The weekly herding: why it’s good to be part of the herd

A round-up of the week’s most interesting writing-related blog posts scattered around the internet’s rocky outcrops. This week is all about ways of developing your craft. Have I missed something unmissable? Let me know.

Photo credit: Lazy sheepdog? via photopin (license)

Warming up your voice

Becoming a competent storyteller in any discipline is a gradual process. However, it can be hard to have patience and keep the faith that you will, in time, get there. I came across  The 4 Phases of Developing Your Creative Voice on Twitter this week (via @AuroreLebas, whose Brilliant Flash Fiction online magazine is also worth checking out, incidentally). Written by Todd Henry (who confusingly describes himself as ‘an arms dealer for the creative revolution’), it draws on the experiences of experts in all artistic fields, from Steve Martin talking about finding his path (“I… took incremental steps studded with a few intuitive leaps”) to Virginia Woolf’s words of wisdom about how collaborative writing actually is (“Masterpieces are not single and solitary births”).

The main nugget I took from this article was a YouTube video by veteran American radio host Ira Glass. In it, he explains that you have to give yourself the chance for your burgeoning skills to catch up with your ‘good taste’ in wanting to express yourself artistically. Basically, it’s okay to be rubbish when you start out – you’ll get better provided you stick with what you’re doing. I particularly like that he’s self-deprecating enough to share an audio of his younger self as a case study in inexperience:


It takes one to know one

Why Finding Your People Is Important by author Kerry Drewery discusses why you need to connect with other writers. While I’m nowhere near the stage of this writer – fretting over bad reviews is something I can only aspire to – the piece spoke to me because I agree that being surrounded by like-minded people is terrifically encouraging and inspiring. My writing has changed immeasurably since I joined a writing class, for the better, I feel. Writers are delicate blossoms and it’s hard to allow people to read – and therefore judge – what we’ve created. Yet without feedback, what likelihood is there of improving? And once you start sharing your work, it becomes easier – easier to take critique on the chin, easier to have confidence in that story you’re submitting after it’s been run by a group of astute readers, even easier to read your work aloud to an audience.


Print vs online journals

Hat-trick of writers?

Of course, once you’re on your way to knowing a thing or two and have formed your writerly crew (what is the collective term for a group of aspiring writers? An index?), there’s the matter of earning your stripes and building your CV by submitting to journals. Having anything published anywhere is a cause for celebration when you’re just starting out, but there are so many journals around that it can be bewildering trying to narrow down who to approach. And although it’s amazing to hold a physical magazine WITH YOUR WORK in your hands, many of the new-kid-on-the-block literary journals are online only. Does that lessen their impact or validity?  Should You Publish in Print or Online Journals? by Becky Tuch makes a very good case for them actually being more useful than print publications. For one thing, it’s easy to share a link for anyone to read. Plus online archives mean that your work is potentially being found by new readers all the time. One of the best examples of this that I’ve come across is Spontaneity art magazine, in which every item inspires something new or is inspired by a previous work. As a result, you keep clicking around the interconnecting links and the previous issues are as viewed as the current one.


Short story competition

Finally for this week, some competition news. The Francis MacManus Short Story Competition 2016 is now open. It’s free to enter, and stories should be between 1,800-2,000 words. The winner will receive €3,000, with prizes of €2,000 and €1,000 for second and third place finalists. In addition, the shortlist of 25 stories will be recorded for broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1. Closing date is 27th May. You can hear all of last year’s shortlist here to give you some inspiration. What’s clear about this competition is that voice is everything.


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