Short Story Ideas Generator

I’m on a mission to gather 30 short story ideas before the end of October. I will then write one 1700-word story per day through the 30 days of November, harnessing the global enthusiasm for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) to keep me going. Purists may argue that writing short stories rather than novels for NaNoWriMo is cheating but for me, as long as I’m in the groove and aiming for 50,000 words, it doesn’t matter – it’s not a competition and no one is giving out prizes.

NaNo-Shield-Logo-Web

Image Courtesy of NaNoWriMo

How do I come up with 30 short story ideas?
So far, I’ve amassed 14 and used a variety of means. There were a few ideas floating in my head anyway, a friend sent me a page of prompts used by her poetry society, I took inspiration from all the recent royal coverage, and I discovered this online short story generator. Fill in the form to customise the story or take the option to fill the form with random things, then let the generator do its stuff.
Warning: the story will be nonsense. However, the first time I used it the opening sentence triggered an idea for me and the second time around it produced an intriguing title.
Might be worth a try if you’ve got a blank piece of paper and an empty mind?

For anybody not familiar with NaNoWriMo, the 30 stories I write will be very rough drafts, time doesn’t permit anything else. From December onwards they will need to be worked upon, crafted to the right length to suit the prospective market and then submitted gradually next year.
Whatever you choose to write in November, it only generates a starting point to be worked on over future months. It is never an endpoint in itself.

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Calling Rejected Poets!

Have you ever had a poem rejected by a magazine? Do you have the rejection letter to prove it?

If so, here’s the perfect competition for you:

The Onwords website is running a free-to-enter competition for rejected poems with a first prize of $100, second prize of $50 and three honourable mentions winning $25 each.

The competition is open to submissions for two weeks only: 16 – 30 September 2022 and each poem must be accompanied by a screenshot of its rejection letter.

Full details of the competition are on the Onwords website.

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What I Did on My Holidays

You don’t have the slightest interest in what I, or anyone else, did on their holidays but please bear with me – there is a literary slant to what I have to say, plus it saves me having to write a book, which I did in 2013 and 2021.

Big Water of Fleet Viaduct

Big Water of Fleet Viaduct

This year we drove from the Midlands to Kirkcudbright in Dumfries and Galloway. En route we stopped for coffee in Sedbergh: England’s Official Book Town. Sedbergh is a small place where many of the independent shops have added the sale of secondhand books to their wares. The big attraction for me was Westwood Books which has a stock of over 70,000 titles – antiquarian, secondhand, and some new books. I was tempted by a copy of The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley which has been strongly recommended by my sister-in-law. But it’s a very thick book and I have a long TBR list, so I resisted the urge.

On arrival in Kirkcudbright we discovered that Dumfries and Galloway has its own literary connections. It was the setting for The 39 Steps by John Buchan and the viaduct in the photo was used in one of the film versions of the story. And Five Red Herrings, a murder mystery by Dorothy L Sayers, is set in Kirkcudbright itself and the 4-part serial is available on YouTube.

What did we actually do on holiday? Walking, a guided tour plus afternoon tea at Buittle Castle (both were excellent), walking, Raymond Briggs retrospective exhibition at Kirkcudbright Art Galleries, walking, Kirkcudbright Annual Tattoo (marching bands and a stunt motor cyclist!), walking and Kirkcudbright Art Tour.

Kirkcudbright Tattoo

Kirkcudbright Tattoo

Well done – you made it to the end of my holiday essay!

Finally, you might be interested in this crime writing short story competition. It closes 23rd January 2023 but there’s a reduced early bird entrance fee of only £3 if you enter before 1st December 2022.

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Two Free Writing Competitions

Thank goodness the heatwave in the UK is diminishing. It seemed to sap all my energy and brain power. As I cool down, my thoughts are getting back into some sort of order and I’ve found two free competitions with generous cash prizes. They might be worth a try if you’re feeling creative.

