After working on a novel for a few years, in late 2002 I started writing short stories. The reason was partly practical and partly self-prescribed therapy. I had finished and submitted my novel manuscript to my MFA thesis adviser and I was pretty sick of it, but I also still had to fulfill submission requirements for my last semester in the MFA program. Stories seemed like the answer, with the added benefit that I would have something I could start sending out to magazines. Over the course of the next few months I finished 6 stories, discovering along the way that they were linked in theme, setting and overlapping characters. It seemed like a promising core for a collection, so I pressed on.
After graduation in May 2003, I returned to working on the thesis novel, but I also began to submit stories to magazines and slowly began picking up publishing credits. Each time I finished a revised draft of the novel, I would return to stories while sending queries to agents (and recovering from the revision). By last year, I considered the story collection complete, mostly in the sense that it had enough pages and I felt as though I had exhausted the setting (and my interest in the setting). Also, most -- all but two -- of the stories had either been published or accepted for publication. I returned to working on the novel and stories for a new collection (which is now about 1/3 done).
But something was nagging me about the first collection. It didn't quite hang together, I felt, and so I hit upon the idea of doing one more story, a hinge or umbrella story that would tie them all together, one that would unite the various themes and allow many of the featured characters to reappear. I've been working on that story off and on for the last few weeks and I think it's promising. But what's most interesting to me right now is that in writing that story, I realized something about the two unpublished stories in the collection, and I've identified simple -- but crucial -- changes I now need to make in those stories, changes that I think will make them better (publishable?) and will also make them fit the collection better. I'm excited to get those changes done!