‘Take A Break’ Style(s) And A Crime Novel Competition

Relax It's The WeekendJust to focus on Take A Break Fiction Feast again for a few minutes, there’s been some ‘chat’ on a Facebook group that I belong to about the latest issue because it contains FIVE stories (out of a total of 20) by the same author – ‘Jo Styles’.

This has raised a couple of issues:

1. How do we all feel about that? (apart from jealous..! Oops sorry, writers aren’t supposed to admit to feelings of envy, are they?)

2. Apparently, someone ‘knows’ that ‘Jo Styles’ is a pseudonym, so now we’re all trying madly to guess who it might be!

My take on the ‘five stories by one author’ is that ‘Jo Styles’ has clearly got it right, so good on him/her. It’s worth studying those 5 stories to see what they have in common and also worth trying to replicate the style, structure or general ‘theme’ – in the hope of becoming another ‘Jo Styles’! (that doesn’t mean ‘copying’ by the way – it’s just market research and common sense. Whatever ‘Jo Styles’ is doing, that’s clearly what the fiction editor of TABFF wants!)

But a little part of me, I must admit, is rather disheartened. Five stories by the same author does smack a little of ‘closed shop’.

As my writing gremlin (previously known as ‘Keith’), might say, does TABFF even want stories by ‘new’ writers like me or do they just want more by ‘Jo Styles’ and other, previously published authors?! Am I wasting my time and the £1.50 it currently costs me, every time I send them a story?!

Let me know what you think!

Crime Novel Writing Competition

And on a completely different note, if you’re interested in writing CRIME fiction (Clare, this could be one for you!), the Telegraph has launched the ‘Harvill Secker Crime Writing Competition’, (Harvill Secker is Jo Nesbø’s publisher, by the way).

It closes on 30th November 2013 and you can enter from anywhere in the world, as long as you are writing in English!

You have to submit:

1. The first 5,000 words of your crime novel, which must contain an international element of some sort.
2. A detailed, two-page double-spaced synopsis of how the rest of the book unfolds, including the ending.

What’s rather nice is that your book doesn’t actually have to be finished, in order to enter but “you must have a detailed plan.”

It’s NOT free to enter – there’s a £5 ‘admin fee’ but that’s about par for the course for a writing competition these days and seems fairly reasonable. Oh and the prize is publication and a £5000 advance on your novel.

They’ve also kindly put some ‘crime masterclasses’ on the website – some are videos – which are interesting, even if you’re not going to enter the competition.

There’s one on ‘brilliant beginnings’ here (Though I had to smile at the advice, “don’t start with … a funeral” because that’s exactly how Ian Rankin’s last novel starts. And he’s generally considered to be a pretty good crime writer, isn’t he? But then, if you’re a best-selling author, it’s probably acceptable to break the rules…!)

There’s a video by Jason Webster, talking about ‘atmosphere and setting’ here.

Susan Hill writes about characterisation here

And there are a couple of masterclasses by Jo Nesbø here and here.

Now, what more do you need to inspire you on a rainy Sunday afternoon? It’s as good as going to a writing workshop, but from the comfort of your own home!

P.S: Sorry about the rain, folks. I think I jinxed the weather because we decided to have a barbecue tonight…

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27 Responses to ‘Take A Break’ Style(s) And A Crime Novel Competition

  1. Bernadette says:

    The thing is, as jealous as we may be (and I am of course!), Norah liked Jo’s stories better than the other ones she was sent. She’s under no obligation to make it ‘fair’ on the writers – it’s the readers she has an obligation to. And as much as people may disapprove, if it really was a fair share each, given all the womag writers who have yet to have anything published, a lot of us who do get published would probably be worse off. So we have to be careful what we wish for.

    At least TabFF still lets anyone submit – and long may that continue – unlike some other magazines who will only accept subs from writers previously published by them. There were a couple of names in this issue that I wasn’t familiar with, so I do think that anyone has a chance – if they write the stories that Norah wants to buy! The only thing any of us can do is write more/better stories and hope we’re lucky next time.

    Don’t be disheartened – you’ll be there one day, I’m sure.

    • Yes, and if I ever do, I will celebrate, big time! thanks for your comment, Bernadette. You’re right, of course. Norah’s job is not to keep the writers – but the readers – happy.

  2. Wendy Clarke says:

    Hi Helen. I noticed this too and wondered what others were thinking – I’m not on Facebook so didn’t know of the ‘chat’. I have, on three occasions, had two stories in the same issue so I can’t really talk. I understand, though, how frustrating this must be for people who are trying to break into this market. I know I am lucky in having sold a lot of stories to this magazine in a reasonably short time but what I can say is, last year I was a new writer and had sold no stories to them and now I have sold twelve… so it proves that new writers are still being taken on.

    • Wendy, you’ve done brilliantly to have sold 12 stories to TAB in the last year. That’s impressive. Well done. Something that one person said on the Facebook ‘chat’ was, as a reader, they wouldn’t want to see 5 stories written by the same person but, to be honest, I don’t think most readers (if they’re genuine readers, rather than ‘wannabe TAB writers’) don’t even notice who’s written the story!

  3. Keith Havers says:

    I’ve noticed before that Jo Styles often gets multiple submissions in TaBFF. All I can say is it’s definitely not me. I just accept the fact that she (or he) is a damned good women’s mag writer.
    PS Bit of a mouthful but I approve of your gremlin’s new title.

