Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Two New Short Story Competitions with Added Appeal...

This week there's been two new competitions brought to my attention, and both have appealing prizes.

First we have National Express who are highlighting a competition in association with Little Brown Book Group, and the author Jenny Colgan.

Here's the brief: "We're offering you the chance to become a published author. To enter, we would like you to write a short story no more than 2,000 words long with the premise of 'take us on a journey'. You can use your own creativity to elaborate your journey into a literary masterpiece."

The winner's story will be published in the back of the e-book edition of Jenny Colgan's next book, published in August 2013.

The Competition runs from 28th January until the 28th April 2013. For this competition you must be 18 and over, and a UK resident.

You'll find the terms and conditions here, along with a registration form. You fill in your details and submit the form, where you will then see the e-mail address and closing date for your entry, so don't forget to make a note of it and put it somewhere safe.

The Second comes from Kobo Writing Life  (via Talkback writer SusieM .) Enter the Jeffrey Archer Short Story Challenge!

Now this competition is for those who are writing a novel. " One lucky winner will be awarded the grand prize of free enrolment in an upcoming Curtis Brown online novel writing course. "

"Authors should submit a 100-word short. The short can consist of any genre of fiction, as long as it stays within the 100-word limit. "

The deadline for submissions is the 15th February 2013.

The 20 semi-finalists will have their 100 word story, name and photo in a free anthology from Kobo.

And 3 finalists will be chosen (from the 20) by Jefferey Archer, and announced at the London Book Fair. Those 3 will be asked to submit a 3,000 word excerpt of their novel in progress to Curtis Brown Creative who will judge them, and give written feedback.

The winner gets the free enrolment on the Curtis Brown course.

Read the terms and conditions for the competition here.

The good news is that you can enter (even if you are not in the UK) as long as you live in the areas specified.

"The Contest is open only to legal residents of the forty eight (48) contiguous United States, District of Columbia, the United Kingdom and Canada (excluding Quebec) who have reached the age of majority in their respective jurisdiction at the time of entry (each entrant, an “Entrant”). Void in Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and where prohibited by law. The Prize consists of free enrolment in one (1) Curtis Brown writing course. The voucher is valid until December 31, 2013. "

Good luck. :-)

Monday, 28 January 2013

Do You Ever Look At Early Writing and Think ?!!!

More e-books were read over the weekend...

It actually got me thinking whether it is good or bad for authors (who have been published for a long time) to re-release their backlists as e-books.

Obviously they have their older published titles from pre-digital days, which are sitting there not earning them any money, so they will have the freedom to re-issue them as e-books now, and I can see why they would do it- writers need to eat and pay bills too.

We probably all have favourite authors, so when their latest book is released we're likely to buy it fairly quickly- we know we can be guaranteed a satisfying read.

But will that always apply to back-list books written much earlier in a writing career?

Or will we be slightly disappointed because they aren't what we've come to expect from our favourite author?

And of course the style of the time may no longer work now, or elements of the story be as morally, or socially acceptable ...

The heroes of 1980's historical romances were out and out Alpha males, and seduction with a little force thrown in was part of the character... Easy to see why the horrible term 'bodice rippers' became associated with historical romances.

I gave up on reading one download at the weekend because I was mentally red-penning it as I was reading, and if I'm doing that in the first chapter then I'm never going to finish the story...

Now I'm going to try and remember that it was written in an earlier stage, and it can actually be interesting to notice subtle changes as the story develops.

I know that looking back at my writing- even from five years ago I would write very differently now, so it's likely that published writers continue to develop their writing style too...

The advantages of old books being re-released?

Stories you always wanted to read, but couldn't because the book was out of print and you couldn't find a second-hand copy- I may just find that elusive third book that makes up a trilogy I enjoyed, but couldn't finish because no one had the one I needed anymore...

Lots more stories to enjoy...

And when it comes to the basics, enjoying the read is important...

Any thoughts on the subject? Then do leave a comment, I'd like to hear your views...

Saturday, 26 January 2013

It's All In the Mind...

Well my characters and plots are in my mind. In fact there will always be one or two of them wanting attention to reveal a snippet of vital information, or a sentence of dialogue that tells me something important- but they are usually the characters who are in a different story to the one I'm currently writing!

