Thoughts about illustrating my stories
One of the many things that two years’ writing on Medium and Substack has gifted me as a writer is a delight in illustrating my stories.
My main interest is adult fiction (interspersed with quasi-factual meanderings like this one). In this field, the word is deemed sufficient. Illustrated stories are for kids — or for magazines. That’s the received wisdom, whether or not we choose to thumb our noses at it.
A lot of it was once simple economics, not any superiority of the printed word over the printed image. Until quite recently, illustrations used to be prohibitively costly to integrate with text. ‘Plates’ were literally etched plates. Full colour required four separate plates, four passes through the printing press, four times the expense of black-and-white. Even black-and-white photos needed to be printed on expensive coated paper and bound in discrete sections (signatures) of the book.
Digital printing technology has freed a lot of that up, but illustrations still add to cost, and fiction readers expect cheap books. Hardly any of the hundreds of novels on my shelves have illustrations integrated with the text.
So — publishing illustrated stories on Medium and Substack is a unique opportunity that I make the most of … in the certain knowledge that none of my illustrations will make it into the print editions I have planned for the last quarter of this year.
Continue reading “For Art’s Sake!” →
Finding my way in the thicket of advice for new fiction authors
There’s no shortage of advice online for fiction writers. Indeed, rather the opposite.
I see novice writers on Twitter obsessing over whether they are telling when they should, in fact, be #showing? What about adverbs: are we allowed adverbs? How many per paragraph? Does my inciting incident have to come before page 10? Is my writing sufficiently inclusive — but not culturally appropriative? What’s my genre? How many comps do I need for a synopsis? Sex in YA fiction: yes or no? Is 250K words too many for a first novel? Can I write it in the second person, future perfect tense?
There’s nothing wrong with this seeking and proffering of advice. The problem lies in the corollary: sifting, evaluation, often rejection.
Any piece of advice offered to a writer needs to be viewed suspiciously from all angles like an apple in the supermarket. Unlike with the apple, the writer can — must — take a bite, give it a good chew before maybe spitting it out on the figurative floor of the metaphorical Fresh Produce Department. Without the cashier calling Security to deal with a disturbance in Aisle Two.
Continue reading “It’s a Jungle Out There” →
A male writer’s fascination with female perspectives
Fiction writing is — in equal parts — imagination, empathy and transmogrification of lived experience.
The alchemy which turns my leaden autobiography into fictional gold (hopefully) is often a change of viewpoint. It’s the ‘What if?’ which sparks the narrative from the inciting incident.
Very often, I find myself wanting to write fiction from a female perspective. I’ve been told, by female readers whose opinion I value, that I’m good at it. About seventy per cent of my regular readers are female, so I guess I can’t be too lousy.
That’s gratifying praise, but I would be sad if it were unusual. Why should biological sex be a barrier to empathy or imagination? A man who cannot step outside his own ego to consider what a woman might desire in a lover, what she might hope for or fear in life, her insecurities, passions and preoccupations, is a sad specimen of humanity.
We consider it unremarkable that a female author might write a male protagonist well. The converse should also apply. It’s not as if there’s a shortage of study material, in terms of literature by female writers, and — shock! horror! — real live women to converse with.
A teen obsession
One of the great passions of my teenage years — that turbulent time of consuming and confusing passions — was the music of Kate Bush.
Continue reading “The Kick Inside” →
Why do we tell the stories that we tell?
On the occasion of my wife’s birthday, we’re in Melbourne for the week. For the first time since COVID hit our shores, we find ourselves in the CBD with time on our hands.
Suze likes to spend hours poking around markets; I’d sooner stick wasps up my arse, frankly. Luckily, we’re accustomed to giving each other space to do our own thing, rather than approaching every outing as a joint activity.
Fear not: we also have a shared calendar of events with multiple highlights and points of interest and time spent with friends – those who haven’t contracted COVID in the last couple of days. I’m not leaving the poor woman entirely to her own devices on the august occasion of reaching three-score years and ten.
So anyway, this morning, Suze was buying music-themed socks at the Vicky Market (hey, it’s her birthday) and trying to work out the location and name of that pub she went to with the girls that one time that sells Belgian cherry beer: an absorbing task for a woman with scant sense of direction and a love of Kriek.
