Should there always be a happy ending?

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Voting has now closed for this year’s Costa Short Story awards, and the winner will be announced at the end of the month. The three finalists are:

  • Dirty Little Fishes
  • The Boatman
  • The Persistence of Memory.

Though voting is over, you can download them, either to listen to or to read here:

http://www.costa.co.uk/costa-book-awards/costa-short-story-award/

I’d be interested to hear what you think. They are all good, well-written stories, with good characters. But the subject matter in all three, it has to be said, is pretty gloomy. I find this quite striking as writers for the UK magazine market are actively discouraged from taking on gloomy themes. The women’s magazines look for something upbeat (or at least an upbeat ending, even if the themes tackled are sad), and entrants for the Writers’ Forum magazine monthly competition are advised in capital letters that stories “MUST BE ENTERTAINING/RIVETING NOT UNREMITTINGLY BLEAK” and should not rely on themes of death, abuse, etc.

A couple of years ago there was a reader’s letter in Writers Forum about the fact that stories printed in the magazine seemed to focus on the gloomier side of life, and Carl, the Editor, responded by “cracking down on stories that dwell on harsh realities” and so this accounts for the policy and the above instruction. His view was that “We point out time and time again that you have to think of the target market before you start writing, and so it is wrong of us to encourage writing for which there is no other outlet.” This is fair enough, as Writers Forum tends to be aimed at those writing for the domestic magazine market. But often when you read stories which are considered “literary fiction”, the themes are pretty bleak and if there is a move towards a more uplifting ending, it’s very subtle!

So, if we consider our target market, do we conclude that it is considered perfectly acceptable to focus on dark themes when writing “literary” fiction, but if you’re writing for the domestic market, you need to think positive?

 

Flash Fiction – One in a Million!

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If you’re a writer of short stories or flash fiction, you may be interested in the “One Million Stories Creative Writing Project” at:

http://www.millionstories.net/index.html

As their homepage states, “It is our mission to discover, select and showcase some of the very best new short fiction being written today, and then publish it right here for you to enjoy…”

They have a specific page dedicated to flash fiction, called The Sharp End and they have just published my 100 word piece, “Sunburn”:

http://www.millionstories.net/TheSharpEnd.html

The One Million Stories Project is open for submissions now. They are looking for anything between 50-5,000 words.  Check out their guidelines here:

http://www.millionstories.net/contactus.html

And of course, if you like my flash piece, you might want to read my short story collection Beyond Words available here:

 

 

Writing Ambitions for the New Year

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We’re five days into the New Year, so plenty of time to have broken a few resolutions if you made any! I tried not to, instead I’ve bought myself a pin board and have pinned up all my “To Do” lists and “Aims & Ambitions” so I can see them every time I sit at my desk. I’m hoping this will keep me focused. (I’ll let you know how that goes…)

That’s the other thing – I’m making an effort to sit at the desk every day and achieve something. (I’ve been doing this since before New Year, so I don’t think it counts as a resolution.) A competition entry, a sub to a magazine, an idea for a future piece, an edit of something previously abandoned. I’m aiming to find a home for as many stories as possible (and by now, there seem to be hundreds stored in my Dropbox files!). I also found out about the Pomodoro Technique last night on Twitter’s #writingchat – it’s a very simple approach to time management  which breaks down tasks into 25 minute chunks with an enforced break. I think this might work for me (as someone who is very easily distracted!). Find out more about it here:

http://cirillocompany.de/pages/pomodoro-technique

I have, though, achieved one of my writing ambitions this week: I’ve had a mention on Shirley’s blog (Fiction Editor at The People’s Friend). My story “A Promise to the Past” appears in the first issue of 2017, and is the first story Shirley mentions in her “sneak peak” summary – you can read Shirley’s blog post here:

https://www.thepeoplesfriend.co.uk/2017/01/03/fiction-sneak-peek-jan-7-2017-issue/

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As you can see, the story is (as always) beautifully illustrated (by Jim Dewar), and my heroine is rather glamorous (I’m always a little startled by this!). Hoping this will be the first publication of many during 2017 – but it’s definitely a good start.

Anyway, my 25 minutes is up, so I’ve got to go! Happy writing…

 

 

The Modern Writer’s New Year’s Eve

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So here you are again –
Another cycle is complete
Just time to log on and look back
Before the “Happy New Year!” tweets

Your blog is looking healthy
Lots of followers and views
And you’ve followed lots of others
To keep up with all their news

You’ve been busy on your Facebook page
Uploading posts and gaining “likes”
You keep active in your interest groups
Hearing other’s joys and gripes

You’ve done your Twitter research
Checked the graphs on “Analytics”
Charted profile visits, top mentions
Who knew? An interest in statistics!

