Friday, 20 May 2011

International Life Writing Competition - great prizes

The Society of Women Writers and Journalists have announced the International Life Writing Competition - with entries accepted by email only
‘Life Writing’ is a fluid term used to describe the recording of experiences and memories, whether one’s own or another’s. It covers biography, memoir, diaries, letters and personal essays etc., and, more recently, digital forms such as blogs and email. It can also be linked with genealogical study when recording one’s life, it is common to become curious about the lives of others that have affected one over time and, if they have not recorded their own life, to start doing it for them.

The Word Count is 3000 words maximum.

The Competition is open to any writer world-wide of 20 years old and over. There are two categories: one for 20/40 year olds and one for the over 40s.

There are three prizes in each category. 1st  £3000.  2nd £1000. 3rd  £500.

The entry fee is £7 (seven pounds sterling) payable with submissions.

The judges are Sophie King for category (i) 20/40 year olds and Katie Fforde for Category (ii) over 40s.

Sophie King is the author of the The School Run, Mums @ Home, Second Time Lucky, The Supper Club and The Wedding Party. Her first audiobook, a short story anthology, Just One More Coffee?, has recently been released. Sophie's books are aimed at teenagers, mums and grans, or anyone else who can identify with a chaotic family life. Sophie has three children, a dog, a cat and a sleepy terrapin – all of whom make her laugh or cry, depending on how she feels.
Katie Fforde is founder of the Katie Fforde Bursary for writers who have yet to secure a publishing contract. She was for many years a committee member of the Romantic Novelists' Association and was elected as its Chairman (2009–2011).
In June 2010 she was announced as a patron of the UK's first National Short Story Week and her novel Going Dutch was a Sunday Times top ten bestseller in June

The Competition kicks off on the 23rd April 2011 and closes on the 30th September 2011.


The Writer’s ABC Checklist

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

An Indie Publishing Experience

Darren J Guest, author of  Dark Heart: The Purgatory of Leo Stamp, published by independent Snowbooks, tells us about his indie experience, giving some insider knowledge and tips for anyone thinking of following in his footsteps.
 The spectrum of quality within independent publishing is as broad as it is with mainstream.  I would say I got lucky signing with Snowbooks, as it is one of the few indie publishers that can get its books into bricks and mortar stores, and that isn’t to be underestimated where sales are concerned. 

The first thing that surprised me was the timescale Snowbooks work to.  From signing the contract to seeing my book in print took ten months, and you can add a couple of months onto that if you want to count how long they had my MS before contacting me with the good news.

The most important thing in the whole process is the Author Information sheet (AI).  It’s an A4 piece of paper that contains all of the book’s details: blurb, author info, dimensions, strapline and selling points, etc.  The booksellers need this info 4 to 6 months prior to the book’s publication; they simply won’t order it otherwise.  In fact, that’s a sobering thought right there; after all your hard work it still comes down to the booksellers wanting to order your book.

The indies don’t have mainstream budgets either, so no advance and no big teams working on all the different aspects that go into producing and selling a book.  Anna Torborg was my editor and cover designer all in one.  But a lot of the grunt work was on me.  I had to format my own book, which was daunting at first but was quite enjoyable by the end, and the editing is more like a proofread.  I had the opportunity to go through the novel at several stages during the process and I took everyone – read the whole novel twice in one week in the final stage and was still finding niggling typos.  In fact, that’s the best advice I can give: get lots of different eyes on your work and try to read it in different formats.  You become blind to your own mistakes after a while. 

And don’t expect big advertising campaigns, indie publishers just don’t have the funds.  That means getting yourself out there – the donkeywork of self-promotion.  An online presence seems to be essential for an author these days but doubly so for the indie author.  Get that blog started before you get published.  I went into my local bookshop this week to see if they’d stock Dark Heart; the first thing the manager did was Google me.  He then ordered five copies, and this was one of those posh bookshops that don’t stock genre. 

But the best thing about independent publishers is that most of them will look at un-agented work.  It may seem like a backward way of doing it, but many of the Snowbooks’ authors have acquired literary agents after the publication of their first novels.  A published novel to your credit makes you a far more appealing prospect to an agent, and if landing a five-figure deal with Random House is your dream, an agent is the only way you’ll be knocking on their door.

Lastly, don’t think indie publishing is a backdoor in for substandard work.  They’re trying to make money just like the big houses.  So if you’re getting rejection slips coming through your door like takeaway menus, don’t lose heart.  It’s part of the maturation process a writer must go through.  The worst thing that could happen to you in my opinion is to get published before you’re good enough.  If you do, you’ll have a short and fruitless career ahead of you. 

Darren J Guest led a vampiric existence in his youth, spending much of the 80s hidden from sunlight within the crypt-like snooker halls of Essex.  But at some point in the mid 90s he buried his professional snooker career and rejoined day-lit society.  He now lives and writes in Suffolk.  His debut novel Dark Heart: The Purgatory of Leo Stamp is published by Snowbooks and is available now priced £7.99.

