Thursday, 26 September 2013

From Short Story Writer to Novelist - An Interview with Sarah England

I'm absolutely thrilled that the lovely Sarah England has joined me on the Writing Allsorts' sofa today.  She's ventured over from her FictionHotel to tell us a bit about her ups and downs of making that step from short story writer to novelist.

So without further preamble - welcome Sarah - it's great to have you with us - do tell us a bit about your success as a short story writer.

Well 9 years ago I had never had anything published, and after writing two tomes of utter drivel that I had the brass neck to send out to agents and publishers, the thought occurred to me that maybe I ought to start again, only with short stories for magazines this time. A year later I had my first acceptance – with My Weekly. It took all that time! Reading other people’s stories, scouring the magazines, getting dozens and dozens of rejections – until I finally cracked it. Since then I’ve had around 140 short stories published in magazines, anthologies and newspapers, plus a serial for Woman’s Weekly; although I pretty much stopped about a year ago when I decided to spend some time putting a collection together, and also submitting my comedy novel (Expected) to publishers. I must add – I am not giving up writing for magazines – I’m currently writing another serial.

Please tell us about your journey from short story to novel.

Well I concentrated solely on short stories for many years, getting better at what I did, and expanding the number of magazines I was accepted by. I also had a few successes in various competitions, and drafted out the early edition of ‘Expected’. However, last year I decided to put together all my darker stories into a collection – ‘3am and Wide Awake’ – and happily, Alfie Dog Fiction published it with both a digital and paperback option. At the same time, I had ‘Expected’ available again – a women’s fiction/comedy novel –which had been accepted the previous year by an online publisher, who subsequently ran into difficulties, leaving my book high and dry. It took a year, but I finally extracted it and decided to try Crooked Cat Publishing at the beginning of this year, as they offered digital and paperback options, and I wouldn’t need an agent. They took it and it was launched this summer.

Regarding an agent – I tried several and had several near-misses – but in the end they all told me that women’s fiction was the hardest genre to market and so I started looking at smaller publishers. This summer – over 7 years after I had my first short story published – saw my first ever anthology and novel publications. I hope it is the beginning of a long career….And who knows? Maybe I will have an agent to help me in the future?

Do tell us a bit about your novel!

Expected is a comedy featuring Sam Sweet....the poorer, unluckier version of Bridget Jones! Here’s a brief synopsis! 

Sam Sweet is a failed psychiatric nurse from a sink estate in Weston Super mare. Her mother, whose husband ran off with another woman 20 years ago - although you'd think it happened only yesterday - has only one ambition and that is to be a grandmother.

But Sam is terrified of giving birth. She is easily traumatised and has no ambition to return to the sink estate and have dozens of children. She just wants a chance to do something with her life first, to fall in love, and see a bit of the world.
Alas, in a drunken stupor she meets Simon - the psychopathic surgeon, who promises her a wonderful life and she believes him - because she is a dingbat and has a lot to learn.

But now she's trapped and can't get out of the situation - her latest job is injecting facial fillers and clients are suing because it's going lumpy; and her best friend, also her boss, is sexually jealous to the point of blind rage because her boyfriend fancies Sam and does little to hide the fact. Living with her psychopathic boyfriend and with her job on the line she now has nowhere to go! A plan is needed.

However, Sam's coping strategy as her life whizzes out of control, is to eat more chocolate and shop like a WAG on speed. But soon she piles on weight and sinks deeply into debt, at which point Simon the surgeon starts playing serious mind games; and by the time it dawns on Sam just what a horrific mess she's in - we might as well pass her the JCB because she keeps on digging.

As she hits rock bottom, however, her dream man arrives - Joel - WOWEE - Madison! - but Sam now feels too fat to pursue matters.... and slimy Simon ups the stakes when he sniffs out her potential happiness and escape. Although that's nothing compared to the cards her mother decides to play... oh it's getting worse.......the wedding to Simon is booked....fireworks? You bet....

Expected can be purchased from and 

‘3am and Wide Awake' is a collection of 25 thrillers and chillers by prolific short story writer, Sarah England. From the demonically inspired title story, to the madness of 'Girl in the Rain', or the shocking sadness of 'Rough Love' - there is one common factor - each story will take you to the edge of the precipice, and then bring you safely back again. Usually...

Dip into revenge with 'Retribution', or medieval terror with 'The Witchfinders'...Dare to invite a stranger into your house with 'Moving In'. Can you bear the aching loneliness of 'Burned'? Or the frightening consequences of dabbling with a Ouija board in 'Out of the Woods'? Why is a top surgeon being haunted by a vengeful woman in, 'A Second Opinion'? And what happened to the girl who took 'The Last Bus Home'?

3am and Wide Awake can be purchased at and

Have you always wanted to write a novel, or was there a time when you thought you would only write short stories?

