Tuesday, 29 November 2011

That's Life - WF interview with fiction editor

The latest (January 2012) issue of Writers' Forum includes one of those marvellous Meet the Editor articles, this one written by Glynis Scrivens and the subject is Anthony Lambert of Australia's That's Life and Fast Fiction. Here's a brief summary of the main points, but as always do consider buying the magazine - it's on sale in WHSmith or you can subscribe via the link above.

  • Categories include romance, thriller, light bite, sixth sense, heartwarmer, revenge and tear jerker.

  • Stories vary from 700 words (1 page) to 2800 words (4 pages)

  • Stories need to be credible. Check everything actually works in your story.

  • Setting should usually be Australia unless there's a real need for the setting to be elsewhere eg a Scottish castle

  • Male viewpoint stories are welcome

  • Send seasonal stories six months in advance (and remember Aussie seasons are opposite to those in the UK!)

  • You can submit by email, and should receive an auto-response acknowledging your submission

  • Stories previously published elsewhere in the world (not Australia or New Zealand) are welcome, but Anthony will buy second rights for these, so you will earn less. (Beware, the UK Woman's Weekly is on sale in Australia.)

  • Anthony keeps a stock of shortlisted stories to fill gaps. But if you haven't had a response after six months assume your story is rejected. You are welcome to resubmit if you think the story is particularly good.
The basic guidelines are unchanged since this post so I won't repeat them.

Email submissions to fastfiction@pacificmags.com.au

Monday, 28 November 2011

My blog post on Tears and Laughter blog

I've written a post about the inspiration behind my two stories in Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After - please see here.

Also, I'm delighted to see this blog has over 500 followers! Welcome to followers #500 and #501; you've made my day!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Amazon Reviews

Superb post here by Anne Allen on Amazon reviews. In an ideal world, everyone who ever posts book reviews on Amazon would read this article.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Tears and Laughter Blog

Just a quick post to say the Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After blog is now up and running, and over the coming weeks we'll be posting about our inspiration for the stories in the book. I find reading about how other people came to write a story often sparks ideas of my own, so I hope you enjoy following this blog. I'll be posting there next week.

Also, if you've bought and enjoyed the Kindle edition of the book, please do consider leaving a review on Amazon. If you're waiting for the paperback - it should be released soon! I'll post again when it's published.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Could you write a comedy script?

If so, why not enter Circalit's competition - write a 3-5 minute comedy sketch, and the prize is to have it produced by an award-winning producer.
(If you think you can't write a script, why not dig out one of your humorous stories and try converting that. Plenty of tips here on how to write a screenplay.)

If scripts don't appeal in any way, it's still worth having a look at the Circalit competition pages - they are running a wide variety of comps at the moment, from pitching a feature film to 500-word flash fiction comps. Some of the comps are even free to enter!

Edited 23/11/11 - also look at BBC Writersroom for tips on script-writing.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

100k in 100 days?

Could you write 100,000 words in 100 days? That's an average of just 1000 words a day, which isn't too daunting, is it? Sally Quilford is setting up a challenge to run from 1st January, for, well, 100 days of course! You can write anything to make up the 100,000 - a novel, two novellas, 100 short stories or articles -whatever you like.

For more details and to sign up, go here.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Tears and Laughter - Kindle edition now available!

I am delighted to announce that the Kindle edition of Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After is now published!

You can buy it here for just £2.99. A bargain for all short story lovers!

(If you don't have a Kindle, you can download a free Kindle app for your computer, ipad, iphone, other smartphone. See here for details.)

If you're a good old fashioned paper-book lover or just prefer to read in the bath, I'm sorry but you'll need to wait a little longer for the paperback.

We're also on Facebook, Twitter and we have a website. We'll soon be blogging regularly on the website - make sure you follow us to hear about the inspiration behind the stories!

‘Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After’, a vibrant collection of wonderful stories from some outstanding UK writers.

