There are typically three options when it comes to organizing a collection of short stories.
An editor can have the writers come to them by establishing a call for submissions, or they can contact the authors directly in order to publish current stories. The third option is to find the right authors and then build a collection of stories around them.
The third option is the most complicated and takes the most time but is absolutely the most creatively rewarding. At least, it is in my opinion.
My name is Ashley, and I’m a writer, editor, and artist. I’ve led and been a part of several collections and I’m a co-founder and COO of -30- Press, a publishing company that places authors as the priority above all other things.
Vices and Virtues is a short story collection in the horror genre that took me three years to organize, edit, and release. From the outset, my intent was to find the right writers. Some were veterans in the online horror community while others were new to the genre when I found them.
It has been my personal experience that mentorship is not commonly found in the writing or artistic communities. We are often competing against each other, and those that have gone before us. While that is sometimes helpful, people in these communities have their own paths that they wish to traverse. Mentoring is a time-consuming process, and there is no guarantee that it will work out.
That has never stopped me from attempting to help out my fellow authors or from taking the time to talk to anyone with questions.
So, exactly how did I go about creating Vices and Virtues?
Choosing A Team
The most important thing I’ve learned is that creative people are not always consistently creative. This is important because nothing can stall a group project faster than half of the people involved not being able to produce in time.
This is in no way a dig on writers like this. All entertainment struggles with this, and I have personally felt a deadline come and go and was more relieved to depart from a project than to push myself to create something I’d consider to be subpar but on time.
This leads to the first bit of advice, which is to over-recruit. There were roughly thirty writers involved with Vices and Virtues over the years. Some of the ones who made it into the finished book were around in the beginning. Some were more recent.
Choose A Theme
From there, we set up a private/secret Reddit sub. There we posted a number of things to inspire each other, talked at length about themes, and eventually settled on the idea for what would become Vices and Virtues.
Once we chose this theme, we each selected our vice or virtue and wrote a rough outline.
The outline was posted and everyone had an opportunity to provide input. I’ll get into the drafting process later, but this was crucial.
Many of the writers benefited from the sense of community over the project.
The second bit of advice for creating a project like this that I followed religiously was to mentor authors to the point of success. I did not cut a single story from the project.
Some authors didn’t make their deadlines. Some ghosted the project. Some respectfully left. Other had life events get in the way. I still stuck by them and did everything I could to push them forward.
In the end, some simply left and I couldn’t motivate them to continue going.
The decision to leave was always the decision of the author. If I could, I would get a story to the point at which I thought it would be the best version of itself. That is another solid piece of advice I’ve learned over the years.
Editors Aren’t There To Write Their Version
This can be complicated. On one hand, it’s nearly impossible to divorce yourself from also being creative.
I did my best to follow this though. My goal at all times was to mentor the authors to a point where they were becoming the truest versions of themselves.
Likewise, my objective with each of their stories was for the story to follow its own logic. That meant that the characters were well-developed, made rational decisions based on their development or character arc, and that the plot made sense in the context of the world the story built.
If that happened, I was happy.
Throughout this process, I consistently took the stance of being critical but fair. It’s not easy to hear criticism. But it’s important for us as writers to hear about ways in which we could improve ourselves as creative individuals.
Rewriting was absolutely critical to this book turning out as well as it did.
Outlines were important, but some writers deviated greatly from their outlines, and that was absolutely encouraged.
Once the outlines were posted and input was provided, we set deadlines for the first drafts. Then the group provided input and second drafts were posted. From there, many of the writers were done.
I polished up those stories with minimal input.
Some authors were asked to do a third draft and those were the stories that I was more involved in.
Many of these third-round stories ended up becoming my favorites of the book. They needed more work, but the work paid off greatly.
Once the drafts were completed, that’s when I hired a separate copy editor to go through the stories.
She provided some input on the plot for one or two stories and did an amazing job catching the grammar that I hadn’t.
Having those extra eyes was critical.
Putting It Together
From there, the process of publishing is the same as with every book.
This has been my experience, and I would absolutely encourage other editors to follow this method.
Putting together this book has been a very rewarding experience. There were many long nights, and many months passed from the inception to publication, but I wouldn’t change anything.
I believe that if someone can say such things about a project, then the project is worth emulating and absolutely worth attempting again.
-Ashley Franz Holzmann
Recommended Article: Vices and Virtues: A Horror Anthology – a Review