(Jago, from my Dorset novel, popped in this morning and mentioned something that told me a little more about how his sister's death effected him, in a similar way to his step-brother- my hero, Marcus.)

Since I've started my minimum words a week target I've noticed a change in my mind-set with how I approach my writing.

Previously I tried to do longer writing sessions with the plan that I would do more of a chapter. But in fact it was the reverse, I actually got less done...

Now that I'm not worrying about it, I'm actually writing more. While I'm completing scenes in the current chapter, it's actually giving me time to think about the next bit for when I start writing again.

I looked at my chapter outlines the other day (written earlier last year) and realised that the scene I'm currently working on hadn't been mentioned in the outline.

It came about because I realised that I needed to bring Hugh and Sarah back into contact, after a short chapter apart, and there was an opportunity to do so just by developing the end of the planned scene.

As I see it, this is just my writing style developing a little further.

Twelve years ago, I would have said I didn't like planning. I needed a start and end point, then a few points I knew I needed along the way, so I'd make it up as I went along.

But now I couldn't work that way...

I know my story and my characters, and as before I have certain points that I need to include- but these are more detailed than previously; but now I see the elements that can be expanded upon to reinforce my plot, or my characters' development- a skill I didn't have before.

Also, I see where I need to concentrate on areas in Chapter 2 and 3 when I get to the revision process.

Basically I'm no longer looking at the story as a scary 50,000+ words that I need to get written, just the next 500 words of the scene, or linking scene- small bits at a time...

Now my mind says it can be done. I just have to do it.

This week's total: 1,007 words.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Progress and Viewpoint...

Just a quick post today.

The minimum wordage target seems to be working for me; Tuesday I added 518 words to the first draft of Chapter 4 and sorted out my propriety issue, which I discussed in an earlier post.

I prefer to write my longer length stories in third person viewpoint. Usually the story is being told from both my hero and heroine's perspective- the she/he; but there are chapters where it will start with one and then at an appropriate point resume with the other after a break.

For me, which method I use in the chapter is about the situation my character/s are in, or if it's interaction between my hero and heroine, what is happening between them, or their thoughts and reactions to that moment- an ideal time for internal conflicts to emerge.

Occasionally I do slot in a scene from a key secondary character's viewpoint, but only when there's no other way to get an important element or information over to the reader.

But I do make it clear that the viewpoint has changed within a scene/chapter by using line breaks.

I was reading an e-book preview of an historical romance a few days ago, by an author that I hadn't read before. It was fine and then suddenly the viewpoint switched in the next paragraph from hero to heroine and I was immediately pulled out of the story.

The head-hop may have been missed in the editing process, or perhaps it was just an issue with the formatting of the e-book and there should have been a break to show the change of viewpoint within the scene. It may even have been intended to be written that way...

Some writers have successfully incorporated head-hopping (as the scene progresses without a break) in their books- I've read a few Mills and Boons where this has been done without jarring; but it isn't something I like to see, or read.

Perhaps some readers wouldn't notice or be bothered by it, but sudden viewpoint switches do seem to jump out at writers...

Well I better get on, I have a few more words to add to my weekly total...

Monday, 21 January 2013

Snow Pictures for Research...

Woke up today to find last night's light snow had actually left a couple of centimetres around the place, so I decided to take some pictures before it thawed or got trampled.

Overnight snowfall

There's a stillness with undisturbed snow. You could imagine yourself in any time period at moments like that, as the everyday sounds are muffled and don't intrude on your awareness.

All's Quiet in the Garden
I suppose I really should be taking advantage of this snowy scene
to get on with the Christmas story that was intruding last

I'll probably write out the couple of scenes that have developed
over the weekend with the snow getting my thoughts working.

I will be putting my weekly total on my blog somewhere, plus a
running total.

Visiting Blackbirds
We've been putting a variety of food out to cater to the
assorted birds, big and small that have been landing in the garden.

The two Blackbirds are regulars from early morning to late dusk.

So I'm off to get on with my Monday chores so I have time to start
on this week's word count.

Safe travels if you are out and about.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Finding a Balance...

The good news is that since Monday I have exceeded my weekly minimum 500 words. Now I just have to keep with it.

