Tuesday, 22 September 2009
Wednesday, 2 September 2009
I was intrigued, therefore, to hear of a new cyber-venture launched in the US yesterday. CellStories.net describes itself as a ‘mobile publisher’. It offers a new short story, every day, direct to your mobile phone (or ‘cell phone’ if you live in the States) - free. The founder of CellStories.net, Dan Sinker, believes print is dead. He also thinks the Sony Reader and Amazon’s Kindle are the modern day equivalent of the laser disc, according to an interview with him in Publishers Weekly. The future of digital reading, he says, is the mobile phone.
Sinker is currently seeking submissions. He is looking for 1500 to 2000-word short stories, personal essays, narrative journalism, creative nonfiction and more experimental storytelling forms – but the emphasis is on story. You won’t get paid, but if you think Sinker is right and this is the future of short story publishing, here’s your chance to be in at the start.
Tuesday, 25 August 2009
Good advice for any aspiring writer, I’d say. But if that's not enough, check out Tim O'Brien's excellent article on how to write a successful short story, in the same issue. There isn't a magic formula. The essential element, according to O'Brien, is a vivid imagination.
And possibly having a pretend tail . . .
Thursday, 20 August 2009
I haven’t posted for a while, for a variety of reasons too dull to recount. But I happened across this advice from the late, great Kurt Vonnegut on the rules for writing short stories. According to Kurt, the way to write a good short story is to stick to the following eight points:
1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things – reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist.
7. Write to please just one person.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible.
‘To hell with suspense,’ he says. Not sure I agree with that last one. Listen to what he says and decide for yourself.
Friday, 19 June 2009
Tuesday, 3 March 2009
There was also an article in Sunday's Observer (in the travel section) on people who have ‘taken the plunge and escaped the rat race’. I thought I was doing that when I decided to throw in my well-paid job and move out into the country to become a ‘proper’ writer. But, like anything, it’s a business. For me, it’s the commercial aspect that makes writing a chore. But, if you are not writing for your readers, who are you writing for? In the Guardian piece, A L Kennedy compares writing to sex – when you do it for pleasure it’s a nice thing; when you do it for cash it’s ‘probably less fun’. I suppose that means that, if you’re writing only for yourself, you’ll probably go blind . . .
Thursday, 26 February 2009
Monday, 23 February 2009
Why? You might well ask.
It’s a mystery.
Friday, 30 January 2009
Although I’m not sure I agree with Rule Three, here are HEINLEIN'S FIVE RULES FOR WRITING:
1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you write.
3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
4. You must put the work on the market.
5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.
Wednesday, 28 January 2009
Last year, the Willesden Herald famously decided not to award a prize in their international short story competition because none of the entries were quite good enough. Their decision caused a storm (especially among some entrants) but surely they were right – if none of the stories were flawless then none of them deserved a prize. So my question is, Should a prize as prestigious as the Costa be awarded to a book that everyone agrees is flawed?
Just a thought.
Wednesday, 7 January 2009
The gist of the story, taken from the blurb, is as follows:
One frozen January morning at 5 am, Inspector Wallander responds to what he believes is a routine call out. When he reaches the isolated farmhouse he discovers a bloodbath. An old man has been tortured and beaten to death, his wife lies barely alive beside his shattered body, both victims of a violence beyond reason. The woman supplies Wallander with his only clue: the perpetrators may have been foreign. When this is leaked to the press, it unleashes racial hatred. Kurt Wallander is a senior police officer. His life is a shambles. His wife has left him, his daughter barely refuses to speak to him, and even his ageing father barely tolerates him. He works tirelessly, eats badly, and drinks his nights away in a lonely, neglected flat. But now, with winter tightening and his activities being monitored by a tough-minded district attorney, Wallander must forget his troubles and throw himself into a battle against time and against mounting xenophobia.I really enjoyed this book, although I found I was less interested in the crimes as I was in the relationships Wallander tried to repair, attempted to form and usually messed up along the way. I liked the view of Sweden it portrayed, warts and all, and sometimes I liked the way Mankell examined some of the social issues (but not always – the debate on immigration he has with a woman he should be seducing didn’t quite ring true, for instance). Although this first outing for Wallander is never as good as his later appearances, it is still better than most police procedurals and definitely worth a read.
Tuesday, 6 January 2009
The demise of Cadenza is a sad loss, not only because it is one less market for writers but also - and more importantly - because it is yet another door closed to readers of quality short fiction. Hats off to Zoe King, the editor and publisher of Cadenza, for keeping the magazine going for as long as she did (even subsiding the cost herself of late). It will be sadly missed.
Monday, 5 January 2009
This is one of the outstanding strengths of this novel. Not only does Smith paint a brilliantly evoked picture of the Stalinist Soviet Union, he uses his hero to explore in more detail how the State controlled the lives of ordinary people. It is like Orwell making Winston Smith a member of the Thought Police. Smith (the author) manages to capture the overwhelming sense of day-to-day paranoia in Stalinist Russia and the effects this has on love, friendship and trust, the way it can so easily turn them into hatred and betrayal. Leo’s nemesis, Vasili, is a perfect example. His admiration for Leo (possibly verging on a necessarily suppressed homosexual desire, punishable by death in Stalin’s Russia) turns to vicious hatred.
Thanks to Vasili’s betrayal, Leo is exiled with his wife, Raisa, to a bleak town in the Urals. Here, Leo learns not only that his wife does not love him, but she only married him out of fear and now despises him. With everything now out in the open, Leo must somehow live with this new knowledge. Meanwhile, he stumbles across another dead child, a murder and mutilation similar to the one he covered up in Moscow. Leo discovers that children are being killed and mutilated across the country, but because they are never reported as crimes the perpetrator can never be caught. Working outside the law, Leo is determined to track down the murderer and bring the killings to a halt.
The plain simplicity of Smith's prose drives the narrative relentlessly forward. As Leo pursues the killer, pursued himself by Vasili, the novel works brilliantly as a tightly-plotted thriller. But it also works on a different level, with its examination of a totalitarian society and its effect on human relationships, and I for one am not surprised that this book was a contender for both the Booker and Costa prizes. Reader, I loved it.
Thursday, 1 January 2009
Food for thought . . .