The inaugural Patricia Eschen Prize for Poetry 2022 is open for entries.
Poems can be on any subject, up to a maximum length of 40 lines. Entry is free and limited to one entry per person. First prize is a massive £1,000, second prize is £500 and third prize is £300.
Closing date is Friday 30th September 2022.

The Secret Life of Data Short Story Competition is being run by Bristol University. The website says, “this secret life of data – the traces, bits, and fragments of personal information that we leave behind us online – is the focus of this short story competition.”
Maximum word count is 4,000 and any style or genre is acceptable. Prizes are: 1st – £1000, 2nd – £500, 3rd – £250. The ten shortlisted stories will be published in the Secret Life of Data Anthology in both print and ebook formats plus there will be an Awards Ceremony in Bristol.
Closing date 9am (BST) Monday 12th September 2022 and entry is free.

This timid little fellow belonging to one of our neighbours didn’t like the heat either and flaked out in any shade he could find. Free Writing Competitions 2022

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How to Make Money as a Writer – plus A Giveaway!

In my previous post I mentioned doing a Zoom Novel Writing course in the hope of reigniting my enthusiasm for writing. The course did make me write a chapter of a brand new story (hurray!) and I got to know Jacci Turner, the lovely course tutor from Northern Nevada. She has some wise advice to share with us plus an exciting giveaway, over to Jacci:

I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Sally through an online writing class and she is delightful, plus a very strong writer. We decided to collaborate on a fun project. My latest book, Tree Singer, which is a Young Adult Fantasy, is now out on Audible and I’ve been given fifty free coupons to give to people to listen and hopefully write reviews.Tree Singer by Jacci Turner

The thing is half of these people need to live in the UK. So, we decided to offer 20 free copies of the audio to the first 20 people to write a comment on this post on Sally’s blog. Sally also invited me to share a bit about writing with you, so here goes:

How to Make Money as a Writer

  1. Don’t quit your day job. I say this in the kindest possible way. To put financial pressure on your creativity is a creativity killer. I’ve worked an extra job just to afford my writing habit. It takes time, energy, and a great deal of hard work to become a successful writer but adding the pressure of paying the bills could stop you cold. So, allow yourself the luxury of working until you’re bringing in a livable wage from your writing. Full disclosure, this has not happened for me yet.
  2. Network with other writers. Belonging to a writing group is a huge support for writers emotionally and a way to better your craft. But a bonus is the marketing. As you build relationships you can share activities like tabling (i.e. sharing a table to sell books at fairs and other events), book launches, conferences, and speaking engagements with your friends. You support them and they will support you. It’s synergy to move your writing to the next level.
  3. Diversify your craft. Look into places you can teach what you know. Local community colleges are a great place to start. Libraries often host writers and sometimes allow them to sell books. Local bookstores might also allow you in for a book signing, or to read to children, or teach a writing class. All of this builds your author brand and gets your name out.
  4. Use social media to your advantage. You don’t have to use all of it, just find one that works for you and stick with it. Each one is different, Facebook is for older people, LinkedIn for business, Twitter uses hashtags to find likeminded topics, Instagram is for pictures and short videos, TikTok is all video and you can use #booktok and #authortok to connect. These are extended networks to help you find others who might invite you to write on their blogs or do an author interview with you. I’ve been invited to do several of these through social media. headshot
  5. Don’t forget to look for grants or enter contests. Where I live, we have the Nevada Arts Council and the Sierra Nevada Arts foundation. I’ve applied for grants with both of them and have received several. Contests are fun and give you bragging rights you can use in your marketing.

In other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basket, keep writing, exploring, connecting, and doing what you love. Hopefully the income will follow.

Many thanks, Jacci! I particularly agree with the networking advice – it helps so much to know that you are not alone!

If you would like a coupon for an Audible audiobook of Tree Singer and are based in the UK, please leave a comment below. The first 20 people to comment will receive the coupons. 
This opportunity closes at midnight BST on Saturday 30th July 2022. Comments left after this date will not be eligible for a coupon. Leaving a comment on this post means that you are happy for your email address to be passed to Jacci for the purpose of sending out the Audible coupon. It will not be used for anything else.

