I used to have a picture of me standing among the chapters of I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying, which is out this month from Civil Coping Mechanisms, as I reordered the book before submitting it to my editor there. But then I went swimming with my phone in my pocket, and now I have only the memory.
I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying is made up of 115 one-page chapters, which were published in various lit mags as flash fiction pieces. When I was asked to put a book together, I had to figure out how those individual pieces could build into a larger, compelling and hopefully satisfying, arc.
What I did was print out everything I had–then about 140 stories–and ask my wife to clear the room. She kept our baby from crawling over (helpfully, this was before walking), and I tried my best to shoo away the cats. I left aisles between the columns of pages, and I walked between the stories, looking at them from this zoomed-out, very physical perspective. Obviously, I wasn’t going to read them like this, to get down into the details of the stories. What I was looking for was rising and falling action, was pacing, was repetition, was thematic connections. I wanted the reader to get caught up in the larger story, to wonder if my narrator was going to get his act together or not. I didn’t want the reader to be bogged down in places where too many alike stories sided together, or to forget about certain storylines or characters when they disappeared for pages at a time. Continue reading