NaNo, NaNo, only 30K to go…

An awesome Numskulls figurine from the ComicVine website
Lucian’s head, yesterday. Except with less hair.

…with a laptop and a pint and a story outline, NaNo, NaNo-NaNo-NaNooooo. Yes, I know what you are thinking: “Oscar-winning song-writing there, Lucian. Top hole!”

Yes, yes, yes. First of all I’d like to thank the Academy…

Anyway, hello you! As the National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is in full swing I’ve spent rather a lot of time recently hammering the first 20,000 words of my novel into this here laptop and thus keeping abreast of the dreaded daily word count. (Just.) Some of these 20,000 words, I’m happy to report, even form sentences.

My teenage horror fan self seems satisfied with the yucky bits and my (rather pronounced) puerile self has rubberstamped his seal of approval on the industrial-strength language thrown around liberally by my bad guy. Please be warned, however, that my smartarse self, the one that came up with the tagline to this blog, not to mention the lion’s share of the story, is also fairly pleased with himself. You can give him a slap if he gets too annoying. (All this talk of assorted selves reminds me of The Numskulls cartoon that appeared in The Beezer and, later, The Beano. Ah, memories…)

Anyway, so far, so spiffing, and there are only another 30,000 words to get down before I “win”. Or collapse. One or the other.

In my previous post I mentioned how the launch meeting for NaNoWriMo was something of an eye-opener, and the revelations continue now I’m 40% into the word count. For example:

1) A 10,000 word plot outline doesn’t necessarily make NaNoWriMo any easier
I’ve lost count of the times my characters have deviated from the plot outline I feverishly hammered out over the summer. Either way I’m taking this as a positive: either the characters have developed minds of their own, which will hopefully then resonate with the reader, or my characters’ original actions weren’t so well-realised, so the story benefits from a little tightening up as a result. Luckily the structure of my plot is fairly modular, so my characters’ actions should not affect the overall story arc, but I’m not sure I’ll be so lucky when I come to write NaNo novel #2 next year.
What a detailed outline has allowed, however, is for me to plant a smattering of in-jokes and other stuff into the narrative for those having a second read-through of the novel. See, you already want to slap that smartarse self of mine, don’t you?

2) Aiming to writing a chapter a day was naïve
It sounded good at the time but my chapters are turning out to be longer than 1667 words, often double that. As a result I’m unlikely to complete a first draft of Title Withheld by the end of the month, but should be most of the way there, and definitely more than 50,000 words through. I could be looking at 300+ pages, though I hope not many more. That said I’m now off work until the 29th (happy, happy, joy, joy!) so let’s see if I can’t eat up some of these stray chapters.

3) Missing two days’ writing is terrifying
I woke up yesterday with 13,250 words and had to somehow finish today on 20,000. Yikes! I guess I’ll have to move my birthday for next year’s NaNo.
I feel I ought to put this into context, however: 3,375 words per day for two days doesn’t seem so bad when compared to the regime professional novelists place upon themselves. US horror legend Stephen King claims in his book “On Writing” (very much recommended) that he gets down around 2,000 words a day, every day, without fail, however many hours it takes (usually a morning). UK horror legend Shaun Hutson goes nuts if he can’t get down his ten pages each day – by UK book standards that’s around 2,500 words. So for me to bemoan 3,375 is perhaps a little precious.

4) My main character kicks arse!
Now that my main character is walking and talking and getting stuck in I’m growing to like her a lot more than I thought I would. Looking at my plot outline it’s such a shame that she… well, you’ll have to read the story, won’t you?

5) It costs just over £20,000 to buy a full-page advert in The Sunday Times’ Books section.
Ah. Perhaps I’m getting a little ahead of myself here…

The important thing is that NaNoWriMo continues to surprise and delight (even if it does sap precious moisture from my eyeballs), because for me that means it also continues to be interesting and worthwhile. If you are taking part in NaNoWriMo then I hope the ideas are flowing from your fingertips, or you are at least engaging with fellow NaNo-ers through the write-ins, forums and Facebook groups.

Finally, if you would like a sneaky preview of Title Withheld I have pasted a short excerpt here:

http://www.nanowrimo.org/en/participants/lucian-poll/novels/title-withheld-184410

(10 Lucian Poll points to anyone that spots the goof. Don’t worry, it’ll come out in the second draft.)

