Turning your short story you sold to a magazine into a novel.


The following is from the latest issue of the Longridge Writers Group newsletter.

Writing tips from Donna Ippolito, Long Ridge instructor.

Donna Ippolito has been writing, editing, and teaching others to write for more than 20 years. From 1985 to 2001, she was editor-in-chief at FASA Corporation, a Chicago publisher that packaged best-selling science fiction and fantasy novel lines for Penguin Books and Time-Warner. These included the popular BattleTech, Shadowrun, Earthdawn, and Vor series. So check out her websites at www.expert-editor.com and http://dreamscoop.blogspot.com/.

Prior to that, Ms. Ippolito was an editor at the Swallow Press, a prestigious publisher of both literary and commercial titles. Writers published by Swallow include celebrated novelist Anaïs Nin; Jungian analyst Linda Leonard; futurist Robert Theobald; Zen poet Lucien Stryk; and distinguished anthropologist W. Y. Evans-Wentz. She also worked as a senior editor for Consumer Digest Magazine and was a founding editor of Black Maria, a quarterly journal of women’s writing.

Philip B. asks: If you sell a short story to a magazine, but later decide to make it into a novel, would it be plagiarism? How do you avoid plagiarizing your own material?

Donna writes: Plagiarism is copying someone else’s words and claiming them as your own, so it’s perfectly legal to novelize one of your own short stories. You’d be in good company, too. Novels like Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, and others by Lawrence Block, Philip K. Dick, and Vonda N. McIntyre all began their lives as short stories.

Just be sure that you don’t give away all rights to the story when it’s published, but only first rights. These give the publisher the right of first publication, but it’s one time only in a specific issue of a print or online magazine. In most contracts, these one-time rights are First North American Serial Rights (FNASR). Once the story is published, the rights revert to you to do as you please with the material. If the story is later published in an anthology or a short story collection, you’d simply acknowledge the magazine name and date of first publication.

If you sign away “all rights,” however, you’ve lost ownership of the story. Even a much-changed and expanded novel based on the original work would be considered “derivative.” Legally, only the copyright holder has the right to produce a derivative work from the original. If you’ve lost the copyright by signing away all rights, you’d be out of luck.

The American Society of Journalists and Authors calls the traditional FNASR contract “an endangered species,” so writer beware. Legalese may seem confusing at first, but you can educate yourself enough to ask the right questions. “Rights, Rights, Rights: What You Own” by Mary Rosenblum is a good place to start. “Rights 101” on the ASJA website is another.

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