You check your KDP reports
For each and every sale,
Your current review rating,
And your ranking, without fail

You’re proud of all your efforts
And the benefits they’ll bring
It’s just with all these tasks to do,
You’ve had no time to write a thing!

 

Thanks for reading & following me this year – wishing you all the very best for a successful, inspirational, and fun-filled 2017! x

Erewash Writers Comp – Winning Entries

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Last month I discovered I’d managed to place not one but two stories in the 2016 Erewash Writers open short story competition (cue slightly smug grin!). I’ve made it as far as the shortlist in past Erewash competitions, but to find this year that Resolution had been placed 4th, and Never Far From the Tree highly commended, was a real boost.

One of the nice things about Erewash competitions (as well as the fact they post the judge’s comments), is that the winning stories are published on their site: http://erewashwriterscompetition.weebly.com/winners-2016-open-short-story-competition-with-patsy-collins.html

If you enjoy Resolution and would like to read some more of my stories, don’t forget Raspberry Ripple is available free here: https://fictivedream.com/2016/11/27/raspberry-ripple / and if you’d like to read some others I’ve written which have been successful in competitions, you can find my ebook Beyond Words on Amazon, here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beyond-Words-short-stories-deception-ebook/dp/B01JWLPKW0

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Hopefully the festive break will provide lots of reading (and writing!) time – and perhaps even a blog post or two. Until then, thanks for reading – and Merry Christmas! x

Christmas Gifts for Writers

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So it’s Christmas time again
Black Friday deals are rife
And you’re wondering what to buy
For the writer in your life

In the past you’ve tried all sorts
‘How-to’ books, diaries, pens,
Fancy paper, post-it notes
A writer’s mug (again!)

But the best gift is often simple
You might not even have to buy it
Arrange to give them space and time
To write in peace and quiet

Nag them when they’re lazy
Cheer them up when they’re dejected
Give them wine and cuddles
When their stories get rejected

And when their book is published
Spread the word of their debut,
Buy a copy for yourself
Leave an honest, fair review

Tell all your friends who care to hear
And then tell all the rest
And I guarantee your writer
Will think you are the best!

 

 

PS: Socks are also good! :0) xx

Online Story Outlets – Fictive Dream

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In the words of Bob Dylan, the times they are a changin’, and whilst there may be fewer print outlets for short stories writers than there were in the past, on the web there’s a proliferation of ezines, blogs and pages devoted to flash and short fiction. At the moment, publication via these outlets generally won’t earn you any hard cash – and it’s up to the individual writer to consider whether or not they are happy for their work to appear for free. An established writer may not see much benefit, but if you’re new to writing and hoping to build a list of writing credits, or simply want the buzz of seeing your work “out there”, it’s a step on the literary ladder.

There’s also a case if, like me, you’re hoping to make links, and promote your other work. Having a story on a website devoted to the medium may bring you to the attention of a few more readers who otherwise wouldn’t have heard of you. If they like your free story, perhaps they’ll click the link to your Amazon author page, or start following your blog.

“Fictive Dream” which was launched six months ago, is one such online magazine dedicated to the short story, and is open to submissions from both emerging and established writers. Editor Laura Black is looking for “stories with a contemporary feel that give an insight into the human condition…  They may be on any subject. They may be challenging, dramatic, playful, exhilarating or cryptic. Above all, they must be well-crafted and compelling.”

In a recent email to her writers, Laura writes, “From the start, it became clear that the calibre of the Fictive Dream writer was going to be high. Almost all of you are experienced authors, many with short story collections, novels or plays already behind you. However, it’s also great to be including talented new writers in the early stages of their writing careers. “

Today sees the publication of my story Raspberry Ripple – I’m excited to see this story appear on “Fictive Dream” and hope readers enjoy it. Of course, I also hope that they’d like to read more of my work, and decide to visit this blog, or download one of my ebooks, but anything which encourages interest and enthusiasm in the short story gets a thumbs up from me.

To read Raspberry Ripple, or find out more about “Fictive Dream”, including their submission guidelines, visit https://fictivedream.com/

Happy Reading!

 

 

 

Erewash Writers – Competition Results

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Results are out today for the annual Erewash Open Short Story competition, this year judged by Patsy Collins. It’s a particularly encouraging competition, as Erewash Writers have two classes of entry – for new writers and those who are more experienced (they give details of their definition of “new” in the blurb for the competition, but if you’re thinking of entering and are in any doubt, you can get in touch to check first). They also publish their longlist and shortlist, so you can chew your nails down to the quick before the results are announced! This year they had over 100 entries, of which 30 made the longlist. Twenty of these made the shortlist and went to judge, Patsy.

