Posts Tagged Alison May

Writing for The Weekly News

On Saturday The Birmingham Chapter of the RNA held a Writers’ Day and I was asked to do a session on short stories. I chose to talk about writing tales with a twist for The Weekly NewsThe Weekly News

The official guidelines for The Weekly News are on that treasure trove of information, Womagwriter’s Blog, but here are some of the other points that I made in my presentation:

Research the market. The Weekly News can be hard to get hold of but I find it more readily available in smaller newsagents and convenience stores rather than WH Smith or large supermarkets. Ask your newsagent to reserve a copy for you. Alternatively, stories that have been previously published in The Weekly News can be found in these two e-collections: House Guests and Other Stories and Old Friends.

The twist should come as late as possible in the story and will often turn the tale completely on its head BUT the reader should not be lied to. The story should make complete sense whether read with the twisted ending in mind or the ending that you hope the reader will assume is coming.

Types of Twist

  • Character Identity – the small boy nervous about going to school turns out to be the headmaster
  • Character Motive – the head juror is pushing for a quick verdict not because he’s in a hurry to get home but because he’s actually committed the crime and therefore wants the defendant sent down ASAP
  • Location – the stranded climber is not on a mountain top but is on a climbing frame in the park

Things that (seem to) work for me:

  • Having a male main character (both sexes read The Weekly News)
  • Aiming at the lower end of the 1200- 1500 required words. These stories pull the wool over the reader’s eyes and the fewer words, the easier that is.
  • Keep the time period for the story as short as possible (I’m talking seconds/minutes rather than days) to keep it snappy

I know that a lot of you are successful Weekly News writers and probably have your own personal set of ‘rules’. You might prefer to keep them secret from the competition(!) but if not, do they differ greatly from mine?

Finally a shout-out to some of the people who helped Saturday go with a swing:

Marilyn Rodwell who ably orgainsed the whole day
Bella Osborne who taught us how to plan our novel (and gave us post-its to play with)
Lizzie Lamb who talked about her self-publishing and marketing experiences
Alison May who educated us about editing and said it’s OK to hate your first draft
Helen Barrell who talked about all things social media
and fellow blogger Maria Smith who came and introduced herself to me – lovely to put a face to a name.

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Midsummer Dreams

Dreams are weird and wonderful things. They can disappear the moment we wake or linger in the mind for days. Sometimes we dream the same thing night after night. Other times we consciously try to re-dream something and it doesn’t happen. Midsummer Dreams by Alison May

I’ve had one dream recur intermittently for many years. I dream that exam time is looming but I’ve done absolutely no revision. However hard I try to find time to revise, it doesn’t happen and I go into the exam totally unprepared. But I always wake up before I turn the exam paper over and read the questions.

This probably says something deep and meaningful about my waking life.

A bit of internet surfing, brought up a list of the Top 10 Common Dreams and Their Meanings. Number 6, ‘Failing a Test’, correlates most closely to my dream and the meaning given is, “…you are feeling tested in some way in your real life. You may feel that you are unprepared for something or playing the wrong part in life.”

That does tie in with my waking life, I like to be in control and ready for whatever life might throw at me.

Unsurprisingly, the most common dream listed is ‘Falling or Sinking’ and I’ve had that one too, where you always wake up before hitting the bottom. The explanation is, “…  you are overwhelmed in life and feel ready to give up.” Maybe I need to get my life in order and then I can have some sweet dreams!

One person who’s put dreams to good use is romantic novelist, Alison May. Her latest novel, Midsummer Dreams, is published by Choc Lit today. Here’s the enticing blurb:

Four people. Four messy lives. One party that changes everything …
Emily is obsessed with ending her father’s new relationship – but is blind to the fact that her own is far from perfect.
Dominic has spent so long making other people happy that he’s hardly noticed he’s not happy himself.
Helen has loved the same man, unrequitedly, for ten years. Now she may have to face up to the fact that he will never be hers.
Alex has always played the field. But when he finally meets a girl he wants to commit to, she is just out of his reach.
At a midsummer wedding party, the bonds that tie the four friends together begin to unravel and show them that, sometimes, the sensible choice is not always the right one.

