Tag Archives: Short story

My Writing Projects – Short Story World Building and Revision

For those of you interested in my fiction writing, I thought I would post an update on what I am currently working on.

At the moment I am focusing a bit on short fiction. As you might have seen from a previous post, I have gone back to a story I started a while ago, but didn’t finish – and I’m trying to work out how to best revise that.

I am also working on the background of another short story – a fantasy piece about an old Wizard who has forgotten his spells. For this story, I decided to really invest in doing more world-building and character development than I might normally do for a short story. I am almost treating that side of as if it was a novel – although it won’t have as many characters as a novel and some aspects of the world don’t need to be as fully fleshed out – for instance I am only focusing on one country and two main cultures. A lot of the work so far has been working out the magic system – as that’s the main crux of the story.

That’s meant I have made much slower progress than I might normally when writing a short story – I’m probably spending about an hour a day on it and its taken me a few weeks so far just to get most of the world-building done! But I have enjoyed it and I am interested to see if the work I have done adds richness to the story – will it all have been worth it?

I also have to get on and edit the 3rd part of Stonehearted. Hopefully that should be out for the autumn. Check out  By the Sword’s Edge and By Fire and Sword for the first two installments. If you like medieval action and adventure, I think you’ll really like them.

That’s it from me – I’m also writing a one player D&D adventure for a friend – might post that online at some point too!

(The Picture above is Witchcraft (Allegory of Hercules)  by Dosso Dossi (1490-1542).

Fixing a Broken Story – Helix Intercalculator

I am sure most writers have stories kicking around that they have either not finished or are not happy with publishing. Something about those stories went a bit wrong – the premise was not exciting enough, the characters didn’t engage the writer, and the story just petered out – or if you struggled to the finish, you thought “hmm – this ain’t right – I’ll do something else”.

I have some stories like that. One short story that I was writing set in my fantasy world of Ladmas, had quite a few words written – over 5,000, so in theory should have been pretty much written, but in reality the first draft was far from complete. So I went back recently to take another look at it to see if I could just get it done, edited and then submitted for publication.

The story in question is called “Helix Intercalculator.” The weird title isn’t relevant to this post, nor is the detail of the story so I won’t explain it here – perhaps one day it will be available for publication!
But I thought it might be helpful for other writers for me to explain how I went about trying to fix the story – in fact I’m only in the early stages of that – so I think this will be part one of two or more posts looking at how that process went.

Here’s what I did

1. I read the story again.

Pretty simple! But how you read a story when editing is quite important. It really depends on what kind of editing you need to do. To start with I wanted to remind myself of what the story was about and try to work out what I needed to do to finish it. To start with I didn’t realise that it was a bit broken as it was.
I started making corrections of word-choice and typos as I read, but I decided that I actually wasn’t engaged in the story – there was something wrong with it. So I left the red pen for making other comments instead rather than replacing words.

2. Thought about the story as a reader

Once I got out of detailed editing mode this was a bit easier. I thought about the story from the point of view of a reader. Did the story make sense – what was missing? Did I engage with the characters? Was it boring or exciting? If so which bits of the story fell into those categories.

3. Making decisions on what’s wrong with the story

This is really all about judgment and I think quite important to getting revision right. Some people will say just write and don’t worry about revision. Others will apply lots of different methods to revising and editing a story – I think as a writer and editor you have to pretty decisive about what you feel does and doesn’t work in your story, and then figure out some simple ways to fix that. Sometimes if the solution is too complicated it might be better just to start again with a new story!

What I decided was wrong with my story

I picked up on a number of issues with my story:

• Slow start – the more exciting scenes were later in the story – perhaps I should start with those.
• Too didactic – the story was trying to make a point – which involved two characters talking over an issue – this in itself was a bit tedious – I decided to show not tell a bit more and make the theme more implicit in the story – although the characters would still have strong points of view on the subject.
• Too much background exposition – again use of show not tell, and also I should cut out irrelevant or long-winded background.
• Foreshadowing would help with background and also removing the need for too much boring discussion – hopefully I could weave this into my story.
• The structure was wrong – again the start was dull and there was too much chatting. I looked back at my notes and I hadn’t really outlined. I quite like writing without a plan as it’s fun, but when I do I tend to have problems finishing stories! Looks like a plan is needed with this one!

So next I am going to go back and look at the structure and try to rewrite the story – I think mostly it will be a radical rewrite, with perhaps some of the description of more exciting scenes left in. Hopefully that will work. I’ll aim to report back in a few weeks time on how I get on.

Goodreads for Short Stories?

55 Short Stories from the New Yorker
55 Short Stories from the New Yorker (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m a fan of Goodreads – even before the website came out I was toying with a similar idea – not so much for the social networking aspect of it – but more as a way to record the books I’d read. Previously I’d done such things by the use of spreadsheets, but obviously a website and app that you can access everywhere and has a database of published books makes that take a lot easier.

