Two days ago my first published piece came out. It’s an e-story called “Portrait of a Starter.” This is part of a new trend where publishers want e-shorts to accompany the novel. It’s the first time my publisher, Random House Children’s Books, has put out a debut author’s e-short before their book. They started last year publishing e-shorts by well-established authors such as Michael Scott, Lauren Kate and others who write YA fantasy.
Part of my contract was to create three short stories, in addition to my two-book series (which is called a duology). There will be three e-shorts this year, one before STARTERS is published, and two after.
I love writing short stories, started writing them as a kid. Back then I probably just wrote off the top of my head, but now I find they can take longer to write, per page, than novels. They are an entirely different beast. And sometimes now, I see my friends slaving away over short stories when I can’t help but feel that they could use that time to write a novel, which would get their careers started faster. So, as a side note to writers, I say do them once in a while to hone your craft, but always keep working on a novel if you want to make a living.
But back to my contractual agreement. My only requirement was to set the story in the world of STARTERS. I could use any character’s point of view. Now this sounds easy, right? Wrong. I have a lot of surprise twists in the novel that I didn’t want to give away in a story people would read before the novel was to be published a month later. And I had a unique setting that takes place in the future. It wasn’t like I was writing about the French Revolution. How much time is there to set up a new world – and especially, the reasons for it – in a short? I wanted to keep the narrative drive, set up just enough of the world, but not too much to give too much away.
Someone in publishing suggested the short be written from an Ender’s point of view. Now that could be an interesting approach, but as a debut author, I didn’t want readers to think my YA series was going to be from the point of view of someone 100 years old.
So I was staring at the cover wondering what I should write and then it hit me. Michael, the best friend of the main character Callie, is an artist. In the book, he’s often drawing the desperate Starters he sees living on the streets. My cover happened to be a drawing of Callie (that’s another story I’ll tell you sometime). So I worked it into the e-short, that Michael starts this sketch of Callie but she takes off on a mystery trip. He’s secretly in love with her, perhaps to the point of obsession, and so he follows her, not having a clue about the strange things he’s about to see.
Lenore’s post about dystopian endings made me think of how I want a hopeful ending – especially to the end of the series – in my YA dystopians. But when it comes to short stories, I’m more willing to accept a darker ending.
So have any authors here been asked to do these shorts by their publishers? Or have any of you written short stories, and how you feel about writing them?