honestly don’t know what the end result will be, whether I’ll do the underrepresented genre of short story cycles – particularly fantasy short story cycles – justice. But no denying the process will be interesting.
If what I’ve done up in my little pale pink book stands, there will be 18 stories in the Treading Twisted Lines series. The one I was writing to be released third will now be released, most likely, thirteenth. The third is now set 20 years in the past, on a bit of a road trip with somewhat dastardly intent. Might scribble away at it a bit more tonight, but a bit of editing on my novel probably takes precedence. Some agencies still prefer hard copies, so had to choose some sample chapters. Need to make sure they’re good and tidy for posting.