In which we share advice and ideas about writing, from tips on technique and practical aspects, to the experiences of other writers. (As always, take all offered writing advice with a pinch of salt. It’s often more important to understand why a writing convention exists than it is to actually follow it.)
In the early days of planning our anthology series, I worried about whether we’d have the resources to find enough writers from abroad, allowing us to feature an international blend of stories. In the event, I’ve been surprised to find that we have the opposite problem: despite being based in the UK, it’s been a real challenge for us to find British short story writers. We’ve been working hard to increase awareness, getting in touch with all sorts of different organisations around the country, but just 10% of our submissions come from the UK.
As this is National Short Story Week in Britain, it seems like a good time to ask: where are our new short story writers?
I’m not talking about famous, established, or dead writers, you understand. Let’s not get sidetracked by shouting ‘Somerset Maugham’ and ‘Graham Greene’ and, I don’t know, ‘M R James’ at each other. (Although we maybe should save that for another time.) I’m concerned with the new writers: the ones who are maybe just producing their first publishable material, or who have begun to make a name for themselves with longer works, and are now starting to take an interest in the short story. I’m thinking of the people who might be publishing their first collections in two or three years’ time, and who should now be placing their first stories and starting to get their names in front of readers. These are the kinds of authors that we’ve been featuring in our anthologies, and these are the kinds of authors that it’s hard to find in the UK.
We’ve been pretty active about encouraging more submissions from British authors. Aside from some online appeals (which have done very well), we’ve also worked with more than a dozen universities around the country, providing books to creative writing courses for workshopping, hopefully to encourage students to work with the short story. We’ve also contacted independent writing groups to encourage their members to send in material.
One problem is that short stories, especially new short stories, just aren’t widely read in the UK. Often, an otherwise keen reader will tell me that they simply “don’t read short stories”. For obvious reasons, this makes it hard for British publishers to maintain a regular, quality publication: when stories are published, it’s often with very limited resources, meaning the stories aren’t great, or are only by big names, or are Worthy rather than entertaining. As a result, readers don’t come back for more, and the momentum never builds.
(British short story publishing may be at its healthiest today not in mainstream fiction but in genre publishing, where the editors and writers still keep in mind—more often than not—the ability of short stories to entertain.)
It’s sometimes said that the short story is more an American form than a British one, but I don’t really believe that. The UK has produced some terrific short story writers in the past, and there are some around today too. I do think though that the Americans are better at promoting short stories: they have more magazines and journals, which they take more seriously. As a result, they have more opportunities to write and read quality short fiction.
I hope that The Fiction Desk’s anthology series will in its own small way help to improve the situation in the UK. By giving the country a decent quarterly publication dedicated to new short fiction, I hope we can encourage writers to write short stories, and encourage readers to buy and read them. If you’re a writer and you think you might have a story for us, you’ll find our submissions information here.
And if you’re a reader, please consider taking out a subscription to the anthology series, because the best way to support new writing is to read it, and because you might just be surprised by how much you enjoy it. You’ll find subscription information here.
Friday, 24th April 2009. There are 4 Comments.
If you are planning to write and publish books, or if you’re engaged in any kind of activity that would make an online presence useful, one thing you should do right now is get your name as a domain. It doesn’t matter if you’re not quite ready to start a website yet: you don’t need to do anything with the domain. The important thing is to make sure it’s yours. (more…)
From paid critiques to writing workshops and courses, there are a lot of good ways to spend your money on improving your writing abilities. Fortunately, there are also a lot of good ways to work on your writing without spending a penny. I’ve listed ten (well, technically nine) below. (more…)
As a rule, I’m highly mistrustful of software that targets itself at fiction writers. While the elaborate formatting conventions of screenplays mean that Final Draft is a useful tool for screenwriters, there’s a large part of me that believes the only things prose writers need are something to write with, something to write on, and a dictionary. Software that, for example, allows you to input a number of aspects of your novel—character name, inciting incident, plot twist 2b—and then arrange them into a pre-formatted structure, is a bad thing. Writers need to be do these things for themselves; if they can’t, they’re very likely going to have deeper problems that a piece of software isn’t going to fix.
So, when I read on the BBC Website that Neil Cross does most of his writing on a piece of specialist software, I was a little sceptical. Still, I thought I’d take a look. As is so often the case when I overcome one of my many prejudices, I’m glad I did. (more…)(more…)
Saturday, 20th September 2008. There are 3 Comments.
Although it’s sometimes necessary to whisk a character in and out of a story without drawing too much attention to him, it’s generally worth remembering that a forgettable character can be a wasted opportunity. One book that really shows how much can be achieved with minor characters is The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell. (more…)Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, that august publication that lists publishers, agents, etc., along with juicy advice on everything from taxes to how to prepare your manuscript. It’s been around for years—over a century, in fact—and back in the day, everybody seemed to know that this was the place you went to if you wanted to get yourself informed.
Sure, there were those dodgy “Authors: publish your book!” ads in the pages of literary and writing magazines, and we were warned about vanity publishing, but there wasn’t the level of misinformation then that there is now; because, for really powerful misinformation, we had to wait for the Internet to arrive. (more…)(more…)
I often get emails from teenagers and younger writers looking for advice (or simply moral support) on their writing. For a while I’ve had a sort of generic advice email that I’ve sent them, but I thought it might be worth expanding on that and posting it here in the blog. (more…)
Last night I attended one of the most interesting dinners I’ve ever been to, and like all good experiences, it ties in with an aspect of writing.