Listen to Good Advice, but Trust Yourself

Susan May Oke:

All really useful advice from a great writer.

Originally posted on Jacey Bedford:

I’m a great advocate of writers’ critique groups, either face to face or online, but every person you show your writing to will have a different opinion:
“You over-explain.”
“I don’t understand X, could you unpack it a little more?”
“The opening is bogged down in too much detail.”
“I think you could develop the world a little more in the first few paragraphs.”
“I love the way the characters develop.”
“Your main character is two-dimensional.”
etc.

That doesn’t mean to say you have to ignore all those contradictory opinions, but it’s up to you to decide which ones to accept and which to reject.

Listen to good advice.
If you can find a good writing group, face-to-face or online, make use of it. This is especially important for writers working towards first time publication, or maybe for writers of short stories who are working towards novel publication. Make sure…

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Yes, Agents Google Writers

Susan May Oke:

This is useful info for a writer. Something I really need to get my head around. I’ve got to stop saying I’m too busy to post!

Originally posted on Carly Watters, Literary Agent:

readingelephant-vi.sualize.us This is the social media elephant in the room.

You don’t query in a vacuum. If you write a query letter and an agent is intrigued (congratulations!) the next thing an agent does is Google you or click on the links in your signature to see where it takes us.

A writer’s virtual footprint is their resume at that point.

Here are my ‘online guidelines’ for writers:

  • Make sure you have a landing page. It could be Tumblr, WordPress, About.me or a website. You only need one, but make sure you have one that has good SEO–Wordpress or a domain name is best for that.
  • Make sure you’re not a digital ghost. If we Google you and nothing comes up it makes us think 1) you don’t take this seriously and 2) that you don’t understand social media and the importance of an online presence and that worries us. It’s a red…

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The Flash Challenge

Long form is my shutterstock_203226655forte. The freedom of chapter after chapter, building the story. I need space to stretch and explore. Short stories are a challenge, one that always leaves me with a question: perhaps this really is a novella, or maybe even a novel? Sigh. So imagine what writing flash fiction is like.

That said, I’ve had a few flash fiction pieces published over the last few months. The most recent being ‘Distant Fires’ in the Life is a Roller Coaster anthology. It was a kind of tortuous fun. This particular piece started out at 1,250 words, an achievement in itself. I then spent a long weekend reducing that to the required 750 words. That was agony; being forced to find ever more effective ways to get the message across, cutting and cutting, trying to parse backstory into, in some cases, a single word choice. While painful, it was an exercise that left me feeling both pleased and surprisingly energised. I could actually do it.

Example: Encapsulating the relationship between son and father (the only mention of the father)

I’m here most nights. Dad noticed: ‘Finally got a life, have you boy?’ I nodded. We left it at that.

Now it’s time for me to concentrate on finishing THE BOOK. I’ve learnt a lot working on flash fiction, though. It’s a discipline that I can make good use of in crafting longer stories, and it’s one that I will go back to when I need a break from the complexity of novel writing.

If you write long form, try your hand at flash. Trust me. It’s good for you.

August: Renew

Susan May Oke:

Love this piece!

Originally posted on arike writes | stories:

In July, August and September I have to write a lot to finish my course. Instead of writing new things for my blog I’m going to tart up some old things. An early version of this story appeared in Words With Jam magazine in 2011. Let me know what you think.

We’re Chained

The ice cubes in Ali’s glass made tiny twitches as the vodka melted them. ‘This means something,’ she said, her voice hoarse.

‘I’m sorry?’ I said. My chest ached with the sadness that bore down on my ribs. I wanted to drink, and talk, and not think about the way each second, or gesture or even thought, was a second, gesture and thought further from where you and I had been.

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Debut novel by Alysha Kaye

1000x1600I recently came across this debut novel by Alysha Kaye that thought I would bring to your attention. The novel, entitled The Waiting Room is a love story with a difference:

“Jude and Nina are the epitome of that whole raw, unflinching love thing that most people are jealous of. That is, until Jude dies and wakes up in The Waiting Room, surrounded by other souls who are all waiting to pass over into their next life. But unlike those souls, Jude’s name is never called by the mysterious “receptionist”. He waits, watching Nina out of giant windows. He’s waiting for her. What is this place? How long will he wait? And what will happen when and if Nina does join him? The Waiting Room is a story of not just love, but of faith, predestination, and philosophy, friendship and self-actualization, of waiting.”

This novel has had some excellent reviews on Goodreads and has an engaging trailer. I rather like the concept of book trailers. I read recently in New Scientist that an App is in development that can send smells over the phone network. If they can do that, then what’s next for the humble book trailer? A full sensory experience with sounds, taste and all those lovely sweaty odours? Perhaps… ah, but I digress.

A little background on the author:

author bio photoAlysha Kaye was born in San Marcos, TX, where she also received her BA in Creative Writing from Texas State University. She worked in marketing for a brief and terrible cubicle-soul-sucking time until she was accepted into Teach for America and promptly moved to Oahu. She taught 7th grade English in Aiea for two years and also received her Masters in Education from University of Hawaii. She now teaches in Austin, TX and tries to squeeze in as much writing as possible between lesson planning. She dreamt about The Waiting Room once, and offhandedly wrote her boyfriend a love poem about waiting for him after death. Somehow, that became a novel.

