Thursday, July 10, 2014

Working in Reverse

John here, coming to you from Exeter, New Hampshire, where, for year number four, I’m teaching summer school — and writing.

I am interested in the composition process and have often used this platform to write about, to ponder, and to ask for others’ input on subjects such as outlining vs. shooting from the hip, and other topics related to the process.

This week, I finished a 7,500-word story featuring Peyton Cote, my tough-as-a-bag-of-scorpions U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent. The story is called “Guilt Riddance”, and I wrote it as a trial run: I wanted to see if the concept held up well enough to eventually be the bones of the next novel I’m contracted to write (this would be Peyton #3, 2016). I'll see what feedback I receive from my advance readers, but I think it holds up pretty well, and I plan to send it off to editors at various magazines.

It was a unique composition process. I have taken a novel and boiled it down to a story once before — Bitter Crossing (Aug. 4) became “Autumn’s Crossing” (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, 2013) — but I’ve never written a story that will serve as the outline for a future novel.

There are many things to consider; chief among them: can I broaden the work’s scope to reach 90,000 words? Are there that many side stories to tell? (I've been criticized for this before, so it probably won't be a problem.)

All in all, I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes. And I’d love to hear from anyone who has done this before. If you’re looking for a successful example, see Ed McBain’s “Sadie When She Died”.


Eileen Goudge said...

Sounds like a good brain-flexing exercise. I, personally,need such challenges to keep the barnacles at a minimum. I parted ways with women's fiction to write mystery. A huge undertaking but ultimately one I'm glad I undertook. I believe Stephen King has expanded a short story or two into novel form. Or perhaps I'm mistaking him for another author. Do you recall?

John R. Corrigan said...


Not sure about Stephen King, but it makes sense: his stories are so good...

Thanks for reading.