Tuesday 28 May 2013

In the Mood for Short Stories...

After three days of lovely sunshine and warmth it's back to cool and wet weather- it's also half term so everyone is around and there's the accompanying noise that goes with it, so the novella has gone on hold for a week...

I have a couple of short story ideas that I want to work on - jotting down points and character notes doesn't require quiet (fortunately).

I've got a few months worth of Woman's Weekly Fiction Specials to read too.

But I have a deadline for one story for Wednesday of next week.

At the writers' club we have a quarterly prose competition and the Spring prose deadline is next week.

Now for this story the judge has asked we include 3 things- a tin of treacle, the weather and a bird. I have been pondering these items for the last 10 weeks and coming up with various ideas, but nothing was quite right, until the sunny weather arrived the other day and my brain went into overdrive and began creating a back story for my character...

Having had further thoughts this morning I can see it has potential to be (another) longer story, but I think I can rein this one in and keep it within the maximum length- 2,000 words.

Before I go I just want to put in a mention for Rosemary Gemmell's new novella that is launched today 'The Aphrodite Touch' as Romy Gemmell  and published by Tirgearr Publishing, an Irish independent.

Do pop in to Rosemary's Reading and Writing blog to help her celebrate, and for a chance to win a free e-copy...

Friday 24 May 2013

DC Thomson contract- see Simon Says...

Just wanted to let anyone know that there's a very helpful blog post by writer Simon Whaley who asked the Society of Authors to look at the contract sent him.

It's a long post but you will find it worth the time to read- especially overseas writers who may find specific issues for their circumstances.

'DC Thomson: Me, The Society of Authors, and a DC Thomson Editor.'

Sally Quilford is following up on the Pocket Novel aspects, so look out for her posts...

And there is a post by Sally on the large print issue, here.

Wednesday 22 May 2013

More on the Contract Issue...

Following on from the concerns raised by writers on the new DC Thomson contracts- which I mentioned in my last post- Womag has received a response with clarification from Shirley Blair, who is the fiction editor at People's Friend.

You can read it on Womag's latest post, here.

I don't think it acceptable to re-use a writers work without further payment- unless the fee you're paid initially is increased to reflect that fact.

Interestingly the new contract has a much wider reach:

"Our legal department decided that it was necessary to develop new contributor terms that apply right across our publishing business and are relevant to magazines, newspapers and digital publishing."

So this will effect not only the Scottish newspapers they produce, but also The Weekly News, The People's Friend, My Weekly, Beano, The Official Jacqueline Wilson Mag, teen magazine Shout, and Dandy Extreme, The Scots Magazine, and Animals and You- aimed at the younger market.

There's been an explanation of the Clause 8 concern. But saying there will be an" additional payment" if a collection is done, which suggests it will be a one-off payment and not royalties.

And the Joint Contributions aspect will certainly have a knock-on effect. The large print publishers who print previously published pocket novels (that are often in libraries and earn PLR) will now find they can't just use them as before, because they can only have the writers original, not the edited for publication version...

They will answer questions and concerns about the new contracts, which is good.

But, the new contracts are not negotiable, so if you don't sign it, they won't buy your work.

So it will now be down to individual writers to decide whether they sign the contract and continue to be paid for their work, or they don't sign and lose an income source...

Monday 20 May 2013

Understanding Issues...

Last week went so quickly and I was trying to get so much done that I missed any blog posts.

Plus a trip to the dentist on Friday for root canal work just makes me glad I don't live in the 18th/19th century with the dentistry of the time...

Finally got some more of the novella completed; these last chapters are certainly picking up the pace as the past starts to unfold and there's trouble afoot.

Originally the novella was being written for the pocket novel market, but then changes were made to what was wanted- 20th century onwards.

DC Thomson (who produce the My Weekly Pocket Novels and those by People's Friend) have been a topic for discussion re rights and contracts over the weekend.

Apparently they are sending out new contracts to writers and the new terms have caused a few upsets.

Now I'm a great believer in not giving up your rights, or limiting your rights, unless you are paid an adequate amount to compensate, so I was interested in what the issues involved were.

So let me refer you to Womagwriter's blog post from Friday. Womag has seen an actual contract...

Okay, I've not been in a position to be offered a contract by DCT so I'm not a writer who finds themselves faced with agreeing to such terms or losing a portion of their regular income.

