London Short Story Prize 2015 now open for entries

Originally posted on ShortStops:

Managed by London’s writer development organisation Spread the Word, the London Short Story Prize 2015 is now open for entries.

The competition is open to writers over the age of 18 who live in the UK for stories of up to 8000 words that move, excite, enthrall and inspire on a theme and subject matter of your choice. This is the first year the competition is open to all UK residents (previously the competition was open to London residents only). The winner will receive £1000, a Brunel writing desk courtesy of Heal’s and publication via Spread the Word’s Flight Press short story anthology.

The judges

Jon McGregor by Dan Sinclair Jon McGregor by Dan Sinclair

Jon McGregor writes novels and short stories. His recent books include a short story collection, ‘This Isn’t the Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You‘, and his third novel, ‘Even the Dogs‘, which won the IMPAC Dublin Literature Award in 2012. He…

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TongueFu

I had my first experience of TongueFu last night, as part of the Udderbelly festival. My daughter and I bypassed the tube strike by driving to the South Bank. It was worth it. Their website describes the event as: a riotous experiment in live literature, music, film and improvisation; frequently surprising, sometimes hilarious, often poignant and always unrehearsed.

All I can say is: WOW! The musicians, compere and invited artists were all equally, amazingly talented. What an experience! One that I am keen to repeat. Check out Vanessa Kisuule poety performances.

Dysprosium (otherwise known as Eastercon) – British Science Fiction Association

The 2015 Eastercon was held at The Park Inn, Heathrow (3rd to 6th April)—four days of panels, workshops, author interviews and readings, demonstrations… the list goes on… and packed full of science fiction and fantasy devotees. Heaven!

As always I was torn between equally attractive and compelling events that were, sigh, timetabled at the same day/time. This always happens. The hotel lounges were full of people agonising over the programme and trying to decide what to go to next (apart from the dedicated bar loungers, who concentrated on catching up with old friends and the making the most of the networking opportunities—another essential aspect of any BSFA convention).

So, what did I see/do over those four days?

Friday was effectively a half-day, starting at lunch-time. For me it had a very practical focus: How to Find an Agent, and a panel on the ‘Maturing Readership in Young Adult Fiction’.

How to Find an Agent – pointers included checking out the Literary Rejections website and Query Shark for example synopsise and letters. A challenge was posed to the audience: Can you pitch your book in a tweet? It’s something that Gollancz is asking their authors to do!

Query Tracker – Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Agent Query – database of literary agents.

Saturday was a packed, full-on day. The highlights for me were the two editing workshops:

Editing your masterpiece, run by Elsewhen press, where participants were encouraged to bring along a short story that needed work. Four authors published by Elsewhen press were on hand to help and advise. The workshop was professionally run, but kept a friendly and helpful atmosphere at all times.

An editorial workshop was also run by Donna Scott. This was another extremely useful and well-run event. Key areas covered:

  • Clean and lean use of adjectives and adverbs
  • Show-don’t-Tell
  • Watch out for mixed metaphors
  • Cliché away
  • I taught I tore a tautology
  • Is there an echo in here… here… here?
  • Once upon a time there was a way of introducing a character that won’t do anymore

That’s enough for one post. I’ll catch up on the Sunday and Monday events next time…

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!

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