Monday, 31 October 2011

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, THE METHOD

So, it was a year ago today my short story collection emerged into the world, a giddy, breathless time of launches and readings and libations. I'm still overwhelmed by how well it's been received (great reviews, a couple of prizes) - and my Best Man even quoted from it in his speech at my wedding last week, though he was taking the piss. 

And it's been a wonderful twelve months since, crowned with a two-book deal, the first of which inspired this blog as I began the journey writing it.

And so to celebrate today, I'm giving away a signed copy of The Method. Just leave a comment below and I'll draw a name at random next week.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

SHORT FICTION'S NEW WEBSITE

Cover of our forthcoming issue
Okay, so our previous website was crap. But with a staff of two, thousands of stories to read, a journal to put together, there just wasn't the time. Until now. So what are you waiting for? Go and check it out here. There's an interview with the brilliant Philip O’Ceallaigh on all things short story-ish, plus some wonderful sample stories from previous issues. Submissions guidelines are up and details of our competition, with first prize of £500, will appear in the New Year.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

(SOME OF) THE BEST BITS

I see this blog has some new followers. You're very welcome. And because you're new you won't have seen these, er-hum, wonderful posts on writing that came in between me waffling on. So here's where it all began, my first post, almost three years ago, when I began this crazy journey. Here are some writerly rules, some of which I stuck to. And a piece on taking risks along the way. And how many of these books can you identify from their first lines? Here's a guest post by author Jenn Ashworth. And this could be my favourite poem.

So have a look around; the archive in the side-bar has some great (especially the ones I didn't pen) posts on the curious pursuit of writing.

And what's to come? I hear you say. Well, look out for a chance to win my book as it approaches its first birthday. There's an interview with my wonderful editor, on what she looks for in a book. Plus one with my brilliant agent at AM Heath, though I've not actually asked him yet. I'm sure he'll be up for it, he's good like that.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

THE ROAD TO PUBLICATION...



...is generally a long one. There perhaps exist shortcuts for some (so-called celebrities, the very lucky and the obscenely talented – although this last group’s virtue usually has its origin in hard work / time spent on the road), but for the rest of us we’d better get used to the long game.

And so, with the luxury of a book deal, I wanted to look at the reasons I think I finally got there, lest you think I’m just a lucky so and so. Or a celebrity.

Ø   An apprenticeship served. Somewhere between plucking a few strings on your first acoustic guitar and appearing on Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage on the Saturday night is, you’d hope, some practice. A lot of it. About ten thousand hours I read somewhere - an arbitrary figure plucked to demonstrate the work needed to achieve virtuosity in anything. And this goes for writing. 

Ø      A commitment to your art/craft. No longer merely a hobby, you will need an obsessive devotion to your writing. Days you do not write (and read) are exceptional. Indeed, you resent them, that little precious time you find for composition more precious than almost anything else in your life.

Ø   A desire to constantly improve. Rejection hurts, but it’ll be one of your most valuable (and frequently visiting) friends in the early days. Don’t fall into the lazy trap of dismissing those who deliver bad news as wrong or elitist or incapable of recognising your thus unrecognisable genius. Come back to their words in a few days and look honestly and hard at them. Give them no reason to reject you next time.

Ø      Writing is re-writing. I save my biggest belly laughs for those who post in forums that prose, like visual art, can be spoiled by too many strokes, that you need to know when to leave it alone, to not over-egg it. For me, at least, I can never edit enough. The work can always be improved. Only deadlines and a gathering insanity allow me not to work on something indefinitely.

Ø     An original voice / concept. Fuck. Thought I’d put this one last, as it’s a little intimidating. It’s also, I believe, the single most important factor that led to the bidding for my book. Publishers want something fresh, a story or voice they’ve not heard before, that’s going to stand out, firstly from the thousands of manuscripts adorning their desks, and, eventually, from every other book coming out that year. Now, I didn’t start the book with this in mind, so perhaps this is the luck element, a concept that found me. But you can find a unique voice, though, alas, not generally by looking for one! A post on voice to follow soon.

Happy writing.