No, I always wanted to be a novelist, but had to wait until I had the chance to do it. Up until I was 40 I was so busy with work – first as a nurse and then as a medical rep (specialising in mental health). And then I had to learn how to be a writer – I started with letters and fillers and short stories, and being nearly destroyed with rejections. I still don’t consider myself a novelist – I see myself as a writer with a long way to go!  

Do you still write short stories, and if so how do you juggle both?

Yes. I wrote one in June while waiting for ‘Expected’ to be launched, and after ‘3am and Wide Awake’ had been! This was, thankfully, accepted by My Weekly for their 2015 Annual! Don’t we work a long time in advance in this industry??!! I also wrote a ghost story which I sent off, and am currently writing a serial – a 3 part murder mystery for Woman’s Weekly. Next week that has to stop for a while as I start a new project in earnest.  

Which do you prefer to write, novels or short stories? 
The story is as it falls…..I have no preference and enjoy doing both!

Have you any advice to a short story writer who may want to move on to writing novels?

My advice would simply be – you have got to want to do it! It’s sooo hard!

What do you feel is the main difference between writing a short story and a novel?

Time needed - months not days. Basically  it is a much bigger story with more characters (usually), deeper motives, possibly many pov’s, sub-plots and narrative. Otherwise it is everything you have learned as a short story writer. It depends on what kind of novel you are going to write.

Which do you find easier to write, a novel or a short story?

Short story!

Have you ever written a short story that you think would work well as a novel?

I have written a serial that I think would work well as a novel – and am considering that for a future project. But not a short story. I think some of the short stories in ‘3am’ might make a good short drama – but that is another huge undertaking!

Would you miss short stories if you no longer wrote them?

Yes I would miss it because I’ve done it for so long, and sometimes an idea comes and you get that immense satisfaction!

What do you think are the pros and cons of moving from a short story to a novel?

Well  a definite con is no money! And more work. And no guarantee of a buyer for your work when you’ve done it… writing a novel is a gamble on your time. It also takes longer to get an answer and longer to see it published. With a magazine, the magazine sells your work for you and you don’t have to promote yourself in any way. With a novel – that all changes! Your name on the book. Your work.  Pro? Achievement of your dream….

If you have an agent or publisher, do you think being a successful short story writer helped get you noticed?

Yes – my short story collection was taken by Alfie Dog because most of the stories had already had the endorsement of publication, although the really dark ones were published online or in the small press. With Crooked Cat I think they had confidence that I had written and presented ‘Expected’ fully edited, and had spent many years learning to write to publication standards. It helped. However, it hasn’t helped me get an agent.   

Do you think being a published short story writer gave you the confidence to take the next step?

Oh yes. You definitely think – ‘Can I push myself harder?’

Do you think self-promotion is an important part of being a novelist?  If so, what are your thoughts on self-promotion?

I find it toe-curling – it must have been invented by the devil! I would love someone else to do it for me, but with 2 small publishers, I’m afraid I have had to do 90% of the promotion myself. I try to make all my posts and announcements different and give people a reason to want to take a look… but it has been the hardest part of being published. By far - and I used to work in sales and marketing!

Monday, 23 September 2013

A Stitch in Time – The Suffolk Coast

My head had been spinning a fair bit of late - what with one thing and another.  We all have those moments, don't we?  When life can be a bit difficult and you just want to run and hide.  No?  Just me then!?

So what to do about it?  

Well, as my mother always said, ‘A stitch in time is worth its weight in gold.’

So...I’ve been busily repairing the torn fabric of my psyche in Suffolk.  A place that is fast becoming my wee sewing box.

We stayed in Aldeburgh at The White Lion Hotel, which has an almost bygone-year feel about it (although with all mod-cons and a super chef)  In fact, I indulged in parsnip and apple soup for the first time ever, and found it to be delicious. Aldeburgh has some gorgeous, quaint little shops, and people come from miles away for their fish and chips - which I can vouch are superb!  Aldeburgh, apart from said fish an chips, is probably best known for its links with its famous resident: composer Benjamin Britten.

We trundled to Southwold – which is well known for its multi-coloured beech huts and smashing pier, and then on to Snape Maltings - a tourist centre with shops and walks along the River Adle.  Beautiful! An interesting piece of trivia is that J K Rowling named her character Snape after the village.

We also took some wonderful walks across Dunwich Heath in Saxmundham. The peace and quiet was truly breathtaking.

So all in all I’ve come back refreshed. My head now clear.  

I'd highly recommend it!


Writerly-wise, I'm hoping to get back on track!  And I'm certain Wendy Clarke's excellent date of birth calculator V2 will help.  It's SO clever and can be downloaded HERE

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

From Short Story Writer to Novelist - An Interview with Jill Steeples

Oh, I’m having a fabulous time interviewing so many talented writers about their leap from writing short stories to writing novels.  I do hope you’re enjoying it as much as I am! 

