My Writing, Writing

Writing and Editing Resources

To begin with, I have another publication announcement this week, but fear not – resources abound too!

I just found out that I placed second runner-up in eShe’s first ever Flash Fiction Contest. The theme was ‘Women and Work’. The word count was 100. And the contest was restricted to women writers.

No fancy prizes other than a certificate and a notebook, but I’m still quite pleased as the topic is one I’m very passionate about.

Check out the winners list here.

On to the resources!

A discussion on a writing group I’m part of spurred me to make a list of sites that have useful articles for revising and editing fiction:

Nail your Novel
Novelist Roz Morris churns out a feast of useful articles on writing and editing your written work to perfection. Her book of the same name is another useful recourse.

Anne R Allen

Writer Anne R Allen maintains this blog along with bestselling author Ruth Harris. This site offers a wealth of information that helps you get your stories written and honed for submission.


Writer and Ex-Literary Agent Nathan Bransford’s blog

Nathan Bransford worked as a literary agent at Curtis Brown and has also authored the bestselling MG series Jacob Wunderbar. His book How to Write a Novel is one to add to your bookshelf.

A couple of articles specifically on editing include:

10 Things to Do Before Editing Your First Draft

Ultimate Guide: Structural Editing For Your Novel

In other writing news, I conjured up a last-minute entry to the Bath Flash Fiction Award which granted me this badge:

What have you been up to? Any writing links or resources you would like to share? Let me know in the comments!

Lit Journals, Writing

Market Spotlight: The Writer

The Writer is one of the oldest, most venerated magazines for writers in the world. It was started in 1887 and continues to churn out issues packed with so much useful information that you could never cover in one sitting.

They host several contests for writers on a regular basis, including short stories, flash fiction and essay contests.

A year ago, I came across their essay contest which had a theme of ‘Your Writing Life’. As a software professional who dabbles in writing on the side, I felt quite passionately about this subject and had already begun an essay about how I’m constantly engaged in a tug of war with both my work and my creativity pulling at me.

I read a lot of past winning entries in both the fiction and nonfiction contests, and then I set about completing the essay and revising it. As I subscribe to their newsletter, I received timely reminders for the deadline. I have a habit of editing and revising right up until the last minute, and I’m sorry to say I did the same for this submission. My delays are mostly self-inflicted, as I worry about the quality of my writing and whether its worth the hassle of the entry free (a substantial $20!).

In fact, I dithered until the very last moment for that reason, wondering if I should splurge, and finally something pushed me to take the plunge.

Months passed, and I fully expected to receive a rejection, though I hoped for a shortlist at least. In their previous fiction contest, I had been pleasantly surprised by an encouraging note stating that they loved my story and I had made it to the final round but not placed.

So, it was with some trepidation when I woke up one morning and found an email from The Writer. The first few sentences were standard, thanking me for my entry and saying my piece had not been selected as a winner.

The last sentence perked me up: they would be interested to publish it in an upcoming issue! I did the dance and emailed them back right away saying I’d love that.

They offered me publication in the September’18 issue and $75 payment, which was credited into my Paypal just about a month later.       The whole experience was smooth and I would love to write for them again.

Here’s a link to their submission guidelines. Subscribe to their newsletter to remain updated about their contests.

Have you written for The Writer? Do you subscribe to their magazine? And if you have any tips for winning writing contests, let me know in the comments below!

reading, Writing

Writing Resources Roundup

It’s been a while since I did a roundup of useful and exciting writing-related articles on the web. Here’s the latest I’ve been reading:

Ten Writing Resolutions

If you’ve ever followed any kind of resolutions for writing, check this post. It offers a completely different set of resolutions, not the usual goal-setting kind.

How to Outline a Novel

The brilliant Roz Morris has a new post on Ingram Spark that details the various ways one could outline a novel. I am very much a plotter for long fiction, though I move into pantser mode for short stories. This article gave me a few good ideas on how I’d plot my next novel (even if the previous one lies unsold :D)

15 Exercises to Strengthen your writing

Searching for prompts to practice your writing and beef up some of those writing muscles? Look no further than this article from Writer’s Relief.

