Wednesday, 2 December 2020

An end to our insecurities?

IWSG 

It's time for the last Insecure Writer's Support Group post of the year – and what a year it's been for insecurities! I'd be surprised to learn that there's been a single person who got through 2020 without feeling insecure at some point. If we've been able to write some of the time, escaping into our work likely helped, but when we've been too anxious for that, not writing may well have added to our worries.

It's been tough at times, but changes are happening – including promising news about a vaccine. I'm confident that 2021 will be better.

This month's ISWG question is – Are there months or times of the year that you are more productive with your writing than other months, and why?

Yes. Times I'm not stressed by world events are most productive! I also tend to write more in the winter, especially rainy days, when I'm less distracted by things away from my desk. This year that's almost exclusively been my garden.


Competition news

Thanks to Alyson Hilbourne for sending me the details of this free to enter travel writing competition. There's $100 on offer plus publication for the winner. Three other finalists will also be published and receive payment for this. You might be pleased to hear that it doesn't seem necessary to write about
recent travel.

My News

(In case you missed it yesterday.) I've got a new book out. This short story collection would make a nice, easy to wrap gift for anyone who likes food and drink. Get it here.

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Reading break?

I've got a new book out. Coffee and Cake is a collection of short stories, all with the theme of food and/or drink – and all of which could be read in a tea break.

I know you're not all going to buy it, ask your library to stock it, or read it through kindle unlimited. Not all books will be to everyone's taste, and even if we'd like to, most of us simply can't read every book by every writing friend (I hope you do consider me a writing friend!)

I'm interested in what you do read and why. Do you read the same kind of stories as those you write and consider them as research as well as pleasure? Maybe you read mainly to relax or as entertainment. Do you look out for favourite authors, or perhaps books by those you know slightly? Or are you hoping to learn something or push yourself in some way through your reading choices?

If you enjoy finding free and bargain reads, you might like to join this Facebook group.

In the hope of enticing a few of you to consider my latest offering, here's the blurb –

We eat and drink for more than mere survival. Food comforts and reassures, connects us with others. A mug of coffee wakes us up in the morning. A cup of tea can calm us down.

Cakes are great for celebrations, birthdays in particular. Making one specially for someone shows how much we care. The same applies to learning to make their favourite dish, or passing on your signature recipe.

The food and drink choices we make expose aspects of our personality. What we give to others, and the care we take when doing so, can be even more revealing.

Sharing food helps build, or repair, relationships. It creates and recreates traditions and brings back memories – if that's what we want.

Whether you prefer unsweetened black coffee, or milky tea, rich sponge cake or something savoury, this collection of 25 stories provides the perfect snack.

You can get it here.

Thursday, 26 November 2020

A complaint, my thanks and some (hopefully) useful info.

The complaint

I've had a(nother) complaint about the blog. That doesn't really bother me. I accept it's not perfect, just as I hope you accept that it's the best I can do and still have time for writing and the rest of my life.

What does annoy me about this complaint is that it wasn't made as a comment to one of my monthly Your Go posts where I invite feedback, but was done by personal email. If you have anything to say about the blog, good or bad, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do it as a comment on the blog. Although I may not always act on them, especially if they'll be time consuming for no obvious benefit, I do welcome suggestions for improvement.

Yours grumpily and quite frankly rather cross.

p.s. You don't need a Google or Blogger account to leave a comment. Start by clicking on 'post a comment' then type your comment in the big box. Then select one of the bottom two of the three reply options. For 'url/name' type your name or nickname into the box which comes up, for 'anonymous' you skip that stage, but might like to add your name to the comment. Then click the orange 'publish your comment' thingy.

My thanks

Thank you very much to everyone who takes the time to leave a comment on this blog. I really appreciate you doing that – if it wasn't for these comments I wouldn't continue. It's useful too as it gives me an indication of which topics are of interest, it thanks guest bloggers for the time they've spent writing posts, and shows people that the blog is read and might therefore encourage them to share further information. 

And thank you to those people who help with the task of keeping the blog as up to date as it is, by sharing information in comments or emails, and to those who send me links to free to enter competitions. These things are very helpful.

Womag News

Magazines currently accepting unsolicited fiction submissions – 

The People's Friend – You're currently much more likely to be successful, and might get a faster response, with 3,000 word stories.

Allas

My Weekly (pocket novels ONLY)

Yours

Yours Fiction

Woman's Weekly*

Prima* (via their monthly competition)

Spirit and Destiny*

Ireland's Own

Woman's Way (they don't pay)

* These take all rights. I DO NOT recommend giving up all rights.

