Thursday, 26 March 2015

How To Increase Your Chances of Getting Short Stories Published?

I found that my progress as an aspiring writer accelerated a lot when I learnt my first golden rule of writing.

Writing is a creative process but selling them is purely business

If you are serious in taking your creative writing further by getting published, you'll need to adopt a professional attitude.

Here's how.

Find and research your market

You must consider your market. Is there a market that will want your story?

If your only objective is to write great stories you won't need to do this, but if you want to have them published then make sure you have an audience to market them to. You can determine this by having a search on Google, and Facebook is also a great way to find places to submit to.

If your stories are considered horror, dark fiction or fantasy then do check out Short Dark Fiction Markets  as the research has already been done for you. It provides details of numerous magazine that accept submissions and is regularly updated.

Write to Order

Many magazines hold themed submissions so check them out and have a go at writing to a theme. At first it may feel like cheating, but ask yourself how many times have you found what you thought was the perfect magazine or short story competition to enter only to find at the last moment your story is definitely not what they're looking for.

Writing on order, may feel strange at first but it's a great way to flex your literary muscles and will greatly improve your chances of getting published. Writing to a theme could turn your hobby into a profession. They're telling exactly what they want, telling you explicitly what sells in your specific genre.

So how do you go about it?

When faced with a specific theme spend a few moments thinking of ideas and then discard them. This is what everyone will be thinking of and you'll need your work to stand out. Think of something more obscure to write about. this will help you to stand out from your competition and present something original.

Submit you work

Another way to improve your chances is to submit your work. Sounds obvious but many people hold back as they wrongly believe their work isn't good enough. Don't be your own judge, jury and executioner. Let others judge your work and I guarantee you'll be surprised. Some of my favourite creations have yet to be published whilst some that I thought were dreadful were snapped up.
Doesn't make sense I know but I've learnt to make sure my work is always out there in publishing limbo.

But be careful to bombard magazines and editors with your work. You don't want to stand out for the wrong reasons. They'll simply ignore you if you get on their nerves and won't even open your submission. If you submit to a chosen magazine and are unsuccessful wait for at least a few months before retrying with something else.

Pay attention to submission guidelines

Magazines are extremely pernickety about their submission guidelines, and of course each magazine you'll be applying to will have their own strict rules.

Some of them may seem pointless, but obey them!

Many editors will immediately reject your work if you fail to adhere to their submission guidelines, even if its great. What I usually do when submitting work is to make a checklist of a magazines submission guidelines which I then tick off.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Time To Look Beyond Tomorrow

In the last six or so months I've really devoted my time to writing short stories and have managed to see two of them published. (Yey!) Which has been really great fun and rewarding, so much so that I was starting to forget why I started writing them in the first place.

Ultimately my aim is to one day publish a novel. To do that I had to get good at writing, really good. Which only comes with practise, I've read somewhere that states if you want to master a craft you need to put in a bare minimum of 1,000 hours of practise. So you  have to be very focused, dedicated and incredibly stubborn.

So I think the time has come to start on the dreaded second draft of my novel. I have't looked at it for months and I hope that when I read it  I'll  hopefully still find it worthy of my blood, sweat and tears.

For me, the joy I experience with writing is that you have to get inside your story, live it as much as possible. This isn't too much of a task with short stories but with writing novels you  literally have to step into a another world. It's necessary to go beyond, through the looking glass rather than just looking inside.

All in all its going to be a journey - Lord of the Rings style. Not only will there be massive rewrites, plot changes and hard decisions, there's also the need to do background research. A huge revision of Grammar rules and Punctuation usage, this has never been my strong point.

Oh dear, where do I even begin.....

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is one of those authors everyone has heard of, even if you don't read. He's credited as helping to bring comics back to huge popularity. He's also is also considered a successful crossover artist who has brought fantasy literature into the mainstream book markets.

He's written many books such as Coraline, Neverwhere, American Gods, The Graveyard Book and Anansi Boys. These books have become so popular that many of them have been made into very successful films.

What I really admire about Neil Gaiman is his scope of imagination, it has no limitations, it just goes on and on and gives us these amazing stories that seem out of this world. Stardust is a prime example of this, a highly original yet mish - mash of every fairy tale you have ever heard. This is a tale of  a young man undertaking a heroic quest to find his heart's desire.

If it were possible for words to dance upon a page it would occur in a Neil Gaiman novel.

With stardust there is the risk of it coming across as wishy- washy and namby - pamby but as always Neil Gaiman pulls it off making this is tale that not only imaginative and enchanting but realistic and authentic. Stardust also has an edgy quality which is why he has earned legions of fans and sold millions of books worldwide. Stardust is a fairy tale, but it's not for kids.

There are many references to well known fairy tales, the types of tales I loved as a child and still do as an adult. However this is one for the adults aka the big kids but still has the charm found in much loved childrens tales. It's so charming that even when a tiny f-bomb, an actual f-bomb is dropped, it is done in a smaller font.

One of the joys of  reading Stardust is that it seems so real. You get a sense that because Gaiman knows exactly what he is talking about when describing the faerie realm, he might possibly have been there once or twice.

Stardust is a richly interwoven tale that uses it's many subplots to add to the tension that builds throughout. Everyone is after the fallen star but not everyone has good intentions and of course each charcter is in conflict with one another, but who will ultimately triumph?

The main character Tristan Thorn is instantly likeable and charming in a very British way. Gaiman has a great talent for relating to different characters and perfectly sums up what it is like to be at the strange state in everyone's life where you hover precariously between childhood and adulthood.

"He was a gangling creature of potential, a barrel of dynamite waiting for something to light his fuse....."

 Gaiman is a master of imagery and prose. Stardust is hugely entertaining and it's funny too. This really shines through in the screen adaptation, eponymously titled Stardust. although as always the book is far superior.

It's  riveting but also very neat, there are no loose ends and the characters and their actions intertwine beautifully with each other. Every action they make has purpose and consequence that echoes with the natural complexity of real life in a way that isn't confusing for the reader.

Unfortunately reading this book has now forced me to buy more of Gaiman's books which I'll devour greedily. Now my "to be read" books pile is now waist high and have ran out of shelf space many moons ago, much to the lament of my other half, another six foot high book shelf is needed!

Monday, 2 March 2015

How to Flex Those Literacy Muscles?

I think that if you want to grow as a writer it's really important to write everyday, even and especially when you're not feeling creatively inspired. So, on that point if you want to get good at writing short stories and getting them published or winning at competitions, you need to write in a broad range and explore with different styles and themes.

A really good way to do this is to find short story competitions and magazine submissions that are themed. At first it's really hard having your work dictated by a theme that's way out of your comfort zone, but it's a challenge worth persevering with as it will broaden your range.

If you'd like to do this, and your passion is fantasy fiction why not try out Fantasy Faction's monthly themed writing competition, which I've mentioned before as I decided to give it a go. This is a great website that also has articles on useful writing tips, book reviews, interviews with top authors and the latest fantasy fiction news.

Each month there is a new theme, the great thing about it is that you can read all the entries and the voting is public too which allows you to see how well you have done. This is a double edged sword as my first entry failed to secure any votes which was disheartening. However my second attempt came 5th out of 13 entries which I was very pleased with.

Writing to a theme also gave me to confidence to try out for Siren's Call ezine which holds regular themed submissions. Miraculously I was successful and was published in their February edition, Whispers in the Dark, which you can read for free here.

It just shows that if your willing to flex those muscles who knows what you might achieve.