I think we can consider this experiment a success. I would definitely read more anthologies with insights into the writing and editiing process. It’s fascinating.
Writing Excuses is a podcast hosted normally by writers Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells and Howard Tayler. (Sometimes they have other guests.) It’s a pretty cool podcast. They give writing advice, talk about all the different processes of writing, and even workshop stories on air. Some of the excerpts in this book were podcast segments. I haven’t listened to them yet. What’s cool about this anthology is that for each of the four stories, we get to see the skeleton of the creative process: the initial brainstorming session, the first draft, maybe the second, workshopping the story, and a version of the story showing what was added and cut to make the final draft. And of course, the final draft as well. The more versions and info and writing notes in there, the better.
I know there were only four stories/novellas in this collection, but this is probably the first time I’ve genuinely enjoyed every story in an anthology.
Mary Robinette Kowal’s “A Fire in the Heavens” is about a woman on a tidally locked planet* who pays a ship to take her across the ocean to the lands her ancestors came from. Only, once she gets there, she experiences a culture clash of epic proportions. It was really interesting seeing the escalation from fun discovery to horrifying realization.
*To be honest, I have no idea what this really means.
Dan Wells’ “I.E.Demon” was a short story that’s better left unspoiled, but it’s got supernatural elements and the military thrown together and it was really fun.
Howard Tayler’s “An Honest Death” was a surprise. I’ve never heard of him before reading this anthology and it looks like he mainly only writes comics, but I hope he keeps writing other more traditional stories, because he seems really good at it. I’m not going to say anything at all about the plot of the story because the twists are half the fun.
Brandon Sanderson’s novella “Sixth of the Dusk” was my favorite. It’s part of what he calls the cosmere (a large universe where a lot of his books take place, and eventually all of them are going to come together somehow and it is SO COOL), but you don’t have to have read any of the other cosmere stories to understand it. It would probably have been my favorite anyway–it’s about a trapper who takes place on a dangerous island that produces magical bird companions that grant their owners special powers–but his story also had the most behind-the-scenes stuff. He included brainstorming with his, as well as a first draft, an edited draft, and an afterword noting why he’d made the changes he made.
This is a good anthology just for the stories it contains, but if you’re a writer (or are just interested in the writing process) this is definitely something you should check out.