Friday, 31 December 2021

Flash Fiction 101

FlashFiction101 - All stories must be exactly 101 words in length. No more; no less. 

- Each month  judges will decide on a short list and a winner.

- The winner will have their story published online, along with their biography and links to any other work.

- The winning entry of each month will be included in the shortlist for the annual competition in June 2022.

- The winning entries for each quarter will be published in the printed Chiasmus Journal as well as online.

- Entries that are shortlisted will be recognised and published online.

- Entry to the competition is free. Applicants are able to make donations to help continue running FlashFiction101. Donations and entries are not linked and form no part of the judging process.

DATES & DEADLINES

2022

Entry Deadline: JANUARY 31ST - (Winner Announced February 18th)

Prompt / Genre: Flowers / Romantic Comedy

Entry Deadline: FEBRUARY 28TH - (Winner Announced March 25th)

Prompt: Your character wakes up next to a stranger. 

Entry Deadline: MARCH 31ST - (Winner Announced April 15th)

Prompt: Your character sees something they weren't supposed to.

Entry Deadline: APRIL 30TH - (Winner Announced May 23rd)

Prompt: "Did you see that?"

Entry Deadline: MAY 31ST - (Winner announced June 10th)

Theme: LBGTQ+

ANNUAL COMPETITION WINNER TO BE ANNOUNCED: JUNE 30TH


Visit the Website for full details

Monday, 27 December 2021

The Shooter Literary Magazine Flash Competition

Run on a rolling basis, with 1 story being published on the second Monday of each month.

Flash fiction and nonfiction in any theme or genre.

Prize: £50 and inclusion in an annual anthology.

Word count: 1,000 maximum.

Entry fee: £3

VISIT THE WEBSITE

British Book Awards - Crime & Thriller

Crime & Thriller Book of the Year

Previously called the Crime Thriller of the Year. 

Name changed to Thriller & Crime Novel of the Year in 2011. 

Name changed to Crime & Thriller Book of the Year in 2017.

2022 - The Dark Remains - Ian Rankin

2021 - Troubled Blood - JK Rowling

2020 – My Sister, the Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite

2019 – Our House – Louise Candlish

2018 – The Dry – Jane Harper

2017 – Dodgers – Bill Beverly

2015–2016 – (no award)

2014 – I Am Pilgrim – Terry Hayes

2013 – The Carrier – Sophie Hannah 

2012 – A Wanted Man – Lee Child

2011 – Before I Go to Sleep – S. J. Watson

2010 – (no award)

2009 – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson

2008 – Book of the Dead – Patricia Cornwell 

2007 – The Naming of the Dead – Ian Rankin 

2006 – The Take – Martina Cole 

2005 – Fleshmarket Close – Ian Rankin 

British Book Awards - Fiction

Fiction Book of the Year

Previously called Popular Fiction Award. 

Name changed to Popular Fiction Book of the Year in 2010. 

Name changed to Fiction Book of the Year in 2017.

2022 - Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason

2021 - Hamnet - Maggie O'Farrell

2020 – Girl, Woman, Other – Bernardine Evaristo

2019 – Normal People – Sally Rooney

2018 – Reservoir 13 – Jon McGregor

2017 – The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry

2015-2016 – (no award)

2014 – The Shock of the Fall – Nathan Filer

2013 – An Officer and a Spy – Robert Harris

2012 – Fifty Shades of Grey – E. L. James

2011 – A Tiny Bit Marvellous – Dawn French

2010 – One Day – David Nicholls

2009 – Devil May Care – Sebastian Faulks 

2008 – The Memory Keeper's Daughter – Kim Edwards 

2006 – Anybody Out There – Marian Keyes 

2006 – The Time Traveler's Wife – Audrey Niffenegger 

Monday, 20 December 2021

Wellcome Book Prize - Paused

The Wellcome Book Prize is on pause. 

There will not be a Book Prize for 2021-22

Visit Website

Sunday, 5 December 2021

Show Don't Tell - What it Means

This is probably the least understood phrase for new writers – probably because it seems to go against logic. Writers tell stories right? No. Good writers show stories.

To me there’s really only one thing you need to remember when it comes to showing your stories, and that is a quote from Graham Masterton. He said:

Don’t tell your story. Be there.”

Basically, it doesn’t matter how good your writing is. If you’re telling the story you are distancing your reader from it. Here’s an example of telling:

Jason knew he had to go to the Dentist. His teeth hurt so much that he told his mother about it. She suggested he call Dr Evans, a man who had looked after the family’s teeth for years. He made the call and arranged to be at Dr Evans surgery at three o clock. That would give him plenty of time to do a few errands – and be back in time for tea.

This is completely passive because the information is being related from the omniscient, non-personal viewpoint. In order to ‘show’ the story you need to become the character of Jason – and get him to relate the story, unfolding it in real time. Like this.

Jason woke at seven thirty. His jaw felt as though someone had kicked it during the night. He poked his tongue around a sensitive area in his mouth. Ouch. It felt almost raw. He got up and trundled down the stairs to breakfast.

“My goodness, Jason, you look awful,” his mother said. “What on earth is the matter?”

“My tooth hurts something terrible, Mum.” Jason used a finger to prod around the interior of his mouth. He squinted.

“Call Dr Evans. He’ll know what to do. Go on, call him now.”

Jason picked up the phone and dialled a number on the refrigerator door.

“Hello? I’d like to make an appointment…"

And so on.

Showing is achieved by taking each story event and relating it as though it were a scene in a movie. Instead of merely telling the reader what action and drama took place, you need to put yourself in the scene and explain what the characters are experiencing – as the story unfolds.

You do this with dialogue and being specific about emotions like pain, sorrow, love, whatever. Instead of saying ‘he felt pain’, you need to say where the pain is and of what type. Making bland generalizations about a character’s motivation is not enough.

Your reader wants specifics – they want to feel as though they’re actually inside the head of the characters – experiencing their world, their thoughts and their emotions.

Whenever you look at your writing, ask yourself. Is this telling, or showing?

Imagine that you have to explain to a film or TV director what you need to get a particular scene across. The easiest way to do that is to show him. You would first show him the location, the characters inhabiting that space and then write down the necessary dialogue.

If you copy this same technique to use in novel and short story writing, you won’t go far wrong.

