From short stories to novels – how my writing has evolved by Anne Coates – guest post

Today I’m pleased to welcome Anne Coates to the blog. Anne’s novel, Dancers in the Wind is published on 13 October 2016 by Urbane Publications.

Anne has written this piece talking about how her writing has evolved from short stories to novels.

From short stories to novels – how my writing has evolved

I love the short story format and recently have been won over to flash fiction, having two winning entries on and one commendation. In between I have written two crime thrillers (I’m not sure an earlier novel will ever see the light of day) both for Urbane Publications: Death’s Silent Judgement is to be published next spring.

My first published short story was a confession of a crime – using (or rather stealing) information to blackmail someone and then I progressed to 1000 word tales with a twist to longer betrayals. Although I worked on romantic fiction I only ever wrote one love story and that took me a long time to place! Family and other sorts of relationships fascinate me – just not the loved up kind!

Some of the most fun I had was creating a neighbour to Sherlock Holmes who solved the case while the master detective was indisposed. I reread as much Conan Doyle as I could to regain the flavour of his narrative style and language ending up with the Mysterious case of …

Writing short fiction – especially to a specific word count  – means there’s no room for waffle and each word has to count. Being succinct is paramount and in some ways I have actually had to counteract this in my novels. There is a need as well as room for explanation – red herrings as well as clues – and digressions can lead to some interesting places.

When I was first writing Dancers in the Wind all those years ago I had to learn to go beyond the “what if” I would have used in a short story, to include a more complex scenario with a number of characters and subplots. With the novel I allowed the characters to lead me – I rarely knew what was going to happen next. It was an incredibly exciting journey for me and I found the process intriguing.

However when I came to rewrite the book last year, I found the plot holes and inconsistencies in the timeline, which had never been a problem for me in short fiction. When I write short stories, I usually think about the subject for a long time so that when I actually come to write it, the words flow and I already know the beginning, middle and the end.

This was not so with Dancers. In fact, it was when I thought I had finished the book and was reading it through for the umpteenth time that I realised the ending was a bit weak and completely rewrote the penultimate chapter for a far more dramatic conclusion.

Writing short fiction demands a different set of skills to producing novels but ultimately it is the story that is paramount. Having just finished writing the sequel to Dancers in the Wind, I am contemplating a short story about one of the characters but I’m not telling which one that is!

About the book:



Freelance journalist and single mother Hannah Webridge is commissioned by a national newspaper to write an investigative article on the notorious red light district in Kings Cross. There she meets prostitute Princess, and police inspector in the vice squad, Tom Jordan.

When Princess later arrives on her doorstep beaten up so badly she is barely recognizable, Hannah has to make some tough decisions and is drawn ever deeper into the world of deceit and violence. Three sex workers are murdered, their deaths covered up in a media blackout, and Hannah herself is under threat.

As she comes to realize that the taste for vice reaches into the higher echelons of the great and the good, Hannah realises she must do everything in her pwoer to expose the truth …. and stay alive.”

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