What on Earth is the ‘StokeyLitFest’?

Stoke newington BusThe Stoke Newington Literary Festival, or as it’s more affectionately known, the StokeyLitFest, is quite possibly the coolest lit fest on the planet. And it’s getting bigger year by year. If you live in London, you’ve probably heard of it. But living Down Under, I hadn’t — until this big UK trip of mine.

It’s a short bus ride for me from my mind-boggingly ‘compact’ accommodation near King’s Cross Railway Station. I arrived in London a few days ago, and the Festival is my first, full-on writing event. It’s where I’ve been spending my day today. It’s a two-day festival, in its sixth year, and here’s what I chose to see…

Tracy Thorn

Tracey Thorn

Tracey Thorn

The wonderful Tracey Thorn, from Everything But the Girl fame, was a special highlight of the day. She was at the festival to promote her second memoir, Naked at the Albert Hall. Amongst many things, she talked in detail about her very real stage fright, leading her to make the decision not to perform live as a singer again.

She also recounted many funny anecdotes, such as the challenge — as a well known and highly regarded singer — of singing ‘Wheels on the bus’ in play groups. Would she somehow be expected to perform the song far better than the other parents? Should she try to? Or maybe she should be doing the opposite?

She also talked about her love of the X-Factor TV show, to everyone’s surprise!

Mark Ellen (Q mag, NME, Live Aid…)

Mark Ellen (right)

Mark Ellen (right) with Danny Kelly

Mark Ellen was at the festival to talk about his very exciting-looking book (well, to me), called Rock Stars Stole My Life! It’s all about his experiences working for some of the greatest UK music publications Q, NME and many others, and commentating for Live AID (which I watched the telecast of from start to finish on the other side of the world, while living in Canberra, Australia).

Both Mark and Danny spoke at breathless speed, trying to fit in as many of their amazing experiences as they could. It was both overwhelming and mind-blowing. My favourite quote: ‘But it wasn’t all laughs and drugs and stuff,’ — when talking about the screaming matches that could occur between different music staff.

While I attended numerous other sessions, I’ll tell you about one more, because — in truth, I only have the energy to tell you about one more (I’m keen to head off to bed!)…

Richard King

Richard King (left)

Richard King (left)

Richard King worked for years in Bristol’s notoriously ‘independent’ record store Revolver, and has written about his experiences in Original Rockers, especially about the store’s aloof manager who refused to sell customers records by bands he didn’t approve of, even if the store stocked them. Or, the reverse, treating his customers with great disdain for their lack of good taste and refusing to sell them albums by the likes of Tim Buckley if he didn’t believe the customer looked worthy enough. Classic independent record shop stuff taken to its absolute level.

As you can see, I chose to attend rather a lot of music-related events. Such is the person I am. I leave you with two more pictures from the day…

Tracey Thorn again (and why not?)

Mark Ellen and me

You can check out the festival’s website here.

 

 

 

 

 

Workshopping with the world – How it’s going!

Beneath the SurfaceIf you’ve been following my posts and tweets, you’ll know I’ve been workshopping my new draft novel as I revise it. It’s a young adult fantasy novel about an unwell 14-year-old-boy who enters a secret world under his garden. I have posted seven draft chapters so far, which comprise Part 1 of the story.

I’m happy to report the use of Wattpad for workshopping is going well. All was going well on Widbook until recently. Here’s a little more detail about them both…

Steady feedback on Wattpad…

A useful thing about Wattpad, from a workshopping point of view, is that one can put comments at the bottom of each chapter. This has been a very useful way for me to pose specific questions. For example, What do you think about the title? What do you think about the short nature of my chapters? Do you feel like reading on? These questions are not always responded to and that’s OK, but it’s great when they are. I genuinely want to know!

I’ve received all sorts of advice, some of which I’ve immediately acted upon, some I’m still thinking about, and some I’ve parked to one side in my mind, waiting see what a professional structural editor might suggest, when that time comes.

It’s been extremely useful to hear what readers have found interesting in the story, their various observations and reactions. I am not always sure I’m getting the balance right in terms of suggested symbolism, subtle meanings, character portrayal, plotting and so on. I’m wary of overstating something, which then may seem labored and obvious, or slipping into ‘clever writing’, which can interfere with the reader’s engagement to the story. It has been greatly reassuring to hear from readers that they are picking up on the story’s depth and various dimensions in an enjoyable way.

