Tuesday, 31 January 2012

I still get a thrill...

I walked into my local Waterstone's a couple of weeks ago (sorry, I know they have but I can't bear to dispense with the apostrophe), and what should I see on a big end-of-shelf display but this?

Three books under the heading "Books we want to shout about! Celebrate local writing talent!"... and there was Unthology No.1 from the always interesting Unthank Books.

My short story Waiting Room is in that there book... and it still gives me a thrill, albeit a little one now, more than a year after the book was published, but a thrill nonetheless to know I can walk into this bookshop, part of a national chain, and pick up a book, open it and find some words of mine inside. How must Stephen King feel?

I dream of the day I can go in and find Drawn To The Deep End filed under 'P' in fiction. Guess I'll need to finish the damn thing first though...

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

A story in ten words

Ernest Hemingway famously demonstrated that a story could be written in six words with this:
For sale: baby shoes, never worn.
Okay, so you don't learn exactly why the baby shoes were never worn, but you get enough - the story works.

When I heard that last year's Arts Council-funded National Short Story Day (it was December 22nd - shortest day of the year, see?) was running a competition via Twitter to write a short story in ten words, I thought I'd have a go. I gave it a lot of thought actually - like Hemingway's, my ten words needn't tell the full story but they would have to tell enough for the reader to get something out of it... hmm.

On the 22nd, my Twitter timeline was littered with entries with the #StoryIn10Words hashtag. So many, in fact, that when I found out this week that my entry had been chosen as one of the five winners, I was suitably chuffed. Here's my entry:
She pretended to be asleep when he came to bed.
What do you think? I'd love to hear how other people interpret this, why they think she is pretending to be asleep.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Turn Around Where Possible

Hmm. The village is called Grave. Maybe not a good sign?
Last October, I tried to write a Halloween-themed short story. Except, me being me, I disregarded the theme and instead just tried to write a scary story of the "don't go in the woodshed" variety. The rough draft I came up with was entirely silly, but I had a lot of fun writing it. And it turned out okay, I think.

Okay enough that I subsequently spent some time rewriting it. Even though it's not my usual kind of thing - I prefer psychologically unsettling stories to those with axes and blood - it came out well enough, I thought, to submit to One Buck Horror in the hope of actually selling a story to a publication. I know - ground-breaking!

One small snag though. OBH have a 3,000 word limit. Try as I might, I couldn't get the story down below about 3,500, and that was with hacking it to the bone. Since their word limit is completely inflexible (presumably because they pay by the word), that was the end of that little plan.

What to do with the story then? Why, give it away, of course. Because it's not my usual kind of story, I don't see too much point in holding it back for a future collection - I doubt it would fit in too well. Far better to make it freely available, in the vain hope that it helps to draw attention to my other works. Well, it doesn't hurt to dream, does it?

Turn Around Where Possible is available as a PDF right now, for nothing, from Lulu and Smashwords. I recommend the Lulu version - it handles the fonts better. Please do have a read, and maybe let me know what you think. Plus, if you can see a way to cut another 532 words, feel free to suggest how!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

On getting reviewed (or, the hard slog, the wait and the pay-off)

For the struggling independent like me, getting reviewed is hard. Yes, the Internet is awash with book review blogs, journals and websites but once you knock out those that don't accept self-published works and those that don't accept books with less than ten Amazon reviews, you've halved the list. Then take out all the ones that have currently closed their doors to new submissions, usually because they've been inundated, and the list shrinks further. And of course you only want to consider review channels that fit with the genre, theme and tone of your work.

Looking back through my e-mail sent items, seems I've sent out 30 review begs, jumping through whatever hoops are deemed necessary: the book must be a PDF; the book must not be a PDF; links to Amazon must be supplied; send no links or attachments; a recent photograph of the author is required; the author biog must contain inside leg measurement (only one of these was made up). It's been a giant faff, in short... but a faff that is starting to pay off. Take a look at my Media page - reviews for Dark Steps are starting to rack up, and I've just had emails promising me two more imminently. Good news. When it comes to promotion, it really is a case of "every little helps".

I'm starting to accumulate more customer reviews too - three on Amazon.co.uk, two on Amazon.com and, most satisfying of all, my first five-star review anywhere, on Lulu. Happy days.

First review on Lulu... and my first 5-star anywhere!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Books on writing - what's your poison?

There's a maxim for writers - if you can't be writing, be reading. Why not take that a step further then, and read about writing? I've wittered on many times about the brilliance of On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King; I also have The Successful Novelist: A Lifetime of Lessons about Writing and Publishing by David Morrell and The Writing Book: A Practical Guide for Fiction Writers by Kate Grenville in my "to read" pile...

But what about you? What books on writing have you found useful? What would you recommend, and why?