This week I’m thrilled to welcome the lovely, Jill Steeples  to ‘Writing Allsorts’.  I can’t wait to hear what she has to say.

So without giving her time to gather her thoughts (I'm wicked like that!) - on with the interrogation interview. 

Hi, Jill! Welcome to 'Writing Allsorts'. Please could you tell us a bit about your success as a short story writer.

One of the very first short stories I wrote I sold to Fiction Feast and I thought this is easy.  (Insert maniacal laughter here!) It then took me another year to sell another one!  I think I sold four stories in my second year and ten in my third, so I was hardly an overnight success, but then I started to sell on a more regular basis.  My stories have appeared in magazines in the UK, Australia and Scandinavia, and in several short story anthologies.

Please could you share with us a little about your journey from short story writer to novelist.

Desperately Seeking Heaven was a top 20 finalist in Novelicious’s Undiscovered competition, under its previous title of Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, but I put the manuscript to one side because I’d had a bit of success in another competition.

 I was also a top 20 finalist (hmmm, have just decided 20 will be my new lucky number) in a Mills and Boon New Voices Competition.  Part of my prize was to work with an M&B editor so I was busy working on a different manuscript with them when I saw the call for submissions from a new digital publisher, Carina UK.  I decided to send in DSH and three weeks later I had a call from my M&B editor to say that Carina wanted to publish my novel.  It totally confused me that my M&B editor was calling me about a manuscript I hadn’t actually sent her, but then I’m easily confused and really it’s not that confusing as Carina is part of Harlequin.  (Hmmm, I really hope I haven’t confused you now!)

How long had you been writing short stories before you took the next step – and what pushed you to take that step?

About five years. It was seeing other writer friends tackling novels and getting them published that made me think I’d like to have a go at that too!

Please tell us about your novel.

 Desperately Seeking Heaven is a romantic comedy with a twist. 

Love always comes when you least expect it, at least that's what PA Alice Fletcher tells herself as she looks forward to another Friday night of trash telly and wine-for-one.
But what happens when the unexpected is daytime TV crush Jimmy Mack, and he's sitting on your couch watching the news...of the accident that claimed his life?
Soon, Alice finds her ordered life turned upside down by helping Jimmy right the wrongs of his life so he can cross over to the ‘other side.'
But most unexpected of all is Alice's growing realisation that her gorgeous ghost has taken up residence in her heart as well as in her home.

You can buy it here:

Have you always wanted to write a novel, or was there a time when you thought you would only write short stories?

I started writing with the intention of completing a novel but I never got beyond the first chapter.  I joined a creative writing class and it was my tutor who suggested that I might be better starting with short stories.  It was great advice.  I’m sure I would still be tinkering with that very first chapter if she hadn’t pointed me in the right direction.

Do you still write short stories, and if so how do you juggle both?

At the moment I’m working to a deadline for my second novel and I have another project on the go as well so I don’t have time to write any new short stories unfortunately.  I do like to tinker with some of my old stories though and re-submit them if they haven’t sold yet. I still like to have a couple of short stories out there.

Which do you prefer to write, novels or short stories?

Honestly…short stories.  I can write a short story in a morning and that gives a wonderful feeling of satisfaction to get something completed and sent off.    A novel can take months or years even and then you get to the end and realise it’s not actually any good and that’s when the really hard work starts.

Have you any advice to a short story writer who may want to move on to writing novels?

Well if I haven’t put everybody off with my last answer I’d say go for it!  There’s lots of opportunities out there now for writers with the advent of many new digital imprints, including my own lovely publisher Carina UK. 

I’d also advise people to plan their novel so you don’t get to the 24,000 mark and get stuck.  Draw up character profiles and brief chapter outlines so you have a plan to work to.  This is advice I’ve never actually followed myself but I’m sure it must be a much better way of working than starting with Chapter 1 and then winging it!

What do you feel is the main difference between writing a short story and a novel?

A short story normally deals with a specific moment in time and usually has only a couple of characters.  A novel can have any number of characters and many sub-plots so it’s a much bigger project in every sense.

Which do you find easier to write, a novel or a short story?

A short story for the obvious reason that it’s shorter and much more manageable.

Have you ever written a short story that you think would work well as a novel?

I have a couple of romantic short stories that have never sold and I think the reason for that is that they read more like first chapters.  I could definitely see them being developed into something longer.  I hope to dig them out and do something with them one day.

If you no longer write short stories, do you miss it?

I do miss it!  Hopefully it won’t be too long before I’ll be able to get back to writing some more.

What do you think are the pros and cons of moving from a short story to a novel?