I did 382 words on the novella, and am now ready to tackle the next scene, bringing my hero and heroine back into close proximity; after a short chapter where they weren't together, but the hero was there in the discussion that took place...

I'd intended to get on with that scene, but I had to get this other story out of my brain. I really couldn't write a scene between one couple, when another pair were telling me about their history.

Some characters have less patience than others...

So I decided to write the notes down in whatever order they came out- settings, back story, snippets of dialogue, secondary characters and important moments all mixed together.

As the story is set around Christmas and there is a snow involved, it was useful to be able to sit at my desk and look out of my office window, watching the snow fall, noting the movement and appearance on different surfaces.

In less than two hours I'd added 880 words to my total. And my brain is now clear to get on with the Nottinghamshire novella, while my subconscious continues cogitating this Christmas story.

It's always bothered me that whenever I start to write what I intend to be a short story, or a piece of flash fiction, I get to the end and it has turned into a scene from something that needs to be so much longer to be right...

But I've decided there's no point worrying about it. I'm grateful that I have enough ideas to choose from for when my current project is completed. And unless I make a concentrated effort to stick with one story, I won't get anywhere, so I mustn't let myself get side-tracked as I have before.

So week one of my new plan has been a success- so far...

Total: 1,262.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Those Moments of Indecision...

This week is passing quickly, and I'm only just getting back into routine.

I've completed 75% of my weekly writing total, and I'm now at a scene in my Nottinghamshire novella that takes some thought in how I proceed with it.

Writing modern romance there would be no problem about the hero being in the heroine's bedroom, but even in innocent extenuating circumstances it was an issue back in the early 19th century.

Likewise, I'm trying to walk a line between the acceptability of conduct in the country, compared to that of society in the town; and the difference there is between the conduct of a lady of noble birth and a young woman of good (but just comfortable) family - without a personal maid, or someone who can be called upon to go with her when she ventures out of the home.

If you live in a small village now, then you probably know quite a few people by name, and others perhaps only by sight.

A couple of centuries ago everyone would probably know who was who, so any seen transgression would soon be known about - and probably the subject of gossip.

In public it's relatively easy to have your characters conform to social conventions - in introductions the social 'inferior' is introduced to the person of higher status, not the other way round...

I have a facsimile reprint of the 1737 book, 'The Rudiments of Genteel Behaviour' by Francis Nivelon, and it has some plates of basic figures with a brief description - I can safely say from this instruction I could perform a reasonable curtsy. :-)

There's even an instruction for placing your hands when dancing a Minuet.

Which reminds me of an article I saw in one of the online newspapers last night that you may like to hear about.

"Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice will be turning - gracefully - 200 years old this month. To celebrate the BBC are screening a 90-minute recreation inspired by the book’s great event, the Netherfield Ball. Pride and Prejudice: Having A Ball at Easter aims provide a detailed look into the parties of the period." (Telegraph)

When I was in primary school, our winter PE lessons consisted of country dancing, and I now realise that many of those dances we did then would have been the same or similar to those danced all that time ago...

As to my writing problem, I'm just going to write it and let protocol come round in the editing process...

Monday, 14 January 2013

Competition Opportunity- But Read the Terms and Conditions...

First day of my resolution to write a minimum number of words each week- I should add I'm not counting my blog posts in that figure, otherwise I would manage my target every Monday
morning... :-)

I was having a quick browse on Twitter this morning and saw details of a new competition 'Racy Reads' on ITV's 'Lorraine'. ITV  and Mills and Boon are running a competition for new writing talent, with the winner having their book published, and a trip to the USA to meet Jackie Collins...

Sounds great doesn't it?

I'm all in favour of encouraging new talent with competitions, but however attractive it seems on the surface ALWAYS READ AND UNDERSTAND THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS.

First to the basics. The competition runs from today, the 14th January, and closes at 12pm on the 28th January.

To start with you need to submit the first 1,000 words of your 'Racy Reads' novel. It can be done online, but - "Please note that an entry of 50 words or more over or under the 1000 word limit may be disqualified at the discretion of the producers."

The really important thing to note, is that "Entrants must be able to complete the novel with a 50,000 minimum word count by 5 June 2013 at the latest."

You can read about the selection criteria (among other elements ) in the terms and conditions here.