 

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Keeping On, Keeping On

“Keeping On, Keeping On,” said Alan Bennett. But I’m wondering whether that is always the right thing to do? Should there come a point when it’s best to draw a line in the sand, say, “I tried my best”, and then move onto something else?

I’m going through a dry patch in my writing. You may remember me telling you that I had a second book on submission with my agent and was keeping my fingers crossed. As with the earlier novel, this one also failed to find a home with one of the big publishers. I suggested trying both books with the smaller, digital first publishers. My agent felt unable to add much to this process and therefore we agreed that I would proceed down this route un-agented. I have submitted to several places but, as of this moment, nothing has come of it.
I’ve put a lot of work into getting so near, but yet so far. People tell me that I did well to get taken on by one of the best agents in the country. I understand that and I learned a lot from the process. But it’s still very difficult to get re-enthused about starting all over again on another novel that might also never see the light of day.
I’ve considered returning to short stories and have managed to write two. One’s gone off to a competition and the other one is waiting for a final edit before I try it with The People’s Friend. However, the short story market has shrunk and shrunk and shrunk, so I’m not feeling optimistic.
And, at the moment, the article pitches seem to be landing on deaf ears after a good run of successes.

On a more positive note, I am two weeks into a free Zoom novel-writing course run by Jacci Turner. She’s running the course in the US at 10 am, which is a convenient 6 pm BST but there is an Australian in the cohort joining from a darkened house at 2:30 am! I’m hoping this course might re-ignite my passion and enthusiasm.

But in the meantime I’d love to hear your opinion/advice:
Should I continue ‘keeping on, keeping on’ as a writer or call it a day and find something else? How do you cope with dry patches like this?

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‘Clean vs Green’ – Free Short Story Competition

Green Stories Writing Competitions want your stories on the theme ‘Clean versus Green’. Environmental Short Story Competition

The competition is looking for an engaging fictional story which will help readers understand how over-cleaning and misinformation about bacteria can mean that we can end up killing our bodies’ ‘good’ bacteria through over-use of harsh cleaning products.

To help you get started there are story ideas on the website plus a free virtual writing workshop on June 6th, to which you can take your draft stories for early feedback. Attendance at the workshop is not a prerequisite of entry.

First prize is £500.

Entry is FREE. Stories must be between 1000 and 3000 words and the story can be in any genre. Closing date is 21st July 2022.

As always, please make sure you read all the rules before entering.

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The Poetry Pharmacy, Bishop’s Castle

Poetry Pharmacy Bishop's CastleOn holiday in Bishop’s Castle, Shropshire, I discovered the Poetry Pharmacy run by Deborah Alma. It’s part cafe, part poetry bookshop, part events space and part therapy; the latter via an appointment with the Poetry Pharmacist.

We’d been walking as part of the Bishop’s Castle Walking Festival and needed coffee and cake when we found the Pharmacy. It doesn’t do the usual lattes, cappuccinos etc. Instead the waitress recommended one of the different coffee blends and then delivered a glass flask of black coffee plus a jug of warm, frothy milk on the side. Similarly, she recommended a tea blend for my husband. We sat for a long time in the quiet, peaceful space, leafing through poetry books and magazines which centred around the calmer side of life. Afterwards, I treated myself to a copy of The Emergency Poet edited by Deborah – and, unusually, the book was cheaper in the Pharmacy than on Amazon. It’s a volume full of poems designed to destress and improve the reader’s state of mind. I will be sharing some of the poems with my Shared Reading Group soon.

Still on the subject of poetry, I’ve come across three competitions open for entries:

The Winchester Poetry Prize for poems on any subject and in any form or style. First prize is £1,000. Entry fee is £5. Closing date is 31 July 2022. The judge is Jo Bell, whom I recently had the pleasure of interviewing about her role in compiling the book On this Day She: Putting Women Back into History One Day at a Time for an article in The People’s Friend magazine.

