Friday, 9 March 2012

Take a Leap success

It all started with an email which promoted a competition run by Writers were encouraged to enter submissions written around the theme of 'Take a Leap', as 2012is a leap year. The competition was also promoting flash fiction and the word count was 750, an encouraging figure, long enough to develop an idea but short enough to allow fairly instant gratification. I set to writing a couple of entries, not with confidence of winning but from the joy of having a reason to write something other than my novel which is frankly stuck, and the widely interpretable theme.  The editors Sarah and Muli were confident that they would find five good stories to award as competition winners and publish in an e-anthology on Kindle. In the event they were pleasantly surprised by the standard and number of entries and chose ten stories to publish.

The email announcing the winners was sent on 5 March and I was very happy to receive it. Sending off your writing to faceless editors and judges is a bit like sending your child to school on her own for the first time. There is a relinquishing of responsibility while retaining a pride in the relationship and trust that all the hard work put in about looking both ways when crossing the road and not speaking to strangers has paid off. The attention to voice, theme, character and setting pays off and when a professional in the field approves of your finished product, that is reward in itself.

Being able to log on to Amazon and see my name next to a book advertised for sale is also a reward, one which I find unaccountably amusing. After all I just entered a competition in response to an email, how random is that?

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Book reviewing

In 2011 I turned my hand to the task of writing book reviews. It is an interesting exercise which has raised questions for me about how honest one should be about a book's failings as well as its strengths. Two of the sites that I have written for are designed to offer support to novice writers but in slightly different ways. Book Country which is allied to the Penguin publishing group allows writers to submit up to 30,000 words of their novel for readers/fellow writers to comment on. In this case one is encouraged to offer advice on how the writing could be improved under specific headings and then give a rating. Lancashire Writing Hub offers the opportunity for writers to submit short extracts from their writing which members are encouraged to comment on and also has a conventional book review slot for completed works.
When offering feedback on a novice writer's work one should be encouraging and supportive, that goes without saying but too often serious faults in the writing are treated like the elephant in the room, pretend it isn't there and everyone will be happy. It doesn't work. How can writers improve if their faults are never pointed out? The biggest elephants are those which occupy the world of e-publishing. Unedited work which has not had the benefit of informed peer review or any form of critical attention is regularly published on digital platforms. Most of these books would never have been accepted by an agent, publishers would reject them out of hand as unreadable and quite rightly.
So how does a writer who loves books respond when asked to review a self-published book which has more holes in the plot than Rab C. Nesbitt's vest? Do you point out the glaringly obvious or do you turn a blind eye to the elephant stomping about destroying the living room? That is a matter for one's conscience and the publication's editorial policy but let's point out the rampaging pachyderm before someone gets hurt.

This blog is not intended to refer to a particular book review or book.

My latest review can be found on: