Wednesday 14 May 2014

(vol 1) CHAPTER 14: “Keep it short”

A couple of days ago I read a post on Anne Allen’s blog that put a smile on my face.

Though she might not know it, Anne helped me take the plunge into blogging when I was clueless to the whole thing. I’d read about blogging and social presence for the self-publishing author before I started this project but had decided it was too soon for me to jump in if I had nothing to put out there.

Of course I then had my epiphany and decided ‘screw it. I’ll blog about writing that first book instead’.

As soon as I decided I wanted ‘web-presence’ I scoured the internet in search of anything that could help my limited knowledge on the subject (I’ve said before that I’m learning this as I go). Late one night I stumbled upon Anne’s blog and found helpful Do’s and Don’ts for blogging authors. After looking at the rest of her site it seemed she might just know what she was talking about so I decided to listen.

Something she posts about often is how short fiction is making its come back over recent years. Most readers today are very busy and just don’t have time to take the risk on a new 700 page novel from a fledgling reader. So could shorter fiction be the easier way into these people’s crowded lives? I’m sure hoping so.

Anne has warned before that a writer shouldn’t just bundle up the first handful of shorts that they’ve written and chuck them out into the world. If people read some of my early work I would cringe. In fact, I’m including early versions of IMPRISONED and LOVE BITE alongside their expanded rewritten versions within the UNCANNY TALES: vol 1 collection to illustrate this exact point.

I’m hoping that the mix of styles across the stories from UNCANNY TALES: vol 1 will work for me in three different ways:

People who enjoy more supernatural tales but might not normally read sci-fi can dip into their usually avoided genres and maybe see what they were missing without forcing themselves through a lengthy novel (hell, my own mother shocked me by not only reading my zombie story CONDOLENCE but actually liking it!).

If I released one story and people didn’t like the way I wrote characters then I could end up disheartened. But what if I just write bad vampires because I’ve absorbed too much from television and cinema and my characters in those types of stories are just walking clichés? What if my prison story characters and my zombie story characters are really good? Instead of writing bad characters it turns out that I might just write really bad vampire stories. So no more vampire stories. Lesson learned.

Any one of the stories included in the collection (and I’ve just switched to ‘optimistic mode’ for a second) could become a fan favourite and lead into more short stories and/or novels; like an American pilot TV season. I’ve already had interest expressed in Peter Grainger from IMPRISONED both for a prequel (my writing teacher) and a sequel (a friend).

Going forward I plan to use short stories for other purposes. Once I have UNCANNY TALES: vol 1 out in the world I plan to go back to a novel I’ve been working on/off for a few years. One idea I’ve had is to post short stories on this blog that link into the novels as a way of promoting the books as well as keeping readers interested between the bigger releases.

Next year I also have a novel split into ten parts that I’m looking at releasing on the first day of every month starting from September. Again, it’s shorter so that readers can find time to get into it.

But for now these brave few, these chosen seven will be shaping up and getting ready to show the world what I can do. I like them and I hope you will to.

As a side note, if you’re a writer struggling with your first novel and you’ve never thought about writing short stories then I implore you to try. It can help you learn things about your writing you might not find otherwise (I’ve used them to practice first person, third person and twist endings). It can also feel rewarding to have a nice stack of short stories to wave under peoples noses when they ask to see what it is you write.

And if you’re not a writer then how about trying to write a short story? Don’t be afraid. Just try something small to start, maybe 1500 words. And if you enjoy it when you get to the end you could write another. And another.

See where I’m going with this.

Anyway, I’m off to work on UNCANNY TALES: vol 1.

See you in seven.

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