Laters ‘taters.

1,958 reasons to look before you leap

In my first posting on this blog I alluded to a funny episode that occurred whilst reacquainting myself with story writing. It would be a shame not to put it out there before I forget, so here goes…

As mentioned in said post, during the summer I had read “Q” and considered it the bee’s knees, the mutt’s nuts and the badger’s nadgers combined. Mighty fine, in other words. What really impressed me was how four authors could write such a cohesive novel. It made me curious about how they achieved it. (Indeed, three of the authors still write as Wu Ming.) I guess, on a subconscious level at least, it got me interested in writing again.

While I may have placed my first attempt at a novel in the drawer, it never quietened the ideas. The novel was a 50’s-set detective story with sci-fi undertones and by the time I had typed “The End” I had fairly solid ideas for half a dozen more. It was only natural then that my mind would return to these ideas, only by now I’d fashioned ways to link them all into one huge overarching novel.

As a means of easing into the writing groove again this story would have been way too time-consuming, way too ambitious and way too susceptible to me giving up. No, I needed a smaller story and it had to be something new, if only to test myself. The question was “What?”

Oftentimes you will hear someone say “write about what you know”, which helps narrow things down considerably. My alter-ego ekes out a living in the financial industry (which is not a euphemism for “banker”, itself a euphemism for “onanist” these days). One of the services we provide is the creation of probate valuations, which essentially means totting up what you’re worth when you pop your clogs, and death certificates play a big part in these things.

But what if you could get your death certificate early? To me that was an interesting conceit. What kind of world we would have if the parents of each newborn child were issued both a birth certificate and a death certificate for their bundle of joy? Would they open the death certificate? How would people feel if they knew how and when they were going to die? Would they be more adventurous? Would they opt for euthanasia shortly before their time? What kind of society would that create? And then there was the science behind it. To accurately predict ones death would require all things in the world to be predictable. How could this happen? (Quantum computing was my theory, given that all states of a mathematical model can be considered at the same time. Hard sci-fi fans will probably disagree, but I like the concept.)

And then, with this rather incredible setup, what would happen to a man who knows when they are going to die, but their death certificate simply says “Your guess is as good as ours”?

And so a decent story started to develop. All was going well, I thought, around 9,000 words in, until I started to doubt my idea. Considering the huge amount of sci-fi stories that have been produced over the years I suddenly needed to know if the idea was something of a cliché. And one quick search of Google yielded this list of sci-fi clichés. Go on, take a peek at #41. That’s right, there’s my story idea almost to a tee. Paint me jiggered.

You see, it turns out that a couple of years ago there was an anthology of stories released called Machine of Death, and as you will see here they received 1,958 submissions for their latest collection. That’s a lot of rejected Machine of Death stories vying for alternative homes.

So on that evidence it’s clear that no editor is ever likely to touch my death certificate story, even if it was written in all innocence. I still like the idea, though, so I might as well finish the story, give it a bit of polish it and perhaps stick the thing on Smashwords as a freebie. You never know, perhaps I can drum up some interest in my writing. Every cloud, eh?

You’ve got to laugh.

Setting up as a self-published author on Amazon (Part 4)

Intro and disclaimer: I am a UK-based writer. I signed up to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service during September 2012 with an aim to publish a selection of stories on Kindle and Kindle apps. These posts are aimed to describe the process I went through and shouldn’t be considered professional advice. This is the internet after all. Still, I hope you find it of use. Okay, let’s get stuck in.

Part 4 – About Amazon’s Author Central

In Part 3 I discussed the process you would undertake to build and publish an eBook on Amazon. In this final part I’ll give you an overview of Amazon’s Author Central profiles, and some of the things you ought to keep in mind.

When someone views a book on Amazon and scrolls down around halfway they will often see a link that reads something like “Visit Amazon’s Lucian Poll Page”. This link takes browsers to the author’s profile so they can see all of his or her books in one place, and perhaps read a few words of their bio too.

Said profiles are maintained within Amazon’s Author Central service and you’ll be glad to hear that registering is fairly painless. You can use your existing Amazon account to register. You will then be asked to identify the books you wrote (a button is provided if you write under a pseudonym) and, following activation via a confirmation email, you’re in. Job done.

