Five Stop Story Kindle Book now Live

After lots of blood, sweat and tears (all mine), the Five Stop Story Kindle book is now live. To be honest, I’m quite relieved. It took a lot more time and was a lot harder work than I expected – It seems formatting is the biggest nightmare whatever medium you publish on! Luckily I got there in the end, plus I was really lucky to get Sarah Kate from Warm Onion Designs on board, designing the cover. And it’s out in time for Christmas 🙂
The book contains 30 short stories from the Five Stop Story competitions and 1 from me, which I might put up on this website when I get a moment.
Here is the link if you’re interested:
My story is called “The Final Days of Trevor Morrison.”

The perfect Christmas treat: the Five Stop Story Kindle e-book

Christmas is coming, the shops are covered in lights and there is a Christmas tree on every corner. I’m in Bangkok and I never expected it to be this festive here. But it’s great – I’m loving all the good cheer and the decorations. The Thais love Christmas – I think mainly because it’s just enough excuse to have fun and enjoy themselves. And also an excuse to visit the shopping malls which are always packed whatever time of year it is.
Getting into the Christmas spirit, Five Stop Story is going to launch an e-book in time for Christmas. This will feature 30 of the best short stories from the competitions. It will be free for a limited introductory period so that authors and their friends and families can download it so get in quick and buy
At the moment, I am trapped in a formatting hell, pummeling the formatting into a Kindle-shaped Christmas package. I was hoping to put one of my own stories in the book, but I haven’t had time to do my own editing! Still, it’s all in a good cause – the first Five Stop Story Kindle book. I can’t wait.

The lovely Robert Coles has also recently interviewed me about the kindle book and Five Stop Story in general on his blog – check out the interview here.

Must get back to formatting now!

Nanowrimo: Was it good for you?

So nanowrimo is nearly over. I only have 25,000 words left to write and 2 days to write them in. Hmmm….. I think I can conclude this is a fail. But is it?

Last year I managed to complete the challenge to write 50,000 words in a month without too many problems. In fact, I overshot and did 75,000 and finished about 5 days before the end. I was working full time and going out with my friends as usual. So how come it worked last year and not this year?

I’ve decided that there are times when nanowrimo is a good idea and times when it isn’t such a good idea. One thing to consider is the editing required afterwards. For every hour I spend writing I probably spend 5/6 hours editing later on. Some chapters don’t require much editing, some require loads of editing; 5/6 hours is an average. When I write some of what I write is rubbish and some is alright. Usually I work to about a 40:60 ratio, so 40% of what I write needs extensive editing. This nanowrimo I think I was working at about 90:10 so 90% was going to require loads of editing. The maths just didn’t make sense. By keeping writing I was just creating loads more work for myself later on!

Part of the reason for this is that writing is only a small part of what’s involved in creating a book. Writing itself tends to come in the middle of the process, book-ended by research on one side and editing on the other. My book last year didn’t need much research, as it was about people my age, living in London. All I needed to do was hang around with my friends. This time round my book needed loads of research and I hadn’t had time to do it before nanowrimo. Starting without the research behind me was a big mistake. I found I was writing scenes without having any idea how realistic they were. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this wasn’t that enjoyable.

So here’s my top 5 tips for making nano a success next year:

1. Either do your research and planning before you start or else write what you know

2. There’s no time for self-doubt; keep going regardless

3. Allow time to restructure and edit afterwards. Writing is only a small part of the work

4. Don’t procrastinate. Just write.

5. For me it’s important to get out and keep living your life, otherwise the ideas just aren’t there

Next year, I’m going to plan better and try to relive the buzz of my first nanowrimo. I know that when nanowrimo goes well, it can be awe-inspiring. Next year, I’ll know how to make sure that it fulfils it’s potential. I’ll research, plan and be prepared. Or else I’ll be lazy and just write what I know!

How was nanowrimo for everyone else?

Five Stop Story iPhone and iPad App Launch

It’s been a busy month. The Five Stop Story iphone and ipad app is up and running and I’ve been in London putting flyers in bookshops, coffee shops and local libraries to encourage people to download it and discover new writers.
We’ve crammed the app with features and you can browse the stories by author, or by genre or by competition winners. You can also read more about the authors in their bios and visit their websites. The app links with Facebook and Twitter so that you can share the stories you really like.
You can download the app on the your iphone/ipad by visiting the app store and searching for “Five Stop Story.” Find out more about the app here.
On last check we were #2 in the UK “what’s hot” in Books list!

Working for a nightmare boss

The other day I worked from 8am in the morning to 3am the next morning. In the whole day I had 2 ten minute breaks. I was working with the app developer to finish the Five Stop Story app and get it into the app store before the end of the UK day.
Since I’ve started working for myself I’ve turned into a psycho boss. With only myself to control, I don’t allow myself breaks, I’m unsympathetic when I’m ill and I’m a pedantic perfectionist about every email/ piece of content that goes out. In short, I’m a nightmare to work for!
The thing about working for yourself is that it’s truly your own responsibility. It’s not dogsbody work disguised as a development opportunity that someone else will take the credit for if it goes well and you will take the blame for if it goes badly. Whichever way it goes, the results are yours. Which is also the most motivational thing.

