Tag Archives: writers

Is publishing short stories online a good idea?

Given the limited market today for short stories in print publications it would seem that online zines offer the short story writer a wealth of opportunities. E-zines pop up like mushrooms in all genres but think twice before posting your  precious work here there and everywhere.

It’s best to be picky about the sites you have your name associated with. There are sites where you can post your stuff without it being evaluated by an editor, or where other writers and/or readers vote for the best work each month  or so. I looked at a few of these but found a lot of my time was taken up reading work that wasn’t of interest to me or was not of publishable standard.

I recommend looking for zines that publish the kind of work you admire and check out the standard of presentation, the artwork and the public presence the site has on social media. Spend a couple of months  observing before attempting a submission.

Good zines will have an editorial process and won’t publish substandard work. A site that accepts anything and everything will hardly encourage good writing and always remember with each piece you publish you are building a public writing persona – a literary reputation that you need to safeguard if you are to be taken seriously.

Two online publishers I can recommend are Holdfast and Close2thebone. Holdfast publishes speculative fiction and accepted one of my stories but asked me to change the ending. I did this and had to agree it improved the story. The editing, presentation and artwork was very professional but I was quite surprised some months after publication to received a modest payment as a share of contributions to the issue. Now that’s the kind of site I like!

The other zine I like a lot, Close2thebone/Near to the Knuckle publishes fairly strong horror but it only posts clever, well-written stories, often with a psychological twist, not just grot and grue. I’ve had three stories published by them and while there is no payment, their presentation and artwork are great and it’s nice to feel that having been accepted more than once, your  style fits the zine and you are  likely to find a home there for other stories in the future.

So when you look for short story markets online, look for quality and excellence and a publisher that treats its contributors with respect. It’s better to hang on than to get published on any old site.

My latest story ‘Murder Me’ is published on Close2thebone. Feel free to check it out and have a look round the rest of the site while you are there.

 

The Writing Day (of mice and men)

 

 

Planning is the essence of successful writing. I learned the excellent skills of timetabling at university. Here is my plan for a typical writing day.

8.00 Breakfast in bed while writing notes for next chapter of novel.

9.00 Get up and take dog for walk

9.30 Go to workroom and begin writing next chapter (by hand).

11.00 Coffee

11.15 Continue writing

12.00 tidy house and make lunch

12.30 Lunch break

1.30 check emails then edit morning’s work onto laptop.

3.30 take dog for walk

4.00 coffee and craft work

6.00 Social media networking with other writers and writing groups

7.00 supper

8.00 family time, TV etc.

10.00 notes and timetables for next day

10.30 reading in bed

What really happens

8.30 Wake up late, start reading book I fell asleep over the night before, grab a cup of tea and a banana. Get immersed in final chapters of book and abandon notetaking.

9.30. Take dog for walk

10.00 Write rushed notes and settle down to writing the chapter

10.30 Distraught friend calls to discuss her partner’s latest infidelities.

10.45. Friend rings off, pick up pen.

10.47. Son rings to ask for lift to work

11.35 Arrive home desperate for coffee. Sit in garden to avoid phone and write in peace. Can’t settle due to very irritating weeds growing in the flowerbeds. Forced to go and pull them all up.

12.15 Partner arrives home for lunch. House is a tip. No food ready. Rush in kitchen and throw two sandwiches together.

12.30 Stare at Bargain Hunt and Lunchtime news while obsessing about not having written anything.

2.00 Decide to tidy house before starting to write. After all, who can concentrate in the middle of a clutter?

3.00  Check emails, send a few tweets and just have a quick peek at Facebook

4.00  Dog crying to go for  a walk. Useful time spent thinking about next chapter. Dog rolls in horsemuck and falls in mudhole while I am daydreaming.

4.30 Bath dog and clean bathroom

5.00 Sit down for coffee. Good film on TV so get out my patchwork, after all this is a time for back brain thinking – I will reap the creative benefits later.

7.30 Shove a pizza in the oven and throw a salad together. Guilty feelings about not writing, less guilty feelings about neglecting partner.

8.00 Daughter rings to talk about her new job

8.30 Go to workroom and try to write.

8.45 Partner comes to ask if I want a cup of tea.

9.00 Partner comes to ask if I am coming to watch a good programme on telly.

10.30 Partner comes to say he is going to bed. Reluctantly get up and get ready for bed.

11.00 Scribbling furiously in bed, nearing 1500 words.

11.15. Partner asks why I am always writing. Turns out the light and hands me a torch.

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

Five go on a writing retreat to Builth Wells

Five members of Skelmersdale Writers’ Group, including myself went on writing retreat in two pine lodges sited on the edge of the river Wye the week before last.

This was our second retreat and it was so good I’m sure we’re going to make it an annual event. Last year there were four of us and we stayed in one lodge at Hay-on-Wye. This year there were five of us so we needed two lodges so that we could have a room each to ensure privacy to write.

We had  a routine established from the previous year that we would write all  morning, meet for lunch, then either go for  a walk in the lovely surroundings or have a trip out to one of the local towns, then more writing before sharing dinner and a few glasses of wine before having a joint feedback session  on the day’s work. We usually finished off by relaxing with a film or TV programme.

This worked very well as it is important to balance work with rest and leisure and time to think. A writing retreat is a fantastic opportunity to focus on a specific project. I took with me a completed novel that needed final editing and revision and I managed to finish that but I was also keen to do some new writing so I allocated part of each day to a partly-written novel that I  had left hanging while editing and preparing other work for publication.

We did have to cook but we managed this by joint shopping trips, taking turns to prepare meals and making simple meals so that we were all able to relax. I think we all really enjoyed it and I was pleased to come home with a briefcase full of work and plans for the future. The seven days went over so quickly. Our hosts at Boatside Holiday Accommodation were wonderful and we had everything we needed and absolute peace to get on with our work. November is an ideal time because the holiday season is over so we  more or less had this beautiful location to ourselves and the accommodation is more readily available and less expensive than earlier in the season.

I came home energised and refreshed and I can’t wait to go back again next year, perhaps even more of Skelmersdale Writers will be retreating next time!