This Writer's Life, Writing

A Sweet Competition.

Recently, I have been working on a project that managed to catch even me, completely by surprise. I stepped out of my comfort zone and wrote something different from what I normally write.

As a member of Romance Writers of Australia, this year, I thought I would enter a short story competition. This year’s theme for the Sweet Romance category is ‘Cupcake’. Being a writer of paranormal, I began to wonder how I could possibly fit such an item in as an integral part of a short story. Using one of the many meanings for the word, I did manage to come up with an idea and went with it.

Halfway through though, I began to have my doubts. I wondered if it was going to work, let alone if I could manage to write something completely different to what I normally write, but I managed to get it finished. I sent it off to a beta reader, who is a romance writer and fellow RWA member. They returned it saying they thought it was ‘a fabulous story’ and ‘can’t believe this is only your second romance’. I’ve struggled with writing romances for quite some time, but now I feel I may be on to something. I guess it has always been a case of never say never! 😉

So how does this all fit in with the stories I have already written and self-published? I believe the paranormal is the common thread. I grew up on both horror and romance; Dragonwyck being my favourite novel, which introduced me to Gothic, a genre in which I love. Recently having read a blog post about the appeal of Gothic Horror, only confirmed this for me.

Before Christmas, I read a post on Anne R Allen’s blog about the 3 Things You Need to Become an Author and it made me think about an issue I had thought about for a while. As writers, we need to learn to be adaptable, and lately, my writing tends to be going down a slightly different path (either that or I’m finally going down the right path). I’m following where my muse is taking me and it’s currently leading me to such stories as Dragonwyck, Jane Eyre, Rebecca and even Crimson Peak. Of-course, it’s not stopping me from writing other things, which I plan on publishing this year. 😉

This past weekend, I went over my short story entry for the last time and submitted it to RWA. Not only is this the first time I have entered a competition through the RWA, but the first writing competition I have entered for quite some time. If nothing else, at least I will be getting feedback, which is something I have never had before from a competition.

And yes, this is the second romance I have ever written. Talk about jumping into the deep end!

Do you plan on entering any writing competitions this year? Did you ever receive helpful feedback from entering a competition? Is your muse taking you into a different direction? Have you jumped into the new year by stepping out of your comfort zone or do you plan to?

Main image curtesy Unsplash

Life Lessons, This Writer's Life, Writing

Writing: A Change in Direction.

For the past few months, I have been submitting short stories to competitions. I have been doing this on and off over a number of years and despite the continual knock backs, I have been successful once. Perhaps this is why I continue to persevere; after all, when it comes to writing, we do have to be in this for the long haul. However, there also comes a time when we have to admit when something isn’t working and need to consider our alternatives.

It was very timely, therefore that I read a couple of posts by Kristen Lamb Pay the Writer 2 – Out Hustle the Hustlers and Writing Exposure – Gamble or Grift? that got me thinking. The rules of publishing these days have changed. Many writers like myself are of the old belief that if we write and get exposure we are helping to build our CV. This will eventually lead to work coming our way. These days, however, the old rules no longer apply and that older way of thinking can be a bit hard to shake off.

The reality is that by sending my work out to competitions, I’m still waiting for that ‘validation’ for the gatekeepers to accept me. Because I allow my fear and insecurity to hold me back, I need someone to tell me whether I’m good enough for this game and each rejection adds to those insecurities. At the same time, though, those knock backs are a good way to help develop that thick skin. We keep holding on for that win. But the competition is fierce and the win may never come.

Writing for exposure is fine when writing is a hobby, but when it comes to taking your writing seriously and being paid for it, we may need to be a bit more selective. We should be the ones benefiting from our writing and not giving our work away so freely in order to benefit others. My one and only ‘win’ at least taught me that there can indeed be benefits.

One of my beta readers suggested I compile my short stories and self-publish. I’ve been thinking of doing exactly that for some time, but it is fear that is preventing me from doing so. I know that I have now reached a point in my writing where self-publishing is the road I will be travelling. It’s a long road and to begin with it’s going to be pretty rough. In the end though, I do believe that the journey will be worth it. So, who’s with me?

Does fear and insecurity hold you back? Will you be going down the path of self-publishing? If you’re self-published, has it turned out better than you expected? Have you won any writing competitions? Have you become more selective when it comes to your writing?

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Writing

3 Reasons New Writers Should Try Writing Short Stories.

ShortsA few years ago I began writing short stories and eventually took the plunge in submitting some of them into competitions.  After having little success, I became disheartened, especially after paying entry fees and receiving no feedback.  Eventually I gave up my short stories and began wondering if they were becoming a lost art.

Last year, however, I attended a Short Story Workshop and posted on my blog advice on Writing the Short Story.  Now I am delighted to see that lately there has been a bit of discussion about the short story form.  Due to people’s hectic lifestyles,  shorter attention spans and indie publishing, there is renewed interest – May was unofficially short story month.

On her website, Joanna Penn discussed 5 Ways Short Stories Can Boost Your Writing Career, and Anne R Allen had great explanations on why Short is The New Long: 10 Reasons Why Short Stories are Hot.

So for new, unpublished writers, I’ve come up with three reasons why you should try writing the short story:

1. Short stories help you get to the point quickly.

Short stories don’t need a lot of build-up on setting and character development, so you need to get to the action right away.  This enables you to help hook your reader in, which is a great help when you want to write longer pieces.  Also, getting to the point quicker can assist with writing your resolution – an added bonus if you struggle with endings.

2. Short stories tighten your writing.

With a much shorter word count than the novel, short story writing can help you with the editing process.  You need to use fewer words in order to get your message across, so you need to make every word count.  Entering competitions is a great way to help reach that all important quota (just because the form is shorter, it doesn’t mean they’re any easier to write).

3. Writing short stories helps build up a body of work.

Short stories are a lot less time consuming.  Novels can take months and even years to write – however, depending on the length, the first draft of some short stories can be written within a week, even within a day.  You receive quicker feedback from your beta readers, so you have a better understanding on how your writing is progressing.  A larger body of work can tell publishers that you are taking your writing seriously.

Feeling inspired by this resurgence, lately I’ve been bringing new life into some of my short stories – how about you?

What are your thoughts on the renewed interest in the short story? Do you write them? Have you ever entered any into competitions? Were you successful? Have you given up on competitions and submitted them to publications instead?

Image by Debbie Johansson.