Category Archives: Awards

Writing Process ‘Blog Tour’

Warning! Long post alert!

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to join a “blog tour” by Janet over at This, That and The Other Thing. When you’ve finished here, I hope you’ll head over to her site, where she posts stories and photos and haiku, and still manages to read every entry to the Friday Fictioneers. Presumably she doesn’t actually exist in real life; it’s the only possible explanation for how busy and prolific an artist she is! I’m certain you will find much on her blog to enjoy and admire. I do.

THE BLOG TOUR PYRAMID

When we were kids, we got chain letters. When you received one, you faithfully copied it out 5 times (with a pen!), and mailed it (often with a stamp!) to your friends, then they did the same. It was critical to do this within the specified short time period, lest the threats of terrible punishments (a lifetime of bad sex sticks in the mind) came true. Also, if you did, wonderful things were promised (yep, great sex included).

Then email came along and the chain letters kept coming. It was easier to send them on (a few key-presses instead of careful scribbling, and no more stamps), and what if wonderful things really could happen just because you’d taken part?

In the blogosphere, everyone wants wonderful things to happen. Specifically, everyone wants traffic, and so the chain letter has found a home here, in the form of awards, blog tours and the like. When Janet first contacted me, I agreed to join in, because I would love for more people to find and read Elmowrites, and I’d love to send some of my own readers to other blogs I enjoy. Then I started to contact people to ask if they’d like me to nominate them, and I discovered most of the people I’d recommend have already been involved. Why? Because chain letters are pyramid schemes, and pyramid schemes fail when they run out of people to recruit. Everyone who’s done this recently says “the hardest part is finding people to pass the baton on to”. I think there’s a reason for that.

Now, if I sent you to bloggers who I chose entirely for their willingness to participate, or for the fact they haven’t been nominated by anyone else, I’d be wasting your time. And if I pulled out, I’d be letting Janet down. By ending the chain, perhaps I’m doing that anyway, I hope not, and I certainly mean no disrespect to her or anyone else who’s participated by saying all this.

There is a value in bloggers recommending others – I have no qualms about suggesting you read Janet’s blog, and I am happy to recommend a few others to you at the end of this post. But the blog tour ends here. And if that’s taking me to a world of fewer readers at least they will know I take my recommendations seriously.

My answers to the blog tour questions follow, and then a few links I heartily recommend. And as for me, I hope readers find and enjoy elmowrites, and I hope a lifetime of bad sex doesn’t await me now – but neither the carrot nor the stick is going to make me change my mind.

MY ANSWERS

1) What am I working on?

I’ve got three draft novels and various short stories of all lengths saved on my hard drive, and to the extent that they haven’t been published anywhere yet, I consider them all the be works in progress. However, in terms of active projects, I really have two. The first is this blog, where I regularly post 100 word stories for the Friday Fictioneers and slightly longer flash fiction for Inspiration Monday, as well as a variety of non-fiction pieces about grammar, crosswords and writing in general.

Secondly, I’ve had a story milling around my head for a few years now, centred on a little girl whose mother has been diagnosed with cancer. It started life as a short story, but I’m convinced it will one day be a novel. I’ve written various snippets, some of them posted here (search this blog for “Melanie” if you’re interested), but nothing like a whole novel’s-worth. I’m currently doing some research on Christianity, which is a big influence in Melanie’s life, but I hope to get some serious writing done towards the novel by the end of the year.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My writing is mostly mainstream fiction – occasionally veering towards literary, once in a while dabbling in other genres. My first novel had elements of magic realism, for example.

Unnatural endings upset me when I’m reading. I like things to be resolved, but I don’t like everything tied up with a bow by an author who feels the only true ending is happily ever after. I try to show that life goes on after the back cover – that the characters have grown and there is hope for the future, but nobody’s waved a magic wand and made everything perfect for them.

Another grievance I have with popular fiction is the assumption that readers are stupid. I like to treat my readers as intelligent, sensible people. I don’t always spoon-feed them everything from the beginning, and sometimes that makes the rest of the story feel like a twist, or results in some readers finding the ending confusing. It’s a balance, of course, and I’m still learning where to strike that, but I like to think those who do get it will enjoy the challenge.

3) Why do I write what I do?

It might sound a bit like a stock answer, but the truth is, I write what I do because it’s what comes to mind. I occasionally refer to the Muse and I am only half-joking. Stories, characters, incidents come to my mind almost fully-formed and at times it feels as though I’m only transcribing things that have already happened.

More literally, the main reason I currently write flash fiction is time. I’m a full-time Mum to a toddler who is usually incredibly well-behaved and quite independent, but who won’t stand me to have the laptop open while he’s awake (he also steals any pen in sight). His naps are short and getting shorter, and there are always a million things to do, and two cats who think his naps are for their cuddles. 100 words is sometimes all I can manage, and I’d rather craft those well than dash off a few thousand useless ones.