You can find out more about Alysha in a variety of ways:
https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAlyshaKaye
@alyshakaye7
alyshakaye.wordpress.com
http://alyshakaye.com/
If you would like to avail yourself of a copy of this book you can get hold of it via Amazon:

Kindle version:
http://amzn.to/TupzK9
Print version:
http://amzn.to/1ofMTXn

How long is a novel?

Susan May Oke:

Found this post from Jacey Bedford so helpful!

Originally posted on Jacey Bedford:

As aspiring novellists we always receive conflicting pieces of advice. ‘A book should be as long as it needs to be,’ is always a good one, but it’s also generally sound advice that, ‘first time novellists should aim for a concise book.’

A novel can be 50,000 words or 250,000 words, but 80,000 words is a reasonable length in non-genre publishing. In science fiction and fantasy, however, novels tend to be a little longer because – for starters – there’s all that world-building to cram in. So in SF/F a reasonably short novel might be 100,000 words or even 120,000 words.

So back in the days when I was with my first agent, CW, when an early version of Empire of Dust climbed to 240,000 words I knew it was too long for a first novel. I edited it down to 180,000 words and told CW that it was finished…

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Half A King – Joe Abercrombie

Half-a-King-Quotes-StaggeredJust received my copy of Half A King by Joe Abercrombie. I’ve been waiting for it to arrive for months and now can’t wait to read it. This is Abercrombie’s first foray into the YA market—a market that I feel will devour his work and hound him for more.

At World Fantasy Con in Brighton last year, I listened with rapt attention as Abercrombie read the opening chapter of Half A King. It contained the now familiar—and much loved—accents of tension and gritty violence.

One audience member asked wryly: I thought you said this was YA?

Abercrombie replied with his usual humour: What? I can’t say ‘fuck’?

Humour aside, as Abercrombie explained in a recent (June) interview with Locus magazine, this novel is aimed at the ‘top end’ of the YA market. The book is shorter than his previous offerings, a modest 80k, and my only concern is romping to the end and being left panting for more. The sequel is planned for February 2015, and the final part of the trilogy in the autumn of that same year. Looks like he’s going to be VERY busy!

If you haven’t read any of Abercrombie’s work, there is plenty out there for adults:
The First Law Trilogy (The Blade Itself; Before They Are Hanged; Last Argument of Kings).
Plus three stand-alone stories set in the same world (Best Served Cold; Heroes; Red Country)

I started with the stand-alone books, become totally hooked and worked my way back to the First Law Trilogy. ‘Gritty’ is a word that is often used to describe Abercrombie’s work; his writing is also vivid, engaging and intense. Plus, he tells a bloody good story!

News!

I’ve had a flash fiction piece accepted for the A Touch of Saccharine anthology, by Kindofahurricane Press. The piece, ‘Too Sweet’ deals with the unexpected consequences of a fairground worker stealing a kiss from Candy.

I’m also looking forward, a little nervously, to reading one of my short stories, (‘Home Rock’ – featured on this site) at the Story Sessions organised by Arachne Press.

The event is taking place at the Café of Good Hope, London, SE13 6RT on Wednesday 23rd July.

Wish me luck and hope to see you there!

Creativity and Constraints – Part Two

Over the last few months I’ve experimented with a couple of techniques that have resulted in three flash fiction pieces being published in the online magazine ‘Sein und Werden’ (Being and Becoming). Not a title you would associate with science fiction and fantasy writing, but the magazine does accept speculative fiction.

Experiment One – Lipograms (writing without one or more letters of the alphabet)

Try writing a short piece without one of the letters of the alphabet. It’s trickier that you would imagine. If you are feeling particularly adventurous pick a vowel. Don’t do what I did and choose the letter ‘e’ for your first attempt!

‘Writing is always constrained by something. Rather than ignoring, or attempting to free themselves from these constraints, the Oulipians embrace them.’

Check out the ‘Sein und Werden’ website for more on the Oulipians and their approach to writing. The OuLiPo edition is full of great pieces written with a variety of constraints. I have two pieces in the magazine: ‘This Is It’ written under my name, and a joint piece ‘Walk in the Rain’ (part of the London Clockhouse Writers submission).

 

Experiment Two – Writing to a randomly generated title

The title I ended up with was: ‘I was simple in the haze of a smelly thunderbolt, but heaven knows I’m prehistoric now…’,

I had to smile, wondering what on earth I could do with that. Writing under pressure—given ten minutes to produce a rough piece as part of a group writing exercise—I wasn’t expecting to meet the teenage son of Thor in a deserted Tesco car park!

You can read the piece here, in the Surrealism edition of ‘Sein und Werden’.

Remember: Constraints are your friends; they will push you through boundaries and into a world that you never imagined. Go on, try it. It’s great fun, and who knows, you may end up with a piece that’s worth publishing.

Parsec Awards – 2014

The Parsec Awards are accepting nominations for the best speculative fiction podcasts.

I have a few favourites:

Clarkesworld Magazine

Lightspeed Magazine

Cast of Wonders - the best audio magazine aimed at the YA market.

Get your nominations in now at Parsec Awards.

Make sure you take advantage of the opportunity to nominate a short story from your favourite podcast. I admit to a vested interest as I have a short story on the Cast of Wonders podcast entitled ‘Patterns’.

All the stories are great. Have a read/listen and remember to nominate!

 

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