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Thread: Novels started from short stories?

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW KitCat's Avatar
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    Novels started from short stories?

    I thought maybe this would be the place to ask this since i'm fairly new to submitting short stories and such and I've been wondering about this for awhile.

    I've read in interviews and articles about authors that have novels that were started as short stories. I understand that some of them meant unpublished short stories and the story just grew into a novel but my question is this:

    if you write a short story that you want to submit to mags, involving a world, or characters that you would later like to use in a novel, is that possible or a problem as far as publishing goes?

    ex. a Short Story involving Mike and May doing A, submitted to mag, published and then using Mike and May (and/or their world) in novel doing B

    Or could you even vary the short story to add into the novel?
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  2. #2
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    There is no problem in principle in reusing characters or places from a published short story in a later story or novel. I remember Greg Egan's novel Permutation City was based on a published short story of his that I'd read.

    However, your ability to reuse characters and situations depends on the rights you sell. There is a lot of rights-grabbing out there, and some places seem to want the copyright, or rights to subsequent works, or even rights to the characters. Be careful therefore what rights you part with.

    You could definitely change the short story to incorporate it into a novel. Usually prior publication is acknowledged with something along the lines of 'Parts of this novel appeared in a different form as the short story TITLE in NAME OF PUBLICATION on DATE'. If I had Permutation City on me I could look up the wording used there, but I don't.
    Last edited by Buffysquirrel; 12-01-2011 at 07:25 PM. Reason: more info

  3. #3
    What buffysquirrel said.

    Except, most of those rights-grabs you have to watch out for are things you should avoid and very few reputable and stable markets (ETA: on the short story side. Once it's a novel it's a different ball game) will ask for anything of the sort. More typically you'll be asked for first world (sometimes just North American) rights, and then all rights (perhaps with the publication still possessing archival rights) will revert back to you after a pre-set amount of time (usually no more than a year). When you posses all the rights you can do whatever you want with it. But there probably will be some sort of stipulation about mentioning where the story first appeared.
    Last edited by MJNL; 12-01-2011 at 08:24 PM.
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  4. #4
    practical experience, FTW KitCat's Avatar
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    Thanks both of you very much Makes sense and now you mention it I think i have seen those mentions of a short story mention in certain books.
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    practical experience, FTW areteus's Avatar
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    Kim Newman's Anno Dracula was a short story (in an anthology and I think also in Interzone - at least according to my wife who remembers reading it in there...) before it became a novel. Having read the novel and the short, I can say that the novel is basically the short with expanded plot and description.

    Michael Moorcock published the first few chapters of The Dreamthief's Daughter (the most recent Elric Story, the one set in Nazi Germany) in a magazine before the novel hit the market. I suspect this was more of a publicity thing, though. A 'try before you buy' deal.

    My own Tryptych of the Gates started out as three pieces of Flash Fiction (three very short character pieces with a connected theme - hence the term 'tryptych'). When I posted this to a crit group I got many many comments along the lines of 'we want to see more of this, when are you going to complete this novel?' to which I replied 'what novel? This is all there is.' I finally capitulated and began to plot out a novel based on the same concepts. One day I may even finish it...

    Transitions started out as two short stories which were merged into one novella.

    So, yes, it is possible...

  6. #6
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    There is no problem. You may sell all rights to a given story, but this does not mean you can't write a novel based on that story, and use the same characters.

    Even when selling all rights, which means giving up copyright, the copyright you give up applies only to that story, and never to a novel written off that story. The two are completely separate things, and copyright on one has no bearing on copyright of the other.

    There are hundreds of novel out there that started life as short stories. Turning short stories into novels is as common as dirt.

    But I'm not a believer in starting something as a short story and having it grow into a novel on its own. This pretty much never works, if publishing is your aim.

  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW KitCat's Avatar
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    thanks for the answers everyone

    @Jamesaritchie: No, i'm not asking as a short story growing 'into' a novel, but more that there's a smaller story involving characters that doesn't fit into a novel, but a story all the same. A related adventure type thing.

    (Granted I am getting a little ahead of myself I know, the question was just bothering me and I didn't necessarily want to submit such a short story if it would hinder the larger project later.)
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    practical experience, FTW Michael Davis's Avatar
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    I have two shorts that turned into full length novels. FINAL SOLUTION (released 5/2012) started as a short SF (TOUCH OF BLUE, release 6/2011) and publisher liked so much asked if I could expand the fictional world into a novel. One I'm working on now started as an offworld short SF (BROK HON) and I liked so much I didn't want the characters to fade away (g). IOW - no problem. ALso fits two markets - thoses that like shorts and those that perfer full length but likely not all shorts have the hidden depth to expand to 90000+ words, IMO.
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  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW Gondomir's Avatar
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    Ray Bradbury thought of his novels as a series of short stories, and his novels were not particularly long either--novellas by today's standards. You'd be in good company.

  10. #10
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    Surely if you sell the copyright to a story that includes character names and descriptions, as well as any invented places.

  11. #11
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    Pardon my revival of this thread, but I just wanted some clarification. I just plotted out a short story and I realized I could write a novel from the premise. Not an expansion, but something set in the same universe and delving deeper.

    I am still green when it comes to writing seriously and I was curious which rights to watch for if I wanted to seek publication for the short story and still be able to write a novel in the same universe possibly seeking publication for the novel as well.