Of course some exposition and telling is good for pacing – you can’t have your book reading exactly like a screenplay after all. However, you should be aiming for a balance of 5 to 1. Show four fifths of the time and tell just one fifth.

As an exercise – indeed as any editing process – you need to look at every sentence you write and try re-writing it – deliberately tightening it. Remember, nothing is sacred, no matter how well written.

If you can create more scenes that show rather than tell, your writing will always work better for a reader.

Gone are the days when authors can bore their readers with long passages of exposition and passive prose.

Shame really – it’s much easier to write like that!

Showing requires discipline – and going that extra mile.

The good part is that publishers and readers reward you for doing that work – by buying more of your books!

Keep Writing!

© Rob Parnell

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Cranked Anvil Short Story Competition

Quarterly short story competition

Deadlines: 31st January, 30th April, 31st July, 31st October

Open to any theme or genre

Maximum of 1,500 words (not including the title).

Entry fees: £5 for 1 entry; £8 for 2 entries; £10 for 3 entries.

Prizes: £150, £75, £30

The top three stories from each quarter will be published on the Cranked Anvil website

VISIT THE WEBSITE

Thursday, 4 November 2021

British Book Awards - Book of the Year

2022 - You Are A Champion - Marcus Rashford

2021 – Shuggie Bain - Douglas Stuart

2020 – Queenie – Candice Carty-Williams

2019 – Normal People – Sally Rooney

2018 – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

2017 – The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry

2015–2016 – (no award)

2014 – The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton

2013 – The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

2012 – Fifty Shades of Grey – EL James

2011 – How to Be a Woman – Caitlin Moran

2010 – One Day – David Nicholls

2009 – The Suspicions of Mr Whicher – Kate Summerscale

2008 – On Chesil Beach – Ian McEwan 

2007 – The Dangerous Book for Boys – Con and Hal Iggulden 

2006 – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – J. K. Rowling 

2005 – The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown 

2004 – Eats, Shoots & Leaves – Lynne Truss 

2003 – Stupid White Men – Michael Moore 

2002 – Billy – Pamela Stephenson 

2001 – Man and Boy – Tony Parsons 

2000 – Managing My Life – Alex Ferguson

1999 – Birthday Letters – Ted Hughes 

1998 – Bridget Jones's Diary – Helen Fielding 

1996 – Delia Smith's Winter Collection – Delia Smith 

1995 – Writing Home – Alan Bennett 

1994 – Wild Swans – Jung Chang 

Wednesday, 3 November 2021

The Booker Prize Winner

The winner of the Booker Prize, 2021, has been announced:

Damon Galgut The Promise

Damon Galgut

Buy a copy on Amazon

View previous winners


Booker Prize

Previously winners of the Booker Prize (formerly known as The Man Booker Prize)

PREVIOUS WINNERS

2021: The Promise by Damon Galgut

2020 - Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

2019 - Tie:

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

2018 - The Milkman by Anna Burns

2017 - Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

2016 - The Sellout by Paul Beatty

2015 - A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

2014 - The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

2013 -  The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

2012 - Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

2011 - The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

2010 - The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson

2009 - Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

2008 - The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

2007 - The Gathering by Anne Enright

2006 - The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

2005 - The Sea by John Banville

2004 - The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst

2003 - Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre

2002 - Life of Pi by Yann Martel

2001 - True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey

2000 - The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

1999 - Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee

1998 - Amsterdam by Ian McEwan

1997 - The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

1996 - Last Orders by Graham Swift

1995 - The Ghost Road by Pat Barker

1994 - How Late It Was, How Late by James Kelman

1993 - Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle

1992 - The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

1991 - The Famished Road by Ben Okri

1990 - Possession by A.S. Byatt

1989 - The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

1988 - Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey

1987 - Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively

1986 - The Old Devils by Kingsley Amis

1985 - The Bone People by Keri Hulme

1984 - Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner

1983 - Life & Times of Michael K by J.M. Coetzee

1982 - Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally

1981 - Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

1980 - Rites of Passage by William Golding

1979 - Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald

1978 - The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch

1977 - Staying On by Paul Scott

1976 - Saville by David Storey

1975 - Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

1974 - Tie: 

The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer

Holiday by Stanley Middleton

1973 - The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G.Farrell

1972 - G. by John Berger

1971 - In a Free State by V.S.Naipaul

1970 - Troubles by J.G.Farrell

1969 - Something to Answer For by P.H. Newby

Sunday, 31 October 2021

Flash500 Novel Competition

Novel Opening & Synopsis Competition

"Have you started, or completed, a novel with strong, credible characters and a page turning plot? Have you honed the first chapters? Can you put together a compelling synopsis? Yes? Then why not enter our Novel Opening competition and have your work judged by Headline Publishing? We welcome published, self-published and unpublished novelists. The only stipulation is that the entry must be unpublished.

Looking for a novel opening up to 3,000 words, plus a synopsis  of the story (max 750 words) to be submitted together in a single file. 

If your first chapter is longer than 3,000 words, DO NOT SUBMIT A LONGER MANUSCRIPT. Simply close the entry within the 3,000 word limit and make a note at the end (which will not be included in the word count) stating the chapter continues beyond this point."

This is an annual competition: entries close on 31st October 2022

Entry fee: £10 for one novel, £18 for two novels, £26 for three novels

Optional critique of one chapter and Synopsis: £25 per story

Prizes awarded as follows:

First: £500

Runner up: £200

VISIT WEBSITE

Thursday, 7 October 2021

Finding Your Genius Within

Understanding genius is a three-stage process.

First, you need to break down your preconceptions about what you think being a genius is.

When you call someone a genius, what do you mean?

That they display characteristics that seem to be above the common herd? That they think ahead of their time? That they seem to be able to create perfect art with little or no effort?

Einstein was a genius they say. So was Leonardo da Vinci, Shakespeare, Beethoven and Van Gogh. Why? Because they displayed a unique way of thinking that separated them from the mainstream.

Did genius just bestow itself upon these individuals?

No, every so-called genius is a craftsman first. They learn the basics. They study them, copy them until they are implicit. So that, when it's time to create for themselves, they know and understand their influences.

Good artists express themselves with honesty and skill. They also learn - and keep learning - from other artists. No influence is a bad influence. It all helps.

Genius is a not a thing in itself. It is merely a qualitative judgment made by individuals and critics - usually after the artist is dead!