So Midsummer Dreams promises to be a sweet experience even if your own dream life (like mine) leaves something to be desired!

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A Competition, A Novel Workshop & A Beta Reader Request

Three bits of (potentially) useful information for you:

  • Romantic comedy novelist, Alison May, is running a Developing Your Novel workshop in Birmingham city centre on 28th March. I’ve been on a similar event tutored by Alison and it was very helpful. It costs £44, including lunch and refreshments, and there’s a discount if you book before the end of January. So, if you live in the Midlands there’s no excuse for not getting your novel off the ground in 2015!
  • Modern literary magazine One Story has opened its annual reading period and, until 31st May 2015, is accepting submissions of high-quality literary fiction from outside contributors. They pay $500 and full submission details are here.
  • Anyone looking for a writing buddy/beta reader? I’ve been asked to publicise the following request:
    My name is Sharon, and I’m looking for a volunteer reader for my unpublished chick- lit/romance novel.
    I’m seeking someone who has the time to read it and give honest feedback.
    In return, I’ll read your unpublished novel and give feedback too. We’d correspond via email.
    Interested? Please email me: sbee.poetry ‘at’ gmail.com

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Three E-Books (not mine!) and a Workshop

I’ve three lots of e-reading to tell you about today (plus a novel-writing workshop) so get your Kindles, tablets, smartphones and other gadgets at the ready …

Firstly, Wendy Clarke has launched her first collection of short stories. Room in Your Heart by Wendy Clarke
Wendy is a prolific and successful women’s magazine fiction writer. She’s had around 90 stories published over the last three years – phenomenal!
Her collection, Room in Your Heart, comprises twelve romantic short stories that have previously appeared in People’s Friend. It’s worth taking a look if you’d like to write for People’s Friend or if you just love a good dose of romance!
The book is available on Amazon and I’m sure Wendy won’t mind you gate-crashing the launch party over on her blog – pop in and say hello (and see what she has to say about Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners).

 

Secondly, the e-magazine for fiction lovers, Kishboo has now formally launched. Kishboo Edition 1
It is available free online or as an Android app and very cheaply for Kindle.
The magazine is running a short story competition and is also looking for articles and readers’ letters. Have a look at the first edition online and see if you can spot any familiar names among the contributors.

 

 

 

Thirdly, you may remember me talking about Judith Cutler’s new crime novel Death in Elysium a few monthsDeath in Elysium ago.
At the time it was only available in a rather expensive hardback edition but now it’s out as a not-quite-so-expensive e-book. It’s the first in a new series of crime novels featuring city girl/vicar’s wife/sleuth, Jodie Welsh. Take a look at it on Amazon.

 

 

And now the workshop:
Romantic novelist, Alison May, is running a ‘Developing Your Novel’ workshop on Sunday 15th November at The Hive in Worcester. It costs a reasonable £40 which includes lunch and refreshments. It is aimed at people who already have a novel-in-progress (at any stage). It will include intensive sessions on plot structure and characterisation, and will also look at skills such as writing a synopsis and editing and revising your novel. Full details on Alison’s website.

Phew, I’m exhausted after telling you all that lot. Time to curl up with a good book …

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Black Pear Press Short Story Competition and KISHBOO

On Saturday I had lunch with the Birmingham Chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

It was a very positive affair with lots of people having good news to share such as excellent reports from the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme, publishing deals and competition successes. As always I came away eager to get writing again.

One of our members, romantic comedy author Alison May has been asked to judge a short story competition for the first time and she gave us the details (unfortunately there’ll be no favouritism because it’s all judged anonymously).

The first Black Pear Press Short Story Competition is for stories up to 1500 words in any genre/theme.

First prize is £75 and second prize is two Black Pear Press publications. Entries may be published on the Black Pear Press website and may be included in an anthology.

Closing date is 26th September 2014 and entry is via email. Entry fee is £5.

Full details are here.

Another ‘first’ short story competition that you might like to consider is that currently underway at KISHBOO. This will become a regular quarterly competition with a first prize of £50 and a second prize of £25. The entry fee is £3 and the first competition closes on October 20th 2014. Again any genre/theme is acceptable and the maximum word count is 2,000. The full terms and conditions are here.