Pros:  Everyone is very impressed that you are writing a novel.
Cons: Everyone asks if you’re going to be the next J K Rowling.

If you have an agent or publisher, do you think being a successful short story writer helped get you noticed?

I don’t think so.  I always mention it in any covering letter but I honestly don’t think it helped in securing my contract.  I think any publisher is going to be judging your submission on its own merits and if they don’t think it’s good enough then they’re not going to want to publish it, however many short stories you’ve had published.

Do you think being a published short story gave you the confidence to take the next step?

Yes, definitely!

Do you think self-promotion is an important part of being a novelist?  If so, what are your thoughts on self-promotion?

It’s hugely important.  So many books are published on a daily basis it’s hard to get your book noticed, especially if you’re a debut novelist.  I admire writers who embrace the whole self-promotion thing on twitter and Facebook and seem to be able to do it with such aplomb!  I feel like the awkward girl at the back of the room just trying to break into the conversation. (Not that I’m remotely awkward in real life, you understand.)


Sunday, 15 September 2013

The Good, The Bad and The Where do I go from HERE?

HERE  I sit, saying,
Later, tomorrow, next week
HERE  I type words
Check emails, Facebook, Twitter
HERE  I’ll stay forever
Shackled by procrastination.

WHERE is a place I want to be
Dynamic, productive, proactive
WHERE is a place they say well done! Good job!
A place I sign and smile
WHERE is a place I’m heading now
Once I’m freed from procrastinate hell

I wrote that all by myself.  Just now – in five minutes flat.

Stop sniggering!

OK, OK - some of you may say I should stick to writing stories.  And you are probably right. Although I have got poetry in my blood – many of my family are very talented in the poetry department, I’ll have you know.

AND I wrote a poem when I studied for my degree that has now been accepted by a wonderful poetry magazine – Good Lord!  But more about that another time.

Why I’m blogging today is not to share my doggerel with you – but to share my ups and downs of the last few weeks.

My Novels

Well Eight Degrees came winging back from one of the two agents I sent it to.  The agent was very kind and gave me some feedback which included that my writing is fluent, which is nice – and she added some tips on how to improve the novel  - which was kind too.   Her main concern was she felt there were too many characters in the novel.  I had suspected that, I must admit. Although I have read many books with lots of characters - they are mainly by established authors.  Maybe a debut novelist should stick to the rules.   
Eight Degrees is still with another agent but I’m not holding my breath as I might die.

Part of me wonders if I’m barking up the wrong novel.   Five Men in a Box, after all, was read three times by Darley Anderson before they finally said no.  

Or maybe I should take all I’ve learnt and embark on a brand new novel.

Or maybe I could just check my Facebook.

Twitter anyone?

My Anthology

WELL, I have been proactive here.  Oh YES!  My anthology is almost edited, and my son’s working on the cover as we speak. Well he will be when he gets up. I have a title too which I'm rather happy with.  So not long now before I upload.  YIKES! Scary turnips!

Short Stories

I’ve had a rather good few weeks short story-wise. 

I’ll quickly move past the four rejections from Take a Break that the now black-eyed postman delivered last week, and tell you I sold my 50th story  – yes 50!  And then a week later I sold story 51!  WHOOP!  This is the last time I brag  announce my sales on here, as I’m getting on my own nerves, quite frankly.  But for those interested I do add them to my blog HERE.   I can't promise, however, not to post if I EVER crack Woman’s Weekly!

I had a rather nice week publication-wise last week too, with a story in The People’s Friend Special
And another in The Weekly News.

I must tell you that The Weekly News one was VERY topical – so I think it’s really worth aiming stories their way that are on subjects presently news-worthy.

Where do I go from here?

Well, to end on a poetic note:  If I let my dreams slip through my fingers – I only have one person to blame.  (I made that up too - which kind-of explains why it isnt very poetic at all!)

Ooh, and just to add: HERE's a link to The Richard and Judy 'Search for a Bestseller' competition - which I may just give a whirl!

Bye for now X

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

From Short Story Writer to Novelist - An Interview with Patsy Collins

I'm thrilled to invite the very talented, Patsy Collins to Writing Allsorts for a wee chat about her journey from short story writer to novelist.

So without further ado...

Hi Patsy, welcome to Writing Allsorts. Thank you so much for visiting. Please catch your breath, and tell us a bit about your success as a short story writer.

A Chance to brag? Oh, go on then ... My first short stories were published in 2005 in The Lady and The Weekly News. Eventually Woman's Weekly, Take a Break and My Weekly also saw the light. Since then I've had over 250 published in magazines in England, Ireland, Australia and South Africa and online and in anthologies. See, international success me!

A short collection of my stories, Not A Drop to Drink,  is available to download FREE HERE

Other stories are available from Alife Dog Fiction at 39p HERE

How long had you been writing short stories before you took the next step – and what pushed you to take that step, if anything?

