Misha Burnett on Small Worlds [Part 4]

How did you decide on the order in which the stories should appear in the book?

That is an art in itself. I tend to start with a semi-chronological progression, a habit that I started with Dark Fantasies and Endless Summer. (Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts is in strict narrative order since the stories make up a single narrative arc.)

However, within the broad category of past, present, future setting there is a lot of room to rearrange the stories. I try to end my collections on a high note. I know that I have a lot of unhappy moments and some heavy baggage in my tales, and I don’t want my readers to close my books feeling like they’ve been punched in the gut. I may not leave them laughing, but I always want to leave them with some hope.

Other than that, it’s a matter of feeling for the rhythm of the collection as a whole. I tend to think musically (despite having absolutely no talent in that direction) and I see a collection as a symphony and the individual stories as movements. Or maybe more like the collection is an album and the stories individual songs.

Whatever. The point is that I don’t want to make reading a chore, and breaking up the length and pacing of the stories helps me to do that. This collection in particular is all over the place in terms of story length, from twelve hundred to nearly eighteen thousand. So mixing up short and long stories is part of my strategy.

All in all, though, it is something that I do by ear, or by eye, rather than a matter for spreadsheets and formulas. My last step before I send a collection off to my publisher is to sit down and read it straight through in one sitting. That way I get a feel for the flow of the collection and how one story leads into another. When I have it to the point where I don’t want to stop between stories and just go straight onto the next then I know it’s done.

Misha Burnett’s Small Worlds is available on Kickstarter for pre-order now!


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