From the shortlist, up to ten finalists will be selected and they will need to attend a London location to meet a new final judging panel:

 "to present their submission, explain their storyline for a full novel should they be the winner and talk through the plot of their book, where it is heading and what will happen to the characters."

With me so far...

There will be a winner and two runners-up. The winning story will be available from Monday 15 July 2013 to Thursday 25 July 2013. Along with that comes six copies of their book and a £1,000 advance payment.
Plus there's " a three-night trip for the winner and a companion to Los Angeles, USA to have lunch with Jackie Collins. The lunch will be filmed for and broadcast on the programme."

Now to the nitty gritty general terms. And this is where I was really disappointed that they felt it necessary to include such terms. Hence my warning earlier on.

(The Promoter in this case is ITV, while Mills and Boon are the Prize Provider.)

"By making an entry and participating in this competition, you grant the Promoter permission to use the entry in any way it wants in relation to the Promotion. This means that, in relation to the Promotion, the Promoter can use, edit, reproduce, record, modify, translate, distribute, play, perform, broadcast, make available and display your entry and/or participation (or part thereof) and/or prepare derivative works of the entry and/or participation (without prejudice to any rights acquired by the Prize Provider) by any medium or method whether now known or later developed, including without limitation on the website or any other website in its sole discretion anywhere in the world. The Promoter may permit third parties to use the entry. You acknowledge that (unless you win the Prize) you will not receive any fee or royalty payment from the Promoter, the Prize Provider or any third party for the consents and grants given by you in relation to your entry and/or participation."

And a little further down; " You agree to waive any moral rights that may exist in relation to your entry and/or participation."

Sadly there will be unwary writers who will not understand that those terms mean they are giving up all their rights to that submission by entering.

Yes, this competition is a great opportunity, but remember only the winner gets paid for their hard work.

Yes, you are only giving up those 1,000 words by entering, but if your book is almost complete and you then give away those first 1,000 words, you're giving yourself an unnecessary headache.

If your story is good enough for Mills and Boon, then go through the normal submission process. I've been told by writers who know personally, that they are encouraging to potential authors.

On their website you can find information for aspiring M&B authors, here and also the submission details.

If you enter this competition with your eyes open to all the terms and conditions, then I do sincerely wish you good luck.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

I'm Back...Just.

Hello everyone, I'm finally feeling near normal and my head is clearer, so I can now concentrate to write and hopefully make sense...

I've done quite a bit of reading over the last two weeks, and have to say that my kobo e-reader has been a wonderful companion- thank goodness for the adjustable font size.

If you have your e-book/s on Smashwords then you'll also be likely to find it on the Kobo bookstore- so don't forget to tell your potential readers about it.
Yes, it will cost more than buying as a kindle book, but there are a lot of readers who don't have a Kindle- they want to avoid Amazon, but may instead have a Kobo, Sony or Nook e-reader, or one of the numerous types of tablet devices that you can read e-books on.

With e-books the first few chapters in a preview can make the difference in whether the  book becomes a purchase, or a potential reader is put off for ever.

Basically it's just like your first three chapters having to impress an editor or agent to make them want to read the rest of your manuscript...

I may have said this before, but I've found some of the previews I've downloaded sadly lacking, compared to others. And the lacking ones were not always the self-published e-books.

If the accompanying blurb (whatever the fiction genre) interests me, then I'll download the preview; if I like that, then I'll buy the book. Sadly I've found, in a dozen books so far this month, the blurb promised much, but the writing wasn't engaging- to me personally.

So here's a few of my recent purchases after reading the previews: 'The Real Katie Lavender' by Erica James; 'A Winter's Tale' by Trisha Ashley (I've bought a few of her previous Christmas tales and enjoyed them, but this was a little different ); and an Agatha Christie, Miss Marple short story, 'Strange Jest'.

I've also bought and read a few short stories and novellas by some of my favourite romance authors, and story collections by other blogging writers, and this is where e-books do come into their own.

Short stories, or collections of short stories, and novellas- which wouldn't have been considered by a print publisher unless you were a 'name', are now able to reach a wider (and appreciative) audience via e-books.

