Thursday, 23 August 2012

A Wonderful Tool for Short Story Writers

Something that has helped me in the past, and will probably help my writing process well into the future is a daily blog I receive called The Write Practice by Joe Bunting. I will never have writer's block again thanks to Joe. If you are an emerging or even an established writer, I urge you to investigate this as a valuable tool.
People ask me why I write short stories. Joe sums it up well when he says:
"There’s something magical that happens when you finish a story. 
§ You can get published.
§ You can get feedback.
§ You can experience every aspect of the writing process, not just the first draft stage.
All of this leads to becoming a better writer faster. You also begin the process of building a writing career and a platform for your fiction.
I think that’s why so many great novelists through history first published short stories. Mark Twain, Leo Tolstoy, Ernest Hemingway, and even Stephen King didn’t start out writing novels. They built their craft and their careers with short stories."
Australian author and one of my favourites, Peter Carey, also started his writing career with short stories. When making the jump from advertising exec to writing, he would answer the inevitable "so what do you do?" at parties with "I am a writer" to the point where he actually had to became one. Other Australian writers who have produced fabulous short stories are David Malouf  ('Towards Midnight' from Every Move You Make is brilliant!), Kate Grenville Bearded Ladies, Tim Winton The Turning and Peter Goldsworthy Gravel. Cate Kennedy and Amanda Lohrey are also well-known short story writers. And if your tastes lie overseas, then look no further than Somerset Maugham (UK) and Alice Munro (US).
So, why do I write short stories? To hone my craft (every word counts!), for more instant gratification (competitions) and because I can't help myself - I see short stories everywhere. Not that it's easy. My writing teacher, Isabel D'Avila Winter, said most writers spend about 10 hours editing each page (that's about 250 words). Sometimes, I edit and revise my stories 15 times before I think they're polished enough to send off. So next time you read a cracker of a short story, just remember, they don't come easy. Not that I'm complaining. Short stories just appeal to the perfectionist in me.
I'd like to give a plug to Joe Bunting's new ebook:
It explains how to research, write, edit and submit to literary magazines.
Let’s Write a Short Story! is available as a PDF or for your Kindle or Nook reader. It’s also available on
Happy writing.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

'Why Don't Elephants Smoke?' success

I have just received the exciting news that my short story 'Why Don't Elephants Smoke?' will be included in the 2012 volume of Award Winning Australian Writing (Melbourne Books). Will post more details when they come to hand.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey: an example of moral decline or just a good read?

If you are my mother, stop reading this now.
Okay, let's talk about EL James' popular erotic novel, Fifty Shades of Grey. Partly due to the unprecedented popularity of this book, ebooks have outdone "real" book sales for the first time. And, FSOG is the most downloaded book ever. Not bad for a former TV exec who dreamed of "writing stories people would fall in love with".
The story goes like this. Literature student and would-be publisher Anastasia Steele falls in love with gazillionaire Christian Grey who, because of his troubled past, likes kinky sex. She is such a down to earth, smart, and good person, he also falls in love with her. He introduces her to his world of bondage and sex toys which Anastasia, for the most part, likes. But can she deal with his dark, secret past and thus can she heal him?
Let's face it, literary fiction it is not. And it doesn't pretend to be. It is purely erotic fiction, so if that's not for you, then don't bother buying/reading it.
As a book lover, and writer, living in 2012, I felt I needed to download FSOG to see what all the fuss was about. And really, it's not that bad. There have been a lot of hate reviews about this book -- perhaps because of its popularity and the moral ramifications that come with it. Perhaps deep down some of us would have liked to have thought of it first because it really is quite a simple book. (Who hasn't looked at the Wiggles and thought, why didn't I think of that?) That's not to say, it isn't well-written.
Okay, it's a bit repetitive. Okay, it's very repetitive, but it's a definite page-turner and the characters are quite well-drawn.
FSOG has been dubbed "Mummy porn". I suppose that's an apt buzz phrase for erotic fiction. It's derivative of Twilight, but with more sex. (Come to think of it, what IS it about those Washington State folks?) It is NOT degrading to women. It does contain a lot of sex, some of which is a bit kinky and some readers may feel uncomfortable with bondage. But at least the sexual gratification is reciprocal. And in this day and age, when you hear stories of teenage boys collecting lipstick rings at parties, this can only be a good thing, right girls?
Good on you, EL James. There's a very good reason why it's the most down-loaded book in history: no-one needs to know what you're reading on the bus! Except the smile on your face might just give it away. I think EL James has, um, nailed it, with the right book and the right time. And I expect there'll be a flurry of similar books, so get ready people.
My only criticism would be that readers, and I suspect the publishers, couldn't wait for the second book Fifty Shades Darker and I thought the third, Fifty Shades Freed was rushed. Future editions would benefit from a good copy edit.