27 Feb 2013

Getting Published

After several months of effort I have finally had my first story published, which you can find at www.everydayfiction.com/understanding-by-peter-jump. Here is a brief account of how it all happened...

In the first half of  2012 I'd concentrated on entering competitions. But after seeing a lot of money fly out of my PayPal account and nothing come back in I had started to lose interest in this area. In fact, it was comments from Jennifer Oliver at Storyslingers about her preferring to have her work published rather than pay to enter a comp that nudged me to try selling my work instead.

My first step was to identify likely publications for my style of writing using the Duotrope website (another suggestion from J Oliver). I then submitted stories in the specified formats. Some publishers responded within days, others several weeks.

In the case of the people who have just published my story, Everydayfiction.com, the response came 90 days later, by which time I'd more or less forgotten even sending them anything. Interestingly, I received an email with a list of comments on my writing from a half-dozen people involved in the selection process - slush readers, assistant editors and the chief editor herself. The upshot was that they liked my story but wanted a few changes.

The requested amendments were both reasonable and a source of valuable feedback on my writing. However, they went beyond what I would have expected, and required me to delete the opening section and enhance other elements of the story. This actually proved fairly easy and resulted in a story which, in truth, probably was a little better than the original. (Given that they receive 15 stories a day I was surprised they would go to the trouble of asking for significant rewrites. Did they especially like my story, or is it an indication of the standard of most of the writing they receive?)

I sent back the reworked story and two weeks later was told it was accepted. The following month, 23 February, it was published on the website (and also sent  to the inboxes of thousands of subscribers).

Having my work read, commented on and rated by total strangers has been quite a thrill, and I would definitely recommend anyone who has so far only been writing for their own pleasure to give publishing a try. It costs nothing, and if you're successful you might even get paid a little something for your efforts.

Find my story, Understanding, at http://www.everydayfiction.com/understanding-by-peter-jump/

24 Feb 2013

Storyslingers is getting Social

Amidst all the group activities and new blogging faces, we've forgotten to mention our social networking venues--places you can find us on the web to connect or comment, or just keep up with what we're up to (we're a busy lot, us Storyslingers).

Storyslingers on Facebook - Our FB group has been going for a while now, and we regularly post links and info about up-coming events and news, including links to our published works. Feel free to join the group.

Storyslingers on Twitter - This is a relatively new account, so there isn't quite as much stuff up there yet, but we will be using it regularly to link to cool writing things around Dorset and news about the group. Anyone can (and should) follow!

And of course our blog, which you are reading right now (just in case you didn't, y'know, know).

We're always happy to talk to people about writing or about our group, all you have to do is poke us. And if you'd like to connect on any of these services, go right ahead!

20 Feb 2013

Surely it's all about Self-Publishing?!

For some, self-publishing is the last resort after an entourage of failed attempts at securing an agent or publisher.

For others, the idea of self-publishing completely removes the stress associated with approaching agents, and it is the option that they would take as their first choice to get their work published.

More and more, new writers are taking the route to self-publish their work, as the emergence of new media platforms increases at an alarming rate, providing a wider range of options to make their writing available in a few simple clicks.

One particular site which allows writers to publish their work in hard copy is lulu.com, where packages are available for you to completely design your book from scratch. The cover, book size, number of pages, font etcetera is all completely up to you and you can publish your book for free. You can then choose the cover price yourself, and either purchase a batch lot of your publication for you to distribute, or give people the details so that they can go directly onto the site and buy your new soon-to-be bestseller.

Whilst Lulu makes it incredibly easy for you to suddenly have a complete hardcopy of your book available in print, there are obviously some potholes which need careful navigation. Firstly, the concern of advertising and marketing is down to you. Unless you are simply satisfied with your mum and your granny buying copies, once you have created your book, the entire buzz needs to be generated by you; something which is no easy task without a little knowledge of how the marketing and advertising industry works, which unfortunately is something that most new writers simply do not have.

We all know that you should never judge a book by its cover, but let’s face it, when you are an unknown writer, that is exactly what your potential book buyers will be looking at, and so your front cover needs to be pretty much the bee’s knees, for any new readers to trust the decision to make investment in your title.

