My sincere thanks to my two-year writing buddy, Linda Tyler, for this insight into how she got her short fiction writing career off the ground. This is my first guest post on this blog and I am grateful to Linda, whose work I admire.
Early Writing Buddies Success Already friends, Shirley and I started to write seriously a couple of years ago (2014), bouncing ideas off each other and providing an honest critique of each other’s stories. We were delighted when our first success was joint second prize in a regional short story competition in Scotland.
Since then, like Shirley, I have had a few successes. I’ve self-published on Kindle an historical romance (Summer Intrigue), have a poignant story in an anthology (Last Call and Other Stories, published by Ouen Press), been highly commended for the opening page of a crime novel, short-listed for a piece of mystery flash fiction, had a family tale published in The People’s Friend and have stories, one bizarre and the other comedy, in two anthologies to be published this year (2016).
Write the story You want to write As each of these works of fiction is different, I feel I’ve yet to find my ‘voice’. On the other hand, this means I’ve written the story I wanted to write and the style followed naturally.
Rejections go with the territory Despite these little successes, I’ve had many rejections. Between the summer of 2014 and the end of 2015, I submitted 58 stories; six of these were successful. Interestingly, two of the stories had been rejected previously by other competitions/publishers, another had been rejected elsewhere twice and yet another had been to three different places before finding a home.
Don’t Look Back Writing really is a case of perseverance. Shirley’s motto is Onwards and Upwards; mine is One Story Back, Another One Out. Both are good maxims. Send off a piece of work, forget about it and get on with the next one.
My ideas usually come from comments made by friends or something I’ve read (I read widely, both fact and fiction). We are often told ‘write what you know’.
For whatever reason, I find it difficult to base a story on an aspect of my life; and the one story where I’ve attempted this has been out seven times with no success.
What I do find helpful, though, is to set a story in a place I know – for example a coastal town, a relative’s sitting-room, a church and a preserved steam railway. The characters may be imaginary, but the setting is one I can easily visualise.
Don’t waste your money With the exception of the flash fiction piece, my successes have been with free submissions. It is too easy to spend £5 here, £7 there, and find at the end of year how these sums have mounted up. This year I intend to submit only to those competitions, magazines and anthologies with free submission.
And I cannot over-emphasise the importance of a writing buddy.