Month: September 2015

What I’ve learned from Ray Bradbury’s ‘Zen in the Art of Writing’

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I’m not a huge fan of Ray Bradbury but I keep seeing quotes from this book posted on writing blogs so thought I’d give it a read.  It’s not so straight talking as King’s ‘On Writing’ (which I keep meaning to do a post about) but it has some interesting insights into Bradbury’s way of writing.

For instance, he suggests writing a new short story every week as ‘eventually quantity will make quality.’  And I suppose I get that idea.  If you have fifty-two stories, at least one of them has got to be okay, right?

He writes how he used to write a first draft in full at the start of the week and then after revising it several times for the next few days, he would send it off for publication.  Yes, the entire story conceived, written and edited in a week!

And it is this that has given me an approach to adopt for the next novel I’m writing.

At the start of the week I will write a chapter of my novel.  I will do this by hand in one of my notebooks to begin with.  This might seem a little old fashioned to some but when editing previously, I noticed how chapters I remembered scribbling into my notebook were of better quality than the chapters I just typed up straight away.

Then I will type up my chapter, altering anything that needs changing. In effect, this means that the very act of typing makes it a second draft.

Then I will revisit and re edit the chapter until I reach the end of the week. Hopefully, this means that the final ‘first draft’ manuscript will feel more like a fourth draft by the time I finish it.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

How do you write and edit your stories?  If you haven’t already, you can take part in a poll here. Results will be published on Friday at 8pm.


More September Submissions and competitions that won’t cost you a penny!

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I’ve been keeping my eye out and here are a couple more opportunities with closing dates this month. Even better news, there are no submission fees for these ones.

The Guardian Short Story Competition

What’s the beef? Submit a 500-750 word story with the first sentence: He spent his last £30 on a plate of oysters and a glass of champagne. Submission must be submitted online via the Guardian.

What’s the prize? A Guardian Masterclass course of your choice (worth up to £450) and publication via the Guardian Masterclass blog.

What’ll it cost me? Nothing at all.

Closing date:  Monday 28th September at 5pm.

Check it out: The Guardian Short Story Comp

The Irish Times Amateur Travel Writer Competition

What’s the beef? A 600 word feature with the theme of a recent holiday trip in Ireland or abroad for the publication’s ‘Travel’ section. Entry via the website.

What’s the prize? An assignment for one person to go on a press trip to a destination abroad as commissioned by the editor of The Irish Times Magazine. This will include flights, accommodation and meals. The winner is responsible for all visa and travel documents and must have a valid passport.  And publication in The Irish Times obviously, you are expected to write about the trip!

What’ll it cost me? Absolutely nothing.

Closing date: 26th September 2015

Check it out: Irish Times Travel Writing comp.

Cultured Vultures call for submissions

What’s the beef? Short stories between 1000 and 3500 words. Previously unpublished (with the exception of personal blogs). Sent in the text of an email to

Also accepting culture related submissions on topics such as films, music, gaming, books, poetry between 500-2000 words.

What’s the prize? Publication via their blog. Opportunity to become a regular contributor.

What’ll it cost me? Nowt!

Closing date:  N/A

Check it out: culturedvultures

An awesome writing birthday gift! Ready, Set, Novel!

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Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) is not far away and I have already started researching for the next novel by re-watching Deadwood (to get the feel for the rhythm and syntax of Wild West dialogue) and by watching/reading everything I can about survival in Antarctica.

Today I turn 36 and so imagine my delight upon receiving this book to help me to plan my novel:

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It has some obvious things such as creating a plot line and character profiling but it also has a ‘day planner’ to imagine what your characters would do on an ordinary day in their life. It also has interesting prompts such as ‘Read “Today’s Featured Article” on Wikipedia and integrate something you learn into your novel.’

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And if all else fails it has a ‘Procrastination Station’ at the back of the book, where you can colour your favourite author to get the creative juices flowing again!

I’ll definitely be using it these next few weeks.  Do you have any tried and tested methods when planning your novel?  I would love to hear about them.  Just comment below.

September Submissions – This month’s Writing Competitions

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September starts the busy season for writing submissions. There are plenty of competitions running from now till December.  Here are a handful of novel and short story competitions all with September deadlines.

If you know of any other writing submissions happening this month please comment below.

Good luck if you are entering any of them!

Mslexia’s Novel Competition

What’s the beef?  A novel competition for previously unpublished female writers. Accepting novels of at least 50,000 words written for adults (and young adults) in any genre. Initial submission is the first 5000 words.

What’s the prize? £5000 for the winning novel. The winner and four other finalists will also receive manuscript feedback from The Literary Consultancy and and an invitation to a special networking event with literary agents.

What’ll it cost me? £25 per entry.

Closing date:  Monday 21st September 2015.

Check it out: Mslexia novel competition

The Manchester Fiction Prize

What’s the beef?  Stories up to 2,500 words. Writers must be over 16 years of age.

What’s the prize? £10,000

What’ll it cost me? £17.50 per entry.

Closing date:  Friday 25th September 2015.

Check it out: Manchester Fiction Prize

Literature Works’ First Page Writing Prize

What’s the beef? A novel competition for previously unpublished writers (no children’s or YA fiction) Send your opening page of your unpublished novel (up to 350 words) and a 150 word synopsis.

What’s the prize? The winner gets £1500 and a report from a literary agent. Second and third prizes of £400 and £200.

What’ll it cost me? £6 for the first entry and £3 for all subsequent entries. (However, these are made via cheque (who uses these anymore???) or bank transfer)

Closing date:  30th September

Check it out: First Page Competition

The Cro Magnan Short Story Prize

What’s the beef? Previously unpublished stories up to 3000 words on the theme of ‘Primitive Humanity.’

What’s the prize? £100 and publication on the Cro Magnan website.

What’ll it cost me? £5 per entry

Closing date: Friday 30th September

Check it out:The Cro Magnon Competition