And I do have to say, the positive comments have been very gratifying too! They have helped me feel, Yes, this is a story worth writing. This is something others would like to read.

But slower on Widbook…

threeThe news on Widbook is not so good, I’m afraid. Sadly, after an initial burst of activity, feedback has dried up. At kick off, things were similar to how I’ve described them above, but not so any more. I believe there are still a number of Widbookers reading my draft chapters — my book was added to someone’s shelf only yesterday and I received a new follower today. (I always follow back, because I think that’s nice to do, but that’s just my style and obviously not a rule). But the energy has waned.

I have received some excellent support from a number of the Widbook staff (I’m yet to hear from anyone on Wattpad!). They made one of my earlier books ‘Book of the Week’ and also invented me to write a blog post for them. They were very friendly and I immensely enjoyed my interactions with them.

There are a range of possible reasons for the drop off in responses to my writing. Here are two that I’m pretty sure haven’t helped…

There are many Spanish-speaking writers/readers on Widbook, and no doubt this has an impact on ongoing interest in my English written work, even though users generally appear to have a good handle on English, especially from a reading point of view. However, as I cannot understand the Spanish language at all, I’m unable to reciprocate the gesture of feedback by commenting on a Spanish written piece.

Widbook has a five star rating system — this is probably not a good thing when it comes to formative writing/drafting. A rating system leaves writers too open to the subjective impulse of others. And of course — as we indie writers know only too well — it is open to easy abuse: friends giving each other top stars, or tit for tat.

Olearia-stuartiiSo, after posting only a few draft chapters (three, I think), the book was awarded an ‘average’ three star rating. Ow! This a draft I’m workshopping, people! Not a published book on Amazon — ready for customers’ reviews and ratings. Now, no matter how many revisions I undertake and further draft chapters I post, that mediocre rating will sit there for the rest of my draft chapter postings (nine tenths of the book is still to come!) and until I take it down from Widbook, in readiness for publication. The average rating has the potential to put off further readers who may have had highly useful feedback.

How I wish that that reader had instead chosen to give me actual feedback. Why did they find it average? That could be marvelously useful to know. Instead, I’m left guessing and others are possibly being influenced and staying away. A rating system (especially one akin to Amazon’s customer review system) in a creative space can only serve to throw a wet blanket over creativity, don’t you think? 🙁

What’s next…

I love the story I’m writing, and the feedback from these two social media writing sites has definitely contributed to story improvements, revision ideas (not to mention one helpful typo spotting!) and the keeping up of my energy —  serious redrafting can be exhausting.

Regrettably, after a very promising start, I may need to rethink how useful Widbook is for workshopping a draft novel, but I most certainly will continue to post to Wattpad in readiness for professional structural editing later in the year.

By the way … why all the damned daisies? They make sense if you read the story.

Here is where you will find me slaving away on the redraft of ‘Beneath the Surface’:

If you visit – be sure to leave some feedback!

D1208025898Bz-500

 

I have been busy on Wattpad

wattpad-review

I have been busy on something called Wattpad (not absolutely sure why it’s called that, but there you go). And at last I’m back and writing a post about it.

Wattpad is a Canadian-based online reading and writing community that has been around since 2006. And it’s a very busy place! Many are there as readers, but many others are also posting their own writing efforts — articles, stories, poems… And you are able to comment and like stories or join discussion groups.

 Just who is on Wattpad?

wattpad3

I have been dabbling on Wattpad for a few months now and it’s quite clear that most users — readers and writers alike — are women. Though I have come across men too, including a male video game designer. And many are teenagers. It’s terrific that so many young people are keen to explore their writing abilities. There are many good story ideas and I’ve spotted some pretty impressive writing.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there are plenty of stories written in the young adult romance genre, though sci-fi and fantasy seem very well represented too. I have also come across a fair bit of  fanfic, which I have to admit I am not so keen on. I am not that interested in reading imaginary stories about members of One Direction or about Justin Bieber. However, if someone on Wattpad grows into a great writer through writing about their favorite pop stars — that’s fine by me! (And besides, if the story’s good enough — they can always alter the characters a bit later.)