The Global Story of London 2012

I’ve been selected as one of the 100 BT Olympic storytellers who will tell the story of the build up to London 2012. This is a great opportunity, particularly as this year I’m splitting my time between London and Bangkok and so I’ll have a unique perspective on how the games are perceived around the world.

In Thailand, the fact that it’s less than one year until the games hasn’t gone unnoticed. On 27th July, the British Council launched its “English for 2012” campaign to encourage people to practice their English at the same time as learning about London and the Olympics. Students can play free games, watch videos and take part in interactive exercises on the website.

On TV for the last few weeks, there have been continuous adverts on BBC World for “World Class.” This project encourages schools across the globe to “twin” with UK schools to increase understanding between countries, build relationships and share the excitement in the build up to the games.

In Bangkok, the National Olympic Committee of Thailand organised an Olympic Day to mark the 84th birthday of the King. The British Embassy put on an exhibition about London 2012 to share the UK’s plans with a Thai audience.

It will be interesting to see how these initiatives develop. London 2012 is about more than London and Londoners. It’s about the people who come to the UK for the games and the people who watch the games on the TV across the globe. London 2012 is a great opportunity to improve the UK’s image and increase understanding between nations. It will be interesting to see how Thai views of the British change as it gets closer to the games and media coverage in Thailand increases.

Amy Winehouse: The Curse of 27

It was sad to hear the news this weekend that Amy Winehouse had died. Partly because her life was cut short so young and partly because the path she was on almost made the outcome almost inevitable.

It seemed the “curse of 27” had struck again and Amy Winehouse added her name to a long list of stars who lived hard and died young, all at the same age:

Kurt Cobain. Jimi Hendrix. Janis Joplin. Jim Morrison…

But 27 is a strange age for everyone, not just multi-million selling musicians. The fact that these musicians achieved so much before they even reached 27 makes ordinary people seem – well- even more ordinary.

Up until your mid-twenties your horizons are generally widening. You go to uni and you suddenly have the freedom from the restrictions of your parents. You get a job and you have your own money which you can spend recklessly and at will, without a hint of guilt. You have the freedom to flit around from job to job, location to location, trying different lives on for size.

But at 27 you suddenly realise that certain options are no longer available to you. Your options are narrowing. It’s time to decide what to do with your life.

UK Literary Agents – Some Help from the Writers’ Workshop

The great thing about the internet is that there is so much free content that can help writers and that is accessible to everyone. I wanted to share a great spreadsheet (I know what you’re thinking the words “great” and spreadsheet” aren’t a natural fit, but stay with me) that I found online today. The people at the Writers’ Workshop have put together a list of literary agents in the UK and beside each one have put the kind of submissions they are accepting and some notes. You can download the spreadsheet here. I actually have a very similar spreadsheet that I made myself about 2 years ago using the Writers and Artists’ Handbook. I’m very happy that this time round someone else has done it for me. Anyone can download the spreadsheet, save it to their computer and edit it as they please. So you can use it to keep track of the submissions you make.
Talking of “free things” (a rather tenuous link) Five Stop Story’s July short story competition is now in full swing – find out more on the website.

Top 5 things I love about life in Bangkok

I’ve been in Thailand a little while now, so I thought it might be time to share the top 5 things I love about day to day living in Bangkok.

1. The Food

The food is surely some of the best in the world: Pad Thai, loads of fresh seafood, noodles, fish cakes, massaman curry, morning glory…the list goes on. The price is good too; even in a restaurant a curry will only set you back about £2 and you can also get pretty much any kind of Western food for a lower price than in the UK. Plus you can order delivery from almost everywhere, including McDonalds!

2. Walking around in shorts and a t-shirt at night

In the evenings the temperature is perfect. I feel pleasantly warm in the evenings as I walk down the streets, I can eat outside without an outdoor heater and I don’t have to put on a coat, gloves and scarf before heading out in winter.

3. The national anthem at every opportunity

In the cinema everyone stands up at the sound of the first bars of the national anthem. At 6pm at sky-train stations across the city everyone stops what they are doing and stands still wherever they happen to be as the national anthem plays through the speakers. Even when we went to see the New York band the Drums playing live, we stood still for the national anthem before the gig started. Thai national anthem has become a regular part of my life and now its opening bars bring me to a standstill.

4. Table service drinks

No more queuing at the bar, waving notes and desperately trying to catch the barman’s eye. Drinks are almost served to your table. And at gigs bar staff come round with ice buckets of beer to sell to you. So no need to lose your place at the front to quench your thirst.

5. Friendly people

I’m not talking about the guy who tells you the tourist attractions are closed and then offers to take you to a gem shop in his tuk-tuk. I mean more the fact that wherever you go you’re always greeted with a smile, people are unfailingly polite and will do their best to help you out.

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….