…ish.

It must be said at this point that each Amazon marketplace is separate. That is to say Amazon US differs from Amazon UK differs from Amazon DE and so on. The upshot of this is you will need to consider creating profiles for each Amazon marketplace. This has caught out a few authors who have focused on a profile for one marketplace, thinking it was universal.

You do not need to create Amazon accounts in each marketplace in order to register with Author Central. Your regular Amazon account should suffice for all. (It did for me anyway.)

The functionality across each Amazon marketplace differs slightly. Amazon.com’s Author Central, for example, is more fully-featured than Amazon.co.uk’s, with lots of lovely stats, but only if some or all of your work is in print. (Kindle sales data doesn’t show here. You will need to see your KDP dashboard for that, under “Reports”.)

There is a standardised bunch of things you complete in across all Author Central profiles, such as a bio, author photos, videos, links to your Twitter feed, and any events you want to organise with your readers.

Each Author Central profile also comes with its own forum. I haven’t really explored this feature, if I’m honest, so I can’t say how much control you have over it, if any. As I’m only just starting out in this writing lark I haven’t exactly got what you could call a broad readership!

The US version of Author Central allows you to input more information about each of your books, for example if you would like to draw the reader’s attention to a particularly glowing review of your book (preferably not written by a sockpuppet). You can also add a feed from your blog through RSS or Atom.

(WordPress hint: You can use your regular blog URL suffixed with “/?feed=rss” to make this work on assorted websites, e.g. https://lucianpoll.com/?feed=rss. See here for more info on the other standards supported. I can confirm this works for Author Central US, Smashwords and Goodreads.)

In short, each Amazon marketplace offers its own promotional tools. You’ll have to explore the tools offered in each one to get the most out of them.

So that’s it for my whistlestop tour of setting yourself up on Amazon, Kindle and Author Central as a self-published author. I hope some of the info presented here has been of some use. You can lurk on the KDP forums for other tasty nuggets of information.

And now to find something else to yak about. Laters ‘taters!

Final note: If you see anything that is incorrect in any of these pages please let me know. It’s not my intention to misinform!

Setting up as a self-published author on Amazon (Part 3)

Intro and disclaimer: I am a UK-based writer. I signed up to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service during September 2012 with an aim to publish a selection of stories on Kindle and Kindle apps. These posts are aimed to describe the process I went through and shouldn’t be considered professional advice. This is the internet after all. Still, I hope you find it of use. Okay, let’s get stuck in.

Part 3 – Publishing an eBook via Amazon KDP

In part 2 I discussed how register for Amazon’s KDP service. Now I’ll go through the process of publishing an eBook.

For this recipe you should ideally have two ingredients: a finished and correctly formatted piece of work of which you are proud as punch, and a reasonably high-def cover image to stick on the front. (You can let Amazon apply a generic cover if you do not have one of your own. Your astonishing masterwork, however, will have to come from you.) (Unless you are Alexandre Dumas.)

By “correctly formatted” I mean that your book should conform to certain standards. eBook readers work best with consistent, well-formatted text because it is the reader that dictates the layout, not the author. Mark Z. Danielewski’s “House of Leaves” just won’t work here, unfortunately. In short: 1) you’ll need Microsoft Word or OpenOffice to create the text of your book; 2) you shouldn’t use umpteen spaces to “tab in” the start of paragraphs and dialogue, and 3) similarly you shouldn’t use umpteen carriage returns to demarcate a new chapter.

If you haven’t done so already I would download and read Smashwords’ Style Guide, because a book that conforms to the rules laid out there should also work pretty well on a Kindle. (And if not you’ll be 90% of the way there.) Amazon’s own guide is good (and shorter) if you only plan on releasing stuff on Kindle.

Leave a comment if you’d like a walkthrough of how I created my template in Microsoft Word.

Once you have your book correctly formatted you will need to save it as a Filtered Web Page. If your book contains images you will have to perform an additional step in creating a ZIP folder that contains both the webpage copy of your book and the image files. (If that sounds like gobbledegook see Amazon’s guide for more details.)

