Monday, April 13, 2009

On The Road To Publishville # 1 - "The Writing CV & Portfolio"

# "Today is where your book begins, the rest is still unwritten" # - Natasha Bedingfield

I've just returned from a brilliant fortnight's holiday in country far, far away (more on that in my next post here!) and the break from my life in the UK has really helped to fire me up to do a writing "stock take" in order to re-focus my writing in general as well as my "Moon Crater" novel in particular... (so apologies from the outset of this post for the length of it, but if you read on to the end and are interested in what's new with my writing, you won't be disappointed!)

I already alluded to a new series of feature articles I wanted to write here on the blog back in my 2009 preview and that's just what I'm going to begin here today. I've nicknamed this occasional series "On The Road To Publishville" and, bascially, I want to document properly my final journey towards success (or the unthinkable failure!) of getting Moon Crater published now that I've almost tantalisingly finished the final draft of the manuscript. The idea of starting this online journal back in early 2006 was ALWAYS, and still remains to this day, to document my efforts of getting published and since good old '09 is the year I want to make it all work for me, it seems fitting to provide a focused set of blog posts which 'reveal all' about the trials and tribulations of my experience of entering the publishing world proper (especially since I tend to waffle on about other aspects of writing a lot in my posts here too - just see the tags panel in the sidebar for proof!)...




So with this first "On The Road To Publishville" post, I want to focus on the additional writing work that seems these days to need to be done to make yourself become more attractive to potential agents and publishers. Writing is something I think you need to approach with professionalism and just like applying for a job in the professional, working world, the three "P"s of "Professional Presentation and Preparation" have to be key to making a successful "application". With only the finishing touches to do to my novel's final draft, my mind has now turned back to my portfolio of work as I approach my "interview" at it were, with potential agents.

Right or wrong, from the very beginning, I've done it "my way" and my sole intention in becoming a blogger was to establish and increase my online presence as a writer and to get my name out there... The entire movitivation and purpose of this journal blog of mine has been to use what tools are out there on the net for amateur writers today to build a web presence in a cost-effective but professional-looking way... Almost three years on from my first forays into the blogosphere and I'm now using not only the free Blogspot to create sub-pages of my own official writing website but also the free Googlepages (soon to become "Googlesites"), YouTube and Picasa, and even Facebook - and I'm still discovering more and more useful tools all the time (take the Wordle creations for my "Valley" story at the bottom of this post, for instance!) to help get my words out to the masses across the Web... (I am still working on how to adapt Twitter and MySpace to my writing portfolio, though!)

ADDENDUM - (24th April, '09) - Since writing this post just over a week ago, the idea of a "CGAllan Twitter" page has stuck with me and I can now let you know that such a page exists! Simply point your browser at: http://twitter.com/cgallan and you can read my (sometimes daily!) snippets and previews of the "Moon Crater" story - yep, it'll be a page where I'll give brief teasers to the book, so don't miss out - "Follow" me if you're already a Twitterer yourself or just bookmark the page and keep checking it regularly for updates! (here's a Worlde creation to celebrate my new Twitter page as well - just click on it to see the larger version!)
Wordle: CGAllan's Twitter page

Oh, and I’ve also now worked out what form the “Moon Crater MySpace” page will eventually take, but it’ll be something you’ll least expect… Watch THIS space to find out more in the near future!)

With the dawn of 2009, my resolve to continue to use the big WWW for the benefit of my writing is stronger than ever, but it's also become more structured, like the plot of a book, as I approach the crucial time of searching for a literary agent... So to that end I'm now beginning an annual "spring cleaning" of the web pages I have and intend to spruce up my existing pages linked to through my Official Site. My new "Story Starts" for 2009 was the beginning of this process back in January and soon there'll be a whole host of new pages opening up across at "Find The Missing Reel dot com", so, as ever, keep an eagle eye out and keep trying to click the (at present) unclickable objects from today onwards at my Official Site, cos who knows, tomorrow, they might just be suddenly accessible...

Another new and, I hope, exciting addition to my story pages this year is going to be "Sidebar Stories"... the first of these has already appeared on my "Dark Sci-Fi" story page (you can go over to my Official Homepage and simply click on the appropriate object to find this today!) - as 2009 marches on there'll be more Sidebar Stories "Coming Soon" too each of my EIGHT "Featured Fiction" pages and my "Moon Crater Adventures" gamebook launch page as well... And because, as you may know, I love teaser titles, here's a preview of some of my planned short "Sidebar Stories" coming later this year: "Gimble the Grub Worm", "The Understudy” and "At The Time When Time Collapsed". I suppose you might say that these Sidebar Stories are my own form of "Series Stacking", which is quite the buzz phrase in 2009... (or should that be "story stacking" in my case?!)

As hope and fears go in the world of writing, it's good for me to share here now that a few of my "publishing promises" of 2008 unfortunately haven't panned out completely the way I'd imagined – I hasten to mention that none of these are my fault though - it's just that a couple of the websites which said they'd publish my stories are either being severely delayed, or (for reasons not divulged to contributors) have completely collapsed... So in an attempt to make a phoenix rise out of these ashes, one of those stories which I originally held back from my own story pages is now online across at my "Teeny Tiny Tales" Featured Fiction page – it's called Blood Hunt and if you go to my Official Homepage you can read it now by clicking on a teeny, tiny object which is useful for collecting and fastening story pages together... (not sure that's altogether as cryptic a clue as I intended it to be!)