What have I been doing on Wattpad?

keep-calm-and-write-stories-on-wattpadMy main reason for being on Wattpad right now is to establish a presence with those who may be interested in my writing, i.e. young adult readers into sci-fi and fantasy. My hope is, if I establish some kind of presence on Wattpad, I can upload the draft of my next book there first. If I’m lucky, I may attract some interest in the story and receive some useful feedback prior to publication. Hence, maybe I can use Wattpad as a giant feedback workshop.

To gain some visibility before I introduce my next book, I have so far uploaded one short story, MotherCraft, which currently has just over a thousand reads, and I am in the process of uploading my first published novel, EleMental: A first-person Shooter. I am up to Chapter 20 in that book, so only 10 chapters to go. It currently has a little over 4,000 reads.

Just on this ‘read’ business, by the way, before you get too impressed. I doubt very much if over five thousand have assiduously read the short story and novel chapters I have uploaded to Wattpad. It’s all software-based counting remember. It has no idea what the ‘reader’ is really doing. But at least they’ve had a peek, eh? No matter how fleetingly. And some have gone on to read it, surely. (Tell me that’s true!)

When I have put all of EleMental on Wattpad, I will effectively be offering the ebook version of that first novel of mine for free through Wattpad. I will then make it free elsewhere also, and upload the first few chapters of MonuMental, my sequel to EleMental.

How to get to Wattpad

keep-calm-and-wattpad-on-3Here’s where you will find more info about Wattpad (complete with a Margaret Atwood endorsement): About Wattpad.

And here’s one of Wattpad’s many writers writing about how to use Wattpad (she gets 14 votes):  Wattpad instructions.

And here’s where you will find my Wattpad page: my exciting page on Wattpad.

Or you can go straight to a story:

  • MotherCraft – A father leaving home can be painful at anytime. Leaving the planet, doubly so.
  • EleMental – The future. It’s all about friendship, young love … and dangerous video games.

Keep on Wattpadding!

Steven O’Connor writes young adult fiction. His writing is influenced by Douglas Adams, CS Lewis, Tolkien and just about every sci-fi and fantasy film and TV show you could possibly think of. His ebooks EleMental: A First-person Shooter and MonuMental: The Hack’s Back are available through Amazon. (Just Google ‘Amazon’ and ‘Steven O’Connor’ to see). You may also like checking him out at one of his hangouts:

Website ¦ Wattpad ¦ Twitter ¦ Facebook 

Part 2 – Talk about it. Shout about it. Live it!

This is the second of my guest posts written for Silk Screen Views. I was invited by Silk Screen Views to write about my journey as a writer. Central to this post is a reflection on my family’s migration to the outer suburbs of an industrial town in Australia and the impact that had on my ambitions to write.

You can check it out here.

And, as I said yesterday, while you’re there, don’t forget to have a look around the rest of Silk Screen Views’ beautiful website.

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Like to find out more about my books? You can check out my Amazon pages here …

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Little Readings

I’m proud to present to you what I’ve come to call in my mind, ‘little readings’. This is the very first – my bash at an audio recording of a reading. I’ve dug up an old poem from the murky recesses of my computer’s hard drive and I’m pushing it forward as the guinea pig.

To create the recording, I’m currently grappling with some audio software called Ableton Live. It’s pretty cool stuff. DJs such as Deadmau$ use it.  But it’s complex too. Well, for me it is. I tried a few different ideas, but the one that I like the best is this one. It has some rhythm behind it to support the words. I particularly enjoyed that aspect of the creative process. I used some random notes from some favorite songs, but the overall rhythm is mine.

So without further ado, I’d like to share with you my first-and-only attempt so far. A short, post apocalyptic sci-fi poem called ‘Earth’s Last Inhabitant Walks Out’. (Don’t forget to like it. Hopefully you will!)

I have set up a specific page on my website for my little readings, and I’ve included the poem’s lines (or lyrics?) there, in case you want to follow what I’m reading. The Little Readings webpage is here.

Little Readings - Ship in the sky.

Little Readings – Ship in the sky.

And I have also set up a twitter page (@LittleReadings) which you can visit here.

If you have any little readings of your own, or you decide to make one, be sure to let me know. I’d love to tweet about it too. You can use my words, from one of my books, or your own words. It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s a short reading and you keep it G rated!

I hope you like my reading. I’m looking forward to creating another one.

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Like to find out more about my books? You can check out my Amazon pages here …

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What can I say, producing a book is a slow business!

The cover of my MS after prof. editing - don't worry my actual won't be as plain as this!

