The Fear of No Voice

I’ve heard a lot of publishers and agents talk about this mysterious thing called a ‘writer’s voice’ – even a fair few writers have mentioned it. On a basic level it’s the unique magic that appears in a writer’s narrative – something that identifies those words, strung together in such a way with a certain tempo and beat that means you can say who’s written in within a page or two (sometimes even just a sentence or two!). 

Fears-are-stories

Often, I am convinced that I don’t have this ‘magical quality’ in my writing. As a writer can you even tell if you have a ‘voice’? Or is it something that other people have to point out for you? If I can’t even identify what it is about my writing that tethers it to me, does that mean I haven’t yet developed a ‘voice’? Can you be a good writer without a ‘voice’?

All these questions and more rattle around my head, forcing out many of the ideas and, sapping my drive, leaving me hollow with the fear of having nothing to offer. I’m sure every writer has felt this way before; early on in their writing journey; in those moments where we doubt our skills; later, when we convince ourselves we can’t write as well as we once did. Fortunately, I’m aware now that such a feeling shall pass; that I will sit down to write one day,  and the doubts will be swept away with a shrug, and I’ll get on with writing regardless.

But we do need to share this fear of having no voice with others. The terror that I lack any distinguishing talent markers in my writing is something I can’t ignore, hoping it will go away. I need to believe that other writers go through this too. Because, after all, if anything could make me feel better – that could jolt me out of this particular valley of doom – it would be to discover that another writer empathises when I own up to my fear that I have no voice. 

‘Voice’ seems like an element in the writing world that you can’t actively search for – an ephemeral being that can’t be seen by looking directly at it. If you do catch a glimpse, perhaps it is then that it turns into fear – because if you’ve found it, you’re always going to be afraid of losing it again. 


51plfirbmyl-_sy346_

This new collection of short stories features one of my stories – Behind Closed Doors – alongside seven other pieces from brilliant writers whom I met during a Comma Press Writing Course.

It’s a bargain at 99p on Amazon. I promise you won’t regret investing in the stories here; you’re bound to to find something you like.


 

Publishing my Ebook

So, this week will see me publish my first ever collection of short stories as an Ebook! How exciting is that? It’s taken me a long time to get to this point and I’ve amassed such a collection of writing that it seemed only right to share some of them with the world. So, on Sunday 1 July The Memorial Tree and other short stories will be available from Amazon at the very reasonable price of £1.99. It’s taken some preparing, so here’s how I’ve planned the first Ebook in my publication journey…

Stories
Obviously one of the first things I had to do was choose which stories would work in a collection together. Initially I was looking at three sections with varying lengths of story – flash (under 1,000 words), short form (1,000-3,000 words) and long form (3,000+). I had at least 2/3 of each, but it began to seem quite unwieldy and there was no real central theme tying them all together.
In the end, I looked at a selection of my favourite stories – the ones that I felt were really worthy and close enough to ‘publishable’ as they would ever get – and found that they had a lot in common; they all explored loss, remembrance and nostalgia. It shouldn’t have surprised me, given my preference to kill off my characters (see this post here if you didn’t already know this about my writing!), but it was nice to see that link thread its way through all of the stories.
There’s only one new addition to the collection, and that is the sequel to the title story – The Memorial Tree. As I shared recently there was always a line in this particular story that niggled at me, suggesting there was another narrative that was waiting to be told. So, to end the collection I decided to write it. If you want to know how it goes, you’ll have to buy the book. 😉

Cover
© Luke GleadallI had no idea how to tackle this, but I’m fortunate that I have a very tech-savvy fiance who is quite creative when it comes to images and photography. He was already familiar with a couple of the stories and their imagery, so I gave him a brief, explained the theme of the book and left him to it, wondering if his vision matched my own.
Then, on his day off from work he put together this beautiful cover for me. I think it perfectly demonstrates the themes and has the added bonus of visually representing three out of the seven stories. I’m really pleased with its simplicity and colour palette, but I hope you like it too! After all, the cover has to convince an audience that they want to read these stories over the wealth of other material out there!

