“Thank You For Ten” Status Report

My upcoming short story collection, Thank You For Ten: Short Fiction About a Little Theater will be self-published in some fashion at some point this summer, as I have mentioned before. But there are many steps between today and that moment.

There is proofreading each of the ten stories, of course, and I have done so more than once. I will probably do so at least one more time, and perhaps more. From a punctuation, spelling and grammar standpoint however, I am in good shape, i think. It’s easier to catch the little things in short fiction by going over it multiple times than it is for a novel.

The structure and plot of each is also in good shape. I don’t see any content edits in the future for the collection. I considered all of that enough last year as I wrote the first draft or two. I’m happy with what happens in each of the stories, and with why it happens. (If one needs a strong “why” in such cases.)

And of course hair-pulling, mind-numbing adventures in formatting may await me in the future. Though based on my experiences recently with Createspace, perhaps any formatting issues can be correct automatically. I’m probably using Smashwords for this project, but maybe I can work something out there.

Yet not yet. Right now I am still making aesthetic choices about the collection. Namely, I’m trying to in what order the stories should appear in the collection. I knew from the start they would almost certainly not appear in the order they were written, but other than a confident choice for the final story, I hadn’t given order much thought.

As I’ve mentioned before, all of the stories take place in the same small community theater. The same theater in fact that serves as a setting for my upcoming novel, Flowers of Dionysus. The stories, each independent of the other as far as plot, could appear in the collection in any order as far as coherence. Instead, they’re tied together thematically, each exploring some aspect of not only the Little Dionysus Playhouse in particular, but theater life in general. Taken as a whole the collection presents the theme rather well, if I may judge my own work.

But the stories run the spectrum in tone, format, length and pacing while in pursuit of that theme. I have to believe that certain sequences would complement each subsequent story better than other sequences, but how? I’m disinclined to simply go shortest to longest, longest to shortest, or group them by point of view or by mini-theme. At the same time, the order has to be chosen, and nobody is going to choose it for me. So I need some metric, and that’s what I’ve been pondering the last few days.

All of this, of course, is assuming a reader will read the stories in the order they appear. The truth is, they may not, and that won’t hurt my feelings. Truth be told, I do the same thing with short story collections sometimes, unless there is a specific reason not to do so. As I mentioned, one could do so with Thank You For Ten and not lose anything. Each story stands on its own, by design. Still, the collection will of course have an official sequence, and I’d rather give it some thought than just randomly assign an order to them before publishing. That’s what I’m thinking about most the last few days, and in order to come to a decision, I’ll need to assume someone will read it in order.

So, for those who opt to use the author as their tour guide instead of exploring rooms at random, what should I offer? I don’t want a sequential reader to be lulled into a monotony, but I also don’t want them to be jarred by a too sudden style shift. Do I pick a tangible metric, or just read them each again, and go on instinct?  I know which one I want last, so perhaps I should build towards that one in some way? Or something else entirely.

With only ten stories, I realize there are only so many combinations. And I don’t want to become obsessed with the order. But if by considering this for a few days or weeks I can present a bit of an extra gift to those who read the collection in the order I present it, it’s worth the effort, I think. The wrapping paper on the gift, maybe. I just hope then I end up better at this sort of metaphorical wrapping than I am at literal wrapping at Christmas time…

 

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