Need help submitting your writing to literary journals or book publishers/literary agents? Click here! →

Category Archives: Craft: Short Story Writing

What You Need To Know For Writing (And Pitching) A Novel-In-Stories | Writer’s Relief

The novel-in-stories is a mysterious and little understood book genre that can be very powerful in the right hands. If you’ve written a collection of short stories and are thinking you might like to pitch it to publishers or literary agents as a “novel-in-stories,” the first thing to do is to pinpoint your book’s true genre.

Writer’s Relief Answers FAQs About The Novel-In-Stories

Q. What is a novel-in-stories?

A. A novel-in-stories is usually a collection of loosely connected short stories that form some kind of sweeping narrative arc. Sometimes, the stories will be joined together by related characters who overlap from one story to the next. Or the stories might be satellite episodes from multiple POVs that revolve around a single main character. Or the stories might be closely united by other means.

However the individual stories are linked, the end of the book leaves the reader feeling as if he/she has read a whole, singular, cohesive story.

Q. How is a novel-in-stories different than a collection of short stories?

A. A short story collection doesn’t technically need to have any unifying threads. And yet, the most well-known short story collections do tend to explore cohesive themes and may even feature recurring characters or recycled settings.

So, if short story collections can feature related stories, how is a collection different than a novel-in-stories? In other words, just how connected do stories need to be in order to be considered a novel-in-stories? While a short story collection might be organized loosely around certain themes, characters, and ideas, and might have no overarching narrative, a “true” novel-in-stories usually has a broad arc that traces the progression of some kind of change. This arc might trace the changes taking place within a given character over time. Or it might show how a neighborhood changes as the lives of its residents change. Or it might trace the way a family changes when affected by circumstance.

Scholars debate the definitions of short story cycles, composite novels, and novels-in-stories. For book marketing purposes, the reason for attaching a novel-in-stories designation to a query letter is to indicate that the book offers some of the unified, large-scale plot design of a novel—but does so using stories.

Examples of Novels-In-Stories Include…

The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor

The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman

The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad

Temporary People by Deepak Unnikrishnan

More examples of novels-in-stories

Q. Is There An Advantage To Calling A Book “A Novel-In-Stories”?

A. Major publishers are often reluctant to publish a writer’s first book as a short story collection. Why? Debut novels tend to sell better than debut story collections. Sometimes, publishers prefer to put out a collection of short stories after a novel has been launched.

For that reason, some literary agents are a little skittish about short story collections. But they may be slightly more comfortable with the idea of representing a debut novel that just happens to be organized as a series of episodes (or stories).

If your book really is a traditional short story collection, don’t force the “novel-in-stories” designation. Readers will feel misled. But if your book feels like a novel that happens to be organized into stories, then you might benefit from pitching it that way.

Tips For Writing A Query Letter For A Novel-In-Stories

One of the best things you can do to convince a literary agent or publisher to take a chance on your novel-in-stories is to publish excerpts from the book and then brag about it in your query letter’s author bio. Learn more about how to get book excerpts published in literary journals.

When it comes to summarizing a novel-in-stories, writers have their work cut out for them. You may want to give your book blurb the emotional sensibility of a novel—show that there’s some kind of overarching narrative thread exploring a conflict/change. Make a case for the “novel” aspect of your novel-in-stories.

Here’s where you can learn more about writing a query for a traditional short story collection.


Writer Questions

QUESTION: Do you have a favorite novel-in-stories? Tell us in the comment section!


Tips For Writing A Spin-Off Based On Someone Else’s Story

In the world of publishing, books that are based on other books are especially hot right now—and have been for a while! The following list of books that are based on classic fairy tales or classic literature is just the tip of the iceberg. New Books That Are Based On Classic Stories Books that present… Continue Reading

9 Tips For Writing Believable Horror And Suspense

The creaking door. The night fog rolling in. The book that jumps off the shelf all by itself. Smart writers of horror and suspense know all the tricks for preying on the fears of their readers. If the story you’re writing calls for the tingling of spines and the raising of hair, consider using these… Continue Reading

Go Long! 9 Tips For Publishing A Long Story, Poem, Or Essay In A Literary Magazine

In the last twenty years or so, we’ve noticed a trend: literary journal editors are leaning toward shorter submissions of poems, stories, and essays. And we would know—at Writer’s Relief, we’ve been closely monitoring the lit mag market since 1994 to ensure that our clients have the best opportunities for getting published. But just because lit mag trends… Continue Reading

5 Elements That Will Muck Up The Chances Of Publishing Your Short Story

Editors at literary journals spend countless (and often thankless!) hours reading through hundreds of short story submissions from writers who hope to get published. Many of the stories are tossed into the “thanks, but no thanks” pile relatively quickly. Why? Certain short story deal-breakers pop up again and again in submissions—here are a few to… Continue Reading

Learn More
Live Chat Software


This page was chock-full of great info...
and there's so much more here to help you meet your publishing goals!

Be sure to sign up for our FREE guides as you enter each site.

For advice, marketing ideas, and step-by-step guidance through the self-publishing process!

Featuring smart ways to boost your online presence, build your author website, or improve your existing website.

For everything you need to know about writing, preparing, and targeting submissions to literary agents and editors!