I'd been writing short stories for a few years, with no intention to write a novel when one particular story started getting out of hand. I couldn't seem to leave it alone and kept thinking about Mavis, the central character and wondering what she was doing. After about 50,000 words I realised it was no longer a short story (I notice little things like that) That story is now my novel, Paint Me a Picture.

Have you ever entered or won any competitions?

My novel, Escape to the Country, beat more than 600 others in a competition and was published as a result.

I had previously tried to get an agent, with no luck at all. I'd also contacted Mills and Boon who wrote me a three page letter saying why they liked it, and why it wasn't for them. A lot of it was very positive, but it also showed me a possible reason for my lack of success with agents - Escape to the Country isn't a traditional romance. It has a crime element to it (the competition I won was for a crime novel) the secondary characters have far more than a cameo role (the story is as much about friendship and family relationships as about romance) and the setting is much more than a backdrop (it's set on a farm and there's a lot of scenes involving animals and mud). It's harder to sell books that don't easily fit a genre. Paint Me a Picture is even worse from that point of view.

By the time I'd entered the competition I doubted I'd interest an agent or mainstream publisher.

Do tell us a bit about your self-published novels

I self published my next two novels. As I've said, I realised how difficult it would be to get an agent or mainstream publisher involved. Unfortunately (for me) novel writing competitions are usually for unpublished authors, so this seemed the best option.

The books were edited and professionally proofread before I uploaded them for kindle, and later as paperbacks. Luckily I had, by that time, married someone who could do my covers.

Do tell us a bit about your novels, and how we can get our mitts on them!

Escape to the Country romance/chicklit/contemporary can be purchased HERE

Paint Me a Picture character development/contemporary/hard to define can be purchased  HERE 

A Year and a Day romance/chicklit can be purchased HERE

Have you always wanted to write a novel, or was there a time when you thought you would only write short stories?

When I first started creative writing classes I just did it for fun. I didn't really expect to write a short story anyone would want to pay for and it never occurred to me that I might be able to complete a whole book.

I did rather like the idea of being someone who had written books though.

Do you still write short stories, and if so how do you juggle both?

I spend more time writing short stories than I do novels, but I always have a novel or two on the go as well. It doesn't feel like juggling to me as working on different things comes naturally. I like to leave first drafts (of any length) for a while before editing or rewriting. The best way to get a clear break from them is to write something else.

How I'm feeling also affects what I want to write. Sometimes I'm not in the mood for a key emotional scene, or maybe I'm fed up and want to write something light to lift my mood. If I've not got much time, then adding to something rather than starting afresh is good. If I'm feeling picky then final editing checks are the ideal task. Other times getting completely lost in a story will suit me perfectly.

Do you prefer to write novels or short stories?

That's right, I prefer to write short stories or novels!

Have you any advice to a short story writer who may want to move on to writing novels?

Give it a go. If it all goes horribly wrong you can always delete it and claim it was brilliant but a computer virus destroyed it and you're too distraught to ever try again. (That's what happened with my play).

What do you feel is the main difference between writing a short story and a novel?

Novels are bigger. Obviously they're longer and therefore take longer, but that's not quite what I mean. They're not just a series of short stories with something holding them together and they're not just one really long short story. It's a bit like the difference between adults and children. Adults aren't simply larger children who've lived longer. Well actually some are ... I'll try it with cakes. A wedding cake isn't just a huge cupcake is it?

So there you have it. Novels are bigger short stories with a layer of marzipan.

Which do you find easier to write, a novel or a short story?

Some of my short stories have been easy to write, as have some novel scenes. Some of each have required much more time and hair pulling. It's not the easiness which keeps me going, but the difficulty in stopping.

Have you ever written a short story that you think would work well as a novel?

Yes, The First Day HERE became Paint Me a Picture. Since then I can tell early into the first draft if the idea will fit into a short story or not. Generally I don't think that an idea that works as a short story would work as a novel, but I expect there are exceptions.

What do you think are the pros and cons of moving from a short story to a novel?

Novel writing can be disheartening as it takes so long to finish and then the chances of selling it are so low. Because the writer puts so much into a novel, its failure will hurt much more than that of a short story.
Of course it might be a tremendous success and the writer will naturally be delighted. There's nothing wrong with hoping for that, but if it's your only motive for writing the novel then you're likely to be disappointed.

If you have an agent or publisher, do you think being a successful short story writer helped get you noticed?

I had a reasonable track record with short stories before I got rejected by agents and publishers, so it's obviously not a huge help. I think that all the agent or publisher is truly interested in is if they'll be able to sell your book.

Do you think self-promotion is an important part of being a novelist?  If so, what are your thoughts on self-promotion?

