University of Iowa

Link Letters: Writing the Novel-in-Stories

Weeklong July 14 to July 19 2019

What is the difference between a linked collection of stories and a novel-in-stories? Are these merely new terms for old forms, or is a new direction now possible for writers? Increasingly, a once contested category is becoming more accepted and more viable, with an in-between road to book publication cutting a way between the sometimes difficult-to-sell short story collection and the sometimes difficult-to-read novel. With the rise of scaled serial television shows and strip-format graphic novels, some publishers seek a similar model in fiction, stories within stories, whether a sequence of tales told by a single shared narrator or an assemblage of tales linked only by a shared theme or setting. The linkages offer the coherent appeal of a novel to the publisher, while the segments offer the cohesive appeal of a short story to the reader.


With any in-between choice, though, both sides bear down as the writer buckles up. An interlocking set of stories told by one narrator must offer enough closure but not too much resolution, enough recurrence but not too much repetition. A thematically linked set of stories must offer both perpendicular and parallel movements, with more overlap than rerun, ultimately appearing more interwoven than interlocked. This class will generate concepts for both models, with outlines written for a more multiple linked collection of stories and a more singular novel-in-stories. The outlines will explore episodic versus progressive plots, and linear versus non-linear chronology.


In this workshop we will generate new writing through guided exercises and prompts; provide feedback on writing you bring from home or produce in our week.

Short Story