So I’m going to be in a book…

… not me personally, but one of my stories will be.

You may remember a while ago that I was shouting about being on the shortlist to have a horror story published (along with 49 others) in Twisted50: a compilation of 50 short horror stories brought about by the Create50 team.

content_winner

Naturally I’m over-the-moon at this news, and having my story reach this stage means I now get to attend the the gala launch and awards ceremony in London at some point in the near future, where the final awards will be handed out.

The writing in this completion was very strong and I’m really surprised to have made it this far. And like the photo says, I do feel like a winner as getting into the book was always my goal. And did I mention that this is not going be a self-pub, but a real book with a real agent (Blake Friedman) and everything?

I’m starting to wonder if I could go on to be awarded one of the additional awards too? I mean I’m now begining to believe that anything is possible.

Furthermore, the organisers felt so many amazing stories were submitted that they have come up with a companion book called Twisted’s Little Sister, which is 50 of the best stories that didn’t make the final cut. And guess what? I’ve got a story in there too. It’s all a bit much to comprehend really.

That aside, I think one of the most exciting aspects to this is that Clive Barker (Candyman, Hellraiser) is one of the judges, which means he is going to read one of my stories…  one of my stories. Imagine, Clive Barker sitting down and reading something written by little ‘ole me.

So there we are. Just an update of what’s happening in my writing life. I’ll be in touch after the launch party.

I love saying that.

Thanks for reading.

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Reblog: 14 Agents Seeking Science Fiction Novels NOW

For all my friends out there who write sci-fi, Chuck Sambuchino has just released a list of literary agents who are actively seeking sci-fi novels.

They are all US-based agents, but I won’t let stop me.

I hope you find this as useful as I did.

Yet another great post from Writers in the Storm. Thanks guys.

See the full list here

Reblog: 6 Tips To Hook A Reader on Page One

Just read this really handy post on Carly Watters blog of an agent’s view of first pages and how to improve them:

I’ve read thousands of “page ones.” Very often I don’t read page two.

Sometimes all I read is that first page and I make judgements based on what I see there. As an agent and a reader my practice is that if I’m not connecting with the material I move on–and quickly.

I wish I had time to give writers (and their books) more of a chance but I can tell a lot by one page: sense of dialogue, setting, pace, character, voice, and writing talent–yes, usually all from one page. Five at the most.

So how are you supposed to get us past one page?

Read more…

It’s a brilliant post, so I just had to reblog.

Thanks Carly for the original.

The five stages to getting published

It seems that everywhere we go online nowadays, we’re continually confronted by articles shouting about ‘20 things you didn’t know about that…’ or ‘the 10 best things for doing this…’ or ‘the 5 top articles that contain useless lists…’

And so, in celebration of this internet phenomenon (no I didn’t spell that right at the first attempt), I am going to write my very own post that has a list. Mine is the five stages you need to get through before your book is published (that’s in the traditional way, not self-pubbing, in which case the list stops after number 4).

Oh, and I’m going in reverse order because it’s more dramatic that way.

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 16.10.03At Stage Five, we have the most obvious (and some would argue the most easy) of all the stages: writing the book. That’s right folks, without actually writing the book, not much else can happen. We are the sole masters of our destiny here, which doesn’t really happen again during the process, so enjoy this bit. Continue reading

Pit2Pub

Thought this may interest some people…

Thanks Dawn Allen for the original.

Dawn Allen

The Intro: Who has fun spending hours creating that perfect 140-character pitch? Then bouncing that sentence or two off others to see if it’s fantastic? And finally having to create a couple more so you’re not posting the same one every few hours?

The Why: Kristin and Ann know what you’re going through. In fact, they both did quite a few Twitter Pitch Parties so they know your pain. Kristin remembers what it was like to see that little colored star and then checking and re-checking email to confirm that someone did in fact click on the pitch and favorite it. And Ann’s recalls her heart pounding and her palms sweaty, all the while hoping and praying that it wasn’t made by accident from a friend or some complete stranger who marked it and not re-tweeted it by mistake. They both trolled the feed all day long and didn’t work…

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It might be time for a re-write…

After my latest post, and the small amount of discussion that followed on WordPress and Twitter, it really does seem that agents are focusing on plot, characterisation, voice, etc., when addressing a query, and are not so bothered about the little things.

