Structuring a Collection

Yep, it’s been a long time between posts, but: I got married, my role at work went through some major changes, and I’ve been preparing for my play collection to be published in the near future (cover reveal soon!) – so hopefully you’ll forgive me. I’ve also been doing a bit of writing, of course: a short story and a TV pilot.SLG

Strange Little Girls was published a few months ago, which is an excellent anthology I’m lucky enough to have a piece called ‘From Strangers’ in. I also had a story published in Slink Chunk Press: ‘Morning Sickness‘. But what I want to talk about today are collections and anthologies, and specifically how one structures them.

There are several schools of thought on how best to arrange a bunch of stories/plays/pieces into a book. These include:

  • Pick the ‘best’ two pieces. These are the most popular, the award-winners, the ‘strongest’ pieces. The most accessible (shorter, easier-to-read, more mainstream) piece is the first piece in the book. The less accessible piece is the last piece in the book.
  • The four (or three) best pieces are the ‘tentpoles’ of your book, spaced relatively evenly throughout: first, last, and then evenly in the middle.
  • Chronologically.
  • Vary the topic, length and tone of pieces throughout the book, so the reader enjoys variety from piece to piece.
  • From shortest to longest (or vice-versa).
  • ‘Front-loading’ the book with the ‘best’ pieces in the first half. (Alternately, ‘front-loading’ with the most accessible pieces in the first half).

Obviously not all of these methods are mutually exclusive, and some can be mixed and matched together. I’ve chosen one of these structures for my play collection, and will use another mix of options entirely for my upcoming short story collection.

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