What marks you out as a “genius” is your willingness to be true – to yourself and to your art. In other words, genius is really about having the courage of your convictions - the courage to be yourself....

Stage two: some practical advice now.

Clear your mind. To do this, meditate or go for a long walk in the country, undisturbed.

First, try to visualize nothing. No feelings, influences or distractions. Try to find that inner essence that is pure calm, joy and strength. It’s there, inside all of us. Get in touch with it.

Then, calmly tell yourself you’re a genius. Repeat the phrase to yourself until it becomes almost meaningless. I am a genius.

Do this about three to five times a day for five days. (You can do this with any phrase you want your subconscious to believe.)

For stage three, when you’re ready, take the plunge and write.

Write a paragraph or two about a character or a situation that you totally believe in – even if it’s fictional. Edit it afterwards until all the words represent that particular view of reality, as if it IS true, 100%.

Read it back. Is it convincing? If not, keep rewriting until the logic of each word and sentence is, in your mind, incontrovertible.

That’s the trick. Make your work totally convincing TO YOU on your own terms. Do not write for others. It doesn’t work. Be true to yourself and others will follow.

In the end, it's about how much you believe in your own vision of the world. If you don’t really believe in something then neither will your reader, no matter how clever you are with words.

In brief, to be a potential “genius” you must trust your instincts, believe in yourself and write from the heart. To do any less is to cheat yourself – and your readers.

Keep Writing!

© Rob Parnell 2002

Monday, 4 October 2021

Writer's Manual

 

Writer's Manual
Writer's Manual

The Penguin Writer's Manual is the essential companion for anyone who wants to master the art of writing good English. Whether you're composing an essay, sending a business letter or an email to a colleague, or firing off an angry letter to a newspaper, this guide will help you to brush up you communication skills and write correct and confident English.

Sunday, 12 September 2021

Be a Writer First

Writers often talk about their quest to be published. They talk as though it's the end result to their work - as though, when they're published, everything will change and be wonderful.

This is not exactly how it works for most professional writers. Getting your stuff published is often only the beginning - the starting point for a career that may, after a while, feel very much like where you are now - as in, working for a living!

You may improve as a writer. You may start to find it easier - though I doubt it. You may have success - whatever that means to you. But at the end of the day, wherever you may be in your writing career - a newbie or a seasoned pro - you're still in a constant burgeoning relationship with words.

I use the word 'relationship' deliberately - because I think we should see writing as a kind of mistress, toy-boy or lover.

Listen. Your starting point and your end point is to improve the way you communicate your ideas through writing.

And maintaining progress in writing is like the old joke about, "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" The punchline is the same: "Practice, practice, practice."

Let's look at some ways to improve our craft.

Write Every Day

I know I say this a lot. But there really is no better way to improve and progress than to write consistently. For many reasons.

1. Writing every day creates a catalogue of work over time.

2. Daily writing improves your ability to immerse yourself in your fictional worlds or in the non-fiction books you're trying to write.

3. Regular writing gets rid of writer's block.

4. Regular writing improves your self confidence. You feel better about your writing the more you do it.

5. The more you write, the more your writing style improves.

Almost all of the problems that would-be authors associate with writing - or not writing - or finding it hard to get started - can be solved by a commitment to write every day.

Of course this is easier said than done for most. Especially if you have a day job or a busy life that gets in the way.

But think of it like this:

If you were a bestselling author, or even just a professional writer, what do you think you would be spending most of your time doing?

Writing, of course.

You'd get up in the morning, stagger to the computer and pump out a few hundred, or a few thousand words. To sustain your career, that would be what you'd need to do.

Clearly then, if you want to sustain a writing career, you need to start doing that first - now, before your success.

In the best tradition of self help advice, you act the thing you want to become. In order to become a serious committed writer, you need to be a serious committed writer in the first place.

This may seem obvious to you. It may not.

Many would-be writers don't understand the importance of this. They imagine that one day they will have lots of time and they'll be able to write all day - many would be writers spend their lives waiting for that time, only to find it never came - and they're still waiting.

Don't you fall into the trap of thinking that, when the publishing deal comes through, you will suddenly be in the position to write all day - the money's not that good at the beginning!

No, most newly published authors still have to find the time - and the inclination to write more.

Much better is to develop the habit now. Commit to writing as much as you can and constantly investigate ways of finding writing time.

You owe it to your future to get stuck in now - and do the work, as though you're already a published author.

Then, I believe, your inevitable success is assured.

The fact is publishers and agents like career authors who understand that rejection and rewriting, reworking your ideas and being able to take criticism, act on it and bounce back is all part of a writer's job.

If you're the kind of writer that struggles constantly with self doubt and is easily knocked back by the slightest criticism, you need to get over it. You need to show publishers and agents that you don't care what they say: you're going to do this anyway.

You write because you're a writer first and foremost.

In an ongoing relationship with words, your first love is writing.

And just like a real-life lover, you must treat writing with respect. You watch it, nurture it and study it, you can learn to appreciate it in different ways every day, and, most importantly, you do everything you can to sustain that love and benefit from the relationship.

Go for it.

Write every day.

'Til next time,

Keep Writing!

© Rob Parnell

Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Wellcome Book Prize

2021 - No Award

2020 -  No Award

2019 - Will Eaves Murmur

2018 - Mark O'Connell To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death

2017 - Maylis de Kerangal Mend the Living

2016 - Suzanne O'Sullivan It's All in Your Head: True Stories of Imaginary Illness

2015 - Marion Coutts The Iceberg: A Memoir

2014 - Andrew Solomon Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity

2013 - No award

2012 - Thomas Wright Circulation: William Harvey, a Man in Motion

2011 - Alice LaPlante Turn of Mind

2010 - Rebecca Skloot The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

2009 - Andrea Gillies  Keeper: Living with Nancy – A Journey into Alzheimer's

Monday, 23 August 2021

Cranked Anvil Prompt Competition

Cranked Anvil 

Quarterly Prompt Competition is open all year round

Deadlines 1st July, 1st October and 1st April

The prompts are specified on their website 

Entry fee: £5 for one entry, £8 for two, £10 for three.

Word count: 700-1000, not including the title.

Prizes:

1st prize – £150

2nd prize – £75

3rd prize – £30.

