Forget Starting Edits. How The Hell Do You STOP?

Morning /afternoon all.

My series for Writers & Artists is at an end, save the last Q&A post that's being put together behind the scenes. It's been brilliant, to be honest - especially the comments and conversation with other readers and writers. The post on editing got a lot of attention, predictably (I think it's an area people are wary of without even starting out first) - but it also raised a question I hadn't addressed.

When do you stop editing?

A first draft is rough (Hemingway said it was 'shit', I hear). You tinker / chisel / polish / apply whatever metaphor you wish, and it gets better. Finally, complete story, and instant fame and riches are yours. Congrats!*

*there will be no instant fame or riches.

So the question is, when is a story done? And I mean done done, so that it's ready to be read. Writers always want to play more. I guess in that way we can be like the deranged puppy with the toy that no, doesn't want to let go and yes, would much rather keep playing and keeping you awake for ever and ever, hooray.

To fall back on another of my betters, Neil Gaiman has said before that books aren't so much done as let go and put out in public, but he can always edit / improve them more. If art is ongoing and evolves with interaction, books could be forever re-released with changes. Actually, with ebooks, this is entirely feasible, though it raises more legal and ethical issues because of, you know, publishers being able to delete and edit any item people have bought without their permission (yes, they could. No, they won't.)

So, editing. As I write I tend not to edit either small or big things. Even typos get left behind if the story's chugging along. That all comes later, the correcting and the fixing.

But this is about stopping - about knowing when changes you make are going to start hurting the book.

Let's have some bullet points. Everyone loves a good bullet point.

Stop Editing Your Book When...

  1. You start adding in new twists and plot arcs on the spur of the moment. The repercussions down the line mean you're basically starting back at square one.
  2. You spend more than about thirty seconds agonizing over a single semi-colon. Punctuation has concrete rules. It's not hard. If you're indecisive it's because you're over thinking. Stop.
  3. Read your dialogue out loud. Is it natural, or have you edited it so much that it's either brisk and abrupt or long winded? Stop, and let characters breathe as well as speak.
  4. And, as with the above, have you got so caught up worrying about sense that you've forced in too much info as a precaution? Readers aren't stupid and they can probably work a lot more out than you realise - and all without you adding more and more hints and clues 'for clarity'. Reign it in, professor.
  5. You rewrite the same sentence over, and over, and over. Is it broken? Cut it. What you leave out is just as important as what you leave in. Stop beating the dead horse and thinking editing can fix a fatally bad bit of writing.

It can be a fine line, for sure, but tinkering rather than improving can strip a story of all the individuality and artistry that makes up your voice. Maybe that's another good point - if you're editing out the parts that make it yours, either because you're trying to be someone else or because you're scared it won't 'fit the market', stop. Be bold and be yourself even if that means damning grammar rules.

Good. What do you think? When does editing become a hindrance to good writing?


In which Hemingway and Heroes and Thoughts

I watched The Words last week. It's a decent film, and it all gets a bit meta. Story of a story of a story (of a story) kind of thing, but it had, at its heart a writer trying to be someone else. He was a struggling writer, I suppose, and he was slowly trying to become un-struggling, but what struck me - more than the pretty good representation of how publishing works, or the twists, or the layers of the film - was how much the writer had chosen to define his career through other writers.

A lot of the film is based in 1920s Paris and, like Midnight in Paris, hearkens back to the glory, the loss, and the artistic explosion of the "Lost Generation" of artists, writers and generally funky people who lived there at that time. And for writers, both in-film and in real life, the master and hero of that city and that time was Ernest Hemingway.

I'd never read any Hemingway before. I know, I know - and me, a writer. So, yesterday I read The Sun Also Rises, and today I worked on The Old Man and the Sea. This isn't about what I thought of his work, though.

All writers have heroes - people they wish they could have met, could have learned from. We steal our style and our inspiration with absolutely no shame because that is how it's always been. People write books because they read books, and no course in writing, no tutorials or degree or classes will ever teach you more than just reading other books and seeing how they work. And in The Words, of course, our writer protagonist has a dream - to be a Great Writer. Not good. Not OK.


He wants, in fact, to be Hemingway. He idolizes the work and life of other writers and it's that idolization, rather than admiration, which seems to paralyze him.

There's probably a warning there.

Who do writers look up to? Let them read those books and take joy in the words. Share them, preach about them, and copy them.

As long as you also remember to be yourself. The books you write have to, in the end, be for you, to be something you enjoy, and to be your own work. Copying someone else just makes a weird hybrid book that's not Great or Memorably Bad. It's just ... meh.