The Anti-Procrastination App from Hell

Ever yearned to watch your words evaporate in a wisp of virtual smoke? Then try the world’s most dangerous writing app! It will delete everything you write if you stop typing for five minutes. Frankly, I’d prefer that option, because under that kind of pressure anything I wrote would be super-crappy.

Why and Where You Should Start Submitting Your Writing This September

Once you’ve made your resolutions, tackled the prompts, outlined your story and overcome the dangerous writing app, you might have a finished story that you would want to start sending out to suitable venues. Check out this post to read a helpful guide to submitting, and it also includes links to markets. And while you’re there, subscribe to Authors Publish! It’s one of the best resources for writers filled with links to literary journals and publishers accepting submissions.

And bonus exciting news – Margaret Atwood’s book The Testaments is out! This is the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, a book that terrified me but was a brilliant read.

Do you have any exciting writing-related links or news to share? Drop it in the comments below!

Writing

To Hell and Back – My Writing Process

A budding writer recently connected with me offline and asked me how I write my stories. My initial reaction was ‘Duh, I just write them.’

But I realized, that’s not really true. After 30 published stories I have a fair bit of process. There is quite a bit of thought that goes in and I do have a process, if not an elaborate one.

First things first, I maintain a document listing out my ideas, and another one for prompts I collect. When it’s time to write a story, I choose one from either, and then I percolate the idea a bit, let it stew in my brain for a day or two so that I have my characters and scenes in place. This is what I call focused daydreaming, and it’s important to the outcome. For me it’s not even during the day – my go-to time for plotting out stories is usually in the minutes before I fall asleep, because that’s when the best ideas hit me.

A day or two later, I start writing. If the story is clear to me then I start typing straight away in Word. Many times, however, I’ve preferred instead to write by hand in a notebook and at some point, transfer the contents to a document. The point at which I transfer varies for each story. Sometimes it’s after a page or two, other times its almost until the end. I don’t always write the entire first draft by hand.

Once I’ve written it out completely, I close the document and forget about the story for a week, longer if possible. When I return to it I do so with a blank slate and renewed focus, and realize that all those quirks I deemed brilliant are not really so.

Then it’s back to the drawing board. I hit ‘Save as’ and create a version of the doc with a tentative title suffixed by date. I’m a programmer so I’m obsessive about version control 🙂

The title I choose initially may have nothing to do with the story, and may land up being just a descriptor, like ‘Friendship breakup story’. I brainstorm titles much later.

I edit the story once, then return to it again after a day or two. This cycle repeats until at some point when I feel it’s good enough, I send it out for feedback to one of my many writing peers. Or if it looks like I might miss a magazine’s submission deadline, I just go ahead and send it with the version I think is best. I try critiquing it as critically I can on my own, but of course it’s always best when another pair of eyes has looked at it.

Then comes the time for submission, which is a separate whole post by itself, but I’ll summarize here. I first try to find markets that have themed issues where my story might fit. If I analyze my published stories and even essays, I find this has the most chance of success. Apart from this, I search up to 5 venues where my stories might fit best.

If the first five lead to rejection (as it usually does!), there’s always the next five and the five after that! So on and so forth the process goes, until its either time to shelve the story or clap your hands in joy because its finally published!

So that’s my process. Not really rocket science, is it?

What’s your writing/creating process like? Any tips you would like to share? Let me know in the comments below.

Writing

Short Story Month

Crickets have been chirping here for close to a month because I’ve had no time to pen a blogpost due to health issues in the family. In lieu of all the writing I could have done, I instead did some spring cleaning on my writing-related folders, though we are firmly in the thick of summer here.

May is celebrated as Short Story Month. There’s even a website and a challenge associated with it – write a short story every day in the month of May. If you want to try it even now, you can sign up here. You will get a prompt for each day which would result in at least a flash piece if not a full-fledged short story. I find a short story (of around 3000 words) takes between 3 days to a week to finish the first draft. If I let it linger any longer than that then the story idea and the excitement that drove me to write it fades just a little.

I have never been brave enough to attempt this challenge. The most I’ve done is write one short story per month and even that’s a pretty good pace for me.