The three winning entries will be published on the Cranked Anvil website.

VISIT THE WEBSITE



Wednesday, 18 August 2021

Chasing Our Tales

"Writing is a triumph of tenacity over common sense."

That's what my mother says anyway. Her view is that any kind of writing is a "...very strange way of spending your time, Robert. Why on earth would anyone want to waste their energy doing that?"

And this from a woman who reads like it's about to get banned. I've pointed this out of course. But though she loves reading, she thinks all writers must be a little weird to devote their lives to sitting alone and writing.

She's a more sociable animal you see. Her idea of bliss is to be surrounded by any kind of people, all chattering and yammering over nothing in particular, simply enjoying the closeness of others.

That, of course, is my idea of The Seventh Level of Hell.

Not that I intend to be unsociable - or mean for that matter. I just prefer books and writing and creating, working on artistic projects - and if I do need to go out and communicate, I want it to be for a good reason - like to teach, or learn, or brainstorm or dream and plan with others about a brighter, more positive, art focussed future.

I find stagnation - by which I mean merely existing in ordinary life - a very poor substitute for the joy of creating.

The Wind Beneath My Wings

Creativity is what inspires me.

Working on stories about people and plots I have 'invented' is what keeps me excited about life. Writing songs and recording music gets me too. As does oil painting...

If it's not fiction, I can become equally engrossed in putting together books and courses. I've always been this way. I wrote my first book - about chocolate and secret places to keep it - when I was four years old. I wrote it out by hand and bound it all with Sellotape - and hid it in the wall of my bedroom.

I kept diaries until I was eighteen - until I went travelling across Europe and returned home to find my mother - not that I want to sound like Norman Bates here - had thrown them all out. When I asked, in shock, why she had done that, she simply said, "What does it matter? They were only full of silly words. What were you ever going to do with them?"

What indeed.

I should have gotten the message earlier. Mom hated my short stories, even when I received awards from school and teachers raved about them. She didn't even like my artwork, paintings etc. She said I had no talent, and no right to express it, repeatedly.

To warn me further, she gave me horror stories about how writers were all drunks, ne'er do wells and drug addicts, propogandized that journalists were Satan's spawn, and that writing - in fact any kind of creativity - was some form of certifiable insanity.

But as all good parents know, you should never demonize a child's preoccupations, because it only makes them more attractive. So it was with me.

By the time I left home - after Mommie Dearest sobbed at my decision to forgo University and form a rock band (she insisted I couldn't sing) - my course through life was set.

Goodbye to All That

I guess mothers the world over want what's best for their children. They want to protect them from failure and disappointment. But I always knew that if I did what Mommy wanted - to get that job in The Hardware Store (seriously) - then I would be forever bored and frustrated by a life of 'quiet desperation.'

Much better to me was a life of possibility - a life that involved 'making something of myself'' - whatever that meant.

Today, I've got what I want. A past full of music deals, playing guitar and singing in front of thousands of people, acting in theatre, TV and movie experience and a heap of fun times to look back on and other crazy memories. And now, I've got screenplays sold, 30 bestseeling books and a myriad of courses published all over the net, a new band, and a head full of wondrous ideas for the future. Not to mention the best girl in the world at my side - literally.

Okay, I experienced the failure and disappointment that all artists encounter along the way. But I wouldn't have traded any of that for the whole wide world. Artists need to be tested, to be rejected - it's all part of the process.

To 'protect' me from an authentic life would have been tantamount to switching off my life-support machine.

Zen and the Art of...

We create the life we want - or at least we should try to.

Douglas Adams - one of my heroes - once said, "We may not always end up where we wanted to go, but, if we follow our instincts, we often end up where we needed to be."

I love that. Very Zen, but no less profound.

Okay, I apologize if this article has been all about me. I know you're not supposed to do that in web articles. I should have been focussing on you - my dear reader - and how I can help.

But I hope you'll forgive me just this once - and if I do it again in the future!

Maybe there's something in the above that you can relate to - and that in itself may help you in some way.

I guess if there's a point to this article it would be:

Never be afraid to follow your heart - and do what you think will make you happy.

Your instincts - and your natural talents - exist for a reason.

They're there to help you make the right decisions for the sake of your sanity - and the satisfaction you receive from following your dreams is well worth the discomfort of going against those who might want to 'protect' you from your true self.

Mother does not always know best.

Now Dad, bless him, was another story - and for another time...

Until then,

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell's Writing Academy

Wednesday, 11 August 2021

The Trouble With Writing

It's hard enough to actually get the words on paper - but after that you have to do the self promotion thing.

That's when you find out that, rather than the world clamoring to read you work, you're just one of thousands upon tens of thousands of writers in exactly the same place.

Writing a book used to be the goal - that many splendorous achievement that marked you out as special. Now?

Join the queue.

Getting publishers interested in your book is - and always was I guess - a total uphill struggle. But it's getting worse.

The whole publishing industry seems set up to say 'no', before you've even had time to pitch your idea, hone your proposal or edit down your synopsis.

Publishers explain they already have a huge back catalogue of work they have yet to publish, that, really, they don't need to see your manuscript, even before they know what it's about.

But then you read that traditional publishing is on the way out anyway.

Kindle is taking over - the majority of books sold are now electronic.

There's always self publishing - a minefield and a nightmare combined for the average wannabe author of a hard copy.

There are many companies already on line whose sole aim seems to be to take your money, make you poorer and do nothing much to help you or your work.

Self publishing - I know because I do it - shouldn't cost you more than around $500 for 50 books.

That's the reality.

That's how much it actually costs.

So why do others - who say they are "publishing you" and will get you to sign a contract - and then charge you around $5,000 to $15,000?

These companies use the fact that writers find it so hard to get published to fatten their wallets at your expense.

Talk about profiteering.

Need an agent?

Fugedaboudit.

Agents are besieged by manuscripts they can't sell.

Even when you get one - and I've had a few - my experience is that they find it just as hard (and sometimes harder) to get work published as we solo authors do.

Think that having an agent gives you an edge in the publishing world?

Uh-uh.

Times ain't like that anymore.

And here again there are individuals who call themselves agents - who prey on writers desperation to be represented - and rip you blind before you can say, "Can you please read my book?"

It's enough to make you despair!