The cover of my MS after prof. editing – don’t worry the actual book won’t be as plain as this!

MonuMentally slow

Sometimes I wonder if my own inner editor is more obstinate than the most hard-nosed New York publisher. Many writers say it’s hard to let go of your book – and I’m probably one of the worst. There’s always something else you need to do. ‘No, not yet. Just one more change!’

The final step for me these days, the creation of an ebook, presents a fabulous opportunity that no writer has experienced in the history of publishing until now. Until now, it has always been advisable to print off your final draft and work on it as a hard copy, often reading it out aloud as well, as your eyes can skip over things like missing words, but reading aloud adds another safeguard against that.

But now, with ebook publication, it is possible to view your book in exactly the state the reader will see it. It’s like seeing your baby in ultrasound. It’s fantastic. BUT! (That’s a big but, isn’t it?) It does give you one more reason not to publish just yet. It has become another layer of editing. One more reason not to publish … yet.

There are many ways to create an ebook, I do it chapter by chapter through something called Pressbooks software. Each time I add a chapter, I privately publish it and read through it as an ebook on my iPad’s kindle app. You would be amazed at the new things that jump out at you as you read. Subtle things, but, for me at least, still crucial . I did this with my previous book (EleMental). It had already been trade published, yet still more things jumped out at me. Things that I, the editor, the copyeditor, and the proofreader had all failed to spot.

So please wish me well as I work through the ebook creation of MonuMental . I am up to Chapter 6 – and I am maintaining a running tab of my progress on my home page here.

Well, back to it …

 

 

‘E-FPS’ for 99c & win a $100 Amazon card!

The Holiday Book Sale

I’m happy to let you know, EleMental: A First-person Shooter is a part of the Holiday eBook Sale.

Today’s hottest fiction ebooks are on sale for .99 from Dec 28-Dec 31 only.

Mystery, romance, young adult, sci-fi, fantasy – there’s something for everyone …

… including the chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card!

Click here to check out the Indie Book Festival’s Holiday Ebook Sale!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Your chance to get Tracy R Atkins’ ‘Aeternum Ray’ for free!

It’s always good to tell you about worthy promotions from fellow writers, and so I want to tell you about Tracy R Atkins’ debut novel. It’s a huge work. But one thing I must say right up front – apart from being futuristic, this is nothing like my writing. The emphasis here is on hard sci-fi.

That’s not to say it isn’t readable!  It certainly is. If you like your sci-fi hard, or if you like reading something with a difference, this is definitely worth checking out.

It’s written in the form of a futuristic memoir through the letters of someone who has gained immortality. And through this intriguing way of telling a story, Tracy R Atkins leaves no detail out. His examination of how mankind becomes immortal is thorough and his imagination is boggling. You truly can see how it’s possible, perhaps even probable, eventually.

I won’t tell you more, it’s a story best left to the reader to experience slowly, as it gradually reveals itself. In fact, for me, it’s a book for slowly discovering. I am enjoying dipping in and out of it while reading it in parallel with more traditional writing (like Hunger Games!).

If Plato had written sci-fi, this is what it would have looked like. My favorite Line: The medics had seen the same look on countless bodies over the years; the stare of eternity.

Aeternum Ray is free right now, You can get it here at Amazon, and here at Amazon UK.

And if you are reading this late – no problems! Tracy R Atkins has very kindly informed me he has four more free dates for the holiday season. So you can also find Aeternum Ray free (US times) on:

  • Dec. 24 – Christmas Eve
  • Dec. 26 – Boxing Day (why is it called Boxing Day? I prefer the more traditional St Stephen’s Day!)
  • Dec. 28
  • Dec. 30.

All that’s left for me to do is give you Tracy R Atkins’ website for those of you interested. You can find him here.

Going free (before it goes for good)

I have reached the final promotion activity for EleMental: A First-person Shooter. As you know, I have been offering my complete YA novel as four free episodes.  I will be taking down all four episodes of the YA book after this free offer. They will not be available anywhere again after that. Only the complete version will remain.

If you’ve been collecting them, this will be your last chance to make sure you have Level 4. Don’t forget they’re limited editions!

EleMental – A First-person Shooter (Level 4)

YA near future thriller about addiction to virtual reality gaming: one moment, you’re sitting at your desk, the next, you’re battling something that’s half-dinosaur, half-tank. Grab it here: Amazon or Amazon UK.