Magazines either currently closed to fiction submissions, or who only accept work from an existing pool of writers –

My Weekly (short stories)

YOU

Take A Break

That's Life (Australia)

Please note – this information is, to the best of my knowledge, correct at time of writing. If you're reading when it's five years, or even a week, old it may no longer be accurate.

Competition news

Thanks to Alyson Hilbourne for telling me about this competition. There's £50 on offer for a short story of up to 2050 words. You'll have to be quick though, as entries close 1st December (and I forgot to add it to an earlier post!)

Monday, 23 November 2020

Publishing with a partnership deal.

Today's guest is novelist Sarah Connell, who is sharing her recent publishing experience.

Your book 'Random Three' has been published by Book Guild, via a partnership scheme. Can you explain what that means?

You are offered a contract which involves the writer putting in a percentage of the cost of publication and all the necessary activities including marketing. In the contract I was given, this amounted to a 6th of the total. The actual amount can vary considerably depending on various factors, including the length of book and how much of a financial commitment the company is willing to make.

That sounds like it's a compromise between what's known as traditional publishing which starts with approaching agents to represent your book, and self publishing. What made you choose this option?

I was published for the first time when I was 70. I entered a Novel Competition with Cinnamon Press one year and was long listed which encouraged me to enter again. I was genuinely amazed when I won in 2017. I have always been a writer, but a secret and unconfident one. So that win, with the prize of publication, gave me the ambition to have other novels published, including ‘Random Three’ which was half finished at that stage.

I am not someone who would consider self publishing as I don’t have the skills and the commitment to see that whole process through. It can also be costly. I do have friends who are very successful at it.

The kind of social realism I write is not very fashionable and I would struggle to get an agent interested. I have tried a couple of times and perhaps I could improve my approach! But I took the chance of partnership publishing as a step forward after trying with half a dozen independent publishers (using the Mslexia Guide). I would like to get a traditional deal for my No 4 which I am editing at the moment and which is a longer novel (No 3 is in a drawer waiting revision).

Did Book Guild do everything you'd expect from a 'traditional' publisher – editing, cover design, marketing and distribution?

I found them very responsive and good to work with. They offer a marketing package, which you contribute to with local knowledge and suggestions. I had a useful meeting with them. They send out a press release to a long list of media outlets. This only resulted in a local radio interview, but I would not have had that otherwise. I had a detailed and useful copy edit as part of the process. This was mostly tiny punctuation and typo corrections, but also a sensitive suggestion about one minor detail, which showed the text had been read carefully. I was pleased to make that change.

Where you consulted over any editorial changes and the cover design?


Cinnamon Press were not willing to alter the design for ‘Whenever’ even though I disliked it and approached them about it several times. I didn’t like the first cover the Book Guild sent me for ‘Random Three’, but the designer responded immediately and worked with me to agree the final version.

For those who might be considering approaching Book Guild, how would they go about it, and what should they expect to happen?

All the details are here. You'll need to email the entire manuscript, a synopsis and biographical information about yourself. The Book Guild process is straightforward and they come back to you quickly. If they're unable to offer fully funded publication, they will ask if you will consider the partnership option, before sending out a proposal, which will give all the costing, and other, details. You then have three months to decide whether or not you wish to go ahead.


Can you tell us a bit about your book?

Mary is a teenage mother struggling to bring up her three year old son, Ryan, without support. Mary is uneducated and isolated, living on benefits on the sixth floor of a twelve storey block. She was brought up in care herself; now she dreads the possibility that she must let her energetic little boy go into care so that he can have a better life than she is able to give him. She is frightened by her readiness to hit him and is overwhelmed by feelings of desperate inadequacy. Social Services are already keeping an eye on her and have asked a volunteer to give her some support. The novel hinges on whether she will have to give him up to a life in care or whether she can hang on and succeed as a mother.

Two other women in the city with very different experiences of life become involved with Mary’s situation both directly and indirectly.

The setting is a small northern town, Warmfield. The novel is structured in three week blocks over the course of a year, each of three characters having her own chapter and day of the week. The themes are motherhood and the changing face of urban communities and places.

How can people get hold of a copy?

Random Three’ is available directly from the Book Guild, is on all the other online book sites and can be ordered from bookshops. It is on the shelf in Waterstones in Leeds. My first novel ‘Whenever’ is available to order on the same sites or direct from Cinnamon Press.

I see you've got some great reviews, so readers obviously like your book. Are you happy yourself with the finished product and how it's been received?

