Wednesday, 26 June 2013

New website, end of an era, story arcs

A few bits and pieces for you today.

Firstly, writer Samantha Tonge has a lovely new website, and best of all, she's added a page of tips on writing for People's Friend. Of all the magazines, I feel this one has the strongest identity. I know many excellent writers who've never managed to get a story published in PF, where others seem to quickly hit the right tone and go on to sell dozens. Sam's in the latter camp, and is kindly passing on her tips to the rest of us!

Secondly, for those of you who enter writing competitions, take a look at Sally Q's latest writing calendar blog post. Sadly she's giving up keeping this calendar up to date at the end of this year. If anyone fancies setting up their own calendar, or perhaps if you already run one, let me know and I'll add a link to it from this blog. Thanks to Sally for all your hard work over the last 5 years, keeping us informed about all the competitions available.

And finally, it's not just me who likes graphs of story arcs. See Della's latest post! If you've read my ghost story book, you'll know I included some graphs in the introductory section. What do you all think - does it help to think of story structure in this way? I come from a mathematical and scientific background, and I do find a diagram often illustrates a concept far better than a string of words (and me, a writer?! *rolls eyes*). But what about the rest of you? I'd love to know what you think.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Galaxy Domination

My lovely sons have made a promotional video for Ghost Stories and How to Write Them. Starring my 18 year old, filmed, narrated and produced by my 15 year old. Thanks, boys!

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Guest Post by Helen Laycock

I don't know about you, but I am always fascinated to read about other writers' journeys - how they got started, the different types of writing they tried before they began to find success etc. Most of us on this blog have concentrated to a greater or lesser extent on women's magazine fiction, but here's a lovely post by a writer who targetted short story competitions with a good degree of success.

My husband is a scientist. He sees the world in black and white. His dreams are one-liners and he is unable to picture what is not there. He finds peculiar – and I think is rather jealous of – the imaginary world into which I can slip at any moment. We writers are so fortunate in having not only the real world that ‘everyone else’ inhabits, but an alternative, boundless world which we can tweak to our heart’s content.

I can’t even recall my first foray into writing. It must have been as a child with ‘Once upon a time’.

It was 2005 when a friend of mine, who had embarked on an Open University course in Creative Writing, mentioned that there were writing magazines out there with competitions. By that time, I had quite a collection of poetry and I had also begun to write books for children. Pleased to have a new goal, I began to dabble more in short stories, working to a word count, working to a theme. Having a set number of words was stressful to begin with. What if I got carried away? What if my creativity were crushed? But the more I practised, the more I felt the shape of the story taking form in just the right number of words. Often I write to the absolute maximum. You wouldn’t believe how hard it can be sometimes to lose one extraneous word! Reading winning entries showed me that what the judges were looking for was something that stood out from the pack.

When I first saw my name in Writing Magazine that same year, I was thrilled. I hadn’t won, but was shortlisted in their Annual Love Story Competition with a story called ‘’Til Death Do Us Part’. In the same magazine I was later shortlisted for the Adult Fairy Story which was great fun to write. Other shortlistings include Writers’ Forum with a bizarre story (currently awaiting judging elsewhere) and the Erewash Creepy Christmas Chiller Competition with my first horror tale. One of my stories recently won third place in an Internet competition and that will be included in an anthology next year. I also have a few pieces included in the One Word Anthology, an e-book, soon to become paperback, produced by my online writing group.

Having had a few sniffs round by publishers, but nothing further, I made my children’s books into ebooks. I then realised that I could share my short stories by doing the same. I categorised similar tales together and so became ‘Peace and Disquiet’, a collection of twelve darker stories, and ‘Light Bites’ which, as the title suggests, are more light-hearted compositions. I am no computer guru, but, luckily, my husband is. He helped with… okay, DID all the formatting for me. I made the covers by experimenting with photos. The hardest part was not the writing. It was, and is, the ongoing promotion which requires technological know-how in terms of social networking. (I’m still confused by hash tags and how strangers can see my Facebook page.)

 I have lots more stories. There are a few written specifically for forthcoming competitions, but they will eventually take their places in my next two collections which, again, seem to divide very neatly into those of a slightly unsettling nature and those which are just a laugh. I’ve got the titles ready too. It’s been a wonderful journey, and one that I shall enjoy continuing to travel. One reviewer wrote: ‘This is the work of an accomplished writer, one with true knowledge of the craft’. It tells me that I must be doing something right.

Thanks Helen! We often forget, I think, that writing competitions can be considered a market. Although the number of women's magazines publishing fiction is diminishing, there are as many competitions as there ever were, and winning or being placed in a few can be quite lucrative and a good outlet for your work. If you want help finding suitable competitions, try Sally Quilford's Competition Calendar.

Do check out Helen's books. I've just bought Light Bites and am hoping for some more sunshine this weekend so I can do what I do best: sitting in the garden, reading. 