You are now ready to rock n’ roll. Go to the Bookshelf in your KDP dashboard and hit the Add New Title button. The process for publishing an eBook is spread over two pages, where you will be asked to complete assorted information about your book and how much you would like to charge.

Page 1: Section 1: You will be asked to provide all the pertinent information about your book: Title, Edition (used if you update your book with new content), blurb, book contributors (this is where you input the name of the author(s) – pseudonyms are allowed), language, publication date (if applicable), publisher (ditto) and ISBN (ditto). (Note: You don’t need an ISBN as Amazon will allocate an ASIN to your eBook.)

Page 1: Section 2: Here you declare that you own your book, or that the work is in the public domain.

Page 1: Section 3: Here you can define up to two predefined categories (e.g. Horror and Thriller) and seven free-text keywords that can help readers search for your book.

Page 1: Section 4: This is where you will upload your book cover. Images need to be big: at least 1000 pixels down the longest side and 1.6 times longer than they are wide. My cover for “The Buskers’ Union“, for example, was 1000 pixels wide by 1600 tall, which seemed to work well. Amazon recommends creating a cover that is 2500 pixels tall (1560 wide) for better quality. If you do not have a cover image then Amazon will create one for you. (You can always update your book with a different cover image later.)

Page 1: Section 5: This is where you can upload your book to Amazon and, combined with your cover image, have it all converted it into a single MOBI file. It is here where you can dictate any DRM options. (Sorry, I haven’t explored this area as I’m not a fan of DRM.)

Page 1: Section 6: The final section of this page is by far the coolest. Here, once Amazon has completed the conversion process, you can download a copy of your eBook! While the MOBI file you download may not be recognised by your computer, Amazon do provide links to download a Kindle simulator for both Windows and Mac. The simulator is very good as you can see how your eBook will appear not only on all generations of the Kindle but also the apps for iPad and iPhone. An online preview of your eBook is also provided in this section if you’d rather not download software.

Hitting the Save and Continue button will move onto the next, much shorter page. Alternatively you can save a draft if you’d like to spend time checking the eBook for formatting errors prior to publishing. (A wise move.)

Page 2: Section 7 – This is where you declare the geographic rights you possess for your work. You can select Worldwide rights (default) or individually select territories.

Page 2: Section 8 – Here you define the prices for your eBook. Anything $2.99 or over will grant you 70% royalties, which is very nice. Anything below that, down to $0.99, will attract 35% royalties instead. You can define individual prices for each Amazon Marketplace (US, UK, Germany, France etc) or have them all linked to the dollar price to save a lot of farting about.

Page 2: Section 9 – This is a simple tick box that lets you opt in your eBook for Kindle Book Lending.

Hitting Save and Publish on this page will start the publishing process and return you to your bookshelf. Your eBook should be listed as “In Review”, which means that it is working its way through Amazon’s assorted sausage machines. It says you should expect your eBook to appear between 24 and 48 hours, though in my experience “The Buskers’ Union” was “Live” in 8.

Now all you need to do is wait for the eBook to appear on Amazon, crack open the Vino Collapso and pat yourself on the back. You’re an author now! Congratulations!

Coming next in part 4: About Amazon’s Author Central.

Final note: If you see anything that is incorrect in any of these pages please let me know. It’s not my intention to misinform!

Setting up as a self-published author on Amazon (Part 2)

Intro and disclaimer: I am a UK-based writer. I signed up to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service during September 2012 with an aim to publish a selection of stories on Kindle and Kindle apps. These posts are aimed to describe the process I went through and shouldn’t be considered professional advice. This is the internet after all. Still, I hope you find it of use. Okay, let’s get stuck in.

Part 2 – Joining Amazon KDP

In part 1 I discussed the merits and drawbacks of publishing your work through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) service. In this part I’ll discuss the process of joining KDP.

You can find Amazon’s KDP service via this link to their homepage. Alternatively look towards the bottom of most Amazon pages and you’ll see a link that says “Self-publish with us”.

Once on the homepage you can sign up to KDP using your existing Amazon account, which is a cinch. (I don’t believe there is anything to stop you creating another Amazon account if you wish to keep things separate.)

Once in you will be asked to complete a few details about yourself, such as name, address and phone number. Finally, on this same page, you can enter the details of a bank account for your royalties. (Amazon will send you a cheque each month subject to a minimum of £100/$100/€100 if you do not supply a bank account.)

