This week's guest needs very little introduction - it is our very own Patsy Collins of Womagwriter fame. It's always a delight to welcome a fellow short story writer onto my blog and I'm even more pleased because she (along with writer Rosemary Kind) has written a new guide to writing short stories. It's called From Story Idea to Reader. With hundreds of magazine stories and competition wins under her belt, there is nobody better qualified to write a book like this and if you aren't already a short story writer and are thinking about having a go, I'd wholeheartedly recommend it (there's even a mention of my rather nifty Story Timeline in it).
So without more ado, let's start the interview.
What made you decide to write this book?
It's all my husband's fault! He said as I'd written articles (for Writing Magazine) about writing, a book was the logical next step. Logical? Yes, maybe, but also huge and a bit daunting.
I happened to mention this to Rosemary who immediately suggested a collaboration. Fairly quickly I realised her work as an editor and publisher plus the fact she can explain grammar, in a way which actually makes the subject clearer, would be assets.
We soon started planning what we'd do if we went ahead. Rosemary created a list of the topics we'd like to cover. Alongside each were initials. Mine were against subjects such as getting started, generating ideas, finding time, women's magazine fiction, competitions, staying motivated, getting and using feedback, keeping submission records... All things I knew about and was happy to tackle.
Rosemary felt the same way about the rest, which include grammar, self publishing, tax and legal matters associated with writing, characterisation, POV, editing, research...
As soon as we saw we really could do it we were eager to start.
How long have you known Rosemary?
We first met about nine years ago on a writing forum and then a critique group. It's amazing how well you can get to know someone through their writing, especially when you're part of the process. We've helped each other with our short stories and novels. Rosemary has edited some of my work and published it through her company, Alfie Dog Fiction.
We've even met for real a few times. On each occasion there was less cake and more dog walking involved than you might imagine. It would appear she's a good influence.
Was it difficult to co-write or was it all plain sailing?
Pretty much plain sailing. In fact I wrote a few short sections on board a ferry!
I'm not saying we never suggested that something the other had written could be improved (and other creative ways of expressing that general sentiment) but knowing this was solely for the good of the finished book meant I didn't mind rewriting until we were both happy. Rosemary still replies to my emails, which I'm taking as proof she feels the same way.
How long did it take you to write?
That depends how you look at it. We've both spent years building up the knowledge, experience, articles and course materials the book is based on. But once we had it all planned out we completed most of the new writing in around six months. We both write full time so, although we didn't concentrate solely on this project, that represents a lot of keyboard hours.
What can this book offer that other writing guides can’t?
It really does take a writer through the whole process from hunting down ideas and the basic equipment needed, through making the work the best it can be, to ensuring it gets read.
Between us we have experience of being published, of editing and publishing our own stories, and those of others. We've won, and run, and judged writing competitions. Most of all though, we're writers. We love writing and want to help others enjoy it too.
Did you find writing a resource book harder than writing fiction?
Not harder, no. It's different, just as writing a short ghost story is different from writing a romantic novel or an article. Although it's been done to make it more accessible to the reader, having the information broken down into shorter sections probably helped with the writing too.
Is there advice in it that you wish you’d followed when you first started?
All of it! But if you want me to be specific...
The exercises would have helped. Immediately applying something we've learned really does help retain the information. Naturally I'm biased, but I honestly do think many writers, particularly those just starting out or returning to writing after a break, will find From Story Idea to Reader useful and encouraging.
You can buy From Story Idea to Reader here
Patsy's blog: for free entry competition links and other writing news is http://patsy-collins.blogspot.co.uk
Womagwriter blog: for guidelines and other information regarding women’s magazine fiction http://womagwriter.blogspot.co.uk