Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Are You Ready for the 2016 Ray Bradbury Writing Challenge?

Ray Bradbury was a hugely popular science fiction author best known for his novel Fahrenheit 451 and it is one of his many inspiring writing tips that will be heavily influencing me for 2016.

Ray Bradbury argues that;

"When you start writing short stories, the quality doesn’t really matter; you’re practicing your craft. At the end of the year, you’ll have 52 short stories. It’s almost impossible not to have at least one good story among those 52. Writing short stories will teach you to be constantly looking for ideas. In addition, every week you’ll be happy, because by the end of each week you’ll have something to show for your efforts."

Wise words indeed and as 2015 draws to  a close it's time to set out some new targets for my literary pursuits. I've found that setting myself targets is a great way to stay focused at motivated.

I've been very fortunate to have had a few short stories published in 2015 in the wonderful Sanitarium Magazine, Siren's Call Publications, Deadman's Tome, Innersins and Bewildering Stories and I hope it will continue into 2016.

However as a beginning writer there is HUGE scope for improvement in my stories and so my challenge for 2016 is to write at least one short story per week every week. Even as I write this I highly doubt whether I'll be able to acheive this but even if I only write 20 tales, that's still 20 tales!

I think that to be a sucessful writer you need so much more than the ability to write well.
You also need to be able to back up your creative talents with brute force in the forms of ruthlessness discipline and a lot of determination.

Never give up, never give in :)

About the Author

S.J.Budd is a writer of all things weird and creepy. Previously her tales have been featured on Deandman's Tome,  Sanitarium Magazine, Dark Gothic Resurrected, Liquid Imagination, Aphotic Realm, Aurora Wolf, Aphelion, Blood Moon Rising Magazine, The Wild Hunt, Danse Macabre, Shadows at the Door, Inner Sins, Bewildering Stories, Siren's Call and many more.
She lives at www.sjbudd.co.uk  and  @sjbuddj 
Spells and Persuasions, her debut collection of short stories of horror and dark fantasy is available now in paperback and kindle from Amazon

Sanitarium Magazine Issue 33

Sanitarium is a monthly horror magazine that brings you the best cutting edge horror fiction, dark verse and macabre entertainment. It's a fantastic read and I heartily recommend it to anyone who loves horror. It's out on the 20th of every month and is available in print and download from Amazon.

Sanitarium is about to release it's landmark 40th edition of it's magazine. To mark this special occasion the editor of Sanitarium Magazine, Barry Skelhorn has been interviewed by Casey Chapman who runs a wonderful blog called Severed Scissors. If you're a fan of the wonderful Saniatarium Magazine do check out this excellent interview here.

Issue 33 features outstanding original fiction from the most exciting up and coming horror authors. There's also articles; Re-skinning Werewolves by R.Donald James Gauvreau and a review of Sharkpunk Stories with Bite ( edited by Jonathen Green) by Kit Power. There's also a great interview with legendary horror author Adam Millard.

And on top of all that is dark verse from Thayli, J.E.Remy, Aracelly P.Campo & Vince Rodriguez and brilliant cover art from Kevin Spencer 

Help support horror's finest and talented authors by buying your copy!

Wriggle Room ~ Scott Farrell

Senator Mason Grant is a Grade A asshole, he treats people who cross him with the same ruthlessness he shows to any unwelcome visitors into his home. But sooner or later what goes around comes around. This is a great read that capitavates til the end.

For Fame, For Fortune, For a Commemorative Statue ~ James Park

A life- long rivalry drives  Micheal Milenko to great extremes, but in the end he comes out top securing fame and fortune, but is it all it cracked up to be? Many people dream of living a celebrity lifestyle but at what cost? Will Michael find it as wonderful as he dared to beleive? A great tale that's unsettling and brooding.

Say the Number ~ Emir Skalonja

With great skill this tale starts off light and cheery but soon descends into darkness.Selena Thatcher is obsessed with numbers and believes that numbers can explain everything one needs to know about life. But they can't explain this...

Vicious Circle ~ Stephen Grassie

Set in the Glasgow's subway station Stephen Grassie weaves a dark tale of a tortured soul looking for salvation.Just another young twenty something trying to carve out a life for themselves. Lorna has dreams and aspirations just like everyone else but what must she do to get ahead in life? This a great tale with a truly macabre ending.

Beautiful Teeth ~ Abigail Lalonde

This story reminds one of an old fairy tale yet is thoroughly modern. It's expertly written with a sly dash of humour. People will do anything for a lovely smile.

You can find Abigail Lalonde on twitter @rabbit_rabbit

Never My Love ~ Jason Christopher

Never my love is a very dark but sweet tale of finding that one special person whom you go so crazy for you'd do anything for them. Nothing seems impossible for two people once they're in love as illustrated with this short tale.

Jason Christopher is co-founder of Grave Matters Magazine.

Coker ~ Dominic Stabile

This little tale is similiar to the Stephen King method of writing a story. You take a character and place them in am impossible situation and sit back and watch them trying to deal with it. But this is highly original story and in  a style Stabile can call his own. A dark grisly tale of a desperate situation in which the past comes back to taunt and ridicule whilst the future looms over like a ticking bomb.