4) How does my writing process work?

I try to write during the morning nap, sitting on a comfy chair with the laptop on my knee. I’ve tried using a desk, but it’s too uncomfortable so I get distracted within a few minutes.

I’ve often had an idea running though my head for a few hours of laptop-free time before I sit down, so it really can often be a case of transcribing what I’ve mentally written, but if not, I still find the story flows pretty well once I start writing it. My mind’s eye is almost completely blind, so stories come to me as words and emotions, not film reels – I don’t know if that makes it easier or harder, as it’s the only thing I’ve ever known, but perhaps it also explains why I tend to keep physical description to a minimum in my writing.

The real test comes during the editing phase, and it’s a phase I don’t enjoy as much as writing. With flash fiction, it comes pretty easily, but with something novel-length I struggle to hold the whole plot in my head at a time, enough to really make the structure work as well as I’d like.

SOME LINKS

For free fiction, you can’t go far wrong with Janet and Sandra, both of whom also post pretty, amusing or inspiring pictures to brighten your day! … or with Adam, another prolific fiction poster.

If you’re a writer and like a challenge, Rochelle and Steph run the ones I currently participate in. Rochelle also posts fantastic fiction of her own; Steph’s advice on writing really does hold nuggets of gold.

Finally, how to describe this one? Star is one of those people I can’t help but admire. She knows what she wants, she knows how to get it and she’s not going to let anything stand in her way. Her blog is a mix of musings on writing, updates on her on writing journey and … other things. If you need a new perspective, if you are tired of bloggers saying the same old things about writing, if you ever find yourself questioning your ability to achieve your goals … Star’s blog is the place for you.

 

 

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An Honour and An Admission

Last week, I was included in a list of “Most Influential Blogs of 2012” by SilentlyHeardOnce, so I want to start by saying thank you to her for this great honour.

The “rules” of the honour are that you must pay it forward, listing the blogs that are most influential to you, but here’s my problem, and the Admission I mentioned in the title. Whisper it … I don’t read many blogs. In fact, the only blogs I read are my fellow writers for InMon and the Friday Fictioneers. So the most influential blogs on me are our great leaders:

BeKindRewrite

Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

and until recently, Madison Woods

These groups bring together writers and provide us with inspiration and community each week. So our leaders have the most influence on me as a blogger. But I don’t read blogs that influence me as a person – political commentary, or tips on how to [insert ambition here] etc.

I see them a bit like Twitter – too high noise to value ratio, and I’m just not willing to commit my time to that. So, I use blogs to supply some of my fiction reading, a few musings on writing from writers who interest me, and not a lot else. Which is pretty much what my own blog is made up of too.

I’m glad so many of you take the time to read it, and thanks again for the honour of your company.

Merry Christmas!

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Awards

Back in July, my fellow blogger, Emma, kindly nominated me in a post about blogging awards. You can see her post, and the rest of her blog here:

http://freejournowriter.wordpress.com/2012/07/14/lovely-lovely-awards/#comment-863

Somehow, I missed her post back in July, but I’m delighted by it now: thanks, Emma!

The various awards Emma recieved have different requirements. I’ve posted some unknown facts about me before, so instead I’ll answer the questions she poses (and answers) in her post.

Favourite Colour:

I love turquoise and pretty much any shade of green, but the official answer is purple. A nice, dark, royal purple. Like one of the two colours of our wedding theme.

Favourite Animal:

I’ve always had an affiinity for cats. In fact, I used to think I was one. Now I have two favourite animals – my cats, Max and Pepsi.

Favourite Number:

Easy. 11

Favourite Non-Alcoholic Drink:

hmm… tough call, but probably fresh-squeezed lemonade.

Facebook or Twitter:

Another easy one. I really really don’t like twitter. Facebook’s main downside is how many times people post spoilers for the Grand Prix results!

My Passion:

I don’t do passions. I love many many things, but I’m not really passionate about things in that sense.

Favourite pattern:

pattern? pattern? How does one have a favourite pattern?

Favourite day of the week:

I quite like Tuesdays, for no particular reason, they just sound nice.

Favourite Flower:

I can’t put it any better than Emma:

“Gerberas, they look so happy!”

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Submitting – British Style

I love a good old home-country writing competition. The deadline for this one is 30th September (Midnight UK time, so watch out North and South American readers!) but it’s only 500 words, so you can rustle that up in an hour or two, right?

The contest comes from Flash 500, a British site with the winner being published in online and print magazine Words With JAM*  The top prize is £300, with money prizes for second and third, and a free book for highly commended entries. The entry fee is £5 for one, £8 for two stories and you can add £10 per story if you would like a critique to be returned to you.