I do think it's important, yes. More so for those who're self published, or published by a small press, but it seems everyone has to do some. I'm not keen on doing it and I'm not alone in that. Writers want to write and promotion takes up writing time and energy.

We have to do it though. If people don't know about our books they can't read them and if they're not read there's little point in writing them.


Patsy Collins can be found at

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Writing Numbers

Does anyone else get REALLY freaked out confused about which numbers to use when writing fiction -  words or numerals (symbols)?

No! Just me then!?  

OK, I admit I'm scared of numbers. I blame my math's teacher, the scary number-people who lived in my wardrobe as a child, and the last look at my finances, for my fears.

But - brave or what? I set out on a quest to find out if there is a wrong or right way of recording numbers. Yes, I  donned my deer-stalker, grabbed my 2 two sniffer dogs, and investigated the subject of writing numbers.  

I discovered that NUMBERS FROM ONE TO NINE should be written as words.  Ten out of ten for that one, Amanda!.... or should that be, 10 out of 10?

But for ALL OTHER NUMBERS, it transpires the choice is yours as long as you are consistent.  Although many clever-clogs people agree that writing smaller numbers like ten, thirty, ninety or even a thousand is a pretty good plan.  Longer numbers like 496 or 26 are better written as numerals.  But if you choose to write numbers like 26 as twenty-six, don’t forget the hyphen.

However, you should use numerals when referring to UNITS OF MEASURE, like minutes, mph or centimetres – or, indeed, decimals and fractions.  E.g. 70 mph, 7 centimetres etc.

The same goes for DATES – these should always be in figures:  31st December 1982

AGES should be written out if between ONE and NINE  -  numerals, it seems, are preferred after that.  

MONEY should also be in numerals. £30.25.  However, if it is an estimated amount of money, the numbers should be written.   E.g. ‘That’s worth about twenty pounds.’

TIME – much like money – should be in numerals.  E.g. The bus will be here at 7.30.  If the time is vague it will be in words. E.g ‘Jack will be here at about one-thirty. I'd better peel the spuds.’

TWO NUMBERS NEXT TO EACH OTHER  (Gosh, this is getting so complicated I may need a lie down after this post.)  Well it seems we should spell out one word– probably the one with the least letters - and use a numeral for the other.

Another little tip I picked up along the way, is that you should add a hyphen if the number modifies a noun.  For example:  The 12-year-old girl.

Ooh, and apparently you should NEVER start a sentence with a numeral.  Use:  Twenty-six children came to tea – not 26 children came to tea.

By Jove, I think I’ve got it.  Although I’ve got a right ol’ headache now.   

N.B. If anyone thinks any of the above is incorrect, do shout - but not today as my head hurts.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

From Short Story Writer to Novelist - An Interview with Cally Taylor

I'm always inspired and motivated by those short story writers who have successfully made the jump to publishing a novel.
Over the next six weeks, I’m SO excited to be interviewing some of those writers who prove it can be done. Patsy Collins, Della Galton, Jill Steeples, Karen Clarke, Cally Taylor and Sarah England have all very kindly agreed to be interviewed here at Writing Allsorts.

Kicking off the interviews today is the very lovely, Cally Taylor. 

Welcome to Writing Allsorts, Cally. Please tell us a bit about your success as a short story writer.

I started writing short stories in 2005 and, after dozens of rejections, got my big break in September 2006 when my story 'Wish You Were Here' came second in the Woman's Own short story competition and was published in the magazine.

Shortly afterwards I started an online critique group called 'A Story a Fortnight' where we wrote womag stories to prompts every fortnight  and critiqued and scored each other's anonymously posted stories. The group was HUGELY successful (well, it did include Sally Quilford, Karen Clarke and WomagWriter!) and, between us, we had hundreds of stories published by womags in the UK and abroad.

Whilst I was in the group I had stories published in Take a Break Fiction Feast and My Weekly (I never did manage to crack Woman's Weekly) and was placed in dozens of competitions including first prize in the Bank Street Writers, Lancet Fact to Fiction, Helen Mullin Awards, and Sedbergh Festival of Books and Drama short story competitions.

I took a break from short stories from 2007-2011 when I wrote and edited my first two novels 'Heaven Can Wait' and 'Home for Christmas' but came out of short story retirement in 2012 when I was commissioned to write a story for Your Cat magazine and Belinda Jones's hugely popular Sunlounger anthology.

This year I self-published 'Secrets and Rain', an ebook anthology of my previously published and prize winning stories. It went to #2 in the Women Writers Short Stories chart on and has been selling steadily ever since.

Please tell us about your journey from short story to novel.

Coming second in the Woman's Own competition was the boost to my confidence that I needed to start writing a novel. That and the fact a friend from school died suddenly aged 33 and her death made me realise that I had to stop making excuses why I wasn't ready to write a novel and do it NOW!