The Writers Bureau Platinum Jubilee Poetry Competition. This is FREE to enter but you need to be quick: closing date is 31st May 2022. The prize is publication on The Writers Bureau’s website and a course or place on a Zoom workshop of the winner’s choice.

Ironbridge Poetry Competition 2022. This competition welcomes poems on any and every subject. First prize is £300 and the closing date is 31 July 2022. The judge is Simon Fletcher, who is widely-published as a poet and lives in Shropshire. He’s also the manager of Offa’s Press.

Poetry Pharmacy Menu

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Librarian Stories Wanted

This is a bit of an unusual call for stories but it caught my eye because I’ve been working as a library assistant since last October.

Stack of chocolate chip cookies on isolated background

16211412 © Grahamtaylor | Dreamstime.com

Air and Nothingness Press want short stories about a librarian for their upcoming anthology which will have the title ‘The Librarian’. However, the stories must be about a very specific librarian who, “… travels the multiverse (along the timeline – past through the future – and across planetary systems and universes) helping out people, societies, and those in need, with their questions, problems, and research (as librarians do).” The stories should be positive and hopeful and have narratives that celebrate librarians.

There’s lots more information about the requirements on the Air and Nothingness Press website.

The closing date for submissions is June 30 2022. Selected stories will be paid for at the rate of 8 cents per word and authors will also receive one print copy of the anthology.

The cookie picture was just to get your attention. Sorry.

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Talking About Authors and Reviews

Last week I watched a Facebook Live broadcast by the Empowered Author Group. It was facilitated by Sam Missingham and Katie Sadler. The chat covered a range of topics from how to deal with reviews, how to encourage readers to leave reviews and what to do with those reviews when you get them. I jotted down the points that resonated with me.

  • Reviews are subjective and what one reader hates, another will love. Anyone who’s ever been in a book group will know that a single book can generate a whole range of love/hate discussion.
  • Authors need to develop a thick skin. This is not just for reviews but for an author’s life in general. The knock backs are many and we have to develop the skills for dealing with them.
  • Many authors never read their reviews. If this is you, it can be useful to get a trusted friend or partner to read them to extract any constructive comments that be used in the writing of the next book. For example: A popular character could make an appearance in a sequel.
  • If you are ever tagged in a positive social media comment, always respond with a thank you.
  • The question was asked about how useful it is to get reviews from friends and family. In theory, Amazon does not allow reviews from friends and family, some will get through and can create a useful starting point. However, be aware that if these reviewers usually favour a different genre, their reviews on your book may mess up Amazon’s algorithms. For example, if your brother usually reads Westerns but reviews your Romance novel, Amazon may start showing your book to Western readers and this may limit your potential for sales. It can cause similar confusion on your ‘Also Bought’ lists. It might be better to get friends and family to recommend your book on their own social media and in real life. Or perhaps they could request it in the library or order it through a bookshop.
  • Actively encourage readers to review or rate your book using your social media presence. 
  • At the end of each book put a polite request for a review.
  • Build up a group of early readers or a ‘Street Team’ who will be happy to receive and review an early copy of the book and to shout about it for you. (Early readers can also be found by making your book available on NetGalley but this can be an expensive option unless you have a publisher willing to pay.)
  • Blog tours are a good way of generating reviews. Build your own tour (Reedsy has a list of bloggers) or pay one of the excellent tour organisers to do it for you.
  • When you get good reviews, use them for marketing purposes. Put them out on social media and in press releases.

It’s not easy to encourage reviews – most of us probably never thought about leaving a review until we became writers ourselves. So prize those coveted words of praise. And remember that even bestsellers get some bad reviews.

If you fancy writing a greater length about a book you’ve enjoyed, the Marlborough LitFest 2022 Love Books Competition gives you that opportunity (closes 1st July 2022).

Happy reviewing!

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