Why record what you’ve read?

For me it’s because I’d forget what I’ve read otherwise and be doomed to start reading or even buy something that I’d already read before. I tend to read quite a few books from the library, so a quick glance at a bookshelf doesn’t always solve the problem.

Also I think its good to be able to rate titles – for instance if you’ve read a book by one author and did or didn’t like it then the next time you’re tempted by another book of their’s you can see what you thought of their previous stuff.

I tend not to write long reviews though – usually just a simple rating suffices for me. I’m more likely to leave a brief note for myself on Goodreads if I really hated a book and why so I can remember to steer clear in the future.

Short Stories?

Which brings me onto short stories. If you read a short story collection or anthology, or even an issue of a short story magazine, there’s no way on Goodreads or similar sites of recording what you think about individual short stories. You can only rate the whole book. You could then write a detailed review of each story, but that’s quite laborious and also wouldn’t enable you to search your reading history by author or story title to see if you’ve read a story before and what you thought of it. Given that short stories can pop up in different anthologies I think it would be very useful to do so.

What’s to be done?

I think for short stories there needs to be some way to have short story level meta-data so you could actually tag a short story once you’ve read it and provide a simple rating or a review if you want to. Ideally this should be linked to your ereader software if you read ebooks – then you can just rate a story as you read a collection and update your database that way. I’m sure Amazon must be thinking of linking Goodreads in that way at a book level – how about at the short story level?

What do others think? Do you come across this problem as well?

The Dragon of Borvoli – new Historical Fantasy Short Story Published

The Dragon of Borvoli coverI’m really excited to tell you about a new short story that I have just published as an eBook on Kindle.

The Dragon of Borvoli is all about a young boy who’s the only inhabitant of his village to fight the ‘dragon’ that has been terrorising his village. The story is set in a Dark Ages world – probably something similar to Cornwall – St Michael’s Mount certainly features for instance, but the setting isn’t very specific. What I was going for was more the atmosphere of the Dark Ages where belief in monsters – think Beowulf – was still strong.

Here’s the blurb for the book:

It takes a lot of bravery to fight a dragon. So imagine how brave the nine year old Boult is when he takes his father’s sword and enters the barrow near his home where tales say the dragon lives—the dragon that has been terrorising their village.

Yet not all is as it seems in this atmospheric historical fantasy short story. Boult meets Gustinus, a Christian priest, who promises to help him in his quest to slay the dragon. But Boult discovers that men can be worse monsters than creatures of legend.

Its currently available for just £0.99/$0.99 or 0.99 Euros from Amazon:

Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de

I hope you like it – let me know what you think!

Death on the Lips – A Sotil and Savage Mystery – Coming Soon

I’m nearly ready to launch the first of a series of short mysteries featuring Roger Sotil and Jake Savage – the heroes of Hell has its Demons.

The story is called Death on the Lips and comes in at a hefty 10,000 words – so quite long for a short story.

The action take place after the events of Hell has its Demons, when Roger and Jake have settled down to a life of paranormal investigation in the City of London.

Here’s the draft of the blurb:

The Countess of Suffolk lies dead in her own bedchamber. Her body has been horribly mutilated. Clearly a case of a demon attack according to her chamberlain. The alchemist she retained has fled the house—and surely he must be to blame? But when Jake finds a pot of lip paint and a tally stick other possibilities emerge. It’s another case for Roger Sotil and Jake Savage, Sorcerous Investigators to the court of Richard II. And as usual things are not as they appear.

 

 

Chivalry – the first Jake Savage Adventure – eBook Now Free

Chivalry Cover - NewYou can now grab a copy of the short story Chivalry: A Jake Savage Adventure for free from most major eBook stores.

Chivalry is the first story I wrote featuring the character Jake Savage. Jake goes onto feature as one of the main characters in my novel Hell has its Demons and also in two other short stories: Bring on the Night and The King of Britain’s Head. I have another short story featuring him in the works and more to come.

Get Chivalry for free from:

Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | iBooks | Nook | Smashwords

New Short Story Published: Judge a Book by its Cover

Judge a Book by its Cover - eBook copyJust to let anyone know who reads my stuff that I have a new short story out. It’s called Judge a Book by its Cover.

Unusually for me its a contemporary fantasy story – I tend to base most of my writing either in the historical past or a fantasy world. I feel its kind of on the edge between fantasy and horror – that’s sort of the theme of the story.

Anyway, here’s the blurb and how to get it. You can read a brief extract from it here.

A creative writing student wonders what the difference is between two genres of fiction: horror and fantasy. Like his new girlfriend says: “Perhaps it’s like the difference between pizza and a grilled cheese sandwich?” But when he asks his tutor the answer he gets leads to a truer definition of “Horror” than he ever expected.

Judge a Book by its Cover is a fantasy/horror short story.

You can buy Judge a Book by its Cover in eBook format from the following retailers and several others to numerous to list!

Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Barnes & Noble

Kobo | Smashwords | iBooks

The Perils of Making eBooks Free

Free books
Free books (Photo credit: randomduck)

Free ebooks can be a great way of getting the word out to potential readers about your books. This helps by putting your book into “others also bought” lists, putting it on free best seller list and hopefully getting reviews.

But there can be some downsides. These are some of the ones I have experienced:

  • Freebie collectors: lots of downloads and very few reviews. Why because people basically download free stuff and hoard it with very little intention of reading it – or maybe with the best intentions, but then don’t bother.
  • Reviews of free books tend to be more critical. Usually I think because the reader got a book that wasn’t really what they were looking for – they misunderstand what the title is about because they haven’t considered their purchase very much. For instance one of my publications – Alt Hist magazine states clearly in the blurb that it contains all sorts of historical fiction, but got criticized recently by a reviewer because it wasn’t just alternate history. I guess they just looked at the title.
  • “Good for a freebie, but I wouldn’t pay for it”. Well thanks for that review! I have also seen a review of a free book that complains the book was too short! But it’s free, what is your problem! If I was charging it would probably be $0.99 – which I think is a legitimate amount for a short story. If they enjoyed the read would they really not even pay that much for it?

I think these issue can also happen to a certain extent if you price at $0.99. People who collect freebies and bargains don’t often seem to make informed decisions!

But having said that I have definitely had some success with making titles free. Usually for a limited time and then putting the price up again – as this does help with getting into related title lists.

But writer beware, some readers value their free downloads higher than anything they might purchase! 🙂

How to Stay Motivated as a Writer

Keep calm and write it down!

I write fiction. I am not a bestselling author. My work is mostly self-published at the moment and the work I have available sells modest amounts. I write because I love writing, but also because I would like my work to be read by others and I would like to be successful. So I am probably like many other writers starting out on a career in writing. I have had some good feedback and reviews, which is nice, but I also feel that I could reach more people with my work.

How do you stay motivated when success and fulfillment as a writer seems a long way off?

I am not going to offer a secret bullet, a magic cure, but there are some strategies that you can employ to keep yourself going – which I need to keep myself going. Here’s some ideas that are working for me at the moment:

Write Every Day

This really is important, I think. Like anything – exercise, brushing your teeth etc – if you do something on a daily basis it becomes habit forming. If writing becomes something you do every day then you will keep doing no matter how you feel your career is going. You could choose a certain time of day, but it could just be squeezed in during the day in an odd moment in the same way you might check out Twitter for ten minutes!

Keep Going With Projects

What I mean here is don’t give up on stuff just because you’re having a few bad days with writing it and you think its no good. Sometimes you can be writing good stuff and its still a real struggle. You can always take the attitude (used by Neil Gaiman no less) that whatever you write is just a really rough first draft and therefore doesn’t matter – you can always go back and fix it. If there seems to be something fundamentally flawed in what you’re writing then yes maybe stop, but if you can think of a way to rewrite it so that it is what you want to write.

Multitask Writing Projects

This is something that works for me, but may not work for others and I know goes against some other writing advice out there. I know from experience that I get pretty distracted if I’m writing a novel or other long piece of writing. I am also keen to write short stories and develop that part of my career, so instead of trying to fit those in between novel-length projects, I actually write novels and short stories concurrently. I always prioritize the novel-length work, but if I have a second writing session available in a day then I will use that to do some short story writing. I find that it keeps me fresh and also gives me the satisfaction of finishing a piece of fiction every week or two, which I can then send out to editors.

Don’t Worry About Sales and Promotion or Rejection

This is the one that is really difficult to come to terms with as a newbie writer – and after nine years trying to write I still class myself as a newbie! It can feel like you put a lot of effort into writing with very little gain either financially or from praise of readers or editors. The best way to handle that I think is to remember that you are just learning still. I haven’t written a million words of fiction, but I will do one day if I keep writing every day. And I know that I will get better and that the small number of readers who like my work will start to grow and then hopefully my career will begin to grow too.

Cherish the Positive Feedback

When you’re feeling bad go back and read the good reviews or comments you have – don’t use them as an excuse to ignore criticism, but do remind yourself that you have skills and talent as a writer that you can develop and that readers enjoy. Build on that. Spread the love!

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Review of Chivalry at SFcrowsnest

Chivalry Cover - NewI’m pleased to report another review from a well-known review site – this time of my short story Chivalry, which was reviewed by Kelly Jensen over at SFcrowsnest.

Here’s a quote from the review:

Chivalry’ is the first story of his I have read and liked it a lot. Aside from his choice to play with the definition of chivalry, I also liked the setting, that of the aftermath of battle. I don’t think it is covered enough, which is a shame as the ashes of war give rise to some of the most history and alternate history tales I have read.

You can read the whole review at http://sfcrowsnest.org.uk/chivalry-a-jake-savage-adventure-by-mark-lord-short-fiction-review/

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