On Leo’s sixteenth birthday, something bad happened. 
Something so traumatic his mind fractured, and darkness filled the crack.  Twenty years on and the crack is a canyon.  The schizophrenic hallucination that once offered sympathy has taken to mocking him, and the memory of that long ago birthday claws at his darkest fears, overshadowing even the murder of his younger brother Davey.

But just when life can’t get any worse . . . Leo dies.
A demon returns after twenty years.
An angel follows close behind.

Leo is caught in an age-old conflict, his past lying at the dark heart of it all.

The Writer’s ABC Checklist

Monday, 16 May 2011

Resubmitting after a rejection

Michael from Rainham, Kent sent in this interesting question: I have recently had a rejection from an agent for my crime novel. This isn’t the first rejection I’ve received, but it is the first one where I’ve had any feedback. The agent said that she enjoyed my writing, but didn’t feel the novel was for her because of various aspects, some of which she mentioned but not in any great detail. Some of my writing friends say I should fix the things she didn’t like and resubmit. Others say that if she didn’t specifically ask me to resubmit then I should move on to try another agent. My question is this: which of my writing friends are right?

This is a difficult question to answer without seeing the actual rejection letter, but I would say that if the agent had been really interested she would have added an invitation to resubmit (if not this book, then your next one). You certainly shouldn’t resubmit to her without being invited to.

However, hold fire before you sharpen your pen to slash your wrists, because all is not lost. She obviously liked your writing style enough to give a personalised response and you should take note of any suggestions for improvement of your novel, because such nuggets of free advice from a professional are rare indeed in our industry.

My advice would be to send a polite thank you and then, if you agree with her comments, rewrite taking her suggestions into account. When you feel you’ve polished your ms until it gleams, send her another polite email, preferably using the reply function with her email showing below yours, reminding her of her kind words and asking if she would allow you to resubmit.

By doing that you are acknowledging her input, proving that you are not too precious about your work to act on criticism and also showing that you respect her earlier decision.

But don’t contact her to ask the question until you are absolutely certain that there is nothing more you can do to improve your work.

The worst that can happen is that she will say no. The best that can happen is ... well, who knows? 

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Interview with Trish Nicholson - winner of the Flash 500 Competition

Trish Nicholson shares her thoughts on how she reacted on finding out she'd won the Flash 500 Competition.

How did you feel when you learnt that Runnin’ the River had won first prize?
I, floating – like a feather in the breeze. But now the challenge is consistency. I’ve had at least one story short-listed in Flash500 for the last four quarters, so I need to work from that base to develop more and better stories, enter other competitions too.

What were you doing when you received the news?
Pretty mundane. It was 6am and I was barely awake; checking my email while the kettle boiled for that first cuppa – I needed it by the time I’d fully understood your message. For me, Monday mornings will be forever blessed – wonderful things can happen at the start of your week.

How long have you been writing flash fiction?
I’ve usually written non-fiction – books and articles, but a year ago I decided to pick-up on a childhood passion and try writing fiction. I was surfing the Net one day looking for stories to read, and came across the Flash500 website. I read some of the winning entries and I’ve been hooked ever since.

What is it you like about writing flash fiction?
I’ve spent half my life travelling, and quickly learnt to travel light: packing only essential items that serve several purposes – a sweater is a pillow, a draught stopper, and padding for the camera. It feels good when you get everything you need in that one bag. It’s the same with a flash story. Words have to multi-task; I weed out anything not essential. I like the precision, playing around with subtle shades of meaning. To get a complete story and a full character in so few words, I aim for density rather than minimalism – plenty of threads in a close, tight weave.

Where do you find your story ideas?
By the time I’ve completed a story I’ve usually forgotten what sparked it off, but I do remember Runnin’ the River. The initial inspiration came from an old Johnny Cash song I heard on a visit to Texarkana some years ago, but I changed the character and the meaning of the end. I can’t tell you more than that or it will spoil the story for anyone who hasn’t read it yet; it’s on

What advice would you give to anyone starting out with flash fiction?
I’ve written some tips on flash writing, posted as a guest blog on the NZ Writers College website  But one of the most important things is getting feedback to improve your work. I used your excellent Flash500 critique service when I first started. And I have a wonderful writing buddy who is brutally honest. Other than that, write lots of stories. There’s always an element of luck in winning anything, but remember the old saw: the harder you work, the luckier you get.

And what are you working on now?
I’m trying to get the best of both worlds: my current WIP is a non-fiction book but it’s about stories. I can’t say more at this stage - it’s still morphing.

Thank you, Lorraine, for interviewing me. It’s lovely to be on your Blog site.

You can find out more about Trish by visiting her website:
The Writer’s ABC Checklist