In 2007 I wrote 'Heaven Can Wait' like a woman possessed and finished the first draft in 3 months and 3 weeks (writing every night after work). Editing it took longer (7 months) and, in September 2008, I sent it off to six agents I'd selected from the Writers and Artists Yearbook. I had a few 'nearly' rejection letters and then Darley Anderson rang me to request the full manuscript. Darley's second phone call wasn't quite so positive. The manuscript had potential, he said, but it needed to be pacier and funnier if it stood any chance on the market and I'd have to rewrite it before he considered representing me. I was gutted but, after a brief sulk, set about rewriting.

I sent it back in six months later and, two weeks after that – in early 2008 - Madeleine Milburn, who worked for Darley as Head of Foreign Rights, rang me to say she'd read my revised manuscript and had loved it so much she'd asked him if she could represent me. He said yes and, within a year, she'd got me a two book deal with Orion (it was published in 2009) and sold it to fourteen publishers abroad.

My second novel, 'Home for Christmas' came out in 2011, six weeks after I gave birth to my first child! I promoted it with a small blog tour and a competition when the baby was napping (and I should have been too!).

I don't know if it was the sleep deprivation, the hormones or a burst of recklessness that made me do it but, in 2012 while I was on maternity leave, I decided to write a very different novel from my first two - a psychological thriller. The opening 1,000 words had won the RNA Elizabeth Goudge trophy in 2011 and I was itching to write the rest. With Maddy's blessing I did. And now I have a 2 book deal with Avon HarperCollins writing psychological thrillers under the name of CL Taylor. The first book, 'The Accident', comes out in June 2014.

Tell us about your novels.  

My romantic-comedies are available online, in all good bookshops and in libraries and my short story collection is available on all Amazon sites (for £1.53 or $2.99 for a limited time). My psychological thriller isn’t out until June 2014 but will be available in paperback and ebook.

Heaven Can Wait (2009, Orion)

Lucy is about to marry the man of her dreams - kind, handsome, funny Dan - when she breaks her neck the night before their wedding. Unable to accept a lifetime's separation from her soulmate, Lucy decides to become a ghost rather than go to heaven and be parted from Dan. But it turns out things aren't quite as easy as that...

Homefor Christmas (2011, Orion)

Beth Prince lives by the seaside, works in the Picturebox - a charming but rundown independent cinema - and has a boyfriend who's so debonair and charming she can't believe her luck! There's just one problem - none of her boyfriends have ever told her they love her and it doesn't look like Aiden's going to say it any time soon. Desperate to hear 'I love you' for the first time Beth takes matters into her own hands - and instantly wishes she hadn't. Can Beth keep her job, her man and her home or is her romantic-comedy life about to turn into a disaster movie?

‘Secrets and Rain’: a heart-warming short story collection (2013, Kindle)

Twelve magical stories from the award-winning author of HEAVEN CAN WAIT and HOME FOR CHRISTMAS. Grab a drink, put up your feet and lose yourself in these heart-warming tales of love, loss and hope. Peep inside the ‘Little Box of Wishes’, discover how ‘Two Red Balloons’ heal a rift between a mother and daughter and fall in love with Alfred, the ‘Rent-a-Cat’. 

If you’re a fan of the fiction in women's magazines you’ll love this collection of Cally's previously published stories. Also included – and available online for the first time - three prizewinning stories: ‘Wish You Were Here’, ‘My Daughter the Deep Sea Diver’ and ‘Under the Waves’.

'Secrets and Rain is a treasure trove brimming over with captivating stories of life, loss and love. A truly wonderful collection that you won't want to end!'
Miranda Dickinson, Sunday Times Bestseller (Fairytale of New York)

The Accident (June 2014, Avon HarperCollins)

To the outside world Susan Jackson has it all – a loving family, a successful politician husband and a beautiful home – but when Charlotte, her fifteen year old daughter, deliberately steps in front of a bus and ends up in a coma Sue questions whether any of it was real.

Desperate to find out what caused Charlotte’s suicide attempt, she is horrified by an entry in her diary – ‘Keeping this secret is killing me’. As Sue spins in desperate circles, she risks everything to discover the truth and finds herself immersed in a shady world she didn’t know existed. The deeper she delves the darker the world becomes and the more danger she puts herself in.

Can Sue wake up from the nightmares that haunt her and save her daughter, or will ‘the secret’ destroy them both?

Have you always wanted to write a novel, or was there a time when you thought you would only write short stories?

I've always wanted to write a novel. I sent my first attempt, written in crayon and bound to wool, to Penguin when I was eight years old. And received my first rejection letter by return post...

Do you still write short stories, and if so how do you juggle both?