Writers love writers, and love reading their books - but when it comes to writing our own, I think it's important to make sure we leave off on aping, and get right down to creating, creating, creating.

Creating's where the magic happens. Go. Write. Make worlds.

Enjoy it


Wednesday's Inspiring Book - Artemis Fowl

Morning, crew.

Again, it's been a while since I did one of these, but there's no time like the present. On occasional Wednesdays, I've been going through and singing the praises of not just good books, but books that were instrumental (and inspirational) in making me want to be a writer. It's fun to look back and remember just what it was about certain books that made me think, or taught me something, or stayed with me and helped push and nudge me along the path to where I am now - my own book coming out next year.

Today's book - Artemis Fowl
This is one of those books where, yes, the cover caught my attention. I bought it from WH Smith in Harborne, Birmingham, and I bought it of my own volition with my own money - something still quite new to me back them. Eoin Colfer wasn't a name I knew but the blurb, promising both magic, faeries, and Die Hard-style explosions, knew what it was doing. The story's fantastic - and it started an entire trend of modern, tech'd up magical creatures that went strong for a couple of years. Artemis Fowl was the leader, though, and there have since been seven sequels charting the protagonist's adventures and battles with the various hidden creatures of the world. The writing is engaging but not patronizing, and the character himself - a somewhat smarmy, self-assured but essentially flawed boy - was brilliant because all young boys (and girls?) are pretty much smarmy, self-assured and exceptionally flawed. 

Artemis Fowl was also one of the first books I read that broke the fourth wall (or the... second... page?) with interactive 'features'. Along the bottom of every page, a simple code, translatable if you used the key Artemis himself revealed earlier in the book, spelled out a hidden message. Simple, not difficult to crack, but for a kid, and for one new to books, it was spectacular that beyond just the story the book could offer more - breaking down, a tiny bit, the barrier between the fiction and my life. That's something kids' books strives to do, and it worked.

So, for that, and for the sheer goodness and awesome-ness of the cover, the story, and the characters, Artemis Fowl is today's inspiring book.

Read it? Like it? Let me know.


What Are My Dreams, And What Will They Be?

People have dreams. Some are loud and in-your-face about it. Some are quiet and secretive. Both of these are fine - but all people have dreams. Whether they believe in them, shun them, chase them, or deny them is a different matter - and an individual person's life is made up of a web of webs, an eternal circle of interconnecting people, places, events, and thoughts that make them unique and their situation special.

That's why you can't judge someone else's dreams or what they're doing about them without accepting that you're probably wrong anyway and you aren't seeing the big picture.

Sure, no man's an island, but that doesn't mean we're not, in the end, the sole inhabitant of that island who really, truly knows what's what.

For a long time I've only had two main goals. I wanted to travel - in particular, to Japan - and I wanted to become an author. I wanted a book, for children, that I'd written, to be out there in shops with my name on it.

And now that's happening - though there's still so much to do - and I lived in Japan for three and a half years, and the thought strikes me: I should make some new goals.

Not because I'm done with my old ones at all. Travel never ends, and there are many, many places I have not been to. As for the book, it's one book, and it's more than a year away, and there are more books and more stories to tell.

But I'm a firm believer in having impossible things as your goals in life, because impossible things make you strive a lot more.

There's a Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic that I really like:

It's a nice idea - the constantly reaching out and defining and changing who we are. So while I want to build upon being a writer, an author, and I want to move around the world, I also want to have goals which are secret and hidden because the seem so off the wall loony and ridiculous that if I share them, people will just shake their heads and smile. Then, bit by bit, I can work on them, and explore more of time and space - which, really, is what people do.

Travelling and writing are my ongoing dreams, but I feel excited right now because I'm settling on my future dreams. What do I want out of life - what do I want to have done, in ten - twenty - fifty years' time and be able to look back and remember this time right now, when it seemed so far away?

These are my thoughts right now, when everything is changing and so many things seem possible.

My goals, they are a-changing.


AW April Blog Chain - April Fools

A meaningful milestone for me, this post - April 2012 was the first chain story I took part in. A year's gone by, and stories have happened - like Dead Bunnies, Daniel, The End of the World, or The Storyteller's Jig, soon to be out there for all to see. Lots of other things have - some bad, most good. What more can you want, in reality?

The prompt for April 2013 is April Fools. Check out the other guys' stories below, and be sure to comment and appreciate them all.

