27 Aug 2012

First Lines Challenge

At the last Storyslingers meeting, I set everyone a challenge to come up with up to five opening sentences to stories they've never written. These sentences are currently being compiled into a masterlist of first line prompts. You can find the list on our prompts page. Definitely worth checking out if you're looking for inspiration, or you just want to oil the writing hinges.

There are all sorts of opening sentences: fun, frightening, mysterious, serious, literary, tongue-in-cheek. Here are a few to wet your whistle:
  • The suddenly ability of apples to fall upwards and for water to boil as it cooled should have perplexed me enormously, but instead it left me slightly aroused.
  • Roland Boyle had been digging for spare change, but he didn't expect to find a razor blade hidden within his pocket lint.
  • The floorboards creaked and the shutters flapped like trapped souls against the windows; the house had been waiting for me.
  • The six members of the village committee stood staring at the bloodied carcass lying in front of them.
Feel free to send us your opening sentences (either post them in the comments to this entry, or email them to joliverdesigns(at)gmail(dot)com. There are two rules: the sentence is written by you, and it has not been used in a story already.

22 Aug 2012

About Literary Agents

There have been a few misconceptions about agents--what they are, what they do, whether they cost or not, how it all works, etc--so I thought it would be good to briefly clarify a few points in case anyone is still unsure.

The number one factor you should be mindful of when searching for an agent is this:

You should not pay agents to represent you / look at your work.
If an agent asks you to pay them up front to read your manuscript or represent you,
run away. Quickly.

The agent gets paid when you sell your book to a publisher. An agent will take a cut out of your royalties that the publisher pays you. Usually this is around 15% - 20% (it can vary, depending where in the world you are and who you sign with).

Again, be extremely wary of agents that ask for payment up front. They could be frauds. If you're not sure, there are a number of excellent websites that list known fraud agencies. Writer Beware is probably the best.

So what are agents and what do they do? Jane Friedman says it clearly and concisely on her website:

In today's market, probably 80 percent of books that the New York publishing houses acquire are sold to them by agents. Agents are experts in the publishing industry. They have inside contacts with specific editors and know better than writers what editor or publisher would be most likely to buy a particular work. 

Perhaps most important, agents negotiate the best deal for you, ensure you are paid accurately and fairly, and run interference when necessary between you and the publisher.

It's also advisable to ask an agent who else they represent. Or, you can research this online. Agents unwilling to mention any of their authors by name or any recent sales could be dodgy.

Be wary of agents who refer you to an editing service you have to pay for. As sff.net says:

There is, however, a common scam where the agent recommends an editorial service. There's a good chance the service is paying the agent a kickback to make that recommendation.

Also be watchful for "vanity presses" who expect you to pay them to publish you.

It should be noted that you do not necessarily need an agent. It depends on what publishing route you prefer to take, as well as the type of work you're trying to sell. Not everybody wants an agent or a traditional publisher, and there are other options available, such as self-publishing and e-publishing.

15 Aug 2012

Storyslingers launches its first open competition: Maps!

Map Making Competition

Every story is set somewhere and it’s the writer’s job to immerse their reader fully into that fictional world. How are we to write convincing worlds if we do not know our way around them? 

We challenge any budding writer*/ artist out there to draw a map of their fictional world. It doesn’t have to encompass the entire world, it can be a small part of it; a city/ borough/ street, an island, a country or county, a building-plan etc. 

Please email your map to us at zomzara@googlemail.com with Map Making Competition as the subject. Make sure the file isn’t massive, send it as a jpeg 72dpi. Keep a print-version at hand because we’d like to pin some of the best maps up at Shaftesbury Arts Centre (we’ll contact you about this). The winner will be featured on our blog and within Shaftesbury Arts Centre and Shaftesbury Arts Festival on 5th-9th Sept. 

We will be publishing the winning map online, so if your world is top-secret then maybe keep it under wraps for now and submit it next time. 

The world/ location must be your own. We don’t want to see lots of renditions of Hogwarts.

The closing date is Friday the 31st August, so get your colouring pencils out and start drafting! 

Further info:

We don’t take ourselves too seriously, so we don’t expect you to either. We’re not concerned about intricacies of scale or worried over the physics of your world. If it looks cool, we’ll be happy. Inspire us, excite us. 