I was booked into a literary festival in the summer – of course, that was cancelled along with everything else. I am doing a couple of zoom book clubs, which provide feedback. So I hope there may be other opportunities in the future to meet readers. I am delighted to have a positive response from readers and of course, I would like to build on that.

Your book only came out this summer, so it's probably too early to give sales figures but, that aside, would you recommend Book Guild to other authors?

My experience has been a good one. However, personally I have no expectations about sales or covering my costs. I do think that the commercial grip on publishing is so tight that partnership publishing does open up opportunities for writers who would probably be ignored by the big names.

Where can people learn more about you and your writing?

Here are my Facebook, Amazon and Goodreads author pages.

Friday, 20 November 2020

Five on Friday, plus Facebook freebies.

Today I have five ways for you to earn money from your writing – and a way to promote special offers on your books.

There's £400 plus publication of offer to the winner of this short story competition. You have up to 2,500 words to write about how language evolves. 

I've set up a new Facebook group. It's somewhere readers can find free and bargain books which are offered as promotions by the authors, rather getting them from pirate sites – and where authors can promote their free and discounted book offers.

For this competition, you're asked to write a story of 25-50 words, using the word monitor. There's a $25 prize.

Thanks to Liz Filleul for bringing this call for submissions to my attention. Improbable Press want stories of dark cheer about cryptids (no, I didn't know either, but there's a full explantation on the website). You've got up to 5,000 words, and until May to submit. All stories used will be paid for at a flat rate.

For this competition, you may write either a 500 word story or a poem, using the word 'course' as a prompt. There's a £10 prize.

The winner of this competition will get $100,000. First they have to write up to 3,000 words on what it's like to be young in an ageing world. Then they'll get all that cash in return for expanding their ideas into a short book.

Sorry, I've had to switch on comment moderation. When I logged on this morning, I found over 100 spam comments from the same person. I cleared those but they've just started again. (I'm hoping it's stoped now and switching moderation back off.)

Monday, 16 November 2020

Your Go

Do you have any womag news?

Are you researching, writing, subbing? Had any acceptances or rejections? Any other news?


Feel free to use the as a picture prompt. If you'd like other writing prompts, short exercises and story/scene suggestions then you might find this book useful.


I'd love to hear your competition news.

Have you entered any writing comps? Had any luck? Heard about interesting contests? Got any tips to pass on? (Although I only feature free to enter competitions in my posts it's fine to share news about other competitions too.)

Do you have writing tips to share, questions to ask, or suggestions for this blog?

I'll be back later in the week with more free entry writing competitions and publication opportunities.


Monday, 9 November 2020

Let's be positive

November can seem a bleak month, even without lockdown, but there are reasons to be cheerful. I've got berries, bees, butterflies and blossoms in the garden and indoors I have stories which can take me anywhere and allow me to experience anything I wish – even if I do have to write some of them myself.

I hope you too have things to be cheerful about?

Free entry writing competitions

Thanks to Alyson Hilbourne for passing on the link to this free competition. You're asked for 50 words exactly, and could win a £25 voucher. There don't seem to be any restrictions on who can enter, but I suspect the prize will only be valid in the UK.

This competition is for work in any format, and genre and in any length – but it must be written in response to one of the prompts provided. You must upload the entry to your blog, Facebook page etc and then enter a link. The winner will receive a book token. (If you enjoy writing to a prompt, I strongly recommend this book!)

The annual Writers' and Artists' Yearbook short story competition is open. As usual there's no theme, you have up to 2,000 words and the prize is an Arvon residential course.

Here's a 'life writing' competition. The prizes for first place are '£1500, an Arvon course, a writing mentor, two years’ membership of the Royal Society of Literature, and an optional development meeting with an agent or editor'. Runner up prizes are pretty good too.

My news

I've been shortlisted in this competition – the final results will be announced at the end of this month. A story entered into another competition was selected to appear in the anthology (that makes two months running as I won the previous competition).

The process of submitting my latest novel, Acting Like A Killer, is underway. I've decided to target appropriate publishers directly, rather than attempt to get an agent. I'll let you know how I get on. (You can also sign up to my newsletter if you're interested in hearing more about my writing.)

The photo is of one of the locations in my novel – can you guess where it's set?


Womag news

The People's Friend have a large stock of shorter stories. They'd appreciate submissions of 2,000 and 3,000 words. 

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Why do you write what you write?

IWSG

This month's Insecure Writer's Support Group question is – Authors across time and distance have had many reasons to write. Why do you write what you write?