Fact is, you're most likely to sell books if you self publish them - by which I mean finding a cheap POD printer and doing it yourself and then go on a speaking tour of your local libraries and shops and physically selling your books out of the trunk of your car.

I know traditional publishers who suggest you do this this anyway - they call it a 'launch tour' - difference being they will take 90% of the cover price of your book.

At least when you self-publish you get to keep 50% or more.

I read an editor's blog recently that 99% of all books sold less than 200 copies each - and that includes the books sold by traditional publishers.

Makes you want to seriously reconsider your decision to be a writer, doesn't it?

But still we do it.

I write every day. I more books I want to get out there - when I'm done editing.

I have over a hundred published books - and the royalties are nice but, of course, could be better.

This last decade my income from self published work has actually far outstripped my income from publishers.

It's not just me.

Writers everywhere face this new dilemma.

Is it really worth hawking around the publisher circuit anymore?

After all, they can take up to a year - and sometimes longer - to reject a MS.

That's way too long to make a writer wait in my view.

Far better to take the bull by the horns (don't you just hate cliches) and do it ourselves.

I think this is what the future holds for writers.

We gotta do it ourselves. Build the following one reader at a time.

Get ourselves out there and sell our books one at a time - and make a small profit from each one.

Take back control from an industry that is finding it increasingly hard to support us with the onslaught of new technology.

Refuse to get sucked in to those companies and individuals who prey on writer's dreams.

Make the decision.

Decide to take back control over our destiny - and let those big publishing companies know their days are numbered.

Thanks for letting me rant.

Keep writing!

Rob's Writing Academy

Thursday, 8 July 2021

Women's Prize for Fiction

PREVIOUS WINNERS

1996 Helen Dunmore A Spell of Winter

1997 Anne Michaels Fugitive Pieces

1998 Carol Shields Larry's Party

1999 Suzanne Berne A Crime in the Neighborhood

2000 Linda Grant When I Lived in Modern Times

2001 Kate Grenville The Idea of Perfection

2002 Ann Patchett Bel Canto

2003 Valerie Martin Property

2004 Andrea Levy Small Island

2005 Lionel Shriver We Need to Talk About Kevin

2006 Zadie Smith On Beauty

2007 Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Half of a Yellow Sun

2008 Rose Tremain The Road Home

2009 Marilynne Robinson Home

2010 Barbara Kingsolver The Lacuna

2011 Téa Obreht The Tiger's Wife

2012 Madeline Miller The Song of Achilles

2013 A. M. Homes May We Be Forgiven

2014 Eimear McBride A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing

2015 Ali Smith How to Be Both

2016 Lisa McInerney The Glorious Heresies

2017 Naomi Alderman The Power

2018 Kamila Shamsie Home Fire

2019 Tayari Jones An American Marriage

2020 Maggie O'Farrell Hamnet

2021 Susanna Clark Piranesi

Sunday, 13 June 2021

Reflex Press Flash Competition

A quarterly international flash fiction competition for stories between 180 and 360 words run by independent publisher, Reflex Press.

Always open for entries, they operate a choose your own entry fee system, and offer generous cash prizes to competition winners:

Winner: £1,200

Second: £600

Third: £300

Fourth: £150

Entry fee: Choose your own

READ MORE ABOUT THIS COMPETITION

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

There's Always Tomorrow

Writing is a vocation. 

You may have to keep reminding yourself of this. Especially when you want everything - money, writing projects, publishing success - to go faster. 

I read a guy's blog this week where he talked about burn-out. He was so determined to get a novel finished he wrote 16 hours a day for about three weeks. He said that suddenly he couldn't make out the words on the screen. He was looking at a foreign language and he realized his brain had shut down. 

The experience frightened him so much that he stopped writing and suffered a long period - over six months - of angst over what had happened.

For a long time he was too afraid to start writing again for fear that his mind would play this trick on him again.

Luckily that's not happened to me yet. Sounds awful.

The worst thing that happened one year was that I got one of those humps on my right wrist - apparently they're caused by hitting the keyboard too hard for too long. It took a few weeks of gentle typing for it to go down.

It didn't hurt. I just looked deformed for a while. A friend suggested hitting it with a book - he said he'd heard that was the way to make them go back down. Not being a fan of pain, I declined his offer to fix it and trusted nature instead.

I've never had it again - since I started using laptops.

I guess the point is that you can just push yourself too hard sometimes. I know that, say, Olympic athletes need to train for hours every day. I know that soldiers train hard every day to reach optimal strength, mindset and efficiency.

But what about more cerebral pursuits?

Clearly it's possible for the brain to be overstimulated - leading to mental breakdowns and, at the very least, stress.

Most writers agree that bouts of excessive writing can be physically draining. Even the most prolific writers don't recommend more than four or five hours max a day. It's fairly well accepted that much more and you're really in no condition to give it your best.

As writers we must learn patience.

Waiting on publishers is challenging. It's the main topic of conversation at the writer's groups I attend. It's also one of the reasons I recommend self-publishing. Even if only to act as a stopgap, so writers have at least a chance of making money from our work while waiting around for agents and publishers to take notice of us.

Plus, increasingly, the publishing world requires 'proof' that readers want our work. What better way to showcase our novels, books and writing than on Amazon? We can get feedback, reviews and testimonials - not to mention actual sales of our work to readers.

Plus of course there's the added benefit of feeling like a published author - which will seriously help your self esteem and hopefully boost your commitment to writing regularly.

Because writing needs to become a habit, especially if you want to one day do it full time - the dream!

You need to pace yourself. Live well but healthily. Keep your moral, mental and physical strength up and commit to writing every day.

In this age of 'I want it now', it may seem frustrating to have to wait for anything. But for the writer, this is often the reality.

Fact is, it's always been this way. Nothing's changed.

Except now we can at least publish ourselves on the Net while we're waiting for the call from Random House or Harper Collins. (Anytime, guys - honestly, I'm here all day, just waiting!)

And did I mention publishing with Amazon is free?

Plus you keep all the rights?

No contracts, no catches and no fees.

Just a professional platform to showcase your work.

Oh and, in case you're interested, you make money too!

(c) Rob Parnell

Writing Academy

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

What to Write About

What happens when you can't think of anything to write?

It's funny because I've noticed this is quite a common problem - for the newbie and the professional alike, but usually for different reasons.