Twenty-six stories that encompass the dizzying heights of happiness, the heartbreaking depths of sadness and every emotion in between.

A housewife with a surprising secret
A beekeeper with a problem
A most unusual undertaker
Angels, ghosts, aliens

Find these and many other intriguing characters in ‘Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After’.

The writers included in this book have had hundreds of short stories published in women’s magazines, won or been placed in dozens of competitions, published novels and written non-fiction for many UK magazines. The idea for the book came from the successful ‘A Story A Fortnight’ writing group which brought the writers together in a project which has inspired and supported them in their short story writing.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Home For Christmas: Guest Post by Cally Taylor

With extraordinary good timing, my copy of Cally Taylor's new novel Home For Christmas arrived in the post today. What a gorgeous sparkly cover! Makes me want to get the Christmas tree out already! Cally is offering some fabulous prizes just for 'liking' her facebook page - go to her blog here for all the details.

The post which follows is an updated version of an article by
Helen Hunt which appeared in Writers' Forum a couple of years ago, reproduced by kind permission from the author.

Cally Taylor's second novel, the romantic comedy ‘Home for Christmas’, was published by Orion in November 2011. The novel, set in Brighton, follows Beth and Matt as they examine their love lives, jobs and living situations in their search for happiness. Cally says, 'I really wanted to write a novel about the lengths people are prepared to go to in their search for happiness. In a lot of chicklit novels that search is centred around the main character’s love life but I wanted this novel to be more true to life – more rounded – because it’s normally a combination of factors that leads to our happiness (or unhappiness!).

Cally is now working on a synopsis for her third novel but in her early days as a writer she wrote a very different sort of fiction. Cally honed her craft writing short stories for magazines and competitions, and many of the skills she developed have helped immensely in her novel writing.

'Openings are hugely important in short stories,' she says. 'You’ve only got seconds to grab the attention of a busy editor and convince them to continue reading your story. An opening to a novel is equally important. When you’re subbing your novel to agents your manuscript will end up in a huge pile of submissions so you need to grab their attention. If the beginning of your novel isn’t strong they’ll just pick up the next manuscript. When you've got an agent that same opening has to appeal to an editor and, ultimately, a customer browsing in a bookshop.'

Pace is also vital in both short stories and novels, according to Cally, 'With a short story you’ve got a limited number of words in which to tell your story. You can’t spend ages on the beginning and rush the middle and ending – they have to be evenly weighted. Short story writing taught me that description can slow a story whilst dialogue can speed it up. Using a mix of long and short sentences also helps vary pace. By writing short stories you learn to sense whether the pace is right, and when you’re writing a novel you can apply the same principles to scenes. If a scene seems to be dragging, it probably is!

'That’s where editing comes in – when I was writing short stories I learnt to never send off a story until I’d read it aloud at least once. When you write you ‘hear’ your words internally. It’s not until you read them aloud that you hear them as a reader would.

'Another important part of editing is ruthless cutting. Frequently, I pruned short stories from 3,000 to 2,000 words in order to hit a particular word limit. I had to apply that same ruthlessness when I edited my first novel “Heaven Can Wait” from a 100,000 word first draft to a much less baggy 80,000 words. Every word should count and if a particular scene bores you it’ll bore the reader, so cut it or rewrite it until it sparkles!'

Writing short stories can also help you build up a writing track record which will appeal to agents. 'If you’ve fought off competition from other writers to win a prize in a competition that proves that you can write well. A list of magazines that have accepted your stories shows the agent that your work has been vetted, and accepted, by a professional editor. A writing CV shows you can produce polished, professional fiction and that’s definitely attractive to an agent.'

Cally's novels are aimed at women of all ages who like romance, a laugh and maybe a little cry too. Cally says, 'I think my short stories appeal to the same audience. I aim to touch the reader emotionally. If they laugh or cry I’ve done a good job. A couple of the magazines I write for have included a brief mention of my novels at the end of the story which is useful for publicity, but my main hope is that women who enjoy my short stories might see my novel in a bookshop and think, “Oh, I read a lovely short story by Cally Taylor once. I’ll see what her novel’s like.”'