Lit Hub has compiled an excellent collection of links in celebration of Short Story Month, including a look at one of the best short stories ever.

Some of my favourite short stories (mainly from the pre-Internet-era) include:

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

I read this story as a tween, and it has stayed with me ever since. Any story by O. Henry is a pleasure to read, but this is one of the best.

A Temporary Matter by Jhumpa Lahiri

The author’s debut short story collection The Interpreter of Maladies won the Pulitzer Prize in 1999, and quite deservingly so. This story introduces the collection, and one of the best of the lot.

Mrs. Packletide’s Tiger by Saki

Saki was the pseudonym of Hector Hugh Munro and there are several stories of his that are more popular, like Sredni Vashtar. I read this story Mrs. Packletide’s Tiger in school, and enjoyed it a lot, especially the humour in it.

The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant

Guy de Maupassant wsa another prolific genius writer of short stories, and this is one of his most famous twist-ending stories. Read it here.

The Luncheon by W Somerset Maugham

One of the funniest short stories by the great W Somerset Maugham. Though his novels are filled with pathos, this particular story wins on humour and irony!

What are your favourite short stories? Are you writing any short stories right now? Let me know in the comments below!

Writing

Rules of Writing

In a bid to improve my writing, I soak up tons of blog posts and articles online hoping that they contain tiny little nuggets of advice that will prove useful for me. Let’s be frank – not just prove useful, I hope they’ll transform my writing and turn me into a Booker-winning author. Perhaps that’s just a teeny bit too ambitious, but a girl can dream, right?

Websites like Brain Pickings, The Guardian, Aerogramme Writers Studio routinely run a series of these compilations of tips from various bestselling authors. I’ve amassed a whole collection of them!

First learn the rules then break them

Check the resources below and let me know your favourites!

Rules of Writing from 35 writers

Elmore Leonard’s advice to writers

George Orwell’s tips for Effective Writing

Joyce Carol Oates’ 10 tips on Writing

Jonathan Franzen’s 10 rules for writing fiction

PD James’ 5 bits of writing advice

Hilary Mantel’s Ten Rules for Writing Fiction

Michael Moorcock’s Ten Tips for Good Storytelling

John Steinbeck’s Writing Tips

Michael Morpurgo’s Rules for Writers

Sarah Waters’ Rules for Writers

Zadie Smith’s Ten Golden Rules for Writers

The tips in Roddy Doyles Rules for Writers make sound sense:

1 Do not place a photograph of your ­favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.

9 Do not search amazon.co.uk for the book you haven’t written yet.

I like this one the best for the utter simplicity of the rules:

Neil Gaiman’s Eight Rules of Writing

Do you have any tips or rules that you always follow? Which is your favourite set of rules? And who’s the writer whose tips have helped you the most?

Writing

Writing – Expectations vs Reality

All those years ago, when I picked up a pen for the express purpose of writing a humor piece, little did I know I’d caught an obsession that would last so long. Despite brief breaks and gaps when I never picked up a pen for months on end, writing has proved a steady and loyal companion through the years.

But there’s no doubt that the life of a writer I had pictured did not match the reality!

1.         Writer’s expect: Words to flow easily from the pen like so many rolls of silk being unfurled

The Reality: They don’t, not without regular practice, and even then it’s like pulling teeth.

2.         Writer’s expect: to love writing always in every moment and forever more.

The Reality: Not always. The days when the words aren’t coming or rejections clog the inbox do not really feed the muse.

3.         Writer’s expect: to write everyday

The Reality: Again not always, for a host of reasons – no time, no energy – physical or emotional, fear of failure, fear of success. Sometimes editing/revising/marketing/pitching will take priority.

4.         Writer’s expect: that every piece will find a home

The Reality: Ironically some of our favourite pieces might never find a home or take an incredibly long time to do so. Do I speak from personal experience? Nah! Every story I’ve ever written has found the perfect home LOL!

5.         Writer’s expect: Increased Practice means improved quality

The Reality: This one’s so close its almost 100% true, except that one also needs to diversify the type of writing they’re doing and focus on targeted practice.

What differences have you found between the dream of writing and the hardcore reality of it?