Often the newbie will be flushed with the conviction that she's a writer. She feels it, she knows it in her bones. And yet when it comes to sitting down in her writing space, she wonders what she should say - exactly what should she focus on? What should she communicate - or at least commit to paper?

The professional writer too can get stuck. He may have exhausted his current topics of interest and want to start on something fresh. Like the newbie, the professional may ask himself, what can I say that is of interest to my editor, my publishers or my fans?

Both the newbie and the professional may get stuck on what to write NEXT.

Create You Own Emergency

Deadlines and external pressure work for the professional. Often working writers have no choice but to slog along on their writing projects because at some point in the past they promised to do a piece for another person.

There's nothing like the imagined feel of a producer or publisher's breath on the back of your neck to get you, if not motivated, then at least pumping out words.

But what if there's no pressure?

In 'Becoming a Writer', the great Dorothea Brande pointed out that writers create their own emergencies. They alone decide that a piece of writing must be done.

They have to. In reality, there's no need for yet another piece of writing. The world won't care whether you don't write. Nobody misses the bestsellers that never were.

That's the irony of writing. Writers become successful for writing things nobody realized they were missing - until they read them.

Writers need to create first and foremost for themselves. They need to feel a compulsion to record something in words that is important only to their own conscience.

Here, I think we're getting to the heart of 'reasons to write'.

Because once you establish your reasons - or, for the professional, re-establish your reasons, then the issue of what to write about can fall into place.

Find Your Passion and Embrace it

I once read a column written by Stephen Fry. He's famous for being an actor mostly but is surprisingly adept at stringing a few words together. (Of course his one time comedy partner, Hugh Laurie, is now much more famous - as the gorgeous Doctor House.)

But in the article, Stephen examined the problems associated with having no ideas - and what it meant to the writer.

His conclusions were vague (as you'd probably expect) but I gleaned that the artist in him was satisfied that he had created something - after he had finished the article. From nothing, he had created something of - at least - curiosity.

And that's the way it is for writers sometimes.

Even when we sit down with no particular ideas, we can create something of value. Not because of the topic or the story necessarily, but because we have a particular way of writing - or creating, even thinking, that brings something unique into existence.

From watching would-be writers' careers for all this time, I've become convinced that it's those writers who maintain a conviction that what they write is important - at least to themselves - that eventually succeed.

And finding what's important to you is the key to inspiration.

Examine Your Reactions

What makes you mad? What gets you going? What do you want to change?

At conferences, you will often see successful writers talk about what they didn't like about other writers, other books, other TV shows and movies.

Their dissatisfaction compelled them to write.

They felt that an issue was not being given sufficient space - or that a common view was being given too much credence.

They write to redress the balance - and give their own take on issues.

Often too, you will hear writers say, "I write to find out what I think about things."

Writing has a way of clarifying thoughts, concepts and arguments. That's the very least of its functions but no less powerful for that.

More importantly, writing is a way of revealing truth. In stories, screenplays and in non fiction, writing gives answers, it examines and illuminates, often the mundane, but also the profound.

If you're having trouble wondering what to write about, look inside of you.

Think about the things you care about - the things you have seen and experienced that have moved you - the issues you feel need further examination - especially if they bug you!

Then start writing, even without a plan or an agenda...

And see what happens.

You may be surprised by the result.

Till next time,

Keep Writing!

© Rob Parnell

Friday, 23 April 2021

What You Didn't Understand About No!

Many writers tell me the scariest thing they have to do is submit their work to publishers, magazine editors and agents.

This is understandable.

You may have poured your heart and soul into a piece of writing. You may have spent a very long time working on it - so much so that it feels like a part of you is somehow exposed.

You fear criticism at best, ridicule at worst.

Placing your work in an envelope can bring on palpitations and an overwhelming sense of panic.

Writers ask me if this ever goes away.

The short answer is no.

It doesn't matter how long you've been writing, or how many times you submit material or show your work to others, there's always a nagging trepidation associated with the experience.

It's akin to first night nerves. Actors, not matter how accomplished, still feel it just before the curtain rises.

Musicians and singers still feel it, just before the song begins.

Even great speakers - gurus - feel it, as they walk out to face the audience.

It's natural, to be expected, indeed, welcomed.

Nervousness is good because it means you're concerned about your art. If you had no fear, no thought that you could ever do any wrong, you wouldn't care so much about your work.

If you had little self consciousness, you'd most likely stop writing and think, Ah well, that'll do. Who cares if they don't like it?

And I think that would come across in your writing.

Don't Fear Rejection

Rejection is not to be feared. Criticism is not to be feared - quite the contrary. If you've stimulated a reaction, even if it's bad, that's good. Because that's what you want.

The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.

The last thing you want is for your writing to be ignored.

But we can't all be fabulous, especially when we're starting out, and the people we send our MSS to know that. And sometimes it's impossible to know how our writing will work for others until we show it to them.

You need to develop an inner confidence - not so much in your writing style or your use of the right words - but in the ideas you're presenting which, after all, is usually what publishers are interested in and looking for.

Writing can almost always be improved by editing, re-shaping and reworking. And you should always strive to improve the way you express yourself.

But there comes a time when you need to let go - and receive feedback. There comes a time when the actor must play the role for the audience or the singer must sing her song. Just like any performer, writers must reveal their skill to the world.

And, gasp, be judged.

And this is where the source of fear is located - in the judgment of others. I suspect sometimes we'd rather not know if we're on the wrong track - or whether our belief in our own talent is misguided.

Rest Easy, Be Kind to Yourself

Let's take a look at the reality of showing your work to others.

1. There are millions of writers out there, you're just one.

2. Rejection is only very rarely personal.

3. If you don't get out there, someone else will.

4. The world needs writers, that's a fact.

5. You've got to be in it to win it.

Confidence in yourself, even if it's misplaced, is essential to success. Because without self confidence, you'll always hide your light - and your work - under a bushel, to coin a phrase from the Bible. (What is a bushel anyway? Do they sell them at K-Mart?)

Even though the jitters may persist - even for JK Rowling, who still receives her fair share of criticism - you have to overcome the fear - and submit your work anyway. It's the only way to get ahead.

It's also the only way to get over the initial nervousness - and discover for yourself the reality of being a 'real' writer.

There will always be hurdles and setbacks. Writers have more than their fair share of those. But it's the ones who keep coming back that take away the prizes.

