Friday, October 25, 2013

Entry # 182 - "What No One Ever Told Me"

Photo Credit - Jim Wilson - October 2013

My writer’s world is filled with information that I’ve had to learn the hard way. No one ever told me about the trials of preparing a story collection for publication. In fact I don’t recall ever reading about it. So let me begin with some background.

I am revising a collection of short stories – yet again. And while seven of the ten stories had been previously published, I was never quite satisfied with them.  So over time, I set about revising each one hoping to bring it to its full potential. Sometimes I would work on one of these when I needed to take a break from new work.

I selected these ten stories because I thought they shared common elements of theme and I put them all together on my computer, one right after another. A couple of weeks ago, I read them all the way through, after which I had intended to do a line edit, and then send them on to an editor I know for another tweak, before sending them out for publication consideration.  

I had never done that before. Never sat and read this particular batch without a break, treating this collection as if it were one I had purchased to read.

And I was shocked to discover how uneven they were in skill and precision. Thankfully my later ones were better than the earlier ones. And while I am not ashamed of any of my work because I know that it was the best it could be, given what I knew at that particular time, I did come to a jarring reality. 

I needed to go back through each story and give it a major face lift to bring it to the consistent unity of my later work. I needed to revisit my revision process globally - as if – I were an objective editor or reader.

Photo Credit - Jim Wilson - October 2013

I fear and loathe this kind of tedious task. But it is important to be true to the work. So I am heavily engaged in viewing and reviewing, as I revise these stories with a new perspective for necessary unity. Even though these stories are not linked in the traditional sense, they do have a common thread of theme and purpose.  And that could be lost if I don’t push myself over this hurdle in the revision and polishing process.

I wanted to share this. Maybe someone else can benefit from my experience.

Alas. So much of what we know is learned through trial & error. Talking with experienced, knowledgeable people, and reading expansively can help.

Coming soon:  Mermaids & Other Stories - by Jan Bowman
About Jan Bowman

Jan Bowman’s fiction has appeared in numerous publications including, Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, The Broadkill Review, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes and others. Glimmer Train named a recent story as Honorable Mention in the November 2012 Short Story Awards for New Writers. Winner of the 2011 Roanoke Review Fiction Award, her stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, Best American Short Stories, a Pen/O’Henry award and a recent story was a finalist in the 2013 Phoebe Fiction Contest; another was a 2012 finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest. She is working on two collections of short stories while shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection. She has nonfiction publications in Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers.   Learn more at or


  1. Oh geez, Jan. I've already sent out my collection of 24 stories,18 of which have been published. And I didn't re-read them. Probably I should have. Talk about trial and error!
    Best of success with your collection!


  2. Thanks but who knew! Now I know, but why didn't I know about this before? Maybe you and I should write an article or e-book on preparing story collections - I'm sure you have interesting discoveries tool Good luck with yours. I will buy it and read it when you get it published.