The perils of starting a new novel

I’m about to start my third novel. Well, to be honest, I was about to start my third novel two months ago, but since then I’ve been busy down by editing my other novels, speaking at the literary festival and running Five Stop Story.

I may have been procrastinating about starting. You see this time I want to get it right from the beginning. I’ve spent so much of my life editing over the past few years and it’s really not my favourite thing.

This time I have visions about getting it right first time. A world where the first draft just needs wording tweaks rather than an entire restructure and character personality transplants.

So out came all the books on “how to be a writer” which I have accumulated over the years and never actually really read (with hindsight, perhaps a mistake.) But now I have read them and I’m thoroughly confused.  

There’s one book called “16 steps to novel writing success” which I’m split between loving and hating. On the one hand it’s great – it gives you 16 steps which almost guarantee success. On the other hand I get the feeling that the kind of book that would come out of this process is not one I’d want to read. It would be – well – formulaic.

The other books are similarly systematic in their approach. And while sometimes I like following a system, when I’m writing it can feel restrictive and take a lot of the fun out of the process.

So I’ve read a lot of books on writing and now I’ve switched from procrastinating about the subject and plot of the novel to procrastinating about which rules I should follow and which I should disobey. Will ignoring one of the 16 steps to success mean my novel will only ever be destined for the slush pile? I hope not.

In the meantime, instead of thinking about writing, maybe, one day, I might actually start writing the book….

Five Stop Story

Five Stop Story is the short story website I run to discover new writers. I’ve recently launched a new competition with a “travel” theme. The Five Stop Story mobile application is due for launch in September and will showcase the best short stories by up and coming writers.

I thought now was as good a time as any to tell you about about the idea behind Five Stop Story and the current competition:

A “five stop story” is a story you can read in five stops on the tube in London, or in about 10 minutes.

I started the Five Stop Story project to discover and publish short stories that can easily fit into modern lives. As people get busier and busier they find it harder and harder to find the time to read. At the same time, they now have the technology to read on the move. They no longer have to lug a book around in the hope that they will find somewhere to read it. They can read on a mobile phone, an ipad or a Kindle.

So people have less time, but they can now read anywhere. This means that they can fill their spare moments with fiction. They can read on the tube to work, or while they are waiting to meet someone for coffee. The ideal medium for these spare moments is the short story; fiction that will fill the time, but you won’t have to abandon half way through.

Five Stop Story aims to fill these spare moments with stories by new writers. We are running regular competitions to discover these writers and the competition prize includes publication on the website and our forthcoming mobile application. The mobile application will enable people to read stories by up and coming writers on the move. 

The Five Stop Story website launched in November 2010 and the first competition ran in January 2011. Five Stop Story is supported by the Arts Council and will be launching its mobile application in September this year.

The theme of the current competition is travel and we are looking for stories of 1,500 to 2,500 words. As well as publication on the website and mobile application, the overall winner will receive a copy of the book A Moral Murder & Other Tales from the Blue Hills by Sangeetha Shinde Tee. The closing date is 26th June 2011. To find out more and read the stories by previous winners please visit the website.