Thursday, 24 April 2008

Agent feedback – the word-count issue

As I’ve said in an earlier post, feedback from an Agent is a rare treasure, but that it exactly what I received today. She makes some useful comments about my writing but the really interesting point she raised concerns word count, where she says:

In 8-12 Junior fiction in the shops you would be shelved next to the Alex Rider books and Young Bond and Robert Muchamore which are all now approaching 80-100,000 words and are very sophisticated and grown up.

Now this is interesting as up until now I’ve been working to the following length guidelines for children’s fiction:

7 - 9-year-olds. 49 - 80 pages, 12,250 - 20,000 words.
8 - 12-year-olds. 80 - 160 pages, 20,000 - 40,000 words.
10 - 14 year-olds. 128 - 200 pages, 32,000 - 50,000.
YA: 12 plus. Up to 250 pages, 62,500.

Looking in the bookshops it’s clear that the very successful titles for 8-12s do have longer wordcounts than the guidelines suggest - Golden Compass, Alex Rider, Harry Potter, Invisible City etc. This would seem to confirm what the Agent says here. And of course, a children’s book can’t take padding – this would have to be plot driven.

At 26K words my current submission is clearly much too short to easily expand to this kind of length. However my WIP has plenty of scope for plot development.

Time to get on with some writing. I’ve got a lot of pages to fill.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Ruins Metropolis - The Proofs

I’ve just had the final set of proofs through to check for the forthcoming anthology ‘Ruins Metropolis’ from Hadley Rille books, which will contain my short Story ‘In the Precinct of Amun-Re’.

The guidelines for this one were to write a story based on a picture – the picture that will form the cover of the book – you can see it here. The story had to feature the woman in the picture as the protagonist and be set in the ruins where she is standing.

I took the ruins to be the temple of Karnak and set my story there, but it is in fact Temple of Horus in Edfu, which looks very similar.

It’s going to be really interesting, when I get my contributor’s copy, to see what all the other authors came up with!

So, since it’s raining and I’m now feeling in an Egyptian mood I think we’ll go and see some mummies this afternoon.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Meet Gary Styles

This is the pen picture of my character for the Yeovil Writers Group latest project: The 9:29 from Tauton Pebley. I can see some serious misadvesntures coming up for this chap :-)

Meet Gary Styles - Used Car Salesman.

Gary Styles is 26 years old. He has ginger hair which is cropped short, a face covered with freckles and bright blue eyes. He is 5ft10 but if asked will tell you he is 6ft tall, and slight of build. He is dressed in faded jeans with a mauve shirt and red leather tie. He thinks he looks rather dapper. (He is mistaken)

Gary is a used car salesman. Well actually he is a recently sacked used car salesman who is trying to set up on his own. He is on his way to Peepingley to pick up a car he bought at auction the day before, but left round his friend Dave’s house when for some odd reason it stopped within five minutes of driving it away from the auction house and he couldn’t get it going again. (As it was a bargain at < £1K he doesn’t have any comeback.)

Gary is a likeable and well meaning fellow. He tries to portray himself as a bit of a wide boy and a wheeler dealer. However he is something of a hapless muppet, not too bright, and everything he turns his hand to ends in disaster. Just look at his last job on the forecourt of that car supermarket. How was he to know that that car he sold belonged to the MD? Anyone could make a mistake like that. It was really unfair of them to sack him for it! And he got a good price for it too!

Today Gary isn’t feeling too good. He was out on a massive bender last night with his mate Dave and woke up in Tauton Pebley this morning with a fat bird whose name he didn’t know. Thankfully he managed to slip out while she was still asleep and is now on his way back to Dave’s. However his head is pounding and his stomach is churning and he’s sure he’s going to be sick any moment now…

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Researching the Market - Short Fiction

Selling short fiction is much like selling anything else – you have to research your market, in this case the numerous small press magazines, e-zines and podcasts that all publish genre fiction.

Looking at their submission guidelines gives you some idea – some ask for Hard SF, some for Fantasy, some for Horror. But the reality is far more subtle than that. Within each genre each magazine has its own unique distinctive flavour, and with a successful magazine this enables it to carve out its own specific niche in the market.

But how do you identify that certain something that a magazine is looking for? Well the obvious answer is to read the magazine – easy with e-zines that are free to download – in fact there’s simply to excuse for not researching these properly - but for the struggling writer it’s just not viable to subscribe to every single one of the rest. So how else can we research the market without spending too much money? (Is this my Scottish blood showing through?)

