Archive for December 7th, 2011

Side Story

There’s a clear challenge when working on a collaborative project in that it’s hard to find ways to both be actively, productively working on it at the same time.  I’ve found various ways to work on side projects associated with Nickajack while my wife is working on the actual text of the novel itself.  I’ll populate a timeline I’ve created, I’ll research the city and era, I’ll flesh out characters, all these little bits and pieces that we’ll need as part of the novel but won’t show up in the text of any specific chapter or scene.

Yesterday my wife was working some edits on chapter one ahead of the first submission of any bits of Nickajack to beta readers.  I’m actually a little anxious about this, but that’s another topic entirely. This is about the run of writing a side story.

I’m sure writers have always crafted little short stories meant to take place in the same world as their novel, or with the same characters, just to get a taste for what’s going on outside of the main plotline.  Making these stories available to the reading public strikes me a much more recent innovation, fueled by the digital self publication options available to the modern author.  It’s just so much easier to write something and make it available than it has been at any point in human history.  Added to this is the concept of short stories sold on an à la carte basis, which was certainly an offspring of modern digital distribution.

And it’s something that publishers are slowly catching up with.

Most authors are free to do this sort of work, writing little side stories and completely controlling the distribution, pricing, and ultimately profits on the stories.  But in his Shared Desk podcast (Episode 3, starting at 26:45, but the whole episode is worth a listen) Tee Morris foresees a near future when publishers realize they’re leaving money on the table by not including distribution of these side stories within the overall contract for a novel.  I can see it from both angles.  Publishers are looking to protect the branding of a franchise they own the rights to and ensure that any release under the umbrella of a franchise name, whether a novel or a short story, portrays that franchise in a positive and polished light.  However, moves by publishers to control distribution of associated short stories will likely either come with quotas or full editorials processes and scheduled releases, which could affect the willingness of authors to consider these side projects.

In short, this is a fast moving market, and if we ever do succeed in publishing Nickajack, it will be interesting to see what our contract allows for with regard to stories like I wrote last night.

But that’s not why I wrote the story.  Whatever the history of the side story, whatever the future might hold, I churned out a quick 900 words last night for the pure fun of it, and I’m damn glad I did.  It let me get into the world just a little more, into the history, and even into the head of one of my main characters, even though he doesn’t appear at all in the short.  It was rather a lot of use out of a relatively short number of words.  I envision several more of these.  Not enough to distract me from the novel, but enough to keep my brain going on those nights when I’m kicked out of the manuscript.  And, hopefully, one day if the novel is picked up they’ll be something I can share with those who enjoy the world.


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