[Edited: I made this post in advance, ready to hit the post when my turn came. This morning  however, news broke that one of my writing buddies, Kelsey Macke, had signed not just a book deal, but a book deal with a tie-in album to be recorded by her and her husband. Massive congratulations to Kelsey! We've never actually met - yet - but we were on submission together, blog together, and now our books are gonna be published not too far apart, in Fall 2014. She broke the news on her vlog - go watch it here and keep your eyes out for this rising star. Good! And now, the story...]

April Fools

I thought it was an April Fools,' she said, and she rested her elbows on the table.

The man looked at her and said nothing. The tape recorder made small clicks and whirs, and it had hummed at the beginning, she thought, though maybe it still did, and she just couldn't hear it any more.

She had a paper cup of water. She took a sip, wetting her tongue.

Paper, she thought. How can it hold water? She almost asked them. When she looked up and saw their faces she stopped.

'You heard the call,' she said. 'I just didn't think –'

Now one of them spoke. He was the older one. He had grey stubble on his chin and grey eyes, flecked, she thought, with green. His accent was harsher, from the North.

'There are standards,' he said.

'I know.'

'Every call gets logged and reported.'

'You think so?' she said. He raised his eyebrows. The young man spoke up.

'They don't?'

London, she thought. Native. And he's - what - mid twenties? A boy.

'Listen,' she said. 'You know it as well as me, so don't pretend to be so naive. Plenty of the calls are jokes, get treated as jokes, and get forgotten.'

'This wasn't a joke,' said the first man.

She sighed. 'No,' she said.

'And now we have a problem.'

'I do, you mean.'

It was the younger one who replied, and that surprised her.

'Sherlock Holmes,' he said. 'You know the name?'

She frowned and let her mind wander. Holmes? She did. How did she? Where had she heard that? Then it came to her. She frowned more.

'That ... private detective guy? He's been on the tele a bit.'

'Think he prefers "consulting detective"' said the younger one, and he actually smiled.

'He's quite good,' he added. 'We keep it quiet but honestly, he's better than most of us.'

The older man didn't stop him, didn't even frown, which was odd, she thought. He flicked his eyes to his colleague and then looked back at her. No one spoke. The machine clicked. Well, she thought. At least that's all on tape. At least they won't want to leak it to the press now.

'The call,' said the older man again.

'Look,' she said. She felt emboldened. She felt a sudden rush - a wave - of hope.

'Do you know how many 999 calls I answer in one shift? It changes, of course. If I'm on for three hours, say, no break, I can take well over twenty. Thirty, maybe. And on big days - Christmas, New Years, April 1 - more. Always more. And some are just pricks thinking it's fun. Some are people who needs help. And I've never gotten the two confused before.'

'Until now.'

'That isn't helpful.'

The paper has to be waxed, she thought. That's how the water stays in. It can't be healthy, can it? Drinking wax. She pulled a face.

'Sherlock Holmes,' she said. 'Why do I need to know him?'

'Ah,' said the older.

'Hm,' said the younger.

She waited. For a moment, she had the power. Let them wait, she thought. People talk if you leave a gap to fill. It's basic, that. It's easy and primitive. Leave a silence big enough and people will always jump in to it.

'It was him who made the call.'

'A detective?'

'It wasn't a joke you see.'

'He said they had swords,' she said.


'He said the Czar’s' Jewel was in the open.'


'It's 2013. There hasn't been a Czar for 96 years.'

They stared. Then, '96? Really?'

'The Revolution of 1917,' she said. She was good at history. She was good at a lot of things.

'He said Victoria - Queen Victoria - was wrong about the jade.'

'Ah. Yes,' said the younger man. 'You see-'

'There was more.’

'We have head the recording -'

'He said the Dandy Club knew. The Dandy Club. And that if the red haired man took three sugars - three, not two - in his tea, then he would be murdered.'

They didn't say anything.

'So yes, I thought it was a joke.'

‘We understand,’ said the older man.

‘And you say it wasn't?’


‘It all meant something.’

‘As far as is understood, yes.’

She had to ask, then. They weren't going to tell her if she didn't.

‘Is he dead, then? Holmes? Because I didn't send a car round?’

They shifted in their seats and looked uncomfortable. Good, she thought. At least this isn't a witch hunt.


‘We don’t know, truth be told,’ said the younger man again. ‘The problem is that he might be – in which case the police have lost something truly amazing. And if he isn't – well, then he’s going to be annoyed that you slowed things down a bit.

She scoffed. ‘Annoyed at me?’