The biggest challenge in moving to novel length writing is stamina, Cally thinks. 'The short stories I write tend to be about 2,000 words and I can finish one in one sitting. Writing a novel is a much longer process and I initially found it strange to spend so much time with the same set of characters. Writing a novel takes an enormous amount of determination, motivation and energy. Almost every writer I know gets to a point in a novel when they have a fantastic idea for a new novel and are tempted to ditch the one they’re working on and start again. That’s particularly tempting when you’re used to writing short stories, but you must push on and reach the end. It’s normal to fall out of love with a novel while you’re writing it but you’ll inevitably fall back in love with it again.'

Cally has some advice for anyone thinking of writing a novel. 'I’m not much of a plotter,' she says. 'I tend to know the beginning and the ending and let the characters tell me how to get there. But breaking your idea into chapters can be helpful as it reduces it to manageable chunks. Try not to be over-awed by how long a novel is and set yourself little targets like “I’ll write 500 words today,” or “I’m going to keep writing until I finish this scene”. Writing is such a solitary business that joining a writing group can be helpful too. You can swap notes with other writers, encourage each other to keep going or even challenge each other to write a certain number of words by a certain date.'

Cally sees herself continuing to write short stories as well as novels, and sees advantages to both. 'With novels you’ve got more freedom, and a lot more words, to flesh out your characters,' she says. 'I get to know my characters so well when I’m writing a novel that they’re like real people to me. Because you’ve spent so much time with them you grow to care for them – which makes it much harder to throw obstacles in their path and do horrible things to them! It’s important that you find something likeable – or fascinating in the case of the ‘baddies’ – in the characters in your novels because you have to spend so much time with them. Characters in short stories are more like snap shots than fully-rounded characters, but on the plus side, with short stories you’re constantly creating new characters and dipping into their lives.

'With novels you can explore sub-plots – something you don’t have time for with short stories – and you can play with structure and point of view. With ‘Home for Christmas’ I was able to tell the story from the point of view of TWO main characters – one male, one female - and that was hugely enjoyable.

'In a novel you’re exploring a period of time in great depth. You can take your time building up to an emotional punch. With shorter fiction you’re stripping out everything extraneous to that punch and getting there faster.'

‘I’ll keep writing short stories though,' Cally says, ‘because I love writing them and because it’s so fulfilling to create something finished in a relatively short time! A lot of the ideas I have aren’t suitable for a novel – either because they don’t fit within the genre I write, or because they’re too skant to support 80,000 words – but are ideal for short stories. And I never ignore what I hope is a great idea!'

'Editing is very different from writing a first draft.,' Cally says. 'It’s much more logical and clinical, so it doesn’t take long before I crave the buzz I get from writing. Short stories are like a little writing fix and help break up the, sometimes tedious, editing process.'

Cally's come a long way in her writing career, and at the moment life is really hectic. 'There’s a lot to juggle,' she says. 'I have a day job, I’m promoting “Home for Christmas”, a short story anthology called ‘Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After’ that I’m involved with and I’m putting together a synopsis for novel 3. Oh yes, and there’s another novel that I’ve been working on (20,000 words written so far) that I’ve had to put on the back burner since giving birth to my first child at the beginning of October! If the press report a huge rise in coffee sales in Bristol you’ll know why!'

Some things stand out as making all the hard work worthwhile. ‘I recently received a beautiful, sparkly copy of ‘Home for Christmas’. When I’m having a stressful day and the phone won’t stop ringing, the baby is crying, emails are clogging up my inbox or I’m struggling to edit a scene I look at that book and I’m reminded how extraordinarily lucky I am.'