UK authors should be aware that sort codes and account numbers won’t cut it here. Instead you will need your account’s IBAN number and your bank’s BIC code. Your IBAN will contain your sort code/account combination prefixed with a country code and some check digits. The BIC code is used to globally identify your bank. You can often find these details on your bank statement. If you bank online should be able to find your IBAN and BIC after some digging. (Look for anything that allows you to print a statement.) Failing that you can contact your bank.

UK authors should also note that providing a UK bank account will cover royalties for most Amazon marketplaces (currently UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy), but not Amazon US. I think for the US marketplace you need to provide details of a US$ bank account, for which a UK bank may charge. (I think that’s a reasonable assumption to make in this day and age!) The alternative is to have Amazon send you a cheque, as mentioned earlier. Annoyingly this too will be in US$, and your bank will likely charge you a sizeable sum to pay it into your account. I sincerely hope this arrangement changes the more that Kindle catches on in the UK.

Finally, and this is absolutely crucial for non-US residents, make sure you don’t pay any unnecessary taxes. By default Amazon has to apply 30% withholding tax, payable to the IRS, on all royalties it pays to non-US residents. If that’s not bad enough authors then need to apply their own domestic income tax to whatever remains! Thankfully there is something you can do, but it requires a fair bit of legwork. A number of countries have a tax treaty in place with the US so that all or some of the withholding tax can be waived. You will need to apply for a US tax number, called an ITIN, and complete a form for each US-based publishing platform you intend to use. (I’ll cover this in a separate “General Setup” post as I’ve only recently started the process.)

So that’s the initial setup of KDP performed. Next we’ll move onto the fun stuff!

Coming next in part 3: Publishing an eBook via Amazon KDP.

Final note: If you see anything that is incorrect in any of these pages please let me know. It’s not my intention to misinform!

Setting up as a self-published author on Amazon (Part 1)

Intro and disclaimer: I am a UK-based writer. I signed up to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service during September 2012 with an aim to publish a selection of stories on Kindle and Kindle apps. These posts are aimed to describe the process I went through and shouldn’t be considered professional advice. This is the internet after all. Still, I hope you find it of use. Okay, let’s get stuck in.

Part 1 – About Kindle Direct Publishing

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is a service provided by Amazon that allows writers to publish their work on Kindles and Kindle apps for tablets and smartphones. Readers can then purchase and download said work to their device as they would any other eBook.

Authors using KDP can earn 70% royalties on works priced $2.99 or more. If the author drops the price below $2.99 then a royalty rate of 35% applies. The minimum price an author can charge is $0.99. By enrolling their work in the KDP Select program for 90 days authors can drop the price to zero for a total of 5 of those days, but they must grant Amazon exclusivity on that work during the 90 day period. Authors can enrol their work in KDP Select for another stint once the 90 day period ends, but any remaining free days will not carry over.

Once you have published work through KDP it will be listed on Amazon like any other book. (Believe me, few things beat seeing your debut book listed for the first time!) There are a number of benefits to this. For a start, now that you have published a book, you can build a profile on Amazon’s Author Central. (The “Visit Amazon’s Lucian Poll page” link around halfway down your book’s Amazon page.) Said book will also have its own ASIN number, which is similar to an ISBN but relative only to Amazon. Armed with an ASIN and a cover image you can then add your self-published books to sites such as Goodreads. This then helps you to change your Goodreads profile from a standard user to an author, which in turn allows you to promote your books on their site with the odd giveaway. (They have to be hard copies, though.)

Oh, and if you needed any further incentive to give Amazon’s KDP a try, it doesn’t cost a bean to publish a book. They will slice off their pound of flesh when you make a sale, but there are no monthly fees to worry about, and your book will stay available as long as Amazon sticks around, allowing you to become that overnight sensation thirty years in the making.

While I love the idea of Amazon KDP and the huge marketplace it presents, the minimum $0.99 price tag does make it harder to promote one’s work. On Smashwords, for example, authors can make the first novel of a trilogy permanently free and perhaps encourage readers to purchase the remaining books. On Kindle you can’t do that. Well, not really. A tactic some authors use is to list their title on Amazon for $0.99 and free on another platform, and then hope that Amazon price-matches the book down to zero. I’m not sure if this tactic still works, being new to this self-publishing game, but it’s curious how I keep seeing the same books in the Kindle Top 100 Free Books chart…

Finally, consider whether you will ever want to see your work in print. Publishers and agents may be less enthusiastic to represent your work if it has already been published. That said the industry is changing. Indie authors such as Amanda Hocking have found publishers more than happy to print her novels following strong sales of her eBooks, and more agents are turning into eBook publishers. If you are lucky you can let your sales do the talking!

Coming next in part 2: Joining KDP (and the potential arse-ache for UK authors!)

Final note: If you see anything that is incorrect in any of these pages please let me know. It’s not my intention to misinform!

A spot of premature e-publication

The Buskers' Union cover image
Oh my giddy aunt, I’m on Amazon…

When I published my last blog post I had no idea that within a week I’d be publishing one of my stories too! And yet there it is, “The Buskers’ Union”, available to purchase on Amazon for 99 cents.

Is it awesome to see it listed on there? Yes! Terrifying? Also yes! Planned? Not a bit. You could say I went off a bit early.

But why? I mean, the last time I blogged I was about to start sending stories to horror fiction magazines to try and get my name in print. Was it a fit of impatience? Could it have been a sudden, unquenchable desire to see my (assumed) name in print? Or was I just pandering to a massive ego trip?

In the end it was nothing like that. Instead it was all about placeholders.

You see, part of creating the Lucian Poll persona has involved registering accounts with a few sites, like Twitter and Goodreads. The theory is that, over time, I can use them to build a presence on the web that could attract readers and perhaps help me sell a story or two in the run up to publishing <Title Withheld> next September.

At the moment some of these accounts are placeholders, created simply so I can reserve the Lucian Poll name in advance. For example you can find me on Smashwords here, but at the moment there’s nothing much to see apart from a few words, a teaser for my novel and my calling card. In due course, however, I hope to put some stories on there, some freebies and maybe even the odd review. It’ll just take a little bit of time.

Anyway, next on my list of placeholders to create was a page on Amazon’s Author Central. I was half-surprised then to discover that, in order to create an author page for Lucian Poll, I had to publish something as Lucian Poll. That I did not anticipate.

(A little tangent, if I may. Unless I’m missing something major the honour system that Author Central operates is barmy! Part of the registration process requires you to put dibs on all of the books you have published. You’d never have thought that I wrote Moby Dick, did you?)

The last week has therefore been a bit frantic. I’ve had to pick a black comedy short story that I had planned to submit to Black Static (particularly after they published the very funny “Shark! Shark!” in issue 29). The story, however, needed a few extra drafts and a second pair of eyes on it. Then I had to create a cover in Inkscape (which looks okay, though it must be said the guitar has perhaps the worlds’ shortest fret board). With the story and cover done I then had to upload the book to Kindle Direct Publishing, preview the eBook and then, finally, pluck up the courage to hit the “Save and publish” button.

Bingo! One eBook for sale!

So it’s been a busy old time of late, but totally worth it. It felt blooming marvellous the first time I hit “Look Inside” and saw my cover fill the screen. (Having a humungous monitor helped!) While the story is something of a placeholder, it is nonetheless genuine. Give it a go and let me know what you think. It is my little tribute to all of Norwich’s terrible buskers, and the two or three good ones.

I’m still not sure about the apostrophe though…

Yay! My first rejection!

When reading the bios and the various “how I made it” stories of other writers, a common theme soon emerges. The rejection slip. They’ve all had them. Great big wads of them scattered around studies and offices, stuck on spikes, pinned to noticeboards, shoved in drawers, and filed in waste paper bins.

Some writers take rejections of their work badly, which is understandable if they have spent ages researching the subject(s) covered in their story, taken the time to draw together well-rounded and believable characters, painstakingly plotted a devilish story arc for them to follow, and then, after all that, wrung their OEDs dry polishing and perfecting every last sentence. To then have an editor, agent or publisher turn around and issue a form rejection with no feedback… well, you can imagine how said writer might get a wee bit tetchy.