‘It … wouldn't be the first time.’

She leaned forward. ‘Fist time for what?’

‘People get caught in the cross fire,’ said the older man again. ‘There’s always … collateral, when good and bad go up against each other.’

‘I have no idea what you’re trying to say,’ she said. ‘And I’m tired and confused and I might get angry.’


‘Don’t be sorry. Tell me what you want to tell me.’

‘If Holmes is alive, you’re probably fired. If he’s dead, you’re probably fired.’

She felt the shock in her stomach, like a freezing nausea, an icy ache. The men looked away. The tape whirred. Waxed paper, she thought. We can make waxed paper, and the Czar’s jewel is in the open, and I could lose my job.

‘This Holmes,’ she said, voice steady, eyes fixed. ‘He sounds like a child. He sounds like a boy.’

‘Perhaps,’ said the older man. ‘But he’s not one we can mess with.’

‘There are official procedures for this,’ she said.

‘And there are ways around them.’

‘You can’t just fire me and make me be quiet and –‘

‘We can,’ said the man, and he said it with a suddenly cold, tired voice.

The tape player clicked, and they were silent.

‘I thought it was an April Fools,’ she said, and the words sounded childish, and almost like a joke themselves.

They fidgeted, coughed, and had nothing more to say.


Ten Ways Travelling Makes You a Better Writer

'Travel broadens the mind', they say. Like most truisms it's a nice sentiment, albeit rather wide ranging. Still, there's something to be said for this one. New people, new sights, new experiences and new words can help you to become aware of, if not break free from, the assumptions, norms and standards of your home life. In all areas of life - spiritual, artistic, emotional, political, cultural, culinary, etc., - having your expectations challenged is a strength if something constructive can come from it.

Writing has to be the same.

And reading, too.

Personally, I'm a big fan of getting out and seeing the world. I know this is a huge privilege, and I'm so, so thankful for that. Reading and writing are just ways of travelling without leaving your room, or your head. I do think, though, that even getting away from your home makes your fiction better. Adventures, escapades, shenanigans ... there's a whole world out there. What was it that Tolkien said?

“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

In the spirit of sharing and challenging and seeing what happens, I've been thinking about ways that travelling changes your writing for the better. And since a good blog post needs a snappy title, I'll call it Ten Ways Travelling is a Wondrous, Mind Opening, Writing Changing Experience. Oh, yes.

  1. Words. This might seem a tad broad, but let me explain. Writers make things up. People, places, history, even languages, depending on your genre (I'm looking at you, Fantasy). Still, readers have a keen ear for badly constructed fictional names. Lord Binganbotty The Super-Amazing Mage is never going to be a terrifying bad guy. Voldemort is. Why? Well, Voldemort is brilliantly constructed. It's meaningful. It's actually French for flight of death. If you travel, even to somewhere that still speaks your own language, you're exposed to new sounds, new dialects, and new names. Names can be surprisingly local. Visit a graveyard while you're away and see. Steal shamelessly from local history and lore. Find new words, traveler.
  2. Comfort. Travel, at some point, means letting go of your home comforts. Planes are cramped and restless beasts. Or if you're camping, they're luxury, compared to what you might get. Trekking in Peru? Ow. Visiting soggy hillsides of Europe? Beautiful, but damp. New York at Christmas? So. Bloody. Cold. Brilliant, though. Without all the trappings of your life, you experience a bit more of the real world. If you're ever writing about a character adventuring, or surviving, or running away, you need these feelings, multiplied. Roughing it's good for the soul and the page.
  3. Paper. Simple. Although laptops changed the way we write, travelling is still pretty good at getting you back to basics. No plugs? Wrong voltage? Just write on paper and see where that gets you. Yes, I realise a lot of writers already use paper alone, but plenty of us don't, and perhaps we should more often.
  4. Food. An awkward and clumsy scene trying to insert exotic flavour into a book based on nothing more than a Wikipedia page is all too soon a disaster. Experiencing the lunches and diners of another world yourself is still the best way to work out quite how to describe it later on.
  5. Mind. Here we come back to the truism. It broadens it, does travel. Writers need broad minds. You're conjuring whole worlds and lives from nothing. It's harder to do if you've never left your house. Go to the next town, the next state, the next country, and just look. Things are different. Write about that.
  6. Read. Writers have to read. You're just badly trained if you don't. And if you're away from home, off on a train, sleeping at a mate's house ... bring a book. Or steal one of theirs. Or rob a library. Use the time to read. Also, please don't rob libraries.
  7. Airports. I know that plenty of travel does not involve airports. So, substitute 'train station'. Or 'taxi ramp.' That doesn't matter. What does matter is that it's a place where people meet and say goodbye. Emotions can run high, and be beautiful. Go, watch, write. Experience other people's lives for a tiny sliver of time. 
  8. I'm sorry, what? Different to point No. 1. If you're somewhere abroad and you don't speak the lingo, here's your chance to use body language, or hastily learned phrases, or desperate, bulging eyes as you try to ask where the bathroom is using only interpretive dance. Being aware of natural body movements, and knowing which gestures mean nothing outside your own country, is important. If you're writing, don't ignore your characters' natural movements when they talk - and if language is lost to you, it really forces you to pay attention. Good luck finding that bathroom, by the way.
  9. Time. Away from your house, your job, and your e-mail? Think. Plot your next book. Don't go on Twitter. Yes, I see you there, all Twitter-ing when you should be writing. 'Think before you write' is as important as 'look before you leap'.
  10. Find good books! Even between the UK and the US, different authors are big names or nobodies. Travel around, even within your country, and see who's popular. Is there a local author recommended in the village bookshop? Someone in this country's bestseller list you've never heard of? Ask, find, read. Ask other travelers, strangers or friends. The world is huge, and you are small, and people have been writing books for hundreds of years. You've barely scratched the surface - why settle for less?
Trendy author is leaving now. Bye, guys!


