All aboard the Omnibus!

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about my next big project, which will be a collection of short stories. I’m probably at least half way through, with planning done for another 25%. I’ve been mistakenly calling it my Anthology, but apparently that term refers more accurately to a collection of works by different authors. What I’m working on is more properly an Omnibus, but that sounds rather cumbersome and lumbering to me.

Image

Could this be a Steampunk Omnibus?

A few things I’ve discovered so far:

  • It should be about the same word count as a novel (70K+)
  • Arguably, it should follow a ‘tent’ structure, leading and finishing with the strongest stories, and with another strong story in the middle like a tent pole.
  • The whole should be greater than the sum of its parts: stories should be organised to complement and bounce off one another.
  • Variety is a good thing, but there does need to also be some kind of unifying theme.

All well and good so far. The theme issues does bother me a little, in that my stories are sometimes scifi, sometimes bordering on fantasy, and sometimes just plain quirky (as you may know if you’ve read any of the free published works out there – see my Publications page for links). At the same time, I don’t particularly want to force the production of stories in a particular area to make them fit some contrived theme, so I think I’ll just keep writing the stories which I’d like to tell, and then perhaps discard those which are the sore thumbs of the collection.

I’d love to discuss with anyone out there their thoughts on short story collections.

Do you find it necessary to have a theme? Do you agree with the ‘tent structure’ theory? When reading short story collections, do you dip in, or read them from start to finish (the album vs. the single I suppose, in music terms).

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13 thoughts on “All aboard the Omnibus!

  1. I’ve read a couple of short story collections and neither were anywhere close to 70k in words. Both had a general theme running through the stories though I don’t think that matters providing you don’t write a horror story first and then a romance. You know you’ll upset half of your audience with the first story and the other half with the second.

    I had an idea for a collection, but don’t seem to get around to writing any. Maybe when I’ve finished the next drafts of my WIPs.

    Happy writing. πŸ™‚

    • That’s good to know about the wordcount – maybe less work for me! I’m finding it easier to write short stories at the moment as I’m trying out new ways of storytelling, and also because my available time comes in shorter blocks!
      Best of luck with your WIP – you must have really broken the back of it with that mammoth effort in November.

  2. I’ve also been pondering these same questions, as I am also about to embark on the journey of self-publishment and one of my ideas is to publish a short story collection later on.

    For me, I read short stories in different ways depending on whether the collection is a mix of short stories written by several authors, or several short stories by the same author. In the first case, I tend to choose the “safe” writers first, the stories I’m certain will be good by known authors, then I’ll move on to the unknown (and will often be pleasantly surprised). In the second case I’ll read the stories as they appear, in order, in case there is such a structure as you mention with the tent.

    For the collection I want to publish later on, I’m writing eighteen short stories and poems that all circle around the same theme. It’s a mix (or mess) of the genres of sci-fi, fantasy and magical (sur)realism at this point.

    You’ve raised some interesting questions! πŸ™‚

    • Best of luck with your publishing adventure! If I can help at all, just give me a shout. The short story colletion sounds good – you’ve evidently thought more about the structure than i have at this point.

      Interesting your comments about the way you read collections. Personally, I read them straight through, but the idea of selecting the trusted pieces first reminds me a little of the way I’d work through a box of chocolates. πŸ™‚

  3. I don’t have any answers so I’ll just cheer you on from the side. The project sounds exciting and I wish the best of luck with it. My gut tells me if you indie publish this like your first, then the nice thing is that you get to make the rules, so tap that beautifully deep creative well of yours and fly free with it.

  4. The only short story collections I’ve read are the ones that are more like anthologies, and those didn’t follow a theme because the stories were all different. I liked knowing that each one would be a completely different reading experience within a short amount of time.

    • Hi Sheila! Interesting comment. From the research I’ve done to date, it does seem as if diversity is the key, whether there is a theme or not. This does line up with my own reading experience too – the advantage of a collection to me is that while a novel is stuck in one style for a prolonged period, like a main course, a collection is more like a tapas tasting plate.

  5. I love your steambus, I’m a fan. I’ve not though about the “tent” concept for an anthology to be honest. I have noticed that the longer stories seem to be grouped together in the middle.

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