6 degrees

So now I have my feet firmly planted back on British soil, I have started to enjoy all the culture that London and the UK has to offer. I’ve been busy, and although I’ve been back in the UK for two months, I only went to my first play last weekend.

“6 degrees” was performed at the Soho theatre to a packed auditorium. The play wasn’t really one play, but seven shorts, all connected by thin threads. Part of the fun was watching the drama unfold and part of the fun was working out just how all the people were connected to each other.

The plays were all by up-and-coming writers and were focused on the younger generation, an audience which I sometimes feel is underserved by the theatre. The standard of writing was superb and the pace of the stories kept my eyes glued to the action unfolding on the stage. There were also too many talented actors to list. I didn’t look at my watch once, which is practically unheard of for me. (I’m usually thinking about what time the interval is and planning how to strategically maneuver my way to the front of the ice-cream queue.)

Soho theatre runs it’s own writers’ centre to develop new writers so it’s certainly one to check out if you are interested in writing for the theatre.

 

CatNav Reviews the Five Stop Story App – 10 out of 10!

I recently received a completely surprise review for the Five Stop Story app from Cat Nav. CatNav helps readers navigate the vast number of reading apps available in the app store. It identifies the best apps, reviews them and rates them.

It gave the Five Stop Story app 10/10. See the review below. You can download the Five Stop Story app from the app store here.

 

Review of Five Stop Story

Five Stop Stories Limited (Age +12) [10/10]

Similar in style to the Watchbook app, Five Stop Story is a gateway to a number of exciting stories. The app comes loaded with three short stories that give an indication of the type of quality you can expect. If you like what you read, you can subscribe for a year for just £1.99.

Five Stop Story’s interface is clean and minimalistic, allowing you focus on reading the stories. The text size can be increased or decreased and – aside from sharing your favourite passages on Facebook and Twitter – that’s about it.

Thankfully, there are options for sorting through the featured stories. Tabs are included for the latest and most popular. You can also choose to browse by author, genre, date and so on.

With so many stories available it’s probably best to focus on The Other Dave Clark, which is included free with the app. Written by Dave Clark, this short satirical story imagines a nightmare scenario where Nick Clegg wants to see more competition in society and so proposes cloning everyone. This spells trouble for our hero Dave as a committee decides who deserves to live, the original or the clone.

The Other Dave Clark is a perfect showpiece for the app. If every other story is only as fractionally entertaining as this, then the app is going to be immensely successful.

As the name suggests, Five Stop Story is designed to be read in short bursts, on a daily commute for example. There are already lots of stories to suit every mood and this is a great start to Five Stop Story.

This app is essential for iPad and iPhone owners, it’s as simple as that.

Joshua Douglas-Walton, CatNav

 

You can dowload the Five Stop Story app here.

If you want to see your own work featured on the app, you can enter our monthly competitions on the writers page of the Five Stop Story website.

You can find this review on the Persian Cat Press site here.

You can find more great reading apps on the CatNav app here.

Amazon Breakthrough Novel – Round 2

A few weeks ago I learnt that my novel, “27,” was through to the next round of the Amazon Breakthrough novel. 10,000 people entered and they chose 2,000 people to go through to the next round based on the pitches for their novels. I was one of the lucky 2,000.

I know. 2,000 is a lot. My chances of winning are 1,000 to 1 (there are 2 winners.) It doesn’t matter. Just getting through to the second round has given me a boost and reminded me how much I love writing and how it is worth doing!

Now my opening chapters are being read by 2 Amazon Vine readers. I keep telling myself that the readers are always subjective. Some readers even hate best-selling authors like J.K. Rowling and Jodi Picoult, so it’s more than possible that some readers might hate my work. Equally, most readers I’ve shared the book with have been very complimentary (some are my friends, but others are other authors) so I probably have some chance.

For the moment, I’ll just congratulate myself for getting to Round 2 and keep my fingers crossed for the next stage. I should find out if I’m through on 20 March.

Celebrating 11 years of the Bangkok Women’s Writers Group

I’ve been a member of the Bangkok Women’s Writers Group for nearly a year now, and sadly will soon be leaving, as I’m heading back to London to work. The group is a talented bunch and their feedback on my novels and short stories has been invaluable.
Luckily Anette Pollner, who leads the group, is organising an event, which happens to place just before I leave the country. On 10 April, writers from the group will read from their works in progress at the artspace@newsong on Soi 39/1 Sukhumvit, Bangkok. The readers include Anette, myself, Carol Stephens, Dana MacLean, Lenora Bell, Mariejoy San Buenaventura, Michaela Zimmermann and Tejaswini Apte.

About the Group:

The BWWG meets every second Tuesday 7 PM at Starbucks Soi Lang Suan to workshop their writing in a supportive and creative environment. Current members include several published and international prize winning authors, novelists, essayists, academics, humorists and poets, as well as a few complete beginners. The authors come from different continents, and from a wide range of backgrounds and age groups.

The BWWG has been meeting continuously for 11 years. In 2007 they published the Thai English language bestseller ‘Bangkok Blondes’, and in 2009 they gave a reading at the British Council and published a pamphlet.

 

Traditional or Self-Publishing?

For ages, I’ve been considering the question of whether to self-publish my novel “27″ or to seek traditional representation. A couple of months ago, I couldn’t decide, and so as I often do in these situations, I decided that I would just pursue both options and see which one worked.

Using a very useful spreadsheet from the Writers’ Workshop (available here) I went through all the UK agents, looked at each of their websites and shortlisted them based on these criteria:

  • - Represents authors I have heard of
  • - Open-minded about new writers
  • - Good website and seems au fait with social media (The target audience for my work is 20/30-somethings so I wanted to select an agent who understood this audience)

I got as far as a shortlist of 20, and then I spent two days drafting a query letter.

Then I stopped to think. Stopping to think is sometimes dangerous as it can lead to inaction. On this occasion though, I think it stopped me from wasting time.

  • I thought about the ratio of query letters to publishing contracts (less than 1 in 5,000?)
  • I thought about the length of time, it takes to i) get an agent ii) get a publisher iii) get published ~ let’s say a year each for i) and ii) and 2 years for editing and marketing in part iii) – so 4 years in total (if your book is what they are looking for)
  • And then I asked myself where will traditional publishers be in 4 years? I suspect that with the way the market is going, some of them won’t even exist.

So do I want a traditional publisher? Well, I wouldn’t say no if one tapped me on the shoulder right now and offered me a good deal. But for the time being I think I’ll try self publishing.

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!

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.

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.