Launch
Now, this was the one thing I neglected to consider when I set out to publish an Ebook. Writing the stories is within my comfort zone; convincing people that they want to pay money to read them is definitely way out of it!
I’d promised myself that publishing the Ebook would be my ‘Quarter Two’ goal for the year, so it was originally on my radar to publish in mid-June. But, as usual, life got in the way and things got pushed back a little. Still, I don’t want to start the second half of the year attempting to catch up with a goal I’d set at the start of it. So, I’m making do with a condensed launch that will see the release happen on 1 July.
As such, here’s all the important information you need to know about the release of my first collection of short stories…

  • Subscribe to my Enewsletter list before 30 June  and you can enter to win a FREE copy of The Memorial Tree and other short stories
  • Pre-orders will be available on Wednesday 27 June – to coincide with National Writing Day (when else should you celebrate writing a collection of short stories?)
  • Official release date is Sunday 1 July and the initial price will be £1.99

36087379_10155227079752531_5282542837567586304_n

I’d love it if you could support me by purchasing a copy of the Ebook – and hopefully you’ll enjoy it enough to leave a lovely little review on Amazon to help other buyers make their choice.

Here’s hoping that my first collection won’t be my last!

 

Tackling the Competition

FEATURE_competition_scrabble_letters

Writing competitions. If you write and want to get your work published this is one of the first routes into authorship. There are some writers who excel at applying their material to the various competition topics out there, others still who tend to focus on particular genres or types, and then there’s me. I’m great at identifying opportunities that different competitions offer, in fact, I have a list of the ones I’d like to enter for the next six months sat above my desk as I type this. Yet, despite my superb organisation skill I still struggle to ever write something that I can submit.

But, not anymore. I’m determined to write at least something for as many of them as I can. My target is 50%, and considering there are an impressive twenty-eight competitions listed and I haven’t yet got a solid entry for any, I’d better get started! Here are a few of the techniques I’m going to use to help prompt my efforts:

Take it from the top
          If ever I’m struggling with a competition theme I know all I really need is a first line to help start me off. Problem is, I usually don’t have one. So I’ve got a nifty way to negotiate a way around this issue: I borrow someone else’s line.  Photo by Thijs van der Weide on Pexels.com
It’s simple enough – just go to a book on a shelf and pick any line from any page. Usually I’ve determined a page number and line number already, so I don’t end up in the land of procrastination by searching for the perfect line for a story I have no idea for. But, if you’re so indecisive and can’t even decide on a page or line number, choose the date – page 11, line 6 for example; or the year – page 20, line 18. So long as you pick a different book every time, you’ll have a unique first line.
After that it’s just a case of matching it to the competition theme. With a first line and a genre, I usually find the story is already there waiting and it’s just a case of teasing it out. Often my mind automatically link these things together and, suddenly, a narrative appears.
Tip: Don’t keep it as the first line, it’s just a prompt. Make sure to edit it out if you submit; you’ll likely find the resulting story needs a new opener anyway.

creative smartphone desk notebook

Read all about it
          One thing I like to do is to find a news story that fascinates me and think of a character who might have been influenced by it. What was their part in it? How did it impact their lives? What if they’d reacted differently – would it result in a different news story?
The great thing about this is being able to delve into a character that already has a story written. I know what happened, now I just have to figure out what this character’s part was in it and how they felt about it. This leads to a really strong character piece that often has a believable quality in the story because it’s taken directly from life.
Sometimes I try to limit myself to stories that link with the competition theme: so if it’s travel story I look in the travel section of the newspaper, or a story about weather I search for storm related news. But, you don’t have to do it this way: sometimes the most interesting stories comes from the unexpected places.

Start with a secret
Photo by Little Visuals on Pexels.comI love a story with a secret. Even better if it’s one I never saw coming. So if I have a particular competition theme that’s troubling me I brainstorm what secrets I can associate with it. Summer Garden? What if it’s a hidden garden, only certain people can access or see? Or is it a location for some illicit liaisons? Even more worrying, what if someone is planting poisonous plants in this garden to commit a murder?
All of a sudden there are lots of stories to tell, and plenty of ways to tell them – do you tell it from the point of view of the gardener, or the lover, the murderer or the victim? What if you could tell it from the perspective of one of plants?