Meal Deal ~ Ian Sputnik

Albert James Kinloch with his wife Dorothy are searching for the perfect British pub. At first it seems a sweet idyllic tale of a happily married couple enjoying their twilight years but of course this is a Sanitarium tale. A great read which is funny as well as dark. If you enjoyed this tale Ian Sputnik has previously had his fiction published in issue 25 and 31 in Sanitarium Magazine.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

How to Write for Fun

I've recently finished a second draft of a novel I have been writing for the last two years and although it was an incredible feeling to get that far, it has left me really drained. I feel like I need a six month break from writing but am fearful my writing may suffer. I also worry whether this is the beginning of a serious bout of the dreaded writer's block.

It's taken a year of hard graft to complete the second draft and towards the end working on it day after day it was beginning to feel like a chore which for me is a massive warning sign that something is going wrong in my novel. Recently, I read a great tip on writing which warned that if you're not having fun writing it, no one is going to have fun reading it.

Then I came across this great little article on Buzzfeed written by Hayley Campbell, about the writing style of Neil Gaiman. He talks about how he writes all his novels by hand. For example his novel Stardust was set in the past and he bought a fountain pen and leather journal to see if it would affect his writing.

The results were great, (quote from said Buzzfeed article)

“And it did, it really did. I was sparser, I would think my way through a sentence further, I would write less, in a good way. And when I typed it up, it became a very real second draft – things would vanish or change. I discovered that I enjoyed messing about with fountain pens, I even liked the scritchy noise the pen nib made on the paper."

Instantly I thought this was a brilliant idea of taking your writing back to basics. It was how I used to write when I was a child, when I first discovered my love of making up stories in my head and transferring them to paper. So I'd thought I'd give it a try. Being incredibly left handed I decided that a fountain pen would be too smudgey so I went for a biro and notepad.

I had an idea for a story that I wanted to explore. I had no idea whether it would take the form of a short story or novel. I just wanted to play with it. I wanted it to be a fun project where I could just have fun and not worry whether it was any good whilst I recuperated from my novel writing marathon.

Because I wanted it to be fun I didn't sit down and spend hours meticulously planning my story before I started to write. My aim was just to sit back and see where the characters took me, let them do the hard work for a change. I simply had a vague ending in mind and just began to write...

I'm an avid reader. I always have to have a least one book on the go. I love reading for I love going on adventures in other people's imaginations. But now I wanted to go on an adventure in my own, through my own writing.

I also set myself an easy task of writing for just one hour a day and through using a notepad it's incredibly easy to sneak in ten minutes here and there no matter how busy you are. Within  a few days of starting I had loads of pages completed. For the sheer fun of it I began to draw pictures to accompany my story.

And something amazing has happened. My imagination has sparked, it feels as potent as a child's. But most importantly it's just so much fun I find myself even waking up at night itching to do some writing.

Even just the simple act of drawing a few pictures really helps with plot advancement and descriptions. It's like rediscovering where my love and reading and writing began as a child where I would write stories and draw picture to accompany them.

I honestly have no idea of where this story is going or whether it will be any good but writing it is just so much fun and I'm finally on an adventure of my own.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

How to Write a Brilliant First Chapter

The first chapter in your book is the most important chapter for a number of reasons

  • It must be able to convince a reader to read it right until the end which is a big commitment of time and effort
  • Not only does it need to convince your readers of the worthiness of your book but also any agents or publishers. These people are hard to please, they may be extremely sceptical when they begin

If your first chapter isn't brilliant no one is going to carry on reading your wonderful tale and an unread book is a terrible thing. It's no good having some brilliant chapters at the end or middle of your novel if the first one isn't up to par.

When writing and editing your  undiscovered masterpeice it's a good idea to think of the first chapter as a thank- you to the reader for turning the pages. You should reward your readers at the tale's beginning, not just at the end. 

Your first chapter should be like a showcase, use it to show off your linguistic prowess. Show your writing to it's best capabilities. Make your readers weep at your mastery! Throw a few hints as to what they can expect if they carry on reading.

So how can you make your first chapter brilliant?

At the earliest opportunity insert a killer hook for your readers. This is the bait to entice your readers which will keep them reading to the end.

A killer hook is an essential question which is raised in a story, a question so enticing that a reader will want to read your story from beginning to end without pausing for breath. Be warned you must raise a brilliant question and answer it in a way that will leave your reader satisfied and entertained. The plot of your story will be based your killer question so make sure it is relevant and able to sustain the whole story.

You need to raise more intruiging questions than answers, people love mystery, they also love to guess and figure things out without being told. In my experience of being a slush pile reader many unsucessful authors make the mistake of giving away too much tedious information at the beginning which prevents the reader becoming interested. If you want to keep your readers reading, keep them guessing.

In every great tale there are great characters that leap off the page and into the readers hearts. They must be intruiging at the very least as they guide your reader through your tale. Not all your characters need to be wildly charismatic but do pull out all the stops for your protagonist. They will also need to make an entrance that is worthy of a leading man or lady.

Your first chapter should contain a unusual scenario or desperate situation that your protagonist has found themselves in. The reader will be intrigued to see if and how they can get out of trouble. The more impossible the situation the better.

And last but not least, do make sure that your grammar and punctuation is spot on. Yes it's the most boring aspect of writing but it's necessary. A polished manuscript with correct grammar and punctuation will look professional to agents and publishers. It will make for easier reading.

Good luck, never give in never give up