However do not despair, for all is not lost and there are other much quicker and easier ways to see your book potentially hit the big time.

With the explosion of i-pads, Kindles and tablets, Amazon have come up with a unique way of getting your title onto a hand-held screen near you. Ok, so it’s not the top shelf in Waterstones, but it’s certainly a start.

By logging onto Amazon, it only takes a few clicks to locate the link for Kindle Direct Publishing, where, in a matter of seconds, your manuscript can become a global ebook. With the option to select your preferred royalty percentage, the cover price of the book is up to you, and your book can appear on the Kindle store within a day.

This is widely becoming a fast and furious method of getting yourself noticed. As you may be aware, the author of the Fifty Shades trilogy began with uploading her book as a Kindle ebook, and after a sudden surge of popularity, E.L. James found herself with a publishing contract.

Whilst the blossoming romance of new media and technology is giving birth to lots of new writers who are paving their way in the self-published world, for me personally, it seems that there is a certain missing piece of the puzzle which remains lost through this method of publishing.

Whether it is something that you openly or secretly desire, the one piece of post that as writers we all want to see waiting in our post box, is that acceptance letter from an agent or publisher saying that rare and golden three letter word; yes.

14 Feb 2013

Map Making Competition II

FOR AN UPDATE GO HERE: http://storyslingers.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/fictional-worlds-map-making-competition.html

Last year we ran a map making competition. We tied it in with the Shaftesbury Arts Festival and so there wasn't a lot of advance notice. Lots of people contacted us to say what a cool idea it was but they didn't have enough time to do their map before the deadline. 
Well good news, chaps! We're running a second competition, this time with a nice long gap before the deadline (May 21st).  

So here's the details: 

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.

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 May 21st, 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. 

10 Feb 2013

Writing "Other Worlds" workshop

A few weeks ago, I went into a local high school and did a workshop with the Year 10 students about writing "Other Worlds". I thought I'd share some of the workshop here on our blog, as it can be helpful to all ages and stages of writing.

The first exercise was coming up with examples of other worlds.

EXERCISE #1: Come up with examples of Other Worlds you could write about. (10 minutes)
  • Fantasy worlds, set on other planets.
  • Fantasy worlds, set on our planet but in a different time (eg. Dark Ages).
  • Space; planets in other solar systems.
  • Worlds that exist on a layer beneath our own. Earth-based, alternate realities. Think: underground fairies/vampires/werewolves/etc.
  • The worlds in our own minds.
  • Dreamscapes.
  • Micro-biology. Worlds that exist in nature. Beneath the ocean, etc.
  • Other countries, exploring cultures that are different to our own.
There were some superb ideas and suggestions from the students—a lot of fantasy worlds, a lot of fairies and/or mythical creatures—and also some silly ones ("One Direction World" I'd been half-expecting. There was an "Ed Sheeran World" as well, which sounds kind of cool).

Once the students had chosen their favourite "Other World" I asked them to consider some of the rules those worlds would need to stop things getting unruly.

EXAMPLE: In the Harry Potter series, magic exists, but it is governed by the Ministry of Magic, which regulates who uses it, what type of magic they use, when and where they can use it, etc. If there were no magic laws, we would have a very big problem and things would quickly fall apart.

Consequences are massively important to how believable your worlds are. As above, if everyone could run around doing whatever they wanted, society would fall apart pretty fast. Everything you invent, every action your character takes, will have consequences. You don't need to get hung up on this, but just be aware, even if only at the back of your mind, that actions lead to consequences and you can't just ignore them. Consequences can also bring a great sense of tension to a story, so never be afraid to explore them or let them unfold and take the story in new directions.

EXAMPLE: Consider a world where people never grow old. What are the consequences to this type of society? What sorts of rules might you need to set in place to deal with them? (e.g. regulations of population/births, use of resources, harsher death sentences for crime, etc.)

Other things to consider:
  • Climate
  • Technology
  • Language
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Natural resources (fuel, etc.)
  • Social structure (class systems, governments)
I also introduced them to the idea of mind mapping to keep a story organised. I made a post about mind maps on the Storyslingers blog at the end of last year, which you can read here.

There's a possibility I'll do this workshop, adjusted for adults, at Storyslingers later this year. Keep an eye on our events page for more details.