    I know it is early since I just plotted, but I like to plan for all possible outcomes.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Buffysquirrel View Post
    Surely if you sell the copyright to a story that includes character names and descriptions, as well as any invented places.
    No it doesn't - you sell the rights (e.g. First North American Serial Rights for publication in a US magazine) for that story in that form, not for characters and settings. You would be very ill-advised to sell the copyright of a story. Harry Potter characters and settings, for example, are trademarked, which is something else entirely.

    For the two stories I sold to Interzone in the 1990s, I sold First English-Language Serial Rights. My contract stipulated that I could not sell the story elsewhere for a year, unless it was to form part of a novel, be reprinted in my own short-story collection or be reprinted in a Year's Best Anthology. In any of those cases, I would have needed to get written permission from Interzone, but it would not have been unreasonably withheld.
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  13. #13
    So if I were to publish with Fantasy & Science Fiction (As an example, not necessarily going with them.) I could sell the first chapters or so, while working on the main novel?

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Buffysquirrel View Post
    Surely if you sell the copyright to a story that includes character names and descriptions, as well as any invented places.
    Well, you should never, ever sell all rights to a short story, and few, if any, good markets ask for all rights. Even most markets that do ask for all rights will only buy first rights, if the writers asks. Trouble is, most writers don't ask.

    If you can't get out of an all rights sale, decide it's better made than lost, then read the contract carefully, and make sure the market is only buying all rights to the story itself, and not to the characters, plus all future works derived from character and setting. That's a scam, and you want nothing to do with it any any price.

  15. #15
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    The most obvious example of this is the famous story "Flowers for Algernon", by Daniel Keyes. Originally published as a short, Keyes later expanded it into a novel, basically by just adding material, but not fundamentally altering the plot. It didn't make the story better, IMO. The short is, to me, more powerful, precisely because it is short. The novel reads as a bit flabby, I think. Although may it wouldn't have if I hadn't read the short first.

    I don't know what rights situation may have been involved in Keyes' reworking of the story.

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    Also, Dan Simmons' superb novel "Carrion Comfort" began as a short story (which became the first chapter of the novel, if I recall correctly.

  17. #17
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    As long as you aren't selling copyright, there are zero restrictions on the story. The thing to remember is that no magazine owns anything not specifically spelled out in the contract.

    You can't accidentally sells rights, as long as you read the contract.

  18. #18
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    This is a great thread, I'd like to offer kudos

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    Attack me with everything you have. Kim Fierce's Avatar
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    The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross has a short story called The Strange Case of Finley Jayne that they use as a prequel.

    My upcoming book started out as a vague idea, then a short story for a contest which never was, then turned into a novel. Some presses publish both short stories and novels, so you could make use of both versions. If you have a short story that you want to expand, like others have said, make sure if you do get the shorter version published you check out the rights.
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  20. #20
    practical experience, FTW loki76's Avatar
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    Go for it. I have based two novels off of short stories I wrote when people kept urging me to. There is nothing wrong with it, the characters and idea are all yours.

  21. #21
    Author, Designer, Mad Scientist Bertram Fox's Avatar
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    I've written a couple of short stories which, when I looked back at them, looked like the opening chapter of a novel: the characters and situation cried out for more. So I asked my publisher what the position would be if I simply used them that way, as they stood.

    Her answer, fairly enough, was that if I offered them the novel, that would be fine! But if I was selling the novel elsewhere, I'd either have to rewrite the story enough that it wasn't the same one, or wait till my contract for the story expired. (These are only sold for a year, so given how slowly I write, that's no hardship.)

    A more extreme situation than most people here are talking about, but I hope it helps.
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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bertram Fox View Post
    I've written a couple of short stories which, when I looked back at them, looked like the opening chapter of a novel: the characters and situation cried out for more. So I asked my publisher what the position would be if I simply used them that way, as they stood.

    Her answer, fairly enough, was that if I offered them the novel, that would be fine! But if I was selling the novel elsewhere, I'd either have to rewrite the story enough that it wasn't the same one, or wait till my contract for the story expired. (These are only sold for a year, so given how slowly I write, that's no hardship.)

    A more extreme situation than most people here are talking about, but I hope it helps.
    Unless the contract specified that you had given up novelization rights, the editor was dead wrong.

  23. #23
    practical experience, FTW Rufus Leeking's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jamesaritchie View Post
    There is no problem. You may sell all rights to a given story, but this does not mean you can't write a novel based on that story, and use the same characters.

    Even when selling all rights, which means giving up copyright, the copyright you give up applies only to that story, and never to a novel written off that story. The two are completely separate things, and copyright on one has no bearing on copyright of the other.

    There are hundreds of novel out there that started life as short stories. Turning short stories into novels is as common as dirt.

    But I'm not a believer in starting something as a short story and having it grow into a novel on its own. This pretty much never works, if publishing is your aim.
    If you give a publication the copyright to a short story (which isn't what most contracts give the publication, but I'm just following the hypo), and that short story becomes Chapter 1 in a novel, how are you not violating the publication's copyright?
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  24. #24
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    I'd be suspicious of trying to develop a short story into a novel. I think it's psychological, but I'd always be worried that I was just padding.

  25. #25
    practical experience, FTW WriterBN's Avatar
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    I did the opposite with my current book. It started out as an episodic novel, but I broke it into a collection of short stories. I think it works much better this way.

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