I always knew this story sequence might turn into a book, but I hit the point on Saturday where I started to wonder that if I’m writing the second story then, technically, have I crossed over that tipping point into actually writing another book?
It started with ‘likeMe‘, a short sharp near-future tale that made it into science journal Nature‘s ‘Futures’ fiction column late last year. But for various complications the story would also have been in one of this year’ Year’s Best anthologies.
One of the sessions I did at this year’s Alt.Fiction in Derby was a reading with the lovely Al Reynolds, and I chose ‘likeMe’ for that: keep it short and hopefully leave them wanting more. This got me thinking about the story again, and I realised that there was a lot more to be written. Discussion at the reading confirmed this for me: I’d written a snapshot of a pandemic-ridden future where reality is overlaid with layers of real-time-everywhere social networking, a brief view into a world I knew I would have to revisit.
On Saturday, a change of plans left me with a day suddenly free. I was ahead on the ebook publishing for infinity plus, I didn’t have to be anywhere… it was a chance to write a short story on spec for the first time in months.
I had a lovely time browsing through my notes, reminding myself just how many stories are sitting there waiting to be written, and then I settled on ‘War 3.01’, another shortish story set in the ‘likeMe’ future. After a good day’s writing I have that one written in draft, and now my mind keeps coming back to the possibilities.
The idea is to try to portray this fragmented, sensorily-swamped, falling-apart future in a set of short stories, ranging from flash fiction of maybe 2-300 words up to stories of around 3000 words. Characters will appear as walk-ons in one story, central in another, peripheral in another. And gradually, through this barrage of splinters, a mosaic should emerge.
Blimey, I really do think I’ve started what will turn into a book.
What kind of book? It won’t be a long one, that’s for sure: even 70,000 words of story splinters would be pretty tough going, I reckon. I’m thinking around 20-30,000 words would be enough for the bigger picture to emerge, for it all to start to cohere, without losing its way. The idea, after all, is for a densely-packed set of images.
Not exactly commercial, I know!
There are some excellent indie presses out there, though, who aren’t scared of shorter books. Or I might go straight to ebook with it, which in many ways would be appropriate: a new medium, and an incredibly fast turnaround from writing to publishing.
The final confirmation that in my head it’s now a book slotted into place yesterday evening when I was out running, always good thinking time in a busy life. An explanation for events in the new story… what if I applied that on a grander scale? Hmm… Suddenly there was a rationale for the whole story sequence, something that pulled them together and gave them shape.
So: this is how it’s possible to start writing a book by accident. Be warned.