I write for two main reasons. One is because I have something to share – with fiction that will be an idea, with my articles and this blog it's usually information I hope people will find useful. The other is similar in a way, as it's my wish to communicate. I expect something to happen after I've sent out my work – a response from an editor (preferably one saying they wish to buy my piece!) or comments on the blog posts. If I don't get any response, then the communication is all one way. I have no idea if the words were read and I feel there was no point in typing them out. 

I choose what to write according to my intended readers. For the blog I search out free to enter competitions, news about magazine fiction and other writing related information I hope will be useful. When it comes to short stories, I take into account the magazines' guidelines and readership, or the competition rules. With my novels, I write the kind of books I like to read myself.

How about you? Why do you write what you do?

Free entry writing competitions


This is a monthly competition, offering publication and a book as a prize, for just a few words.

And here's another monthly competition. For this one stories of 1,000 - 3,000 are required and there's a $30 Aus prize, plus publication. Anyone may enter.




Monday, 2 November 2020

Deciding which competitions are worth entering

Today's guest is Francesca Capaldi.

I've been compiling the Competition Monthly for the Romantic Novelist Association Blog for about five years now. One of the most time-consuming aspects of it is to pick out the best competitions from an ever-growing selection. It would be easy to go on, say, an online comp site, or the Writing Magazine comp booklet they produce every so often and just copy it all, but having entered competitions myself for many years, I know there are a few pitfalls. Besides which, the information given is often out of date and sometimes the competitions aren't even running that year.

First I select a bunch of competitions that I think would appeal to those reading the blog, calling up all the actual websites. I then go through them all, one by one.

The first thing to check is that the entry fee is not too extortionate. I tend not to use comps that are above around £15 to enter, unless it's a prestigious comp, like the Bath Novel Award. What I try to do is balance up the entry fee with what's on offer. It's tempting to disregard those not offering any monetary award, but sometimes what is on offer can be just as valuable, like a publishing contract, or an exclusive period of time with an agent.

I never used to bother with competitions from outside the UK, but have found there are some good ones, particularly in the US, Canada and Australia. I do make sure writers from outside the country can enter, as this isn't always the case. The same is true of some UK comps, where they're for residents of a certain region only.

The most important thing is to read through all the rules and regulations. The small print often reveals that non-prizewinning, shortlisted entries will be printed online or in an anthology, without any payment. Some even say that, by just entering the competition, you give your permission for them to use your story whenever, wherever they wish. That's the number one no-no for me. It means you won't be able to send the story anywhere else and get the fee you deserve. The exception to this is when it's for a worthy charity.


Occasionally, the rules state that shortlisted entries will be used if the author agrees. That's the magic word. I occasionally include these as, when I was first starting out, I was keen to get my name 'out there', and that was the reward. At least they give you a choice.

That's about it in a nutshell really. I often share tips about actually entering contests on the Competition Monthly, so if you'd like to know more, you can search for the various posts on the RNA Blog. The current one is here

Francesca Capaldi's latest novel is a saga set in Wales in WW1, published by Hera, and due out on November 25th. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or her blog.

From Patsy – I'll be putting up more links for free competitions later this week.


Wednesday, 28 October 2020

A ,B and C

A, B and C = Allas, Best and Competitions!

 Womag News

I had a reply from my request for more information from the two ladies who've taken over from Lotta at Allas. 'At the moment we are forming our new organization, finding a new way to work.' There aren't any new guidelines, and it seems that they will only respond to submissions if they wish to buy the story.  Of course if I learn more, I'll pass the information on.

Submissions may be sent to Margaretha Malmgren  Margaretha.malmgren (at) aller.com and Cecilia Ericson Cecilia.Ericson (at) aller.com

Womag/competition news

Thanks to Alyson Hilbourne for sending this scan from a recent copy of Best magazine. 

They'll be paying £500 to the winner, and there are also runner up prizes of £200. Winter themed stories of no more than 1,200 words are to be sent to bestfiction2020 (at) hearst.co.uk.


Competition News




There's £1,000 on offer for this short story competition – but not much time left to enter. Thanks to Jane Bettany for reminding me about it.


And a quick reminder from me...

If you fancy some not too scary hallowe'en reading, you can find it in my short story collections Slightly Spooky Stories ISlightly Spooky Stories II, Slightly Spooky Stories III and the brand new Slightly Spooky Stories IV.

I'm using the excuse that I'm promoting these to share really terrible, hallowe'en jokes on Twitter. If you know any, please share them in the comments – I'll allow good ones, but those which cause a groan seem most appropriate, don't you think?

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Frights, fun and freebies

Thanks to Liz for telling me about this free to enter monthly competition. There's a prize of $500 Aus for a piece of flash fiction written against the clock. It sounds like fun, so I'll enter if I remember. First Friday, Furious Fiction's free flash ought to be hard to forget, but there's a good chance I'll manage.