These days I only write short stories if there's a specific reason - for a magazine for promo for a book coming out, for inclusion in an anthology (I wrote one for possible inclusion in the Crime Writers' Association anthology last month), for a commission etc - as I just don't have the time to write them for fun (which is gutting!).

I work as a manager for a London Uni four days a week and look after my toddler the rest of the time. That means I have to try and fit all my writing into my evenings and I'm so knackered it's all I can do to write 1000 words of a novel. There just isn't the time for stories too.

Which do you prefer to write, novels or short stories?

Both! I love how quick short stories are to write and you get that lovely buzz when you finish one. They're also great because, if one doesn't work out and you have to scrap it you haven't wasted a year of your life writing it. And you have the freedom to write about loads of different characters, different settings, different plots etc.

On the flip side novels are HUGELY satisfying to finish because they're so bloody hard to write, not to mention time consuming, but also because you build up a very deep, very real relationship with your characters. You can pour more of yourself into a novel, you can explore themes on a deep level and you can be adventurous with the plot and subplots. As satisfying as it is holding a magazine that features one of my short stories, nothing compares to weighing the weight of a novel you've written in your hands.

I guess short stories are like flings, whereas novels are like relationships, there's a time and a place for both.

Have you any advice to a short story writer who may want to move on to writing novels?

If you've had short stories published and you've worked hard on your craft there's no reason why you can't write a novel too. But do prepare yourself for the emotional roller coaster that goes along with writing a novel. After your initial burst of enthusiasm you'll grow weary of it (round about the 10,000 word mark). At 30,000 words you'll hate it and come up with a new idea. You'll be tempted to ditch the novel for the new idea but don't do it, keep writing. You'll hate your novel again around the 60,000 word mark but push on. You'll probably have a massive burst of enthusiasm and energy as you approach 90,000-100,000 words (I  often write 6,000 words in one sitting) and when you type THE END you'll experience the biggest rush ever (or feel like it's the world's biggest anti-climax). The next day you'll feel quite, quite lost.

What do you feel is the main difference between writing a short story and a novel?

Stamina! (see above)

Which do you find easier to write, a novel or a short story?

Short stories, definitely. Some of my best ones were written in less than three hours. Novels often feel like they take forever!

Have you ever written a short story that you think would work well as a novel?

A few people who've read 'Secrets and Rain', my short story collection, have said they wished some of the stories were novels so they could carry on reading them, but no, I've never thought that. Although I did turn a novel idea into a short story for the 'Sunlounger' anthology (which is possibly why it ended up being 6,500 words long!)

If you no longer write short stories, do you miss it?

I write them rarely and I do wish I could write them more often.

What do you think are the pros and cons of moving from a short story to a novel?

Pros: Your work can be read more widely and in more countries, you'll (probably) earn more money, you'll build up a readership and receive the most wonderful fan letters/emails. And, every once in a blue moon, you'll get to go to swanky publisher parties!

Cons: Say goodbye to your social life – and possibly sleep - because you'll need every last minute to write, edit, copy edit, proof edit, foreign version edit, promote, market etc. And you'll miss the buzz of finishing a story, sending it off and watching your letterbox for brown envelopes!

If you have an agent or publisher, do you think being a successful short story writer helped get you noticed?

Absolutely. Maddy told me that the fact I'd mentioned competition wins and magazines I'd been published in in my cover letter was proof that I could write and that professional editors had found merit in my work.

Do you think being a published short story writer gave you the confidence to take the next step?

Oh yes! I've always believed in giving myself writing challenges and then using the boost to my confidence to try and achieve the next one. My first challenge was to be published online, then in a magazine, then win a competition, then write a novel, then get an agent and a deal. I saw each challenge as a rung on the ladder to writing success. Now my aim is to hang onto that ladder for dear life! Seriously, my challenges these days are for my next book to sell well, to build my readership, to write a bestseller, to have a book made into a bestselling film and to snog George Clooney on the red carpet (what?!).

Do you think self-promotion is an important part of being a novelist? If so, what are your thoughts on self-promotion?

It's a huge part of being a novelist these days and your agent and publisher expects you to do as much as you can. It's time-consuming, sometimes stressful and it eats into your writing time but a writer needs readers and it has to be done!


Cally Taylor is an author with two writing heads. Her Cally Taylor head writes romantic comedies and women’s fiction whilst her CL Taylor head writes dark psychological thrillers.

You can find out more about Cally below:

Blog 1: (for all Cally Taylor news)

Blog 2: (for all CL Taylor news)

‘Secrets and Rain’ – Cally’s heart-warming short story collection is out now. Why not treat yourself to copy! 

'Her Last Lie' is Amanda Brittany's debut psychological thriller published by HQ Digital/HarperCollins. It's OUT NOW and can be downloaded HERE