Congrats go to winner Tony Oswick, with his story Mackintosh Man’s Near Miss. Tony wins £100, which is a decent prize considering the very reasonable entry fees. I entered two stories, and was delighted to discover that one was placed fourth, and the other was highly commended. The winning stories will be published on the website in the near future.

For full details of the winners, and the judge’s comments, visit: http://erewashwriterscompetition.weebly.com/winners-2016-open-short-story-competition-with-patsy-collins.html

To find out more about Patsy Collins, visit her website here:  https://patsycollins.uk/

And to check for forthcoming competitions in 2017, go to:  http://erewashwriterscompetition.weebly.com/

 

Free and half-price stories for National Short Story Week

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This year, National Short Story Week runs from 14th to 20th November celebrating all things short story-related. The aim is to raise awareness of short stories themselves and those who write and publish them.

As someone who loves the medium of the short story, as both a reader and writer, I’m looking forward to seeing what the week brings. Patron Katie Fforde says, “Let’s get everyone reading, writing and listening to short stories in this designated week.” My tiny contribution to this aim is two special offers I’m running on my own short story collections.

The Camel in the Garden, a collection of three short about loss, love and family, is free from 14th to 18th November. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Camel-Garden-Three-stories-family-ebook/dp/B01EPBTO92/ref=pd_sim_351_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=5A7PRP33X1R38X5PQXR9

Beyond Words, 12 short stories about love, death, and deception, is half-price from 14th to 20th November.  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beyond-Words-short-stories-deception-ebook/dp/B01JWLPKW0/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

If you don’t usually read short stories, this week is a great opportunity to try some. If you’re interested in writing short stories, and perhaps having a go at entering a few competitions, you may find Beyond Words useful to read, as each of the stories has either been short-listed, long-listed, placed or highly commended in a variety of competitions.

I hope as many people as possible take this opportunity to get involved with short fiction – reading it, writing it, and reviewing it. And if you pick up, or download, a short story this week, I hope you love it and want to talk about it.

For more information on National Short Story Week, visit the website:  http://www.nationalshortstoryweek.org.uk/

Terry Pratchett’s advice for aspiring writers

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The English Department at my secondary school did a lot of things to inspire my literary ambitions – one of which was to invite the late Terry Pratchett to come and give a talk about his writing experiences. Imbued with a heady idealism about writers and writing, I hoped Mr Pratchett (he wasn’t a Sir back then) would regale us with tales of the creative process, and somehow pass on some magic pearls of wisdom which would instantly enable us to plunge into our own rich world of creativity and become best-selling authors too. When I bravely stuck up my hand and asked him for his top piece of advice for aspiring authors, he said, “Get a word processor.” To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.

Now, of course, I realise that this was jolly good advice. Even if my 17 year old ears did not wish to hear about the mundane mechanics of the writing process (I’m not quite sure what I had expected his answer to be – other than magic – but it was presumably something to do with inspiration not perspiration), now I’m….ahem….somewhat more mature, I have come to appreciate the importance of “creative hardware”. In order to write at the simplest level you need a pen and paper, but in order to write with even a semblance of professionalism, you need much more.

One of the many things which I probably took for granted in my teenage days was the space and time to write. A desk is great, a room better, but even a corner of the dining table (or if you prefer more comfort, a sofa with lots of cushions!) is perfectly fine as long as you have a period of uninterrupted time. Writers can be very inventive when it comes to finding time – after all, we all have the same number of hours in the day and we all, to some degree, choose how to use those precious hours – if it’s important to you, you’ll find the time (even if it means cutting corners elsewhere).

Next comes something to write with – and if you intend to submit work for publication, nowadays that inevitably means a laptop or computer. Honing your typing, spelling, punctuation and grammar, editing, and typesetting skills is also a must. Added to which, these days a working knowledge of email and the internet, including the use of software such as “Submittable” is a necessary part of modern writing. And that’s before you begin to engage with social media to communicate with other writers, and promote your work. Talking of which – another thing which is impossible to do without nowadays is a reliable internet connection (try running a virtual book promo when it takes 20 minutes to pick up each new message).

I did subsequently take Mr Pratchett’s advice, and got an Amstrad 8256 (oh, what a joy after my old typewriter!), which made me feel like a real writer, even though I most definitely wasn’t. It didn’t, of course, make me write. No gadget or gismo can help with that in the long term but, as they say, a workman is only as good as his tools. If you are going to write, you need the right basic equipment.

Sir Terry, you were right all along. And for that, a belated thank you.

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