Francesca Capaldi runs a competitions blog for the RNA. Not all the competitions are free, but she does her best to check they're not rights grabs and excludes those which are 'ridiculously expensive'.

My latest books, Slightly Spooky Stories IV is out now. As you've probably guessed from the title, it contains two dozen, not too scary stories, perfect for hallowe'en reading and is the fourth book in this series. They're all individual stories, so it doesn't matter what order you read them.

You might remember that I won last month's Secret Attic short story competition. Maybe it will be you this month, as they're running another one. There's a prize of £30, plus publication. Also on the site are poetry and flash competitions. Publication is currently the only prize for those.

Here's a playwriting competition, with a £500 prize.

Finally, thanks to Lynne Pardoe for passing on the details of this short story competition. As with all the competitions I mention, it's free. They want 500 words, and there's a lovely writer's hamper worth £500 for the winner!

Monday, 19 October 2020

Changes at Woman's Weekly


In case you missed the news, reported in the comments to my last post (thank you, Chris!), Jane Kemp has taken over from Emma as fiction editor at Woman's Weekly. I've invited Jane onto the blog to explain exactly what she's looking for at the moment, and will let you know if there's any response. 

Sadly the Woman's Weekly Fiction Specials will finish with the December issue. Obviously that's a disappointment to those who write for that market, but it will impact on us all, as a shrinking market means greater competition. 

In an effort to cheer people up, my next post will contain LOTS of links to free to enter writing competitions.

Friday, 16 October 2020

Over To You

Do you have any womag news?

Please read the comments for the latest news about Woman's Weekly.

Are you researching, writing, subbing? Had any acceptances or rejections? Any other news?


Feel free to use the as a picture prompt. If you'd like other writing prompts, short exercises and story/scene suggestions then you might find this book useful.


I'd love to hear your competition news.

Have you entered any writing comps? Had any luck? Heard about interesting contests? Got any tips to pass on? (Although I only feature free to enter competitions in my posts it's fine to share news about other competitions too.)

Do you have writing tips to share, questions to ask, or suggestions for this blog?

If you'd like to read an interview about my writing, you can do that here.

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

IWSG and more free to enter writing competitions.

It's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. This month's question is –

When you think of the term working writer, what does that look like to you? What do you think it is supposed to look like? Do you see yourself as a working writer or aspiring or hobbyist, and if latter two, what does that look like?

To me a working writer is someone who puts time and mental effort into their writing, to make it as good as they can, and who then attempts to have it published for financial gain. This may, or may not, be their main means of support. They probably enjoy at least part of the writing process, but perhaps don't do it solely for pleasure.

A hobbyist, in my opinion, is someone who writes mainly for their own enjoyment. They might edit their work if they like doing that. They might enter it into competitions or submit for publication – but any success is a bonus, not the reason for writing.

An aspiring writer is someone who'd like to write, but has never yet made any attempt. As soon as they string words together in a creative way they cease to be aspiring and really are writers.

I'm a writer. I don't generally define it further than that, but out of these options, working writer fits me best. I take my writing quite seriously in that I research and learn all I can, and revise and edit until the piece is as good as I can make it. I try hard and put in a lot of hours – and I hope for a reward of some kind.

Do you agree with my definitions? Which of the options – working, hobbyist or aspiring, do you think describes you best?

Thanks to Alyson for passing on the link to this free to enter fantasy/ science fiction competition. They want up to 3,000 words. The top prize is £100. Entrants must be over 18 and the work can't have been previously published.

And also for mentioning this flash fiction competition in a comment to an earlier post. Very short, and weird, Christmas stories are wanted There's a $50 prize, plus the winners will be read on a podcast (by the author if they wish). This sounds like fun, think I'll have a go myself. I'm sure I could do weird if I disconnected my inner editor.

Thanks to @The_StorySmith for bringing this paid publication opportunity to my attention. They're looking for horror stories involving cake. I'll probably give that a mis as 'I've run out' is a bit on the short side!

Talking of competitions, I won one! The Secret Attic run monthly free short story and poetry competitions, plus some with entry fees.

I've got a new short story collection coming out soon. You can pre-order it here. The first three in the series, and all my other books, can be found here.

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Lotta leaving Allas

Lotta Gustavsson ends her role as fiction editor at Allas today. I'm sure some of those who've submitted stories to her would like to join me in wishing her well for the future.

I'm contacting the ladies who are taking over from her, to ask if there are any changes to the submission process or fiction requirements, and will update you if there's any news.