Tag Archives: short story

Time to write?

‘I’d love to write a book, if only I had the time,’ I wish I had a pound for every time  someone has said that to me. I think it’s one of the most insulting things you can say to a writer. it implies that writing is a time-wasting activity of little importance, indulged in by those who neglect the duties of life for their own self-indulgence.

The  opposite is usually true, most writers fill in writing around career or day job and family responsibilities. Even if writers make a living they work as hard if not harder than many people in traditional jobs. There is no switching off at five o’clock , weekends or on holidays and who else carries a notebook at all times, ears flapping and eyes on stalks for the next original idea?

Actual writing is only a small, if the best, part of the job. There are the endless revisions, the critique groups to attend, the process of self-publishing or working with agent and publisher and increasingly nowadays writers must constantly promote themselves by attending literary events and readings, preparing and running writing workshops and courses and maintaining a plethora of social media profiles.

Finding time to actually write can be so difficult. One writer told me she wrote for ten minutes in the toilet each morning as this was the only place she could find privacy from her large family.  I can’t help wondering how she managed to access creative thinking in such a short space of time. Even if you do have space and time to write, self-discipline can be a major problem, there are always a million things you suddenly need to do before you can actually get down to putting pen to paper. The time you spend prevaricating however is not wasted, it is usually the first step in getting your unconscious to work on the piece of writing ahead of you.

Dedicated writers often have a separate office or garden room to separate home and working life but only those making a good living can afford this. Timetabling set periods for writing can be very useful, hopefully more than ten minutes at once. I find I need thinking time to recap what went before and preview what is coming next. I work well first thing in the morning before getting up. An hour with a cup of tea to start never fails to produce results. During the day there are too many distractions so I confine myself to research or typing up and editing work already handwritten. I always take my writing with me when I go out and generally wangle a coffee in a cafe  somewhere along the line. 30-40 minutes with a large latte will usually produce upwards of 1000 words. Funnily ambient noise doesn’t bother me, yet the slightest sound at home will drive me insane.

I’m a fast writer once I get started but tend to spend quite a lot of time in reverie playing out scenes in my head and I do spend time planning out a scene or chapter loosely before getting down to it.

So this is how I find time to write. I do believe writing is a compulsion and those of us who must write will find the time to do so somehow. This is why we are writers while others just wish they had the time. But, I wonder can you write too much? That’s a subject for a whole new blogpost.

Running a giveaway competition

I just tried out another self-publishing experiment – the giveaway competition. This was organised through my publisher Feedaread. You post an extract which people are invited to read and then complete an entry form to win a free copy so it is very simple for people to do. You have to pay the cost of the prizes and postage and you choose how many copies you want to offer as prizes.I chose to run the competition for my new short story collection, Plotlands. I did quite a bit of social media advertising of the competition  over a few weeks as the entry period runs for a month. Problem is to reach people without boring them to death with constant bombardment so I tried to stagger posts/tweets etc between different media over time.I was interested to see that each time I posted something, entries resulted, though there wasn’t a huge number of entrants. I also got more views on the page I had created on Facebook specifically for the book and even a few purchases, though whether that was due to the competition or just due to word of mouth/responses to reviews buyers, I don’t know. I enjoyed monitoring the competition and finding out who had won, funnily enough it was won by someone I  know, so it was a good job I had nothing to do with the selection, which was done by Feedaread. So although I didn’t get a mega response it was a fun experience and made me feel more connected with potential readers. I’d definitely do it again and am planning to run a comp for my other short story collection in the near future.

Booktrailer fun

Well I’ve been silent on here for a bit but that’s due to lots of stuff going on with publishing and marketing my new book Plotlands,  plotlands-cover-2which is a collection of strange short stories set in Wales, and then of course everything stops for the build up to Christmas. I hope everyone had a great Christmas, mine was a good mix of meeting up with friends and family interspersed with days of quiet for rest and reflection (and tidying up of course). Even managed our usual trip out to Blackpool for fish and chips on Boxing Day.

Anyway on to the main business of the book trailer. This has been a new venture for me and has only been made possible by harnessing the techy skills of my brilliant son, Ted Fenlon and his modestly named Kraplaptop productions. He’s made other short music videos in the past and so I floated the idea of producing something promotional for Plotlands. It took quite a while for him to get the graphics right , using the book cover as the main image with accompanying rolling text and the music is his own composition and sounds suitably menacing and eerie.

I’m really pleased with the result and have been flashing it about on various social media sites – just a bit more fun than the usual book blurb. Unfortunately this page doesn’t support video files but if you’re interested you can find it on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoELiTy2qCA

Looking forward to a Happy New Year to writers and readers everywhere and much success in 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marketing, marketing

Well, it’s now several months since my first venture into self-publishing with  my short story collection Triple Death. Has it been worth it? Most of the copies sold so far have been print copies I have sold at writing venues and by word of mouth and to be honest, all the internet campaigns and online marketing I’ve done have not had much influence on online sales. I haven’t really gone down the path of paying for marketing agencies to promote my book. In comparison with my previous traditionally published book, I’ve actually made about the same amount of money because the royalty on the self-published book is much higher. And maybe because this book is a short story collection rather than a genre novel, it is less visible in the online marketplace.

