Blog 35: Ten Tips On Writing A Short Story.

Outlet Publishing and their team have kindly asked me to help judge their short story competition, and even though I haven’t written a short story myself, yet, and I’m certainly no expert. I am an avid reader and I have been through the writing and publication process, so I do feel in my humble opinion that I have a basic understanding of what works and what doesn’t.

Over the past two months I have read dozens of entries written by young, hopeful candidates. Some have been very good, others not so, but as the entries have been piling up around me I have noticed similarities and reoccurring patterns. The same mistakes have been cropping up again and again, and there appears to be a preference towards particular genres and themes. The latter is neither strictly bad nor good, but the former is most definitely bad. With this in mind, I am going to share with you some insight into what I feel short story competition judges are looking for, and hopefully help you and your short stories shoot to the top of the winning pile.

 

Tip Number 1: Read The Rules.

This may seem obvious, but make sure you read the competition’s specifications, rules and guidelines. I don’t know if it was because candidates couldn’t be bothered to read the rules or if they simply misread them, but a couple of the short story submissions I have recently received didn’t sit within the required word count. Judges may be able to forgive a word count that falls 10% above or below the maximum and minimum requirement, but if your story is more than 10% above or below then don’t submit it. Also, some competitions state a specific age range or country of residence, so make sure you read everything carefully before submitting your work.

Tip Number 2: Quality Over Quantity. read more »

Blog 34: Hello to 2017.

A warm hello to everyone!

Since this is the first Diary of a Young Writer blog of 2017, I hope you had a happy Christmas and a great New Year. Despite 2016 being a pretty bad year for a lot of people, I can actually say that my 2016 was pretty good, though that’s only when I ignore the political world.

2016 held a number of firsts for me, some of them were difficult and others I ploughed on ahead like an unstoppable steam train. I finally moved away from home, I reread my first published novel again and actually enjoyed it, and I’m being paid to do what I love. I also read forty different fictional novels during the year, just six shy from the previous year. read more »

Blog 31: Working in a Second Hand Bookshop

I have recently read George Orwell’s essay ‘Bookshop Memories’ – the cynic in me was delighted. I’ve been working in a second hand bookshop part-time for the past couple of months and even though I haven’t come across all the types of customers Orwell describes, it’s safe to say I had little trouble imagining them.

I can understand honestly Orwell’s frustrations, but I think his account is somewhat unfair and not quite so accurate nowadays, though I guess time may change my mind. I do believe that you have to be a certain kind of person to enjoy working with books, and although I’d struggle to describe that type of person, even to myself, I can tell you what type of person it most definitely isn’t. read more »

Blog 30: I Wish I Were More Creative…

typing-creative-bmpHave you ever heard a friend, a family member, or even perhaps a stranger wishing out loud that they were more creative? Or maybe you’ve heard some of these excuses: ‘but I’m not creative like you’ or ‘I’m terrible at drawing’ or ‘I don’t have the time to play a musical instrument?’ Yet, these are the very people who will often look on at a piece of art or watch a musical performance with a mixture of awe, jealousy and yearning?

If you grew up in an academic environment, surrounded by people who attended public schools and colleges, then it’s likely that your view on what being creative means falls into the narrow fields of those who can paint and those who can play an instrument. It’s also likely that you were guided away from creative pursuits unless they somehow benefitted you academically. I know this because I went through the exact same schooling system several years ago. I’m not sure if much has really changed since then with public schools and colleges, and I don’t know enough about state schools (also known as public schools outside of the UK) or state colleges to comment.

What I do know is that there appears to be a common misconception that it is almost impossible to get a job in the creative industry or make your way in the world as an artist, read more »

Blog 29: A Witch, a Wizard, and a Changeling.

blog-29

It’s that time of year again when it’s great if you’re a kid, sociable if you’re a teen, and usually pretty sucky if you’re an adult. Yes, of course, I’m talking about Halloween.

As much as I love kids (and dressing-up), I can think of better ways to spend my evening which doesn’t involve getting up to answer the door every five minutes. To all you poor souls who don’t have a table booked or a cinema viewing or another excuse to avoid the house, all I can offer you is a blog and some book recommendations to help you fill the minutes between grazing the candy bowl and answering the front door.

I don’t have any horrors for you with these next three novels but scroll down to the bottom of this blog for some scarier suggestions. However, for the spookiest day of the year, I do have a Witch, a Wizard, and a Changeling… read more »

Blog 28: An Interview with ‘The Brunswick Saga Series’ Author E. K. Barnes

e-k-barnesQ1) In one or two sentences, how would you describe your Brunswick Saga series to someone who hasn’t read any of your work?

