Change is … Refreshing

It matters not whether it’s an outfit, a job, a car, the look of a room, the layout of your desk, or the way that you do something – it sometimes gives the spirits a lift to create change.

As a writer it helps to have more than one project on the go, moving from one to another as and when the mood takes you, or when ‘resting’ a story between drafts.

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What are we doing when we change something?

We are refreshing. I recently set up a new item on my blog menu to give some basic guidance on the writing of short stories. I said within those guidelines that I’d follow up with a piece on writing short stories for competitions. That is now done and appears in my menu under the Competition Writing heading.

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What was that about change and refreshing in the intro?

When I started creative writing it was poetry, and then I tried short stories. The poetry was left behind as the whole concept of short story writing captured my imagination. It took a couple of years before I dared to consider a novel, but once I’d dipped my toe in the water – I was smitten. That particular change has proved worthwhile and fulfilling.

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What is the relevance of my personal writing progression to this post?

In recent weeks, apart from my other projects I’ve produced two short stories for anthologies. The incentive for writing the stories was that the proceeds of sales of the anthologies will be forwarded to charities. I will return to the subject of the anthologies to talk about them and promote them closer to their publication.

A lot of people are excited about the cover and title of one of the two charity anthologies, and quite rightly – because both are excellent. Over the next few days I’m pretty sure there will be many who ‘share’ the cover and promote the collection before its publication. I’ll leave that to them for now, and I’ll get underway with a similar strategy a day or two before the publication date.

By far my favourite Facebook group is the Indie Author Review Exchange, founded by fellow author, blogger and friend, Paul Ruddock. It is from that group, now numbering 570+ after only a few months, that an open request was made for authors to take part in the two charity anthologies.

I noted that not only were there authors who hadn’t written short stories for a while – it became clear that there were those who had never ventured into the challenges of writing short stories.

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Why is it a good idea to try writing short stories?

The short story is a separate discipline to that of novel writing, or even novella writing. A short story requires tighter word usage, fewer characters, a tight timeline and a single unwavering plot which starts with a personal conflict of some description.

There is no allowance for a cast of thousands, or lengthy and flowery descriptions of imagery. The dialogue should move the story forward as rapidly as the action. The character in crisis should be the one who plays the major part in how the original conflict plays out.

In my own humble opinion I believe that even the occasional short story helps the novelist to tone-up, refresh, and reassess where they are with their writing craft. I am presently working on three completely different longer pieces at the moment, but taking a break to produce two short stories was a breath of fresh air, which I am sure has affected how I am now approaching my novels.

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Are there any other reasons for writing short stories?

It may not be obvious to all writers, but there is money to be made and prizes to be won with short stories. Yes, they have to be of a high standard, and yes they will require to follow certain guidelines, but isn’t that true of any competition. If you’ve never considered the short story competition market and you’d like an insight, please check out – Competition Writing.

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What am I working on in novels?

In terms of priority my front runner is Acts of Vengeance, which is the sequel to Beyond The Law. Rapidly following that one is A Life of Choice, which is a fact-based fiction, coming-of-age story. The latest contender for my literary affections is Give and Take. I am intending it to be a full length erotic novel, so the story is very much an experiment. If you’ll pardon the pun, the secondary reason for writing such a story is to provide relief when not working on the other stories. Give and Take – Chapter 1.

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What else have I changed recently?

Whilst working on my two short stories for the anthologies, something came to mind. I went to my blog to check it out, and I was surprised by how many main subject headings I had on my main menu.

When I was leaving my writing aside for a break, I spent about half an hour refreshing my menu and selecting items that could be stepped down to sub-menu level.

You will see that my tips for writing short stories are all under one main heading. My short story anthologies are under a single heading. My four published novels are under one heading, and one that I’m particularly pleased about is, placing Work in Progress under one heading.

In one session I believe I have: improved the appearance of the main menu, made it easier to navigate, and made it more manageable for me as the main user. I look forward to any thoughts on the topics I’ve covered in this post.

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Anthologies – Theme or Genre?

Okay, so you want to compile an anthology of short stories, but there are many things to consider, quite apart from the decision about whether to go ahead with the idea.   Smoke & Mirrors - 030714 2

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What are the main considerations?

– Will it be theme-based, or genre-based?
– Will it be one person’s work, or a variety of authors?
– How many titles should there be?
– What length should the average story be?
– What price range do you aim for?
Yes, there are many more questions, but we now have a flavour of what is involved in compiling a collection of stories.

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Theme versus genre?

Themes – and this is a mere handful of examples.

– Retribution
– Goodness
– Family
– Natural History
– Day and Night
– Environment
– Imprisoned
Anybody can come up with a theme. Your chosen theme can be as tightly controlled, or as wide-ranging as you choose.

