In yesterday’s post, Read it – Love it – Forget it, I suggested that the best way for a creative writer to find new readers was … to be a creative writer. And that, since digital readers are changing our way of life, making it easy for people to grab half-an-hour’s content at the break-points in a busy day, the short story is an ideal platform.
There are certainly other ways to stay in the spotlight. Constantly showing up on message-boards for example. Participating in writer groups. Pumping a novel on Twitter, Facebook. But as Joy Campbell commented not long ago, sometimes writers begin to feel they’re pimping their books. And if they think that, then it probably won’t be long before readers notice too.
Even if the writer’s self-publicity campaign is discreet, comments on a forum show who they are, whereas a free short story shows how they write. There’s a much better likelihood of a good match between reader and writer if the reader’s already familiar with the likely content, style and interests before she pays her money and downloads the novel.
And that’s why I’m planning to reduce my blog posts somewhat, aiming instead to publish one or two free shorts per month.
But it won’t just be my short stories I’m featuring here. I’m planning to point you towards other emerging writers you’ll probably enjoy if you like my work.
Let’s be honest. My motives are not entirely altruistic. Right from the start of this writing adventure, I realized that with a million other novelists out there, my chances of making an impression on readers were somewhere between nil and infinitesimal. But maybe I could do better if I carved out my own niche, and filled it with writers, readers and reviewers who shared a common interest: searching for new writers whose work we’d be proud to display in our permanent libraries. Timeless books and stories that we found first.
What exactly am I looking for?
- transcend or transform their genre (or perhaps have no genre at all – personally, I’m something of a genre-jumper).
- leave an indelible impression – I know I’ll still remember them in a few years’ time.
- twist the kaleidoscope, revealing new patterns, shapes and dimensions.
- compel me to participate, not just observe.
- paint a whole picture with just a few deft brushstrokes.
- write their characters so large on the page that I’m only dimly aware it’s a fiction, or that a writer even exists.
- craft every word with care, yet never try to overwhelm me with technique.
- push the envelope, showing new possibilities for the short story or the novel.
Perhaps an example helps. I introduced you to Suki Michelle‘s work a couple of day’s back. ‘Daddy’s Machine‘ is a short story told from the viewpoint of a Down’s Syndrome sufferer – but with an IQ of 165. The story is multi-threaded with issues: the balance between intelligence and understanding; scientific research and morality; our responsibilities as carers; how we assess criminal responsibility. But what I find extraordinary is Suki’s ability to put us in the position of the sufferer – we look out on the world as a Down’s Syndrome child. In other writers’ hands, it might have become mawkish; not a chance of that with Suki, who just tells it like it is.
It’s hard to believe that the story I’m introducing today, ‘Mirage‘, could be from the same writer. In an edgy black comedy set in a post-apocalyptic world, Drew Randim, a smooth-talking reality show host is down on his luck. But maybe there’s one last payday. It’s a totally different genre, world, and character-set. Suki’s there, masterfully pulling the controls to make unlikely circumstances utterly believable, yet she hides like a chameleon behind her characters. Where’s the author’s voice? There isn’t one. She just lets her people do the talking. And then asks us draw our own conclusions, compelling us to think.
Notice that both these stories, like my published work, bear the Rapscallion imprint. I don’t intend Rapscallion to be a publisher, although I did contribute a little towards the editing – Suki’s so good that not much input was required, and it was more a question of a second opinion; and I did help to get the stories into their e-format. I’ll continue to use Rapscallion as a marque ( – there’s been a recent design-change, as above) which invited writers can use if they wish to, indicating that a story’s got the full five-stars from me.
The stories I feature here in the blog don’t need to be from Rapscallion, but there are a couple of other considerations. My interest is in discovery, so I generally won’t be featuring writers who already get plenty of coverage elsewhere. The recommendations need to be complete short stories, take 30 minutes or less to read, and be available as free ebook downloads – as you’d expect for a sample of work.
Do I want writers to send submissions? Absolutely not. I don’t intend to get into the business of disappointment and rejection. I’m simply doing what I believe agents and publishers should: scouting for talent, not waiting for it. My objective is to find work that sits well alongside mine, so that we can begin to build the outstanding team of writers, reviewers and readers I described in Listening to Lombardi, drawing strength from one another.
But I can’t do it all alone. So if you’re a reader or a reviewer and you’ve come across writing that meets my criteria, then I’d love to hear from you.
Scroll back to the top of the blog and Click on ‘Talent Hunt‘ to keep up with the complete list of writers worth discovering.