Good Luck!

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What Am I Working On?

The talented Tracy Fells has invited me to be part of a blog chain, linking writers up across the vast, virtual world that is the internet.

Chain link

Chain link (Photo credit: Matti Mattila)

Tracy writes short stories, flash fiction, the occasional article plus drama for theatre and radio. Her stories have appeared in Take-a-Break Fiction Feast, The People’s Friend, The Yellow Room, The New Writer and Writing Magazine. If you’ve got a minute drop in on her blog – http://tracyfells.blogspot.com/ – it’s full of good ‘writerly’ things.

My task, as a tiny ‘link’ in this vast chain, is to reveal something about what I’m working on now.

I’d like to tell you how I’m deep into a novel which has been painstakingly planned out, has a perfect story arc and is full of characters that are constantly ‘talking’ to me. Unfortunately, this is not the case. When it comes to writing I’m something of a butterfly. I settle on one project for a while and then I decide that my time might be better spent on a different piece of work, so I switch. Or I spot a competition with a wonderful prize and I drop everything to enter it – fully aware that hundreds of others are doing exactly the same thing and I therefore stand little chance of winning.

So, I currently have a few things on the go:

  • I’m working on the third story in the Museum of Fractured Lives series. When that’s ready I will be publishing it as an e-book for Kindle and also producing an omnibus edition containing all three of the stories plus a short prologue about how the museum came into existence. So I’m also thinking about book covers, marketing and other stuff that goes along with putting a new book out.
  • On the back burner I have the NaNoWriMo manuscript that I completed in November. Before Christmas I polished up the first three chapters, wrote a synopsis and entered it into the Ian Govan Award. Whatever the outcome of the competition (& I’m not holding my breath!) I hope to get round to finishing this novel at some point.
  • I also have ideas for a couple of articles which I’m doing preliminary research for, prior to pitching to editors. I won’t tell you what they are in case anyone out there can write them up better (& quicker) than me!

I just wish I could focus on only one thing and then maybe I’d actually get something done!

Back to the blog chain – the following two links in the chain will all post next Monday (13/1/14) about their current writing projects – but why not pop over to their blogs now and see what they’re up to?

  • Debbie Young is a keen blogger and also writes short stories, flash fiction, travelogues, memoirs and non-fiction. Samples and links may be found on her author website: www.youngbyname.me. She is also blog editor for the Alliance of Independent Authors (http://www.selfpublishingadvice.org) and blogs about book marketing on her own website, www.otsbp.com. A keen reviewer of indie and self-published books, when she’s not writing, she’s reading and reviewing.
    From personal experience I’ve found Debbie the fount of all knowledge when it comes to book marketing.

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NaNoWriMo & Nottingham Writers’ Club Short Story Competition

I did it! I wrote 50,000 words! 2013 NaNoWriMo Winner

I hit the NaNoWriMo target on 25th November – I had planned to write 2,000 words per day and, amazingly, I managed to stick to it.

Now the not so good bit. As soon as I hit 50,000 words I abandoned my routine. I had planned to keep going all the way to November 30th and thus amass 60,000 words. But once I knew I’d done enough to be a NaNo winner, I could no longer drag myself out of bed at 6:15 am to write 1,000 words before breakfast.

So now I’m gearing myself up to write the last little bit of the story, and then it’s the scary part – reading back through it all and discovering it’s all mumbo jumbo!

And if you’re looking for a new project now that NaNo is over:

Nottingham Writers’ Club are holding their first National Short Story Competition. The winner gets £200 and there are 15 prizes in total. ‘Emotion’ is the theme of the competition and the word limit is 2,000.

Entries can only be submitted between 1st and 31st January 2014 and, “All entrants must be non-professional writers. For the purpose of this competition, we define ‘non-professional’ as a writer who has earned less than £500 from short story writing during 2013”.

Request an entry form and further details here.

Finally, a quick shout out for Alison May. Alison is a fellow member of the Birmingham Chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and has just had her debut novel published via Choc Lit Lite.
It’s titled ‘Much Ado About Sweet Nothing’ and is available initially in e-book format.
Congratulations, Alison!

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