Beth Prince has always loved fairytales and now, aged twenty-four, she feels like she's finally on the verge of her own happily ever after. She lives by the seaside, works in the Picturebox - a charming but rundown independent cinema - and has a boyfriend who's so debonair and charming she can't believe her luck! There's just one problem - none of her boyfriends have ever told her they love her and it doesn't look like Aiden's going to say it any time soon. Desperate to hear 'I love you' for the first time Beth takes matters into her own hands - and instantly wishes she hadn't. Just when it seems like her luck can't get any worse, bad news arrives in the devilishly handsome shape of Matt Jones. Matt is the regional director of a multiplex cinema and he's determined to get his hands on the Picturebox by Christmas. Can Beth keep her job, her man and her home or is her romantic-comedy life about to turn into a disaster movie?
Buy ‘Home for Christmas’ on Amazon.co.uk

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Nanowrimo - guest post by Brittany Lyons

It's that time of year again when the mad amongst us are scribbling furiously in an attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Blogger Brittany Lyons offered me a guest post about the Nano challenge, how it began and what you can get out of it. She also mentions a challenge set by Lulu.com to write a 600-word story in a month - come on, all of you can manage that!

Or write a 500-word story, and enter it in Tesco's current competition to win a Kindle. Write a lot this month or write a little - it's up to you but write something and make it count!

OK, here's Brittany's post and I hope it inspires you all!

Nanowrimo - a Challenge of Epic Proportions

If you love to write bu have trouble forcing yourself to sit down and just do it, National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, may be for you. NaNoWriMo is a fun contest that takes place every November, in which participants attempt to write 50,000 words in one month. Anyone who makes it to the goal of 50,000 words before November 30 “wins” the contest, and is award with a badge for their blog, Facebook profile, or wherever else they want to put it. But it's not really about winning—it's about writing.

2011 marks the 13th annual NanoWriMo contest. Last year saw over 200,000 participants—an overwhelming number compared to the first NanoWriMo contest in 1999. The contest began as a private challenge between founder Chris Baty, a writer living in San Francisco Bay, and 20 of his friends. Baty's friends didn't have writing PhDs, but they all enjoyed reading and wondered whether they could complete a novel in a month. Since “The Great Gatsby” was a group favorite, the group decided that any work the same size as this classic—50,000 words—would count as a novel. Six of the original 21 participants completed their novels by the end of the month.

The contest has grown over the last 13 years from a personal challenge to a social event. NanoWriMo has an official website where participants can keep track of how many words they've written and how close they are to their goal. The website also offers forums where writers can discuss their work and difficulties they have with the writing process, and socialize with other writers. In addition to online forums, writers can learn about and attend "write-in" events at local libraries and independent bookstores, where they can meet other writers in person.

The event's primary purpose is to jump start your novel writing, and so it focuses on quantity, not quality. Anybody can succeed at NaNoWriMo if they write 1,667 words a day, all month long. Some professional writers object to this, saying that even though a writer can produce a finished book in 30 days, it's unlikely that the book is ready for publication. However, this objection misses the point of the competition. NaNoWriMo isn't about creating a finished book; it's about getting
that all-important first draft out of the way. Once NaNoWriMo is over, writers can work on revising their novels and getting them ready for publication, if they so desire. Some NaNoWriMo-inspired novels have been published and have even been successful.

Because NaNoWriMo focuses on word count rather than the story itself, it has also attracted bloggers, poets and short story writers looking for help with establishing a regular writing routine. Those 1,667 words a day don't have to be directed toward a novel, as evidenced by the self-publishing company Lulu.com's NaNoWriMo short story contest. The contest encourages participants to write, polish, and self-publish a 600-word story. At the end of the month, the selected winners receive great prizes like the Barnes and Noble NOOK and up to $500 in cash. So even if you aren't a novelist and never intend to become one, NaNoWriMo is a great way to both
get involved with the writing community and motivate yourself.

It's very easy to sign up for NaNoWriMo. Simply go to their website, choose a username, and provide your email address. You can report your progress on a daily basis, and even share excerpts from your work in progress if you wish. Between November 25 and November 30, participants upload their novels to validate word counts, and anyone with 50,000 words get the winning graphic—and the satisfaction of having reached a huge goal.

Brittany Lyons aspires to be a psychology professor, but decided to take some time off from grad school to help people learn to navigate the academic lifestyle. She currently lives in Spokane, Washington, where she spends her time reading science fiction and walking her dog. She blogs at phds.org.

And if you think it's too late this year, there's always next year. Thanks, Brittany!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Writing women's fiction podcast

Ian from National Short Story Week offered a podcast on writing women's fiction for this blog. Well, I almost bit his hand off in accepting it!

He says: It is one of three online radio specials of broadcaster Sue Cook's programme for writers, "The Write Lines". The Women's Fiction programme is a panel discussion with Rowan Coleman, Sophie King and Sue Moorcroft and is packed with tips, insights and suggestions.

The other programmes are on British Short Stories and Children's Fiction. You can listen to all of them here or click below for the Women's Fiction one.

If you enjoy listening to fiction can I also recommend the Women Aloud CD of short stories - buy it here and see a review of it by Helen Hunt here.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Happy Birthday Woman's Weekly!

WW is 100 years old. The issue now out in the shops is the centenary issue, and contains a facsimile of the first ever WW, dated 4th November 2011! It's a real collector's edition - get out there and buy it, everyone!

In 1911 the magazine included:

  • cartoons showing why 'a woman's work is never done'

  • lace and crochet instructions

  • the first parts of two serials

  • a full page advertorial for Antipon, a fat-reducing medicine

  • 'pin money pages' - readers' recipes

  • real love stories - readers are invited to send in their stories of how they met their partners, and all those published receive 'a charming little jewel-box'

  • several dress patterns for women and children

  • 'I agree, do the housekeeping yourself!' - a story of how the complaining husband managed the home

  • an article 'How to become a nurse'

So - not too far removed from the kind of thing you'd expect in a current magazine!

As well as the facsimile, there's also reprints of problem page letters and ads from the past century, and lots of features comparing 'then and now'.

It's a lovely magazine - loads in it, especially for history lovers like myself. With enormous thanks to my lovely mum for alerting me to this very special edition.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Christmas is coming...

Oh yes it is! It's November now, time to start thinking about presents and turkeys and baubles.

And books - Cally Taylor's second novel is about to hit the shops. It's entitled Home For Christmas and sounds like the perfect stocking filler for everyone you know who enjoys romantic comedy.

Cally's asking bloggers to help launch her book, by blogging on 10th November on the theme of 'All I want for Christmas'. See here for details and to get involved. She'll be guest posting for me next week as well. All that and caring for a newborn baby as well - what a superwoman!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Tears, competition, laughter, pocket novels, happy ever after

A few bits and pieces for you -

How about this - an estate agency running a writing competition! Well, we all have to branch out, I suppose. Anyway, the competition is being run by Peter Barry agency; the theme is, perhaps not surprisingly, 'Moving Home'; the closing date is 12th December and the top prize is £750. There's no entry fee and you can email your stories, so there's nothing to lose! Full details here

Sally Q and some other writers of pocket novels have set up a blog dedicated to the art of the 50,000 word romance. Here it is and may I especially draw your attention to Sally's superb post on Conflict which is as applicable to short stories as it is to pocket novels. If you're a writer of pocket novels or a wannabe writer of them, this blog is definitely one to follow.

And finally, I'm delighted and proud to announce the launch of the Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After website! Yes I know I've linked to it before, but there's a lot more on it now, including profiles of all the authors (including me) and tasters of some of the stories. The website was built by the incredibly talented Leigh. The book is due out as an ebook before Christmas and as a paperback soon after. I'll post again (of course!) when it is available; or sign up on the website to be the first to hear.