The Brunswick Saga series follows the lives of six siblings following the death and neglect of a parent. Each book in the series mainly focuses on one of the six and their struggles as time goes on.

Q2) How long did it take for you to finish and publish your recent work?

It took a little over a year and a half to write and publish the second book of the series (A Sister’s Imposition), which was released in March 2016.

Q3) Have you always wanted to write and when did you first discover that you wanted to write?

read more »

Blog 27: An Overnight Stay in Wigtown

wigtown

Admittedly my trip to Wigtown was booked rather last minute dot com. I had been meaning to visit Scotland’s National Book Town for some time, but between searching for properties and moving out, I hadn’t gotten around to it. Then there came a two week lull where all the agreements had been signed but my new flat was left waiting for broadband. Since my work is all home-based and requires the internet, there was little I could do, so I decided that this was the perfect time to book an overnight trip to Wigtown.

I went online, searched for places to stay in Wigtown, and quickly found a great priced room available for one night at the Hillcrest House B&B. My goal in Wigtown was to be nosy, get a general feel for the place, and go around all the book shops and dig the owners’ brains for any tips and advice for anyone who is thinking about setting up a book shop for the first time. (I also personally aimed to buy a book from every book shop in the town.)

Now for those of you who don’t know, Wigtown is a little town in the Dumfries and Galloway region in the Southwest of Scotland. It has a population of around 1,000 people and is home to several, independent, second-hand book shops. Now this may not seem like a lot at first glance, but it means there’s one book shop or book café for every 100 residents. To put this into perspective, Edinburgh would probably read more »

Blog 26: I Met The Devil on a Road Trip.

devils-bridge

The Devil is a popular character. He, she, or it, appears in literature all the time; Dante’s Inferno, Good Omens, Waywalkers, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea to name a few. However, when and where humanity first developed the idea of ‘The Devil’ is difficult to pinpoint, and whether or not ‘The Devil’ actually exists is an argument that most of us are happy to leave to the philosophers and theologists. One thing is for certain though, The Devil has been around for a long time and this character won’t be disappearing anytime soon. In fact with technology today, this character is as close to immortality as it will ever get. Unless humanity is wiped out by an asteroid, nuclear weapons, the inevitable death of the solar system, greedy politicians, or a combination of everything that I just mentioned.

I have lived in the UK all my life but sadly, I haven’t really seen very much of it. I put this down to my terrible ‘small-talk’ skills, lack of funds, and an aversion to driving my metal box amongst other, bigger and superior metal boxes. Still, needs must, I have patient friends, and society demands that I see daylight hours, so I do venture out into the outside world.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve driven up and down the Northern part of the M6 read more »

Blog 25: An Interview with ‘Consensus Breaking’ author, M.S. Dobing

Consensus Breaking 2

Q1) In one or two sentences, how would you describe your novel ‘Consensus Breaking’ to someone who hasn’t read any of your previous work?

Think an urban fantasy of the Matrix! It’s the sequel in the Auran Chronicles, and follows a young protagonist — Seb — who’s pulled into a secret world within our own where sheol (terrifying daemons that can possess humans) battle the warriors and mages of the Brotherhood and Magistry. In Consensus Breaking the fallout from the events of book one continue, with Seb and his alllies facing a new foe that not only serves as an entirely new level of adventure and threat, but also  serves to delve deeper into the underlying mythology and scale of the Auran Chronicles universe.

Q2) How long did it take for you to finish and publish ‘Consensus Breaking’?

It took about 6 months, which included first draft, multiple edits, a professional edit, and then final rewrite.

Q3) Have you always wanted to write and when did you first discover that you wanted to write? read more »

Blog 22: Reactions Make Stories Believable!

Emotions

Have you ever read a book where a character does or says something that seems to be completely bizarre? I don’t mean a plot-twist, I mean when a character literally does not follow ‘normal human behaviour’ causing the story to lose its believability and you, as the reader, end up questioning what planet the author was living on when they wrote their book? Unfortunately this seems to happen from time to time and it can cause readers to lose interest in, or give up on, a book entirely.

As much as every person is unique and reacts differently to different situations, and of course you will always have the anomalies (or rather the few that don’t behave like the majority), sometimes characters react in ways that you just cannot fathom, and when this happens your brain will point out everything that it views as flaws. Sometimes this is down to the individual reader but often it is the author’s fault, whether it be poor writing, or poor structural editing, or a seemingly lack of understanding in basic human reactions. Sometimes authors write sentences, paragraphs and even chapters that your brain just cannot get on board with. Before I go further, it is important to point out here that not everyone will enjoy or understand a particular book, everyone has different tastes, and even the famous authors receive bad reviews. read more »