Writers and Money - Sometimes It's a Two Way Street

Artists and writers can be excitable and trigger happy when it comes to exposure and opportunities to get work out into the world and make a little money. In general, creative types don't command high salaries and every little help. So, competitions to win paid publication, or just to win a place in an anthology, are a tempting sight. Having someone accept your work makes you somehow Officially a Writer - and if there's a prize, or a direct payment for pub., then hey, you've realised the dream of making a (small) living from telling stories. That's all right, right?

Right. Well, right and wrong, of course.

[Edited: I should point out that this idea itself should be treated with suspicion. Validation does not make you a writer, and publication is entirely irrelevant to being an artist. If you write and consider yourself a writer, be proud of that. At the same time, I don't want to ignore the fact that there is very much a widespread idea that being accepted and distributed earns you your 'writing stripes'. To each their own - just don't let the glamour of pub. blind you to whether it's actually good for you.]

There's an old adage that money should always go towards the writer - but in the modern world of e-publishing and e-anthologies, is this so hard and fast anymore? Aren't there times when a writer can, quite validly, pay something - an entrance fee, for example - and still feel like everything's legit?

File:PSM V88 D106 Destruction process of old paper money.png
The Destruction of Old Money
I would argue yes - but with some strings attached.

The idea that money should always go towards the writer and never, ever away is a good thing, and a simple way of espousing the overall philosophy that writing is a profession you should be paid fairly for - while at the same time issuing a warning to new writers about vanity publishers and downright charlatans who will steal from you, knowing that being 'published' will blind many artists to the reality of what's happening.

Again, it's a Good Thing. New writers need warning, and sometimes people in general need to remember that fiction isn't always a hobby, and you can't expect freebies if you want quality and professionalism.

But then ... if you want to be a writer, you have to be willing to make some sacrifices and some investment. Money should go towards the doctors, too, but that doesn't mean they don't spent thousands of pounds getting their medical degrees. Money should go towards electricians, but they still spend their own money getting extra certifications and licences if it'll move them up a rung. Writers can't be too precious about this. The key word here is investment. So, actually, sometimes the money does need to go away from the writer.

Bye bye, money! For now.

Entrance fee to a competition? Pay it. What is it - £5? $15? You'd spent that on lunch without thinking. Don't be stingy and get suddenly protective because you've misunderstood the idea behind the writer / money flow. Overall - and especially from large and established publishers buying novels - yes, you should make money. But when you're building a future career, making contacts, getting your name out - no, it doesn't just happen with no costs at all. Network. Go to conferences. Spend yo' dosh on things you believe in.

You're essentially starting a business of one, self employed to write. Businesses have start up costs. Buy The Writers' & Artists' Yearbook. Pay to enter stories. Even pay for editing if the company is legit and well known. (Don't pay agents, and don't pay publishers. These rules are hard and fast).