Well one of the methods I use is to read reviews, although this really only gives a slightly better idea of genre and theme. Another thing worth watching out for is that sometimes, if a story is up for an award, a magazine will make it freely available on their website. Another method I’ve used is to buy a short story collection, one of those ‘best of’ anthologies perhaps, and then look at where the individual stories first appeared. And of course, when sending stuff out, it’s worth taking note where your stories are getting hold notices since these are the markets that your work clearly fits best.

And when you make a sale? That’s when you got it right.

Happy submitting.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

It's all change at Dark Wisdom

In the short fiction market magazines come, magazines change and magazines fold. Some only last a couple of issues whilst others go to carve out their own special niche. Some never even make it as far as issue 1. Others change their format.

This happened with my story, One in a Million. Hub started life as a print magazine and One in a million was originally accepted for issue 2. However, due to lack of space it had to be bumped to Issue 3. Then Hub reinvented itself as an online zine, and One in a Million finally appeared in Issue 8. Hub has since gone on from strength to strength and now has a readership of over 6000!

And now it looks as if Dark Wisdom Magazine is going the same way. They accepted a story of mine a while ago which was due to appear sometime this year. However, they have just posted a message on their website stating that Dark Wisdom has ceased publication and all accepted stories are now under consideration for a place in one of their forthcoming anthologies. We should hear within the next six months. However, some stories may be dropped.

So it just goes to show, that until a story actually appears in print nothing is certain in this game. And as for my story? Well I’ll just have to wait six months and see if it makes it into the anthology. So for now it’s fingers crossed…

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Rejection Letters

So, you’ve written your novel and polished it until it shines, and the time has come to find an Agent – or rather the time has come to start collecting rejection letters. Now I reckon that rejection letters can be divided into four main categories as follows:

Type 1 – The Nil Return – This is where your submission vanishes into a black hole, never to be heard of again.

Type 2 – The Form Reject – This is the commonest type of rejection letter because most Agents are far too swamped to provide anything more. Sometimes this is a photocopied letter, or maybe just a card or a slip of paper.

Type 3 – The Pseudo Personal Response – This type of letter traps many an unwary writer into thinking they’ve had a personal response from the Agent. The letter is addressed to you and even mentions the title of the book in the text, and the wording appears to be personal – but it isn’t! The clues to look out for are the general nature of the letter with no mention of any specific reason why they rejected you. It will generally go something along these lines

“I really enjoyed reading “The Frustrated Writer” and although there was much about your work to admire, in today’s competitive market I just can’t take on anything I’m not 100% sure of, and so, on this occasion I must decline.”

Type 4 – The Genuine Personal Response – These are the real gems. They contain a specific comment about you work, and maybe even a constructive criticism or indication as to why it is being rejected. They usually mean that the Agent likes your writing, because they’ve taken the time to give a comment, but remember, it’s still just one person’s opinion, although if you start to get more than one saying the same thing then perhaps it’s time to take notice.

So to anyone reading this blog who is just about to start submitting/collecting rejections – take heart – I’ve yet to meet a writer who hasn’t.

Friday, 4 April 2008

The 9:29 from Tauten Pebley

Our latest project at Writers Group is set on a train. We've each drawn a character out of a hat and the idea is to write stories about our characters which involve some of the other characters on this journey.

Well I've picked the Used Car Slaesman, and from the seating plan he's opposite the Soldier and the Drag Queen. There are a number of other interesting people on this train too, including and Escaped Convict, a Secret Agent and a Minor Royal.

I think we're going to have quite a bit of fun with this...

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Writing credits to date

Short stories published in 2009

The Last Traces Footprints (Hadley Rille Books) July 2009
The Oracle Jupiter SF 25: Erinome 9 July 2009
Cone Key Escape Velocity #4 March 2009
Rosemary Lane Pseudopod 22 February 2009

Short stories published in 2008

In the Precinct of Amun-Re Ruins Metropolis (Hadley Rille Books) June 2008

Short stories published in 2007.

Supply Ship Murky Depths # 1 September 2007
Icebound Ruins Terra (Hadley Rille Books) August 2007
Rosemary Lane The Willows # 2 July 2007
One in a Million Hub # 8 May 2007 (PDF download available here)

Supply Ship recieved a couple of fairly decent reviews at Tangent Online, SFRevu and Whispers of Wickedness

Let's hope this is only the beginning...

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