Be Humble and Accept Criticism

As I said, sometimes the only way to experience the reality of being a writer is to deliberately put yourself out there - and step into the firing line.

You may be criticized - but actually not nearly as much as you'd expect. But even if you are, it's all good.

Criticism is feedback. And acting on criticism is helping you grow and learn as a writer. It's making you better and stronger. It's giving you the tools to keep coming back and proving, with each word, that you know what you're doing, have a right to do it, and will keep doing it until your vision of the world is recognized as valid and well expressed.

Don't Fear the Fear. Embrace it.

Don't fear rejection, it's to be expected, even welcomed.

Because each rejection means you're one step closer.

And with each step your confidence will grow.

Till next time,

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell's Writing Academy

Friday, 19 March 2021

You Wrote a Book - What Now?

Let me make a prediction.

By 2015, based on current trends, 50% of the books available online and even offline, will be self published.

How will this happen? Simple. Print on Demand technology has already progressed to the stage that even the big traditional publishers are using it - which means, yes, now we're all equal.

Plus, distribution networks are now seeing that there is money to be made stocking and distributing self published books - as long as the writers are diligently involved in their promotion.

Book marketing is now no longer the sole responsibility of a publisher's sales staff. More and more trade publishers are requiring, even demanding, that authors self promote their books.

So, whichever way you go, you will have to get out there and sell your books yourself. But what does self promotion actually involve?

Are there any special skills you need?

Yes, but don't fret - you're a writer. Much of what you need to do is already within your skill base.

Here are nine pointers for the serious newly published author:

1. Create a Web Presence

Having an author website is a must - but there's more to be done than that. Having a presence on the web to promote you book(s) needs a more strategic approach.

You need to hunt down any and all Net platforms - including social networking sites - from which to promote you and your book.

2. Make your Website Interactive

You need to run a newsletter, a blog and have useful resources for readers and writers to make your website 'sticky' - which means giving people reasons to find your website and keep coming back.

Do whatever you can to build a mailing list, online and off.

3. Use Ads to Generate a Following

This may require some investment of money and time. Book sales don't just happen. They never have. Authors throughout history - from Geoffrey Chaucer to Jeffrey Archer have spent money publicizing themselves in the short term to gain book sales in the long term. If you believe in yourself and your writing, follow their example.

Online this may mean using Google Ads. Offline you may need to consider printing up posters, business cards and bookmarks, putting ads in the paper and sending out promotional material to bookshops, libraries and schools.

4. Create a Stream of Press Releases

One is never enough. You need to catch the eye of the media. And the way to do that is to make your book relevant. Follow the media daily and reshape your press releases to reflect and include current news headlines. Make yourself relevant. Send out press releases consistently - and have a ready made 'press pack' available for any journalist who may call.

5. Contact Radio and TV Stations

Deliberately target news media outlets in your press releases and then follow up. Find out when and where the media airs shows about authors and books - and let them know you're available for interview.

Okay, this is scary - but it works. And don't be nervous. Once you've done it the first time, it gets easier. Trust me.

6. Do a Launch Tour

It used to be that a book launch was a fun one-off activity. Not anymore. You should plan a tour of book launches. In your own town there may be half a dozen places you could hold them.

Plan on touring interstate, even internationally, and doing as many launches as you can.

Not just in bookstores and libraries but nightclubs and community centers, gyms and pet stores. I'm not joking. You can make these things work. And try this: invite celebrities to your launches. You just never know who will come!

7. Do a Lecture/Personal Appearance Tour

You might think that only the extroverted are best suited for giving talks and workshops on their books. You'd be wrong. And I'm willing to bet you can do it too.

Don't think in terms of making a profit on your speaking engagements - but do take lots of your books with you. The money is made at the back of the room, after your speech.

8. Keep Looking for Opportunities

Whenever you're out and about, deliberately build networks of useful contacts. Visit other writers and talk with them, share your self promotion tactics. (Here's a tip: buy them lunch - it's tax deductible.)

Online, join discussion groups that focus on self promotion. It's all useful for developing a mindset, even if you don't use all of the strategies made available to you.

9. Keep Writing

Most of all, don't lose sight of your art - the reason you're doing all this promotion. You want to be a professional writer, so you'll need to keep coming up with the goods.

A famous bestselling author once told me he spent 60% of his year writing, 20% promoting himself and 20% resting, usually in a far off country. That sounds about the right balance to me!

All this may sound rather daunting to the newbie and to the newly published. But the good news is that doing at least some of these activities will generate book sales.

Now all you need to do is consider this:

If you're going to be doing all this self promotion, would it be more profitable for you to be self published - or share all your hard earned royalties with a trade publisher?

This is the real reason why self publishing will become so important in the future. It's way more profitable to self publish.

Think of it this way:

The average book sells less than 500 copies - shocking but true.

With 10% earnings, your standard royalties from a trade publisher, and you'll make around $1000 (if you're lucky, after the usual contractual deductions - don't get me started on this one.)

Sell 500 copies of your own self published book at the same retail price and you'd make around $5000 - if not more!

You don't have to be a genius to work out which option most enlightened authors will be taking in the future.

Thanks for reading!

© Rob Parnell

Saturday, 13 March 2021

Domain Name

Finally got round to buying the domain for Slingink Blog, so the old blogspot address will now redirect to https://www.slingink.co.uk


Friday, 5 February 2021

The Elements of Style

Elements of Style

You know the authors' names. You recognize the title. You've probably used this book yourself. This is The Elements of Style, the classic style manual, now in a fourth edition. A new Foreword by Roger Angell reminds readers that the advice of Strunk & White is as valuable today as when it was first offered.

This book's unique tone, wit and charm have conveyed the principles of English style to millions of readers. Use the fourth edition of "the little book" to make a big impact with writing.


Thursday, 4 February 2021

The Story Formula

I've been reading Robert McKee's book on 'Story', where he outlines what he perceives to be ideal story structure - not just for movies but for novels and short stories too. He's based his theories on a lifetime of examining story form and structure - and from being employed to read story proposals for Hollywood studios.

His conclusions are interesting and educational - not least because they're so specific!

McKee is able to identify stories that work and why - but also how to structure them for maximum effect. Below I've tried to summarize his theories.

Defining Story Terms

First we need to understand the terms of reference Robert McKee uses, in order to fully grasp what he's saying.