*Wait, you’re not even a writer? But you like to dream up worlds and make maps? – okay, that’s cool, go for it and submit. Maybe one of us writers will like your world and want to team up with you and write a story set in your world. Our writers are always on the lookout for things that will spark the next story, so we’d love to find a new world to write about. 

More information and examples of already published maps can be found here http://www.facebook.com/events/341655955921155/ 

7 Aug 2012

Storyslingers First Story Slam

After a rainy month of preparations and organisation, the sun finally shone on Shaftesbury for Storyslingers’ first ever Story Slam. Writers from all over Dorset came to Shaftesbury Arts Centre, some to compete, others to listen and network. The Rutter room was packed out, over spilling and babbling with excitement. We’d jazzed the room up with drapes of colourful fabric, projected Dan Morison’s mecha cowboys on a wall and set up our handmade bookstall, spread with the finest of local book art and writing.

We had Daniel Frisby as compere who slickly guided is through the evening. Our first reader was James Broomfield who read a quirky story set in rural Devon following a man seeking a brotherhood. He thinks he’s found it when he discovers a society of beard-trimming smokers. Yes, you read that right; beard smokers. James’ story was wonderfully crafted, sharply observed, original, funny and thought-provoking. The evening was most certainly off to a good start. The following readers didn’t let the quality drop. Each story was different, but all at an impressive professional standard.

I’m glad I didn’t have to judge these stories, they were all so unique and brilliant. Fortunately we had two exceptional judges, award-winning novelist Allie Spencer (four novels published with Arrow. http://www.alliespencer.com/) and flash fiction expert and columnist at What the Dickens Magazine, Gail Aldwin. (http://gailaldwin.wordpress.com) We enjoyed some amazing live music from the Wrongo Bongo Band while the judges got busy conferring. This four-piece band play an extraordinary variety of instruments, from a berimbau to a didgeridoo; “The Wrongo Bongo Band has to be the most entertaining group of whacky musicians we’ve ever heard” –Andy Hamilton. Mike’s didgeridoo solo comprised of him holding up signs with Australian animals inscribed upon them, and then ingeniously imitating their sounds through the didgeridoo. 

(this is a photo of the band taken from their facebook page, click here. 

While the band built an exotic vibe, we continued to sell our handmade books, met new writing friends and discussed all the amazing stories we’d heard so far. Then the judges returned and Gail Aldwin got up on stage to read her story Dusting Off the Memories (published in Dorset Voices anthology, Roving Press) , beautifully written and read. Next up was Jennifer K Oliver’s richly described Steampunk story, then my own reading of a story I’d read the week before at London’s Southbank Centre. Dan Frisby told a beautiful allegorical Hare and Tortoise style tale set in the foothills of a Japanese mountain. Mountains seemed to be the unofficial theme, with my story entitled Mount Analogue, and a quote from Rene Daumal’s novel of the same title featured in the programme. Finally, Hamish Sinclair was drawn from the Lucky Dip and read a beautifully lyrical story making wonderful use of language.

With the evening drawing in and all the stories told, the judges came up on stage and gave their feedback to the six competitors.  Both judges were impressed by the quality of writing and the diversity of subject matter. “Allie was a great person to deliberate with in finding the winner and runner-up, particularly as the standard of all the stories was very high. We finally agreed that James Broomfield’s story should win due to its extraordinary content (about a man trying to find his brotherhood in North Devon by experimenting with smoking beard trimmings).  Technically the writing was superb with a strong and unique voice.  Runner up came Andy Hamilton’s ‘Stage Fright’ a classic ugly duckling scenario told in a fresh way.” -  Gail Aldwin.

James won a beautiful set of correspondence cards printed by Bath-based fine stationers, Meticulous Ink. “Each card has been lovingly letterpress printed on an 1870 Model No.4 press using only the finest oil based inks. We use cotton papers from local paper mills here in Somerset and our hand lined deckle edge envelopes give these cards that extra special touch.” – Meticulous Ink. This prize was kindly donated by Meticulous Ink. You can buy their correspondence cards via etsy: http://www.etsy.com/shop/MeticulousInk

Everyone was awarded with some amazing bookmarklets, made by our very own Jennifer K Oliver. The evening wrapped up with more music from the Wrongo Bongo Band, some networking and book buying.

Watch this space for the second slam, probably sometime in early 2013.