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Genre – and once again, a handful of examples.

– Thriller
– Horror
– Supernatural/Paranormal
– Erotica
– Young Adult
– Romance
– Science-Fiction
– Adventure
– Children’s
– Fantasy

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It should be easy to see now that with regard to genre, they are well-established and they each have sub-genres which are easy to identify.
For example, ‘Erotica’ leads to: Straight, Gay, Bi, BDSM, TV, TS, and a few more besides.912FmvSHzYL._SL1500_

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The difference with theme-based work is that it is an even wider spectrum than genre. I’ll choose one theme at random from my previous spontaneous short list, and then I’ll explore it mentally for no more than two minutes. I will set a stopwatch for this exercise.

We’ll say for example that I’m entering a short story competition and the guidelines are:

Genre: Open,
Theme: Imprisoned,
Word count: 2000 min to 2500 max,
Line spacing: Double-spacing in Times New Roman – pt 12.
Closing Date: 34th Zonkemper 2095

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Are you ready for this?

My theme is ‘Imprisoned’? The stopwatch is on …

1. – a 14-year old boy is washed into a cave at the seaside …
2. – a soldier awakes trapped in a damaged tank after an explosion in a battle …
3. – a woman wakes up bound and gagged in a cellar with a straw-covered floor …
4. – a dog is on a small island and the owner cannot swim …
5. – a light plane crashes onto a remote island and the only survivors are a beautiful woman and a handsome man who is ten years her junior …
6. – a car overturns and sinks in a river, but the driver survives the crash …

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I’ve been given a definite theme – imprisoned.
I’ve created a rapid list of ideas and any one of them could work with that theme, but are they the same genre?

No they are not the same genre. To see why; let’s look closer at how my mind works.

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1. – a 14-year old boy is washed into a cave at the seaside … the boy is the son of a werewolf and his anguish brings about his first ever experience of transformation.

2. -a soldier awakes trapped in a damaged tank after an explosion in a battle … the soldier looks down at his scarlet tunic and body armour as he slips his feet from his Roman sandals. He wonders what happened to the other centurions in the explosion.

3. – a woman wakes up bound and gagged in a cellar with a straw-covered floor … there is a longbow, a quiver of arrows and a barrel of dynamite in the corner.

4. – a dog is on a small island and the owner cannot swim … the dog has taken the gun that the female owner used to shoot her husband only a short while before.

5. – a light plane crashes onto a remote island and the only survivors are a beautiful woman and a handsome man who is ten years her junior … the young man is the woman’s long lost brother. He knows; she doesn’t.

6. – a car overturns and sinks in a river, but the driver survives the crash … the man in the car is dressed in women’s clothing and on his way to his first ever transvestite meeting in a remote village.

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What have we established?

An anthology is a supremely flexible production.
– it can be a mixture of stories by one author.
– it can be a mixture of stories by various authors.
– it can be a mixture of stories using a nominated genre.
– it can be a mixture of stories using a variety of genre.
– it can be a mixture of stories using a nominated theme.
– it can be a mixture of stories using a variety of themes.
– it can be a mixture of any of the aforementioned.

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Here I feature, Not What You Thought’, which is an example of mixed genre, mixed theme and mixed authors. The main author is Paul Ruddock who has compiled a selection of his own stories, and complemented them with work by guest authors.

Not What You ThoughtPlease find below, links to this newly published anthology. Paul Ruddock is a blogger, reviewer, author of short stories, and founder of the Indie Author Review Exchange group on Facebook. He also created and maintains the Indie Author Review Exchange blog.

The proceeds from sales of this book will be donated to a British military veteran’s charity.

Amazon UK   £1.99    Amazon US   $2.99

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What’s my experience with anthologies so far?

I have short stories traditionally published in four separate anthologies which are all theme-based and have a variety of authors.

I have one short story published on an audio CD, which is theme-based and has a variety of authors.

I have self-published two anthologies of short stories.

I have a series of five genre-based anthologies of poetry.

Smoke & Mirrors; and other stories, is a theme-based collection.
Twist-in-the-tale, but using a range of genre.

Coming Around; and other erotic stories, is a genre-based collection.
Erotica, but using a range of sub-genre.

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I believe that for general reader satisfaction either can work.
– A genre-based collection will appeal to lovers of the particular genre.
– A theme-based collection will appeal to lovers of short stories.
If compiled well, an anthology can produce a selection of completely different stories.

My personal preference is that an anthology should have around 12 stories.

If you’re new to the idea of anthologies, or have up until now wondered what all the fuss was about, I hope I’ve cleared away some of the mystery. These have been my own thoughts, gained from experience, and are not ideas influenced by any text book information.

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As always, I thank you for coming by and reading my thoughts. Please leave a comment if you feel so inclined.

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