Helen's Amazon Author page is here

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

My Weekly facebook page and website

In case I haven't linked to them before - memory like a goldfish with alzheimers, me - here are links to the My Weekly website which also contains a blog, and their facebook page.

Latest guidelines are just out - but still no submissions from anyone who hasn't previously sold to them, sadly.
Now's the time to send Halloween, Guy Fawkes or winter themes. For inspiration for gentle Halloween ghost stories, ahem, might I recommend that little book over there on the top right of this page? (This self-promotion lark is so excruciating. If anyone's got any tips on how to do it well, please do let me know!)
Also, light-hearted coffee break stories (700 words) and light-hearted 2000-word stories featuring children are currently welcome.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Short story collections

Everyone who's anyone, it seems, has got a collection of short stories available to buy as a Kindle ebook. I've bought several over the last few weeks, and today spent an enjoyable couple of hours in the garden, reading two or three stories from each collection. Whatever you might think of Kindles, and people seem to either love them or be vehemently against ever letting one cross their threshold, self-publishing your stories as an ebook is a great way of earning a bit more money from them. Either put together a collection of those stories which ought to have sold but for some reason the exalted magazine editors didn't quite agree, or those which have already been conventionally published so you know they've made the grade.

Here's a few recommendations, from my afternoon's reading in the sunshine:

The Baby of the Family by Suzanne Ross Jones
These stories have all been previously published in People's Friend, so as you'd expect they're gentle and heart-warming. But don't think they're all about elderly people reminiscing about their 1950s heydays, not at all. I read the first two - in the title story farm-girl Emma is sick of being treated as the baby by her parents and big brothers, but then her sister-in-law goes into premature labour and Emma's the only one available to help. In the second, Jeannie accidentally smiles at the grumpy boss and thinks her chances of promotion are ruined, especially when he calls her into the office...
Lovely stories. No twists, just great stories beautifully told. I remember coming across Suzanne's blog years ago when she was trying to get her first stories published. Now she's a regular in People's Friend and has also sold pocket novels. Shows what you can do if you keep at it!

Not a Drop to Drink by Patsy Collins, published by Alfie Dog fiction
A collection of stories with a drink or water theme. In the first, alcoholic Mike loses everything including his wife but with the support of his ex brother-in-law begins to get himself back on his feet. In the second, twin girls are warned to stay away from a beck because it's an unlucky place. But they're somehow drawn to it, and for one of them, although she gets the independence she craves it comes at a price...
Patsy Collins runs a lively blog always full of links to writing competitions and other interesting things. You could happily spend all your time following up everything she posts about. She's published several novels, which are also sitting on my Kindle (along with about 50 other books) waiting for another sunny afternoon.
Oh, and you can get Not a Drop to Drink for FREE direct from Alfie Dog - here!  (It's not always free on Amazon, although it is at the moment.)

Is That a Pun in Your Pocket? by Iain Pattison
This is a collection of humorous stories which I bought this afternoon and have read just the first one so far, in which the secrets behind the Big Bang are unlocked via a microphone which can pick up noises from the past. If you can write humour well, you will always be able to sell your stories or win competitions. I can't count the times I've read competition reports where the judges cried out for more funny stories instead of all the doom and gloom. Less angst more pranks, they want. Iain Pattison has a long track record of selling humour here and in the US.
Back in the mists of time I was a student with the Writers' Bureau, and bought a couple of How To books by Iain. Check out his author page - those are still available, and he's been published in countless anthologies as well. I'm looking forward to reading more Puns from his Pocket.

For more humour I also have Essence of Humour, an anthology from Alfie Dog, but I haven't  read any of those yet.

Or, for something darker, try Sarah England's 3am and Wide Awake, also from Alfie Dog. I read the title story a while back and it has stayed with me - very creepy. Will read more of this when I feel brave enough!

(If you need yet more reading, might I quietly suggest  Ghost Stories and How to Write Them which is getting lots of lovely reviews!)

Thursday, 6 June 2013

People's Friend - new look pocket novels

The People's Friend blog announces a new look to their pocket novel range, launched today. The new format has an easier to read, larger font and more pages. I'll be off up to WHSmith on Saturday to check them out. 

Monday, 3 June 2013

Love Craft

Delighted to announce that my fabulous friend, Sally Quilford, has published an ebook all about how to write sellable, believable romances. The book is called Love Craft, its gorgeous cover is below, and you can buy it  from Amazon for £1.34.

Lookie - the cover quote is from me! I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of this book, and can tell you I learned loads about writing romances from this lovely guide. I was chuffed to bits when Sally asked for a cover quote. Now I think I'll have to have a go at writing a romance - one where Daniel Craig is the hunky hero, obviously. 

Sally has sold about a dozen full length (50,000 word) romances (actually I've lost count but it must be about that many!) and really knows her stuff. So if you write or aspire to write romances, either short stories for the womags, pocket novels or for Mills & Boon or other publishers, get yourself a copy of this book to see how its done. 

The official launch of the book is tomorrow, and the launch party is on Facebook - you're all invited!