Some thoughts about short story drafting and serials

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I’ve been drafting a short story this week, which is somewhat of a new process since most of the last three years has been dedicated to novels and serial fiction.

It’s been an interesting experience going back to short fiction. Somehow, I seem to have integrated some of the process mechanisms I’ve developed for long form work into the process of short form work–namely, thinking in 1000-2000-word chunks. I haven’t been able to do it in quite that manner before, but I’m hoping the trend continues.

Meanwhile, I’m realizing that the process of drafting several works for serialization on Kindle Vella and Substack seems to have affected some of my drafting skills for short stories. The optimal length for a serial episode is really under 3000 words, whether it’s Kindle Vella or Substack. When carrying novels over to either format, I’ve split up chapters into individual episodes loosely based either on a single scene or several closely related scenes. My drafting for the serials has followed that pattern of writing complete scene sequences during a day’s work–a chapter usually takes about five days using this process.

So far, I’m noticing the same pattern with short stories. But the other piece is that I’m suddenly able to think through the arc of a short story, hopefully without turning it into the first chapter of a novel (which is my lamentable habit). Oh, the prospects will still exist, but…the current short story should be coming in at around 4ooo words.

This is–different. In the past I haven’t been able to chunk up the progression of a short story quite this easily. Haven’t thought through the beats of story and the character arc like this.

I’m tending to attribute this difference to serial writing. Now I’ve only really composed about three things specifically for Vella–Beating the Apocalypse, Becoming Solo, and Bearing Witness. And even at that, Apocalypse and Bearing Witness were both mostly completely written before I revised them for Vella. However, I started the process of integrating Word and Scrivener for long form work using those two stories in particular–breaking the story into episodes with separate files in Vella, then consolidating them into chapters later. Becoming Solo was really the height of this process. Then I carried it over into other long form work.

But somehow, in the process of divvying up sequences to post appropriately on Vella, I developed that mental construct which allows me to wrap my head around the structure I want for a particular piece of short form writing.

A learning process, I suppose, like any aspect of writing.

Will this trend continue? I certainly hope so. At the moment, my priority is to draft several stories for particular anthology calls. We’ll see if it results in saleable work. Once I’m done with that, it’s time to start work on a couple of other serials, plus worldbuild for that dang second fantasy series in the Goddess’s Honor world that I keep talking about. All of the shorts that I’m working on are tied in somehow to worlds that I’m fleshing out or thinking about doing more work in.

We shall see how it unfolds.


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