There is no geographical limit on entrants, and entries must be previously unpublished (including online). Check out the website for detailed entry conditions.

Impressively, this contest promises to announce winners within just 6 weeks of the closing date. It runs quarterly, so if you’re not ready this month, you could stop by again in the future.

 

 

* Note that the magazine is also running its own short story comps, with categories for 250, 1000 and 2500 word stories.

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Ladies’ Night in Submissionville

Sorry, boys, but this week’s place-to-submit is Women Only. It’s the Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize, an award run by one of the women-only colleges at Cambridge University in the UK and open to entrants worldwide provided they are a previously unpublished female writer over the age of 21. Entries should consist of the first 30 pages of a novel, submitted with a <10 page synopsis of the rest of the book.

You can find full details here: http://www.lucy-cav.cam.ac.uk/whats-on/latest-news/post/128-lucy-cavendish-college-2013-fiction-prize

The entry fee is just £10 per entry (you can submit up to 3 entries).

Closing date isn’t till 27 March 2013, so you’ve got lots of time to polish those opening chapters.

The top 5 entires will be shortlisted (max one per entrant) and those five writers invited (with a guest each) to attend a prizegiving dinner where the winner will be announced. The prize is £1000, and all shortlisted entrants have the opportunity to meet and approach agents and publishers at the dinner. Publication isn’t part of the prize, but there certainly seems to be a history of success over the time the prize has been running.

As if that’s not enough, the event (although sadly not the judging of the competition!) is run by my best friend, so you will get to meet her if you’re shortlisted. Frankly, that’s a better prize than £1000, if you ask me.

 

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Submitting to WD

This week’s submission spotlight falls on Writer’s Digest. WD is one of those online magazines which makes no bones about its intended readership – writers. There are pros and cons to this – if you want help or inspiration, hints and tips on writing or publishing, or just to know that there are others out there like you, then WD is the place to be. Their blog and advice pages are full of all of the above, and if you subscribe to the forums, you’ll find a community out there dying to discuss whatever aspect of writing comes to hand that day! On the other hand, it’s kind of scary to think how many “amateur” writers there are out there feeding magazines like WD and never really getting anywhere. One wonders if the great writing success stories of our time subscribed to writing magazines.

Still, a contest is a contest, and a win is a win (complete with prizes, publication, reassurance, kudos etc). And WD can offer a fair number of options for both contests and wins.

Short Short Story Competition <1,500 words of fiction, deadline 15 November, entry fee $20. 25 top entries published with a top prize of $3,000, a trip to the annual WD Writers’ Conference and a couple of useful textbooks.

Popular Fiction Awards <4,000 words of genre fiction (6 categories to choose from), deadline 15 September, entry fee isn’t clear from the site. Top entry in each genre wins $500, top overall gets $2,500 and a trip to the WD Conference.

Write It Your Way <1,500 words of fiction or non-fiction based on the theme of summer. This is a monthly contest, where the theme or prompt changes each month. Deadline is 15 July. Entry fee $5. Top 5 are exhibited online with the winner awarded $25 to spend in the WD shop and promotion of their story.

Screenwriting I’m not even going to try to summarise this one, but if you’re interested in Screenwriting, Films or getting into that industry, click on the link to find out more.

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Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

Never judge a book by its cover, right?

Book covers can definitely be misleading. The artwork is almost always done by someone who has had no hand at all in the content between the covers, and certainly not in the writing of the novel. I once bought a boxed set of the Chronicles of Narnia, stories with words and illustrations I have loved all my life. The covers were new and modern and drawn by someone I’d never heard of, but they didn’t change the bits of the books I really enjoy.

Another feature of book covers are those little quotes from reviewers or famous authors. I know I’m not the only person who finds these comments highly suspicious – did Neil Gaiman really read this, or did his publisher just tell him to say something nice? And even if he did read it, could he have said he didn’t like it? Quotes and reviews are also a bit like Literary Prizes. Some incredible novels have won prizes and critical acclaim, but so have some … let’s say difficult reads. None of this is any guarantee that you as a reader are going to enjoy the book.

The best clue is perhaps the blurb: the tantalising synopsis on the back of the book that introduces one or two characters, plot lines and cliffhangers. But even then, it’s not always written by the author, it doesn’t tell you whether the ending will be satisfying or whether the topic will be dealt with well. Its very job is to peak your interest, but sometimes I feel blurbs venture into spoiler territory, giving away more than I wanted to know about the storyline or the twist.

But if you can’t judge a book by its cover, what else can you do? You can open it and read the first few pages, or the last few (I know at least one person who does that!), rely on recommendations from friends through word of mouth or things like Goodreads or just stick with favourite authors – although they’d have to be fairly prolific to keep up with most readers!

What do you do? How do you choose your next read and how do you feel about the things you find on book covers?

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