But it does rather seem they want a nice portfolio of stories they can use again and again in assorted media without paying more for it.

And as for that restrictive Clause 8: " In the case of a collection of your contributions where you are the sole or majority author in book form, you commit to offering the Company the right to first refusal to publish any such collection in any format... such an arrangement would be subject to new contractual terms..."

(Now, I am not a lawyer, so this is only my personal opinion of how that clause reads.)

So they can say, yes we want to publish your collection. But if you don't like the contractual terms they're offering, and you can't negotiate on those terms to your satisfaction, then it's goodbye to you publishing your collection yourself, unless they turn down your offer...

Some years ago I read an interview with an author who had been contracted for a second book. The publisher didn't like the second book presented to them, but being bound by the contract she could not offer that book to anyone else...it does sound like it could be a potentially similar scenario...

Writing is a business, and we mustn't lose sight of that fact.
The publisher wants to get the best deal they can, and so does the writer. Sadly the writer is usually the one who loses and ends up doing all the hard work to promote their story/novel for less financial return.

(Is it any wonder that self-publishing to Kindle/Smashwords is thriving?)

We all know that magazines are struggling.

The elusive younger end of the market do everything online (and admittedly not just the young nowadays)- or so it seems. With Smart Phones and iPads, magazines are actively pushing digital subscriptions, as print figures for many magazines drop...

While these are not magazines with short story markets, Bauer have closed 'More' magazine; and 'Full House' is closing too. I've also heard that glossy 'Easy Living' is on the way out...

Could changes in contracts be an advance sign that magazines are trying to build potential collateral that could make the difference between them closing, or being bought out by another publisher?

In the world outside publishing, if a business fails it has more chance of being bought out or taken over if it has an order book/a market; publishing is no different.

But I do worry that if DCT's contract doesn't get revised, then other publishers will start to go that way too, and that won't be good for any writer...

As a last word on rights, you might like to peruse "Authors and book rights – some more truths" - from the futurebook.net website- a digital blog from The Bookseller- it was taking too long to load as a link, so I've just included the name here.

As writers we need to protect our rights, so if you aren't clear on the subject start reading up- there are numerous rights you hold and unless you understand them, you could be signing away a potential source of income.

If you have any thought on this issue, or rights generally, then do please leave a comment.

Monday 13 May 2013

My Workshop Experience- Writing for Children...

First, I must say a big thank you to Ann Evans who ran the workshop for Nottingham Writers' Club on Saturday.

It was only a group of 10, but it did mean we could ask lots of questions as we went along.

Now I don't write for children, but sometimes I do need to have children in my stories- as Sarah, the heroine in my novella is having memory flashes and dreams/nightmares from when she was a child, I'd been finding it very difficult to convey the thoughts and language of a 10-12 year when she's experiencing these moments.

So I was hoping that elements of the workshop would help me get a grip on that.

We began with picture books and worked up...

I learnt that the pages are spreads, so if you open the book and have two pages in front of you, that is a spread.

I'd never really thought about how you would lay out a manuscript for a picture book, but it is nothing like a standard manuscript; it's broken up into stages, so the editor knows what the visual clues are (for the illustrator) and the text for each page...

The language use and sentence construction needed for the younger age range proved that it is as hard work as a longer length work.

There was discussion on the skills needed for producing stories suitable for older children who have a lower reading ability. The exciting stories required by their age, but the text not being as complex as you'd usually get. These are referred to as Hi-lo stories.

Writing for young adults did seem to be popular- and it is an expanding market...

There were exercises to do and it was the last set that gave me the breakthrough with Sarah.
We did bullet points about our character- character traits and so on. But we had to include their aim- either for the day or their life, and the thing they fear.

Now Sarah fears storms, so that was easy enough. But as I slowly began to tune into Sarah as a child, I recalled my own care-free childhood around the same age, and like most children wanted to grow-up to be like my mum.
In the past life wasn't as complex as today, so our parents were our role models, who we aspired to be like, so I'm sure Sarah would have felt the same...

As the exercise progressed I found there was a depth to Sarah I hadn't been aware of, and in doing so I discovered why she is so concerned about an aspect of her friends lives in the present.

I will certainly be doing this again, with one of my secondary characters who is a bit two-dimensional at the moment. I haven't quite found the key to him...