The other brilliant news I've had for my writing, this early in 2009 is that a story of mine which first got me kickstarted into a writing life just over a decade ago now has been selected to air on hospital radio in several hospitals across the North East of the UK. King of the Jungle has been digitally recorded and read by a professional actor, and I'll be getting a copy of the recording soon, which I'll make available on my "Literary Ficiton" story page in due course... If you can't wait for that, you can still read King of the Jungle now through at my "Lit Fic" Featured Fiction page by going to my Official Homepage and clicking on a pile of things that might go "crunch" under your feet as you walk on a path of them...

Mixing good news with bad, another writing disappointment I'm picking myself up from and quite literally dusting down from as well is that my biggest writing achievement of 2008 has fallen unfortunately fallen by the wayside... It was back at Christmas time 2007 when I first decided to redraft an older story of mine (I never like to abandon them!) and send it into an anthology competition - and fantastically by Spring last year I'd heard that I'd be included in the book of New Writing which would also have the chance to be voted "Best Story" by its readers...

Fast forward to a year on from that time, (and a few months past when all the voting results should have been out) and I received the sad news directly from the anthology organisers and on their anthology page that they're closing down with only an apology and no real explanation of the placings of the authors involved, even after all the voting has taken place... Despite this disappointment, I'd like here to thank the Invisible Ink organisation and also Baineth Publications for the opportunity to take part in the competition, but also in order to get a little "closure" on this bitter sweet experience and to round off this "Writing Portfolio and CV" post, I'm going to pay a short tribute to my most successful story (and still my own personal favourite) to date - namely, The Silhouettes & Winds of the Valley...

Recently, I came across the anthology on Amazon.COM (it's been on
the UK Amazon site since it came out last year) and here are some of the very positive comments from Invisble Ink 2 readers Stateside:

(5 out of 5 stars) "What a great idea! That is about the coolest thing I have ever seen. What an opportunity for someone. With so many interesting ideas to choose from it is going to be close." - November 4, 2008

(5 out of 5 stars) "A great compilation of stories!
Invisible Ink is an awesome book! I just couldn't put it down. This is one of those books that I will keep out and go back to now and again and pick out and share particular stories with friends." - October 27, 2008


And here are the original comments from readers of the anthology who also voted for me on the Invisible Ink website:

"A most interesting short story that prompted the imagination. I have never read a story that couples the wild west with a bit of the science fiction. I would certainly enjoy reading any future work by this author. Presumably he/she has a subsequent story 'on the stocks'? I hope so." - Regards, A. Mee (Mr) Wooden Top [September 03, 2008]

"Really enjoyed this story - like the mixing of genres. I get the feeling that this writer has more to say, and I hope to be able to read more of their work in due course." -
Alli_m101 [September 01, 2008]
"I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story, and I hope the writer will continue with this excellent work. I liked it because it was so very different from anything I have read before. Keep going and well done." - Marsyvonne [December 14, 2008]

"I feel it was very inspiring. The description of the
wind in the air as I was reading the story seemed to creep into my imagination and made me feel as I was actually there. It was so gripping and I enjoyed the company of the Indians, who also watched the story unfold." - Angeltown [December 06, 2008]

"Well written with nice descriptions. It felt like a lot of characters to keep track of though. I was a bit disappointed when the greenskins turned up - I'd been enjoying the realism." - Sarah1229 [August 29, 2008]

"This was an excellent story, well written and I really enjoyed it." -
kaittan [August 21, 2008]
"An entertaining and refreshing take on the western tale with a highly satisfying ending." -
Sandy [August 20, 2008]

You can read The Silhouettes & Winds of the Valley in all its Wild West glory over at my Adventure Fiction story page (click on the story title above to go directly to it now!)
One of my top tips as an amateur writer for how to keep your inspiration and motivation going is the sooner you start thinking of yourself as a real, live writer, in everything you do writerly (blogging, submitting stories etc etc), the quicker you'll move along the road you're on to become one - "positive mental attititude" is what it's commonly known as, I think... And as part of the Invisible Ink competition I had to send in a biography of my writing self which would have been published on the organiser's site had it not collapsed - so in an effort to further keep my motiviation going, (nothing to do with shameless vanity, honest!) I'm going to reprint it here for all to see as it would have appeared - OK, here goes... (see if you can decypher the coded message I made up at the end of my bio too!)

'Chris G. Allan works as a Broadcast Subtitler for television in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, where he also lives with his wife. He hopes to one day write children's and young adult adventure novels, with a secret side ambition to write a fun, hit kids TV series. He has always been interested in the use of the English Language through writing, having studied English at undergraduate level and also worked short stints in print journalism during his first degree. He has been an amateur writer of fiction for ten years, largely writing for his own amusement, but also gained an MA in Creative Writing from Northumbria University during that time. In crafting his stories he draws inspiration from the dreams and imagination of his childhood (which wasn't that long ago really). While he currently works on his first kids novel he has set up a website for his writing at www.findthemissingreel.com where he records his experiences as a first-time writer through a web log and also displays an assortment of writing puzzle pages to entertain readers. As a writer, Chris believes it's his duty to always challenge readers with twisting plots and an inventive use of words. His writing style aims to hold readers' attention and interest while still keeping them guessing right to the end. He is thrilled to be included in 'Invisible Ink 2', and in fact on receiving the news he was heard to mutter the favourite words of a beloved character from one of his unpublished stories, lying inside an old writing box held in the dusty loft of his house, "Sha Turvedean Teh Guneb stuj lyno..." '
And that's about it for my first "On The Road To Publishville" feature post... (Blimey, I DID write a lot!) You can join me again right here on this blog, sometime next month (around the end of May) for the next stage in the journey down this Road, which will be drafting my book's synopsis and covering letter which I'll be using to send off to potential literary agents...

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