That’s pretty much what I thought, but it was good to have a chat with others to confirm it anyway.

Of course the upshot of that, I fear, is the prospect of undertaking a re-write as opposed to a simple bit of tweaking and tightening here and there. The overriding majority of agents ask for the first three chapters and – I have to admit – it’s my first three chapters that are probably the weakest of the lot. Hence, I think I’ll need to have a long, hard look at them before the next batch of queries go out.

My blog-buddy D.R.Sylvester has kindly offered up his beta-reading services, so I shall wait and see what his advice may be before proceeding, but then I imagine it’ll be nose-shoved-hard-into-the-gridstone and time for some serious re-drafting.

D.R. did remind me, however, that an agent once told me it was simply the marketability and niche-ness (niche-ness…?) of my concept that put him off, whilst another told me the writing was of a high quality, but lacked urgency. So the task ahead may not be too bad.

By the way, the agent didn’t use the word niche-ness. That abomination is all mine.

Oh, and one other thing; did anyone notice that in my latest post I wrote, “I found myself scrutinising the text perhaps a trifle more than is required,” but rather ironically misspelled scrutinising. Idiot. (Don’t bother looking. I already corrected it). Almost even worse was the fact that it was my dad who spotted it. Doh!

Anyway, thanks for reading.

What DO agents see in your manuscript?

So, I have just been tweaking my first three chapters prior to embarking on another round of querying agents. Naturally, this involved doing all the usual stuff that gets done at this juncture: swapping adjectives, tightening up the text, removing adverbs, changing ‘that’ to ‘which’ and then ‘which’ back to ‘that’ again before eventually getting rid of the ‘that’ because it’s unnecessary. You know the drill.

Anyway, apart from making the changes that really need to happen, I found myself scrutinising the text perhaps a trifle more than is required at this point in the proceedings. For example, I changed the name of a starship from HMS Clevland simply because the word that follows HMS Cleveland  is ‘and’. And that didn’t really work.

Yes, yes, I know this may be finicky and a little over the top… but that’s exactly what got me thinking on the question posed in the title: What do agents see in a manuscript? More to the point, are all of these little changes really worth the effort? I mean, I’ve been rejected by about 30 agents so far (which is only to be expected) but will minuscule tweaks of my work really make a difference? I’m sure that many agents don’t even get past the query letter and synopsis before they reject a submission. Fair enough; they’re busy people with a slush pile the size of corruption allegations against FIFA. Of those that do actually read what we’ve sent them, is it really that important that the work is as impeccable as can be, including those teeny-weeny details such as an ‘and’ following Cleveland. Aren’t any books accepted by a publisher going to be given a whopping great dose of the red-pen treatment by an in-house editor anyway?

The answer to this is no doubt, yes. But then again, do all of the tiny adjustments we make between sending stuff off in queries actually have an impact. I believe they do. Granted, when an agent reads those proverbial “first three chapters”, they’re looking primarily at the marketability, the concept, the voice, etc. But I do think that the general finish and sheen is important. Even if an editor is going to have a go at your pride and joy later on on the process, it must still blow the agent away by how much it has been polished.

Or should it…?

Agents are astute readers. They can tell when a huge amount of work has gone into a draft, and this must have an impact on their overall view of you as an author.

Or does it…?

Oh, I don’t know. Anyone who does know, please get in touch.

In the meantime, I shall carry on querying with the very best that I can offer… only to subsequently refine that very best that I can offer when I go back, re-read it and realise this wasn’t in fact the best I can offer and start making more changes. Circle of life.

Thanks for reading.

P.S. Sorry if you read this thinking that I was going to impart some wisdom as to what agents see in your manuscript. I wasn’t. The title wasn’t rhetorical and I really am seeking the answer to this question.