An Emotional Exchange is the smallest fragment of drama within a story. It is a point at which a character openly deals with either his external world or his internal demons. It is commonly called a Beat.

Ideally, a Beat in a story should be non-coincidental, which means it arises as a result of the protagonist's actions or world view, or agenda, and that puts him in conflict with his surroundings (usually other characters).

A Life Value is a state of being that a character must represent or express in order to be interesting to a reader or viewer. It is changes in Life Values that the storyteller should be primarily concerned with.

For the purposes of Story, the writer needs to think in terms of Life Value Opposites - as in life or death, good or evil, happy or sad, bored or elated. A journey from one Life Value to its opposite is what constitutes a good Scene.

A Scene is made up of 4 or 5 Beats that take the character from one emotional state to another.
In order for a character to grow and change, the reader needs to show a series of 2 to 5 Scenes that become a Sequence.

A Sequence is a dramatic demonstration of the character's emotional path through the story. A Sequence should end with a Scene of more intensity and/or impact that any of the preceding.

A series of 2 to 12 Sequences then constitutes an Act.

Phew! With me so far?

Story Structure

To McKee, who has studied stories back as far as 3000BC, all stories are constructed around 2 to 4 Acts that take the reader, listener or viewer, on a logical - usually linear - journey from one emotional state to another that, throughout the story, is becoming consistently more intense.

He says the purpose of a story is to show that a believable main character can move from one point in his life to a time of absolute and irreversible change. Without this element, argues McKee, there is no story.

It is up to the writer to use the above story elements - beats, scenes, sequences and acts - to prove his theme: that there is a logical pattern and sense to life and that we, the reader, can learn through fiction.

In other words, writers teach us valuable lessons about life through story.

What About Plot?

You'll notice that in none of the above is there any mention of plot, indeed only a little reference to character. There's a reason for this.

Robert McKee believes that the story structure he presents is innate - it exists whether the writer wants to believe it -and even when he rejects it - which he says is acceptable, if not to be encouraged sometimes.

McKee believes that plot is simply the unique and personal way that the writer might choose to show the elements of Story.

I guess he's also saying that the writer can do what he likes but if the 'elements' aren't there, he's failed to create a convincing story - which is open to debate.

I suppose it depends on what the story is for.

Is it primarily to teach or entertain? Is it to show that life can be better? Or is it to show that life not only stays static but that change is not necessarily a good thing?

These are all personal issues that the writer must confront at some point in his story construction - and decide for himself.

So There You Have It

If you ever wanted a story template to hang an idea upon I think it's probably above. I'm sure McKee would argue that it's not so much a formula as a timeless universal structure that is somehow part of our DNA.

I agree.

I think there's a reason why humans find satisfaction in fiction.

Because people need a sense of purpose in their lives. We all want to believe that ultimately things will make sense - that there's meaning to our existence.

Because what's the alternative?

Futile, infinite, godless chaos?

I think we, as writers, know better than that.

Don't you?

Keep Writing!

© Rob Parnell

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

The Universe Wants You to Succeed

I must be the last person in the world to have started reading The Secret. We bought the book last week and have the video on order. Can't wait.

I'm really enjoying the book - not least because it's outlining what I've always believed.

It struck me as amusing that its primary author, Rhonda Byrne, is a fellow Australian. She explains in the intro to the The Secret that when the idea came to her, she had to travel to the US to find validation and willing exponents of her cause.

I wondered if this meant she couldn't find any positive people in Australia!

Having lived here for nearly a decade now (I'm a Brit if you didn't know) I think I can relate to her dilemma.

There's a weird attitude that permeates the society over here - and is endorsed and promoted by no less than the government - that success happens to other people, usually in other countries.

Australia likes to think of itself as a classless country - where no 'Bruce' is better than the other bloke. It's all part of the 'fair go' mentality that we're apparently famous for. The downside being that if you are successful, you're somehow not playing the game.

We love our sports people - it's okay if they win.

But artists? Writers? Actors? Film makers? Nah.

That's being way too ambitious. Crass even. Success in these areas is shunned. For evidence, look at any Australian artist in the last fifty years that, despite all the negativity and poo-pooing have actually made it. What's the first thing they do?

Yep - they leave, off to more appreciative shores.

Clive James, Germaine Greer, Dame Edna Everage, the Bee Gees, Olivia Newton John, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Scott Hicks, Greg MacLean, Matthew Reilly, Bryce Courtney, Paul Hogan, Anthony LaPaglia and the late great Heath Ledger, to name but a tiny few. And they all complain that Australia is so darn unsupportive - so down on itself - so reluctant to invest cash in its own talent - that they can't wait to get away!

It's not that we don't have superstars here clearly.

It's curious to me that at least 60% of the great creative writing websites out there come from Australia. I guess that's because the Net allows Australians with talent to reach out beyond our own shores and interact with more positive folks.

Which brings me back to Rhonda Byrne.

She's a writer whose life was turned around by self belief and positivity. She had a vision of a better world that could inspire people through her writing - and once she'd made the commitment to her project, she found evidence of The Secret everywhere.

You see what writers can do?

Just like I've always said. Writers don't just scribble down words.

We create an edifice of solid thought - and make our internal world real by simply writing things down.

Everything starts with writing.

All the great inventions. All progress and civilisation. Even all the bad stuff starts with someone having an idea, a vision that they then make real through writing.

So whatever you want in your life, write it down.

Make it real.

And don't forget to get your work out there too.

I think one of the failings of The Secret is that it doesn't stress taking action quite enough. The philosophy relies on a passive element - that simply believing enough will attract the things you want to you.

I'm not sure this is altogether true.

If you accept The Secret's premise then, given the amount of work the Universe has to do to bring you wealth, happiness and love, I think the least we can do is to help it - by taking positive action and actually working towards your goals.

Surely, if you're too passive, isn't the Universe going to think, "Well, do you really want this? You're not showing me you do!"

Because we all know that books aren't going to write themselves. Success at making movies or designing cathedrals isn't just going to be bestowed upon you just because you want it.

You have convince the Universe of your intention and desire by acting on your goals, making plans, strategizing and working on your dreams.

Combine The Secret with taking positive, focussed action on a daily basis and I believe you'll find that everything Rhonda says will come true.

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell's Writing Academy