Now, I mentioned caveats above, and here they are. If you're paying a few quid/bucks/yen to enter a short story, you can reasonably expect clear and open communication about:

  • What winning will mean
  • Who's judging
  • What publication will look like - rights, formats, time-frame
  • When winners will be announced
  • Compensation - prize / complimentary copies / other

If this information isn't available, I'd be wary. If it is, and you think winning / being shortlisted / being published will boost your resume, your confidence, and your name as a writer - pay up.

So, there you go. Thoughts on money and how it sometimes does go both ways for writers. Agree? Disagree? Let me know. Let's keep the conversation going.


Blogs, Stories, Happiness

Good morning, all.

Firstly, for those not keeping up, the third of my W&A posts about writing and finishing you book is now up. It's on getting plugged in to writing community and you can find the links to my other posts up there as well. It's been fun so far, and the comments and replies seem to be positive, so I'm thankful to the guys at the Yearbook for letting me take over their page for a time!

Also up now is, less excitingly, my author page on The Bent Agency site - here. It's a big step for me since the agency only profiles writers who've made sales. Fun times for one and all.

Well, OK, mostly for me.

Whether it was a good idea or not, I'm taking part in the Absolute Write April blog chain again. In a way this one will mean a lot to me - it was April when I first took part in the AW chain (I wrote this story, Dead Bunnies, which I was quite proud of) and a year having gone by, and a lot having happened in it, means I have a lot to be thankful for.

Not a particularly exciting post today, eh? Busy life and busy times, but wanted to make sure all changes and news were represented here.

What have you been up to? Share and share alike, my friends.



On The Reading and Writing of Short Stories

For one reason or another, I've found my literary life revolving more and more around short stories recently. While I set out to become a writer  - with no limitation on style or form - the accepted wisdom of the day has always been that you can't make a living - not real money - from short stories. Novel are where the big bucks are. Poetry? Forget it.

Still, I have always written short stories - usually between 1500 - 4000ish words - and I've read some fantastic collections in my time.

Some of the best short story collections I've read over the years are from very different authors, from different places and cultural backgrounds, and with different approaches to writing. They've all put out great books, though, with individual stories that build up a bigger picture as a whole.

 Interpreter of Maladies - Jhumpa Lahiri

Bought this collection on a whim in Japan in the English language section of one of Tokyo's larger stories. Lahiri's colourful worlds, expertly built and with real soul and earth behind them, won me over straight away. That I left my copy there when I moved is  a tragedy for me and a blessing for whoever ends up finding it.

Fragile Things - Neil Gaiman 

Gaiman's always been an expert at giving us brief, teasing snapshots of a life, of a world just beyond our reach, and of a new way of seeing things, and Fragile Things - collecting stories he's had published, that have won awards, some that never did, and some poems - is a good and fairly accurate sampler for his wider fiction.

The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios

I loved Life of Pi, and that led to Self, and that in turn led to this collection Martel published years before the fame and acclaim. The title story of this collection is a moving and pretty unique take on frame narrative and friendship and the importance of telling stories. The rest of the pieces are just as good.

Dubliners - James Joyce

The one, the only, Joyce, and his Dubliners - which I was introduced to in university. The stories are understated and power and comment on a whole lot of things I didn't understand as a twenty year old because, really, no twenty years old knows much of anything. His voice, though, and the writing, got to me even then

From reading to writing is never a very big leap. I've been exploring the genre more and more recently. I have a short story coming out in May as part of an anthology of retold Grimm stories. I've been submitting more of my short pieces to competitions and publishers, and reading more of what's out there - things like Unmanned Press' Short of the Month. Their March story is now up, and worth a read. Eventually there'll be twelve, and they'll make what's sure to be a fantastic anthology.

The Bath Short Story Award just this weekend closed to submissions, but you can keep your eyes out for the longlist coming on April 27, and the stories that you'll be able to read from that. And if you fancy your chances, the Bristol Prize deadlines isn't until the end of April - 4000 word max, any topic, any writer. I know for a fact my agency-bud Kat Ellis had a story highly commended for this prize.

Short stories are a great, great way to really hone your craft. Superfluous words have to get cut - there's a limit! The plot and the voice have to be right. It makes you focus on every word, every line of dialogue, and the pacing - oh, the pacing, If it's rushed or lazy in a novel length ms, writing a short story is like putting your work under a microscope and examining it for every single flaw you can find.

If you're looking for places to submit to, New Pages has some of the best call for submission pages I've found online and you're sure to find somewhere that's a fit for your style and genre and length. So why not? Get out there, get adventurous.

Plus, if you believe the New York Times, short stories have a bright, bright future in the world of e-publishing. Plus ├ža change, I say.