Continue reading “In search of … what, exactly?” →
Reflections on a first attempt at writing a historical novel
‘The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.’ L. P. Hartley, The Go-Between, 1953
Out of my comfort zone
I grew up an Englishman on English soil. The past of the land I lived on was my past; I felt, rightly or wrongly, that I understood it intimately, intuitively.
These days, I live on the other side of the world, in a country where, until 1788, there were no Englishmen, other than a tiny number of whalers and sealers at a few points around our continent’s vast coastline — and no Englishwomen at all, as far as is known.
Stolen land, stolen history
The ‘settlement’ of the land that I live on, here in Victoria, began in 1835 with the landing of John Batman and his party.
It’s so close that I feel I can almost reach out and touch it. There are still descendents of the first settlers living on the same land their ancestors took possession of. Let’s not mince words: the land that they stole, with the connivance of the British Crown.
Continue reading “Treading Carefully” →
Dealing with feelings of inadequacy
It’s just 10 hours before my new storyletter Tall and Tiny Tales goes live with its first episode and podcast.
I think I’ve done my groundwork well: it’s a good concept well-executed, with some strong material … I think. My attempts at promotion have been moderately successful: I have over 60 subscribers on board. That’s not a bad start!
But what if it’s crap?
Will I see my subscribers desert in droves?
Who am I to think that I can reinvent myself as a fiction writer anyway?
Am I making a fool of myself?
Similar thoughts are often at the back of my mind when I try to do something that I haven’t done before.
Continue reading “Imposter!” →
My output of stories has been prolific over the past months. Clearly, a world-record series of lockdowns here in Victoria has been good for something!
However, ‘Write it and they will come’ isn’t proving to be a sensible way of getting my writing to readers.
I ruefully recognise that I only started reading some of my favourite contemporary authors after an obituary in the media. That’s a little long-term for this writer. I’d rather be read alive than dead.
So, how to get eyes on pages?
Here are some thoughts:
Continue reading “Getting Read” →
My fiction on coriobay.blog
Writing fiction is my favourite creative outlet right now. Although I’ve been a professional writer for many years, I’ve only recently started writing stories for my own and others’ entertainment. I wish I’d started sooner, because it’s a lot of fun!
I’m even kicking around the idea of getting together a collection of short stories for formal publication as an anthology. It will have to wait until I’m less busy with the ‘day job’, so probably next year, but it’s something I’d love to do.
I’m slightly daunted by the inevitable but complex question: to self-publish or to seek an agent and a conventional publisher?
In the meantime, while I’m figuring this out, you can find a selection of my stories for free, here on this site. Please have a read and leave a comment.
Continue reading “Read All About It!” →
How well does the platform perform for fiction writers?
I started publishing stories on Medium back in February of this year. So far, I’m pleased with my time as a Medium writer. I thought it was time to reflect on some of my experiences. If you’re considering publishing your work on Medium, you may find these observations useful.
I see myself primarily as a writer of prose fiction, with occasional memoirs and essays thrown into the mix. I’m a minority writer on Medium, therefore, and inevitably limiting my readership.
Readership is heavily genre-dependent
Factual pieces seem to get the most traffic. If you write how-to articles about starting a business or making money, opinion pieces about feminism or sexuality, commentary on current affairs, you’ll be tapping into Medium’s core readership and, with persistently good writing, could build a steady following.
Continue reading “Medium: the first 7 months” →
Finally getting that first novel(la) down
As I mentioned in last week’s post, ‘An Odd Sort of a Job’, I write fiction as part of my work as an educational writer. It’s mostly basic stuff: little stories and dialogues, as a vehicle for teaching English or German.
It follows that I’m not inhibited about sharing my creative writing or getting short imaginative pieces published. Still, writing a novel, a novella or even a substantial short story is, as they say, a different kettle of fish.
Over the years, I’ve had a few goes at writing a novel, and I don’t think any of them have got past a single chapter. Probably just as well: they would have been desperately dull.
You see, I was following the standard advice about planning a novel. You’ve read the kind of thing:
First, decide what story you want to tell. Next, envisage your reader … Write a short synopsis / cover blurb … List your major and minor characters … Do background research … Structure your story … Write a chapter plan … etc etc etc
That might work for some writers, but it sure as hell wasn’t working for me.
Here’s my alternative recipe. It seems to be working out (early days!) – maybe you’ll find it helpful too?
Continue reading “Breaking Through” →