  4. Hi Helen, Jo Styles here, I’ve worked jolly hard to get my stories accepted. I lived in an attic on bread and water for ten years. No…. it’s me Suzy Jones, Perhaps they are Norah’s own stories. I think if you write well, your stories will get accepted. Della, Teresa, and Elizabeth Dale appear regularly, they work hard and come up with the goods. Life’s not fair, so good luck to anyone who gets published I say.

    • Ooh, you had me going there for a moment, Susan! Yes, I agree with all you’ve said. It’s all down to hard work. The harder you work (as someone clever once said), the ‘luckier’ you’ll get..!

  5. Jacula says:

    Hi Helen,

    I’m the guilty party. No, not ‘Jo Styles’, but the person who started the thread about him/her having five stories in one issue. All I said was that she must be over the moon, that five stories was a quarter of the magazine’s story quota, and that her style was probably worth studying. I had no idea it would spark so much discussion. It’s been interesting to see how engaged people have become in the subject.

  6. Edith says:

    Practice, practice, practice…write, write, write…more practice, more writing…..I have a plan and it’s just this…to not open my mouth at all until I have at least 100 womag stories written and submitted, and if by then nothing has been published I might have to re-think my plan..note I didn’t say abandon!!
    And yes, I too had noticed and felt my heart drop, but then thought, well she obviously has discovered what Norah wants so I shall just have to study her art! Great post.Very exciting competition too, just wish I had the nerve to attempt it! 🙂 xxx

  7. KH says:

    Ha – I actually wondered if, like Susan said, they are Norah’s own stories! I believe Norah is something of a mystery and I’m pretty sure our mag editors must write fiction too. However I do remember reading a blog by Jo Styles some time ago although I can’t find it now. I do wish it was me selling all those stories to a high paying mag like TAB though. As much as I hate to admit it I have had problems with the ‘green eyed monster’ this year despite doing relatively well by my own standards. It’s not an emotion I usually experience and I’ve found it very demotivating. Lets hope the Fiction Fairy favours us all with some good luck soon. Good wishes KH

  8. KH says:

    Hi Helen – not sure if this comment will post but some of my comments aren’t posting. Others may be experiencing this too. Good wishes KH

  9. cathos says:

    Interesting discussion – good for Jo – read and learn I guess! After a very dry period I have got one coming out in FF – not sure if it’s this issue as I’ve not had a cheque yet. I went through a phase of writing in April and sent 5 out to them – got the one accepted that I felt least sure about! I’m not 100% sure what happens at FF but get the impression that Norah reads first and sends potential to second readers and it’s often them that decide what will finally goes in.
    I feel the same about WW – what does it take to get one in there – I’ve been trying for about 20 years(!) and wonder if my name is now on a WW blacklist and they go straight in the bin! Perhaps I need a pseudonym….

  10. banksywrites says:

    Hi Helen. Was that reference to crime fiction competition for me? If so, thanks for remembering. I’ve actually come to a standstill with that project. I’ve started another one, but I’ve been a bit lost without your classes to give me deadlines. Thanks for all the useful links. I’ll get reading, although that’s all I seem to be doing at the moment, instead of writing!

    • Clare, yes it was – sorry I spelled your name with an ‘i’ the first time – but I’ve corrected it now!! Reading is still important! (I don’t think I read enough!). Not wanting to wish the summer away, of course, but it’ll soon be September and the class will be starting again. I’m going to get moving on my ‘marketing’ (!) this week so I’ll let you and the others know the dates, so you can decide about rejoining!

      ________________________________

  11. Philippa says:

    Hi Helen, it’s only human to feel a degree of envy and “but it’s not fair!” when you see a writer with multiple stories or winning more than one place in an (anonymously judged) competition, as I remember in a big flash fiction comp, but as you say, it is then possible to make it a productive experience by studying what obviously works in an area you’re targeting as a writer…sip the honey and throw away the poison!

  12. KH says:

    Hi Helen – for some reason the comments I’m submitting to your posts are not coming up. Is it something I’m doing wrong? Good wishes KH

  13. Linda says:

    When you said that Jo Styles might be a pseudonym, my first thought was that perhaps it’s someone on the staff of the magazine and they don’t want their real name revealed because other writers might accuse the editor of favouritism. But my second thought was that if someone had 5 stories accepted and was keen to hide their identity, it would make more sense to use several pseudonyms …
    My third thought was – oh, this could be the start of a crime novel!

  14. Janice says:

    I say congratulations to Jo. She’s obviously studied the market and worked hard to submit the right sort of stories. I’m only glad she didn’t have six stories accepted since my very first TAB story is the last one in this issue!
    Years ago, My Weekly published two of my stories in the same magazine but they asked me to use a pseudonym for one of them. They didn’t like to have more than one story by a writer in an issue. Don’t know if this still happens.

  15. Maggie May says:

    I kept scrolling down hoping Joy Styles would reveal her/himself. Perhaps she/he is too busy writing stories and getting them published. I went through a busy faze of sending lots of stuff off, and kept getting rejection slips. And then I regularly read all about you wonderful bloggers who always seem so productive. So I am ‘resting’ at the moment and reading like a mad thing, but I know that if I want to be successful I will have to stop procrastinating and get on with it.

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