We had a variety of discussions, including age ranges and book lengths. Nothing seems hard and fast with lengths, as a publisher may have specific requirements for a particular country/market.

So generally: Ann suggested; picture books approximately 300 words.

4-5 year old- books with line drawings, 1,800-2,000 words or less. At this point parents will be reading the book to their child/children, and then the children will eventually be able to read the book themselves.

7-9 years old- 12,000-25,000 as an average.

9-12 years old- 25,000-60,000.

But clearly every child is different. Consider how many younger age range children were reading Harry Potter tomes- each book seemed to get thicker with a larger word count than the previous one...

While I may never write books for children, I'm not going to forget that the back story of each of my main characters includes their childhood influences and experiences.

After all our childhood is a part of who we become later...

Friday 10 May 2013

No Time to Procratinate...

I've had one of those busy weeks, so my normal routine has been grabbing a break; but it will be back to the novella on Monday...

Saturday I'm leaving my OH and the family at home while I do a one day workshop being run by the writers' club- Writing for Children - is it kids stuff?  With author Ann Evans.

Although writing for children is not my preference I know I will still find many aspects useful.

In my novella, my heroine Sarah is starting to have nightmares and dreams, which are actually memories - except they are memories of when she was ten years old.

So I'm hoping I will learn something to help me recreate the younger Sarah.

I'll tell you about the workshop next week...

Enjoy the weekend.

Crime Time - Win a Trip to Harrogate Crime Festival

Constable&Robinson, publishers, have a website (C&R Crime) dedicated to crime fiction whether it's cosy or mainstream...

Have a look here.

They are also holding a competition for you to win a weekend in Harrogate- home of the Crime Festival.

You have the chance to win 3 nights bed and breakfast accommodation for two, only five minutes walk from the festival venue.

The winner also gets two Rover tickets to the festival for all events, except the dinner event on the Saturday evening.

There's a goody bag- books.

And you really need to read the details of what's included, follow this link.

Of course you'll need to pay to get there if you win, but I know it's often accommodation costs on top of travel costs that make attending big events impossible.

If you enter, fingers crossed and good luck. :-)

Thursday 2 May 2013

A Long Wait but Worth It...

Last November I wrote a 500 word flash fiction for the Autumn prose competition at Nottingham Writers' Club.

We'd been fortunate to have the wonderful Sally Quilford setting and judging this flash fiction competition. Sally had done a mini workshop in the summer on the subject, so the competition was an opportunity to show what we'd learnt with our entries.

When the competition opened I had three months before the final submission date, and I had a few ideas rolling around my brain to fit the theme of 'A Christmas Visit'.

My first idea was a parent visiting their baby in a neonatal unit on Christmas morning. That thought was inspired by my own memories of going to see my premature triplets in hospital on Christmas Day- they were only a few weeks old at that point.

But I couldn't write it, the words wouldn't form, the emotions too deep to catch and share with my characters.

The weeks went on and the deadline approached.

Then a vague idea that had been lingering began to demand attention. What if you had to go and deliver the sad news of a death at Christmas? And bad weather hampered the task too (heavy snow).
And because I inevitably write romances, how would the messenger feel if they are giving that bad news to someone they have been in love with for years?

Generally we think of good things happening at Christmas, but we know that isn't reality, and that must have happened in the 19th century too. But the story could still have a positive ending.

I settled down and wrote about 550 words, cutting and changing to get it to the 500 word limit.

Then I realised that it was just an advance snippet of a longer story- this usually happens with my short stories, I just can't keep them small, they all want to be full scale productions... :-)

Then disaster struck, in the New Year we discovered the entries had never reached the judge, so we had to re-run the competition- and a big thank you to Sally for having fitted the new judging dates into her busy writing schedule.

So last night at the May speaker meeting, the results were finally announced, and my entry 'A Second Chance' won.

It will be turned into a longer story.

The judge's comments:

(I chose the pseudonym, Fiona Faddy for my entry)

"I chose the first prize winner, A Second Chance by Fiona Faddy because I’m a sucker for unrequited love! Fiona packed so much emotion in to so few words. The opening lines immediately set the scene and let us know we were in the past. The ending was just sweet!"

If I hadn't been intending to use the piece in future, I would have posted it here. But I hope you'll get the opportunity to read it when the longer story is completed- and hopefully published somewhere...

image courtesy of Stuart Miles www.freedigitalphotos.net.