 

Also currently free: MotherCraft – A Short Story

Leaving home can be hard, leaving the planet, doubly so. Set at The Little River Spacedocks, this near-future short story is based on a much cherished scene from EleMental, removed by the editor because she didn’t feel it fitted with the rest of the story. (Grrr. But actually, I understood what she meant.)  It’s being offered free in support of EleMental – A First-person Shooter (Level 4).

Grab it here: Amazon or Amazon UK

 

 

So what’s next?

Xmas of course! And I’m now well and truly on track to publishing MonuMental, due in early January 2013. From now on, all my posts will be focused on that task. I hope all is going well in your world and you’re looking forward to Xmas as much as I am. Not long now!

 

 

 

Ideas and story making at Fitzroy Community School

The school I visited

Last Wednesday, I was lucky enough to be invited to Fitzroy Community School to talk about EleMental: A first-person Shooter. This visit has to rate as my very favorite school presentation so far. I was made feel very welcome from the outset, given a quick tour of the school and then we all settled down to an hour’s chat (with some readings from me) in the school library. Here are some of the things we talked about …

Exploring words and ideas

Writers are often asked the question: ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’. The best answer is: ‘From everywhere! The important thing is to be open to them.’

But are there some special ways? On the dedication page of her novel Howl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones describes how she got the idea for writing the book. A boy approached her after a school presentation and asked if she could write a book about a moving castle. That idea was a gift and she was very much open to it. Thankfully, because we now have that fabulous young adult fantasy. (Sadly, she says in the book, she put his name in such a safe place, she couldn’t find it when it came time to publish the book.)

We can’t always rely on wonderful ideas being presented to us so succinctly and directly from our audience. So another way to find interesting ideas, one that I came up with, is to think about words that interest you. Some we talked about on the day at Fitzroy Community School were droplet, sun, music and float. These are just words I quickly came up with while preparing the presentation. When I think about music, all sorts of images present themselves to me that could lead to a good story idea. So too any of those other words.

But there’s another step – and this is a truly magical one. Try putting two or three of these interesting words together. We can get things like: Floating music. Or even: Droplets of floating music. Wow! Lots of interesting images there.

When you have selected some interesting words, it’s always worth turning them into a what if sentence: What if there was a girl who floated every time she heard music? Or: What if man wrote a piece of music that made people float when they heard it? This what if sentence could act as the main idea behind your story, expressed as a question that your story will answer.

And, most importantly, as you you have selected words you’re interested in, remember to pour that interest into the story as you write. That’s the best way to ensure others will find your story interesting too.

Words I found interesting while writing EleMental: A First-person Shooter

We then looked at some of the words I found interesting and wanted to explore in my story: virtual and addiction. (I worked for years as a social worker in the addiction area, the part that most interests me is: when people keep doing something over and over too much and lose the control to stop even though its making them sick). Combining the words, I came up with the what if question: What if someone created a virtual game that was so addictive that when people played it too much they could no longer tell when they were in the real world … and when they were in a game?

I named this blurred state, gameblur. One moment, you could be sitting at your desk, the next you could be battling a creature that’s half-dinosaur, half-tank.

Pretty scary. But thankfully there’s humor in the book too!

Smaller ideas

We then talked about smaller ideas that can be related to your big idea. These smaller ideas are important as they can help you fill up your story with details. However it’s important that they don’t grow so big that your  reader starts to get confused about what is the main idea behind your story. A smaller idea in my story is how virtual games can start up and shut down. I loved finding different ways to describe those moments and they’re peppered throughout my book. I gave some readings to the school group to illustrate this smaller idea.

The photo

It all went so well, I almost forgot to take a photo until the last minute. Check it out, above, it was taken in the school library with a few of the remaining students. I forgot to get everyone’s names – but you know who you all are!

Some thank yous

A very big thank you to all I met at Fitzroy Community School for being such a great group. Thank you to Marlon (who had already read the book – both print book and ebook versions) for his informed comments to everyone (including me!) about my book. Thank you to Bridie (who happens to be my niece) and Freda for the tour of the school. Thank you to Myf, for organising it so beautifully and to Nick (the teacher) for his class help. And to everyone for their great questions during and after my presentation. I felt very welcome and I’d love to come back again sometime, if you’ll have me.