Monday, December 7, 2015

Assembling Anthologies

I love anthologies. Every year I was excited when the Regency, holiday, romance anthologies appeared on the bookshelves in the stores. I like the length since the novellas or stories are shorter reads than full-length novels. I read before going to sleep, and it’s possible to get through one in an evening or two.

I initiated the idea of writing romance anthologies with several of my friends. Little did we realize we’d end up with six in the Aspen Grove series.


I’ve edited a few more over the years, including a recent collection of mysteries set in Hawaii: Paradise, Passion, Murder (currently available for pre-order).

Assembling an anthology requires some attention to how the stories are arranged. When I was putting them together, I considered some features of the individual works.


I tried to vary the lengths of the stories, alternating shorter ones with longer ones for variety.


Not all novellas/stories are created equal. Even good writers don’t always create works of the same quality. When I assembled anthologies, I tried to put a strong story at the beginning and another strong one at the end. Those of lesser quality, I sandwiched between. I know if readers enjoys the first book, they will continue reading. I also wanted to make sure the final story left a good memory for the reader.


In some books, the stories can be arranged in order by date. For our romance anthology, Directions of Love, my novella, “Finding Love in Paradise,” contains the backstory of the four friends. Therefore, it is the first in the book. Luanna Rugh’s novella, “Love Under the Northern Lights,” ended right before the Epilogue and left a suspenseful situation to be resolved in the Epilogue. So, it went after the other two. The four novellas were bookended by the Prologue, which set up the overall story, and the Epilogue.


Most of our Aspen Grove books have an overall story arc, supported and moved along by the individual novellas in the book. I tried to arrange them in the order which would move the overall story forward. This was always a consideration of how to tell the whole story best.


When I edited Larry’s short story collection, Lakeview Park, I tried to pace the stories by mood. Some were sweet, some sad, others bittersweet. I tried to vary the mood of the stories for variety. One character appeared in several stories, so I tried to intersperse his appearances throughout the book.


In Seasons of Love, each novella had a different seasonal theme, so it seemed logical to start the book with spring and end with winter. …And a Silver Sixpence in Her Shoe followed the old rhyme, which starts, “Something Ole, Something New…” The order of the novellas is the same as the lines in the poem.

In some anthologies, the novellas are ordered by the status of the authors. Others seem quite arbitrary on the whim of the editor. Some appear to have little or no reason for their order.

Next time you read one, see if you can tell why the particular order was made.


  1. Some good insights for sure. It is surprising how challenging it is to arrange stories in the "right" order.

    1. Indeed! You have to capture your readers' attention and at the same time, the book must have a flow.

  2. Lorna edited a collection of short stories for me. She gives good advice.

    1. Thank you, Janet. I loved your stories. When will they be available?