On the other hand you have writers that are happy enough to get their work out there. They’ve probably got five story ideas bumping into each other for every one they manage to get onto paper. The rejection slips don’t really matter so long as they keep the faith that one day one story will make it into print. In the meantime the struggle is deciding which one to write next. Indeed I’ve read some writers’ desires to collect, say, a hundred rejection slips in a year, which I think is a great way of going about it.

(Just as an aside, I reckon I could do that quite easily. All I’d need to do is write a 5000 word horror equivalent of Finnegan’s Wake and send it to every publication on Duotrope. I can imagine the responses: “Dear author, Thank you for your submission but I regret to inform you we will not be considering your work for our upcoming Erotic LGBT Cthulhu Stories With Cake Recipes collection.”)

Anyway, blathering aside, this post is a means for me to record my first rejection email. Penny Fiction had an intriguing opening for thirteen-word flash fiction stories. (That’s intriguing in a “How on earth can you write a story in thirteen words?!?” kind of way.) But when I had spotted that “THIRTEEN WORDS” itself contains thirteen letters I quickly came up with a gruesome sentence using each letter and fired it off. Two-and-a-bit months later I get a reply to my original email.

It’s my first rejection.

You know what that means? That’s right, folks, someone has actually read something I wrote! Well, that wasn’t so difficult, and with a bona fide rejection I’m now in good company!

Lots of perfectly decent stories don’t make it into print for various reasons. Look at the submissions pages of your favourite fiction magazines and they often state they receive well over a hundred submissions for each story slot they have. Even after subtracting all the stories about torturing and butchering ex-girlfriends in freezing cold outhouses, the odds aren’t good.

But there is always a chance, and I’ve got the bug. It’s time to properly start chucking stories out there starting with Shroud Magazine, whose submissions window closes at the end of the month. I’ll submit a little cautionary tale about why you should always ask for ID when answering the front door, even if you were expecting “The Gas Man” to call…

The (re)start of something

Lucian Poll logo
The result of my first three hours of Inkscape. My calling card, if you will.

Around nine years ago my alter ego wrote a novel. A real 120,000 word monster, written just to see if it could be done. You won’t have read it. Only a few have and I’ve been apologising to them both ever since. I even feel sorry for the drawer it currently rests in. And so was scratched my brief (but fun) writing itch.

But now the itch has returned, and I don’t think a bath of camomile lotion is going to do the trick this time.

Often a writer is born through the stuff they read. Some plough through a bad book, hating every page and resolving to write something better. Others read a great book fizzing with energy and ideas, and BOOM! Suddenly they have a burning desire to get that silly story that’s been floating around their heads onto paper.

For me it was “Q” by Luther Blissett (or Wu Ming, these days), which, strangely enough, was a book that I had bought eight or nine years ago only for it to remain unread on my shelf until this summer. Who’d have thought a rip-snorting novel set in Reformation-era Europe would spawn an idea for a short sci-fi story? (Again, you won’t have seen it. Funny story about that. I’ll have to post something about it some time.)

It’s the start of something, or in my case a restart. One short story idea is followed by a couple more. Dreams start chipping in a few ideas too. And then, quite unexpectedly, you get THE idea. The big one. The one that leads to sleepless nights because your brain just won’t shut up about it. The one that has you frantically typing an 11,000 word plot outline in two days before you forget it all.

You’ve probably guessed by now that I’ve had what I deem to be THE idea. My one half-decent shot at writing something good; good enough perhaps to be read by others without apologising for it afterwards. (Something that I’m astonished hasn’t been done before, or not to my knowledge.)

Hence this blog, this domain name, this pseudonym, that Facebook page, that Twitter account, and so on and so forth. Sometimes you just feel that you’ve got to give it a shot. Write the damn thing. Put it out there and be judged by it. (Even if it is behind a pseudonym.)

So come NaNoWriMo I’ll turn my 11,000 word outline into a 50,000+ word novel. You might even see me slaving away at one of the Norwich write-ins. Then I’ll knock out a second draft, then I’ll have it properly proof-read, and then finally, after all that slog, after annoying everyone I know with THE idea, I’ll put it out there. On Kindle, through Smashwords, via every channel I can find.

So that’s the gauntlet slapped down. As I finish my inaugural post on this blog my deadline for publishing <Title withheld> is exactly one year from today: Friday 13th September 2013.

I’ll let you know how I get on.