I’ve also been told that it takes time to build up an online presence in the market and that when you have several books out, you are more likely to build up a following. I don’t know if this is true but time will tell. I have just published a second short story collection Plotlands which has sold out its first print order in two days. I plan to release a novel in the spring of 2017 but meanwhile Triple Death is available on kindle countdown for the next 24 hours at just 99p before reverting to its original price of £2.39.img336quarter

First experiences with Kindle Direct Publishing

I published a short story collection with FeedaRead recently and having waited for it to appear on sale  with Amazon and other bookseller sites, I bit the bullet and published it in ebook form with KDP, choosing KDP Select, which limits your ebook to the kindle platform but pays higher royalties.

I didn’t find KDP as user friendly as FeedaRead. I got a bit confused with all the tax stuff and I think I’ve ended up agreeing to pay 30% tax on earnings rather than get something called a TIN number which I didn’t really understand. Also when I uploaded my book file I didn’t see any way of checking the uploaded content before publishing, but that may be just me getting computer overload and maybe I should have taken more time to suss it all out before doing it.

Once I’d clicked the publish button, I was informed that the book would be online in a short time but days passed with my book  status showing as ‘publishing’ with nothing happening. Eventually I emailed KDP and good enough I got a reply within 24 hours saying they would look into it and I would hear something within five days. A couple of days later I got another email telling me the book was now online but when I checked it wasn’t linked to the print version. Looking up the FAQs it said to wait 48 hours but it still didn’t link and I had to email again. KDP did then sort it out and the two were linked within 48 hours.

My main concern is that although I  uploaded the book file complete with introductory pages, dedication, contents etc. none of these have appeared in the kindle version, not even the title page. It just plunges straight in with the first story title. Apart from this I am pleased with the kindle version, it has separated the stories as I wanted so maybe there was something wrong or unacceptable about the introductory pages.

After the publication, I found it quite difficult to set up an author page as I couldn’t see how to access author central. I could only get to it by clicking on the email KDP sent me welcoming me to KDP. Eventually I discovered author central has a separate URL which I have now bookmarked. It also took me a while to find my way around the dashboard etc. but overall it’s been a satisfactory experience and definitely a learning curve.

Over the next few weeks, I expect to become more familiar with the KDP community and hope I will have solved some of these problems by the time I come to publish something else.

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When is a short story collection not a collection?

When is a group of short stories a collection? I have the honour of being on the shortlisting panel for the Edge Hill University Short Story Collection Prize which is given annually for a published single author short story collection. After several years I still haven’t come to terms with the question of whether a book of short stories should be bound together by something more than the cover: should there be some kind of joining thread or theme, other than the fact that they have all been written by the same person?

Collections by established writers often consist of a gathering up of various stories which have been published in magazines and anthologies, or which have won prizes. In some cases this leads to stories, which work perfectly well as stand alone pieces, becoming tediously repetitive when put together in a collection due to the author’s conscious or unconscious frequent use of similar settings or motifs.

I’m not talking here about the recurrent themes that run through every writer’s work. Such themes  and devices are expected and pleasurable factors which enable the reader to identify the writer’s voice but what pokes you in the eye with some collections is the overuse of settings and situations. For example, in one collection I read, 7 out of 10 stories were about  lesbian couples with a dog, living in virtually identical domestic settings. Published singly, this would not be noticed, perhaps even by the author him/herself but put them  all together and by the time you get halfway through the book, you are becoming bored with the lack of freshness, no matter how good the individual stories.

On the other hand, maybe themed collections too can be repetitive. It’s difficult to find fresh angles on a specific theme to give surprise and delight to the reader. Having to write a dozen stories on a single theme such as the sea, can also constrain the writer, with the result that such ‘commissioned’ stories may not be as good as their best work which comes from their own creative direction.

Sometimes short story collections are so tightly themed and interlinked that they might be read as novels so that further questions arise as to whether they should be considered collections at all.

Personally I used to feel that lumping together a lot of discrete stories doesn’t constitute a collection but I’m beginning to change my mind. It’s a different matter when the works of a dead author are collected together and I can see that it is helpful to the reader who admires a specific writer (dead or alive) to be able to access their work in one or two volumes rather than having to do extensive research to track single texts down. But I still have a love affair with theme; still feel that handled well, a themed collection makes so much more of a satisfying whole.

Looking at Near to the Knuckle

This week Near to the Knuckle have published my story ‘You Were Made for Me’ a weird tale of a female stalker. I’ve just been looking at their main website http://www.close2the bone and it looks fantastic, lots of gritty fiction on there and they also publish anthologies. The artwork they’ve done for my story is, I think, amazing and that’s really refreshing, sometimes the art done for stories and book covers can be so disappointing. If you’d like to  check it out, here’s the link. http://www.close2thebone.co.uk/wp/?p=2111You-were-made-for-me-1234-1038x574