5 Tips and Tricks for Submission to: The Lane of Unusual Traders – Stage 2 – 31 May (HT: @tinyowlworkshop)

I’ve just finished reading and judging (ie. slushing) the Flash Fiction component of the Lane of Unusual Traders Part 2. The Lane is a part of a large collaborative world building project managed by the excellent Tiny Owl Workshop crew, based in sunny Brisbane, Australia.

As part of reading through the submissions, I thought I would give some tips and observations to any potential submitters to the Short Story component of the submission window (due May 31, people). I’m judging for that too, so you probably should pay attention if you want a submitting edge.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about at all, check out the market listing link above, or go here to the ‘LoUT’ homepage for a quick introduction: http://thelaneofunusualtraders.com/

Finished? Keen to submit? Cool, then read on!

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How to Write About Characters Who Are Smarter Than You (via @Medium)

This is a great article by Graham Moore, the Academy Award nominated screenwriter of ‘The Imitation Game’:

[A]fter our scientist has finished, the camera turns to a second character. This would be our scientist’s normal-dude buddy. He’s just a regular Joe. He is the audience’s stand-in during the scene, and the character with whom the audience most identifies. This guy makes an incredulous face in response to the scientist’s technical language. And then he says the following line:

“WHOA, Doc. Say that again in English!”

You know exactly what I’m talking about. You’ve seen this moment on screen, you’ve seen it on TV, you’ve read it in novels. I find this moment to be extremely condescending to its audience. The moment essentially signals to the viewer that all of that mumbo-jumbo that this smarty pants has been blathering on about, well, we filmmakers do not understand a word of it. Moreover, we don’t care to. And we have no interest in your understanding it either.

Graham walks through how he avoided this in his screenplay about genius mathematicians, with examples from Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes works. It’s clever, you’ll recognise it, and it doesn’t condescend to your audience.

Read about it here: https://medium.com/@MrGrahamMoore/how-to-write-about-characters-who-are-smarter-than-you-c7c956944847

On the lack of cultural estrangement in SF (via @cstross)

Charles Stross writes last week about how rapidly even our own cultures can become alien to us, and how too often that isn’t reflected in future SF writing:

It’s worth noting, incidentally, that much of the social change that led up to the current cultural matrix was driven by technological change. Better medicine and family planning techniques gave us the basis for a society in which we don’t go to a different infant’s funeral every month, in which bananas are cheaper than potatoes, people aren’t worn out unto death by fifty, civil rights for people who aren’t rich white males are at least recognized as theoretically desirable, and in which you probably aren’t dying of tuberculosis. So why do repeatedly we see the depiction of far future societies with cheap interstellar travel in which this hasn’t bought about massive social change as a side-effect (other than the trivial example of everyone having a continental sized back yard to mow)?

Worth a read, and worth absorbing for your own writing: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2014/12/on-the-lack-of-cultural-estran.html

Six Ways to Power Through Writer’s Block (via @lifehackerau)

It can never hurt to glance over other people’s strategies for overcoming Writer’s Block (even if younever suffer from it, there might be some creativity tips, at least).

This Lifehacker article focuses on these six points (details at the original article, as always):


  • Leave things when you’re doing well
  • Just write anything to get the words flowing
  • Write about how it feels not to be able to write
  • Keep an exciting scene or idea on hand
  • Maintain a writing schedule
  • Get verbal

Have a look, see if it speaks to you: http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2014/10/six-ways-to-power-through-writers-block/

Six Problems with Writing Realistic Space Battles (via @mythcreants, HT: @qldwriters)

We always like a good space battle, don’t we, but space is … different. The MythCreants have a detailed look at 6 ways the real world interferes with a good space battle, with some tips for how to turn that to your advantage:

  1. Space is really big
  2. Weapons advance faster than armor
  3. Planetary bombardment is really easy
  4. Everything happens super fast
  5. Maneuvering will kill your crew
  6. Everything should be done by robots

If any of these sections sparks your interest (and how could they not!?), read on here: http://mythcreants.com/blog/six-problems-with-realistic-space-battles/

Sunday Services – Tablo – Create, Share & Discover Great Books (HT: @galercristo)

My good friend Nicholas Roots discovered this on a podcast for me, and I had a quick look into the service. It’s a beautiful and very glossy website, and an interesting service. You can write and prepare your work, while your fans can read your in-progress work. When you’re done, you can publish the ebook directly. The site describes it as follows:

You can drop in a document.

If you’ve already written a book, just drop the document into Tablo and watch the magic happen.
Preview the results & edit in the cloud. You’ll be a published author in seconds!


Or you can write in the cloud.

With a clean, focused writing environment, chapter control, autosaving & plenty of sharing features,
you’ll love creating your book with Tablo. It’s a literally awesome place to write (get it?).


Preview in the browser, download to your device.

Spin up a perfect preview of your eBook with a click, or download ePub files for a more thorough test.
If you know how to write (and you probably do), you can create gorgeous eBooks for the iPad, Kindle and more.


Publish globally in seconds.

This is the cool part. Click a button and your books will be published on Amazon and the iBooks Store.
Tablo assigns ISBNs, produce your files and distributes your books globally. It’s as easy as publishing a blog post.


But I had a look at the plans, and maybe I’m missing something, but this does not seem sustainable to me.

The publishing plans range from $8/mth (paid annually) to $30/mth. At $8/mth (in perpetuity) you can publish a single book (including free ISBN) to various online bookstores, and keep all the royalties.

But… but when you stop your subscription those books are suspended from the stores. With a cap of 1 book publishable in total at the lowest plan, and 10 at the highest (contact them for custom plans that support more books), it seems like your subscription fee would rapidly eat up any royalties, and totally kill the ‘long tail’ effect of having a broad catalogue for fans to purchase.

What this kind of price pressure produces is a need to sell eBooks at more than $5 a pop, which I would call the ‘danger zone of customer detachment’. ie. A price range where you lose the casual interest of readers, which impacts the discovery and sharing of your work.

I can’t comment as to whether the social aspect of the site will make up for this cost, but I just don’t know how it could. Perhaps someone has experience with Tablo, or someone can clarify it for me.

In any case, check it out here. A free account can’t hurt, and you can always try to use it to build up a fan following which might translate into sales, as long as you publish elsewhere: https://tablo.io/

How to make the Time to Write (via: @RosBaxter, HT: @altait)

Ros Baxter gives some advice on finding time to write. I need this, because I suck at time management:

I once read that Capote would write lying casually on a couch (probably a chaise lounge), with a glass of sherry in one hand and a pencil in another. TS Elliot had a hideaway above Chatto & Windus, a publishing house on St Martin’s Lane. Edgar Allen Poe could only write in black; Mark Twain in white.

I suspect if they had a smartphone with a constantly scrolling newsfeed and/or Angry Birds it might have had some impact on their productivity.

Ros gives us 7 things to help get that time in. I’ve used 5 quite effectively, with just a low ‘300 word’ requirement.

  1. Become a voyeur.
  2. Staple a notebook to your arse.
  3. Set goals.
  4. Make time to write every day.
  5. Set yourself a daily word count.
  6. Not feeling creative?
  7. Finally, be grateful

Details and explanations at the original article if you’re keen: http://www.allisontait.com/2013/03/starting-out-10-how-to-make-the-time-to-write/