I want to welcome D.B. Jackson to the blog today! He's here to talk about his newest novel Time's Children, the first book in a new series. I'll let him give you more specifics below, but you should definitely rush out and buy it. Right now. I'll wait. … And now that that's done, here's D.B. Jackson (aka David B. Coe), who' really here to talk about how writing short fiction helps write novels:
My newest novel, Time’s Children, the first book in the Islevale Cycle, has just been released by Angry Robot Books. This is a time travel, epic fantasy series, and I’m incredibly excited to see the book in print. But while Time’s Children is the first book in the new trilogy, it is not the first Islevale story I’ve had published. “The Guild of the Ancients,” a short piece set in my world and featuring one of my key characters, appeared earlier this summer in Guilds and Glaives, an anthology put out by Joshua’s publishing company, Zombies Need Brains.
I love writing short fiction, just as I love writing novels. I believe that while the two forms obviously share elements, they also present the writer with different challenges and a host of opportunities. I often suggest that writers who are just starting out take time out from their novels to write some shorter pieces. Why?
I’m glad you asked.
1) Writing short fiction helps us hone our craft. Short stories demand an economy of prose and directness of narrative that are less essential in a novel. It’s not that novels can or should be wordy or meandering, but rather that with a short story we have 6,000 words or so to tell a satisfying tale, rather than 100,000. Every detail should have purpose. Plot points should follow one upon the other. Characters should be drawn with precision and care. Prose should be clean and concise. I love the challenge of writing a good short story, just as I enjoy constructing an effective novel. But while I’m not sure writing my novels makes me better at short fiction, I know that writing short fiction has helped me grow as a storyteller and writer of novels.
2) Short stories help with our character development and world building. I sold my first short story after I had published four novels. The story I sold was about an episode from the history of the world I created for my Winds of the Forelands series. I knew the outlines of the event – a key moment in that history – but until I wrote the story, I didn’t fully understand it. That understanding informed passages in the remaining Forelands books. Similarly, my story in Guilds and Glaives features a key character in the Islevale books: the time demon, Droë. Writing from her point of view, exploring an important moment from earlier in her life, taught me a good deal about her, and also helped me refine her voice. And in between that first published story and this most recent one, I’ve used short fiction again and again to inform my novels. Think of them as research, as a way to learn more about the ingredients to be used in your larger projects.
3) Selling a short story earns us money and advances our careers. Sure, the money we earn for novels will outpace the money for short stories. No question. Novels gain more attention as well. But start with the points I’ve made above. Writing the short story serves artistic purposes – honing our craft, sharpening our sense of character and world and voice. If we can then also earn a bit for the story, well that’s gravy. More, any sort of professional sale can help a beginning writer gain the notice and consideration of editors and agents. Put another way, the money we earn for a short story is secondary to the mere fact of the sale itself. For writers who are already established, the short fiction sale may carry less significance. But speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that I still value every sale, every new credit, and every opportunity to work with a new editor.
Not every short story has to be set in a pre-existing world. They don’t all have to be practice for our larger works. And not every short story needs to be sold. (Though I would urge you to submit those stories that you feel represent your best work. What do you have to lose?) Even if writing a short piece does nothing more than polish your writing, it’s worth the effort. Because ultimately, while all the reasons I’ve given above ought to convince you to write short fiction, those are not the most compelling reasons I can offer.
The fact is, writing short pieces, crafting workable stories with so few words, is tremendously fun and deeply satisfying. I love the novels I’ve written, and I’m proud of all of them. But some of my most memorable experiences as a professional writer have come with my shorter work. So check out “Guild of the Ancients” and the other stories in Guilds and Glaives. And then check out Time’s Children. You might enjoy that, too.
D.B. Jackson is the pen name of fantasy author David B. Coe. He is the award-winning author of twenty novels and as many short stories. His newest novel, Time’s Children, is the first volume in a time travel/epic fantasy series called The Islevale Cycle. The book has just been released by Angry Robot Books. The second volume, Time’s Demon, will be released in May 2019.
As D.B. Jackson, he also writes the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy set in pre-Revolutionary Boston. As David B. Coe, he is the author of the Crawford Award-winning LonTobyn Chronicle, which he has recently reissued, as well as the critically acclaimed Winds of the Forelands quintet and Blood of the Southlands trilogy. He wrote the novelization of Ridley Scott’s movie, Robin Hood, and, most recently, The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, a contemporary urban fantasy.
He is also currently working on a tie-in project with the History Channel. David has a Ph.D. in U.S. history from Stanford University. His books have been translated into a dozen languages.
He and his family live on the Cumberland Plateau. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.