Writer Maggie Cobbett has just released her first collection of short stories on the theme of murder with a humorous edge- 'Anyone for Murder And Other Crime Stories' on Kindle. One reviewer said they were the sort of stories you could read in 5-8 minutes when you didn't have time for a full chapter of a book, and they do have a 'twist in the tale'.

Digital has giving writers opportunities that previously they could only dream about.

No, it isn't easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is...

Friday, 4 January 2013

Everything on Hold for a Few Days...

The wretched bugs that my family got over Christmas hit me with a sledge-hammer a couple of days ago.
If any of you have this cough/cold/headache bug going round please take it seriously. I was so ill yesterday afternoon I honestly thought I was going to need to go to the local hospital...

At least I feel a little more human after a second visit to the doctor... :)

So I'm going to be taking a couple of extra days off, staying warm and getting the family to do my regular shopping tasks.

I have a good supply of e-books to read in the meantime.

I've also just got my first royalty statement for the One Word Anthology- I've not earned much, but I can afford a chocolate bar... As the book was only launched in mid-November, it's a start; it was important to help the charity, beside getting some of my work published- and giving Serena an airing, as well as actually being able to say I had a book out in 2012...

If anyone knows of bloggers, or blog review sites that might be approached to see if they would consider reviewing the anthology, please let me know, so I can pass the details on. Or e-mail me at my contact address on the right. Thanks.

I wish you a bug free New Year, and thank you for all the kind wishes for 2013.

See you next week...

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Amazon Has No Right to Decide "Perceived" "Close Personal Relationship" for Reviews

You'll all remember last year's 'sock puppetry' scandal, when it was revealed that RJ Ellory had been leaving bad reviews on rivals books on Amazon; while others had been leaving good reviews on their books using alternative names/e-mail addresses.

Most writers would not be so unethical as to deliberately give bad reviews to fellow writers' books. Basically they would give an honest review good or bad, or if it's really bad, tell the author privately, if they can.

But now it seems Amazon have applied a sledgehammer approach and are taking it upon themselves to decide writers' close relationships with fellow writers of the same genre.

I think we all thought the reviews that were being removed before Christmas on were aimed at self-published or independent publishers, where friends and fellow writers were likely to post reviews-usually after reading the book.

But it seems 'names' are annoyed too.

Today's Bookseller online has a piece, 'Authors Angry over Amazon review crackdown' worth reading- if you haven't already.

I missed this Telegraph article over Christmas on the subject.

Amazon seem to have decided that they are going to judge whether the writer of a review is "perceived" to have a "close personal relationship" with rivals.

On what basis do they decide that one person appears to have a close personal relationship with the writer of a book they've reviewed?

Do they define it by the other person following and commenting on your blog, or website, or perhaps talking to you on Facebook? Or do you have to actually have met them in real life- and there's online photographic evidence?

Have Amazon never heard of workshops and writing conferences?
A lot of writers become friends at such events and keep in touch, even though they may have never met them before, or never meet them again, merely exchange comments on social media.

If I was considering buying a book on the basis of the reviews, I'm more likely to find the reviews posted are by fellow writers from within the same genre, or genuine fans of the writer's work- who aren't going to say it's good when it really is bad, and can highlight the strengths and weaknesses.

Why should Amazon decide my views on a book/genre aren't valid merely because they could consider I have a "perceived" "close personal relationship" with a writer of the same genre?

If Amazon want to be stupid then they will have to realise, some people will stop posting reviews and will post them on other numerous book sites, and sales may follow.

One writer on Facebook yesterday complained a good review on her book had been removed. It had been posted by the partner of someone she knew, though she herself didn't know the person who'd done the review, the book had been a Christmas gift and absolutely nothing to do with the author in any way. CORRECTION: The circumstances were a misunderstanding on my part and I apologise to the writer involved. It appears the reviewer stated that the book had been a present from his partner.
But the case still stands as the author had no connection with either the buyer, or reviewer.

If Amazon wants reviewers to declare if they know the person whose book they have reviewed, I would have no problem with that.

Publishers send review copies of new books out. Perhaps newspaper book sections should start carrying a warning, 'this review is the result of a free review copy'. But I don't see this happening anytime soon...

Have you found previously published Amazon reviews of your books missing?

What do you think of this situation?

Or just share your thoughts...