Just jump in
          Finally, if I think that I’ve got enough time I just put my butt in the chair and write. Usually it’s only loosely related to the competition theme, and typically if it is related it’s probably something that a hundred other writers have already tackled. But, if I keep writing and follow the thread that each word and sentence produce I’ll eventually come up with something that makes me raise an eyebrow and think, ‘Hmm, that’s interesting.
Once I’ve got that tiny germ of an idea I run with it and see how far I can get. It takes up the most time, but it’s produced some of my favourite pieces of writing and ones that I’ve been praised on by some of the readers. Sometimes, though, I can forget how fruitful this method is. I just need to trust my own imagination and let myself explore the possibilities before I settle on a story idea I can be really proud of.

~~~~~

Do you have some techniques or methods for tackling competition themes? Share below in the comments, or tweet me

You can also follow my writing journey and be notified when I publish if you sign up to my Enewsletter.

 

From one story to another

It appears that my blogging challenge has fulfilled its purpose: I am writing again.

green leaf tree beside mountain with cloudy sky

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

Yesterday I sat down and drafted a short story I have had on my ‘explore this‘ list for some time. It is a sequel to a story I wrote in 2015 called ‘The Memorial Tree’, which came 2nd place in a Culture Shots competition for employees of The University of Manchester. The Memorial Tree will be included in the short story Ebook I’m currently planning, it’s less than a thousand words long and if you’d like to check it out before my publication you can do so here.

However, there is a line in this story that I knew led to a sequel as soon as I’d written it:

“Perhaps one day soon there shall be another tree growing next to this, but it shall not be I who plants it.”

As I was going over the text for the Ebook I was reminded of my intent to write the story this line has to tell, and finally I have. It may only be a first draft right now, but as I wrote it I could feel the passion for it rise in me. Amazingly I even shed a tear or two as I wrote it; because I feel for these characters – as brief as their stories may be – and I am responsible for crafting a lifetime of emotion for them.

This is what I wanted. I needed to rediscover my mojo, my muse, my passion. Drafting the sequel to The Memorial Tree has demonstrated that it’s still there and I am able to access it. The commitment to write a blog post every day was just practice to get back into the habit. Sometimes that’s all we need to pick up where we left off. This is what I’ve wanted to do all my life – writing is who I am at the core and I’ve neglected this part of myself for too long. Time to get my butt in the chair and just write, because I can now recognise my love of writing and what it brings me. Writing energises and enriches me, and somewhere along the line I forgot this. Not anymore. Now is the time to be dedicated and persevere in order to achieve that dream of being a published novelist. Watch this space!

Alternatively, if you’re interested in following my writing journey and being notified when I publish:
sign up to my Enewsletter.

Being a Planner

I am an excellent planner. I can plan almost anything and I adore it. The issues arise when I have to stop planning and actually start doing. In which case, I’m pretty good at small persistent action…unless I have to stop to re-plan, which happens a lot. Because, well, let’s face it, it’s always easier to plan to do something rather than actually do it.

ead7b-1443379_orig

This is the current case with my writing. I’m still “planning” to release an Ebook of short stories by the end of the month, although I have no clue how to put together an Ebook or how long this process takes. That’s because I’m still only planning it. I have, I am pleased to say, identified the stories I’d like to include and am in the final stages of tidying them up to send to a friend to check over. After that, well, I’ll need to put some more thought into that because I really have no idea what happens next.

I know I’ll need a cover; my lovely partner has agreed to help with that given his skill in Photoshop etc. He’s already got a pretty good idea once I showed him an image of what I thought might work and the themes that run through the stories.

I am aware that the text will need formatting in the right way. I’m not sure what that is either, yet. And I need to do some research on what platform I might use to create and distribute the Ebook.

I’m beginning to think it might not be achievable in a month…unless, of course, I plan it well. And planning is within my skillset, as I said. However, once I’ve planned it, then comes the hard part: doing it. So I know I need to plan out small, consistent steps to help me accomplish my goal, and that if I do genuinely want to get this Ebook out by the end of June then I need to do that which I plan. I have to commit. I have to stay motivated. I have to remember why it is that I started all this in the first place.

Planning is all well and good, but it’s only acting on that plan that will ever see your dreams come true.

Sunshine Nostalgia

Today is a day for sitting out in the sunshine and enjoying the day. This is the first year I’ve been able to sit in my own garden, having rented an apartment for the previous ten years. But now I have a huge patch of grass and trees to call my own, and I even revelled in hanging out some washing!

But it’s not all relaxation and reading. I’m editong some stories that I’m hoping to self publish in a collection later this year. I’m amazed by some of the stories I have saved up over the years. One, just now, almost made me well up. That’s the consequence of having the recurring theme of loss and nostalgia in your writing I guess.

I’m proud of the work I’ve done so far, and it deserves to be shared if only because I don’t feel they are serving their purpose hidden away in the files on my laptop. Time for those stories to step out into the sunshine and see if they can take the heat…