Category: News


UK-EU Referendum flagsI am not an expert on the UK-EU relationship. I don’t know whether we would be better of in or out in the long run. Most of the “facts” being bandied about are estimates, misrepresentations or vague guesses which makes it hard to know what to believe. There are both valid and stupid points on both sides which makes it hard to know what’s important.

The “facts” I have settled on to guide me in the referendum are these:

  1. Out of all of our democratically elected politicians, 471 back remain, 156 are in favour of leave. That’s 75% for remain. Almost all of those on the leave side are Tories. I am not particularly pleased about how that party is running the country so why would I trust them to guide me in a big decision like this? If you take the Tories out of the mix it’s 293 to 19 or 94% in favour of remain.
  2. The political party for which I feel the closest affinity unanimously backs remain.
  3. The MP for my constituency backs leave… I didn’t vote for him. The guy I voted for backs remain.
  4. The majority of business leaders seem to back remain. Businesses… collectively, also known as “the economy” and “employers”.
  5. Unison backs remain. Politicians and businessmen could have their own interests in mind, but unions are there to represent their members. It is the only thing they are their to do, and the biggest union in the UK says its members are better off if we remain.
  6. Politics and business aside, the list of other people who back remain contains far more people I respect than the list of people who back leave. What’s more, the list of leave backers contains some people I seriously distrust or dislike.
  7. But, more importantly, facts aside, I know this:

It is too simple to say membership of the EU is the root of all evil.
Leaving the EU will not “fix” all the things that people
in this country are dissatisfied with.

Many people are going to vote leave tomorrow because they are unhappy. They are unhappy with the way things are in this country, with the way it is run and how that impacts them. People want a good stable job with decent pay, a place to live and access to healthcare and education services of good quality. Many people are struggling with one or more of those things and feel that nothing is being done about it.

Those people crave a quick fix achieved through change and politicians in this country do not offer change. To them, change is risky, when every four years they are held to account in an election. Instead they work to maintain the status quo while promising reform that is never delivered. They tinker about with small scale things but never bite the bullet and make changes which people actually experience in a positive, definable way. They are too short sighted and self serving.

For once we get the opportunity to choose and enact a big change ourselves so I understand why people are attracted to voting leave. It’s change, for better or worse, rather than faffing about not doing anything. I wish sometimes I could shake the government by the shoulders and say “do something! ANYTHING!”

Leaving the EU has all the appearance of the solution people desperately want. A substantial, decisive change which will address the problems in this country. But that is an illusion. This is not the quick fix you want it to be.

I will be voting to remain.

If you choose to vote leave, do it for the right reasons. Do it because you can identify a tangible way in which it will positively affect you. Do it because you agree with the principles. Do it because someone you respect and believe in supports it. But, don’t vote leave just because you are angry with life; it won’t make things better and it could make them worse, especially in the short term.

I’ve been having a think about what makes a good piece of flash fiction, and while I don’t think I can say it any better than David Gaffney does in this article – Stories in your pocket: how to write flash fiction (which came out just before the very first National Flash Fiction Day in 2012) – I thought I would share a few thoughts.

1. Get It All Out First

Or as David Gaffney says in his article, “write long, then go short.” This is actually common sense in a way. When you draft your brain is creating as it goes. It’s natural to repeat yourself as you think of better ways to say what you want to say, on the fly.  You need to repeat yourself because the second or third way you brain comes up with to say something might better than the first.

It’s also natural to explore as you write, which creates tangents, distractions and irrelevancies as often as it discovers vital details. You won’t ultimately want half of what you uncover in a short piece, but you have to dig through rocks to find diamonds.

2. Find What’s Important

I recently took a 400 words first draft I really liked and cut it down to 150 words which I liked even more. I started by critically looking at my draft and highlighting the phrases and words which did the work; the ones which conveyed the story, rather than those that enriched, or worse, obscured it. There were actually very few of them.

3. Be in the Moment

For me, the best flash fiction pieces are scenes. This is a matter of taste, true. But there is a reason behind it: constraining a story to a scene constrains it to one moment.

Long fiction contains lots of moments but in flash fiction you only have a moment to create a moment. It could be the start of something, the end, or a change. It could be a moment of connection, realisation, or enlightenment.

Find the one moment you want to share and make the story about that, however you choose to write it.

4. Let the Reader Work for You

In flash fiction, you have to let the reader be an active participant in the realisation of the vision. I say let because writers can be control freaks about getting across their vision.

You don’t have the luxury to spend words and time on description in flash fiction. Trust that your reader will do this for you. Don’t worry about describing characters and settings, let the action show something of their nature and let the reader make up the rest however they want.

5. It Need Not End Here

Most flash fiction pieces will, by definition, be very open ended. They are short stories, moments, within the unspoken wider narrative of your characters’ lives. Let the idea of that wider narrative be there in the background and don’t stress over explaining it or tying up loose ends.

 

So that’s my top five thoughts on writing flash fiction. If you write something you’re proud of, be brave, share it with someone, or submit it to a publisher!

And on that related note…

The Great Escape Flash Fiction Competiton 2015

The site where I act as fiction editor is running a Flash Fiction Competition this month, in celebration of National Flash Fiction Day on Saturday 27th June.

It’s an open competition with fairly loose criteria, so why not share something you’ve written. Your story might get featured on our site and we could even offer you a spot in one of our anthologies. Visit thegreatesc.com/competitions for all the details.

The Great Escape's Flash Fiction Competition

 

I have news! My novella, The Star Coin Prophecy is now available to download from Open Books.

About Open Books:

OpenBooks.com is an independent eBookstore where readers read first, then decide how much they want to pay based on what they feel a book is worth and how much they can afford.

OpenBooks.com also allows unlimited copying and sharing of eBooks, with the majority of payment proceeds being passed directly to the author. This model places publishing power back in the hands of the writers and purchasing power directly in the hands of booklovers. (openbooks.com/about)

Find out more on The Great Escape – Follow Friday – Open Books

Cover art for The Star Coin ProphecyThe Star Coin Prophecy

When local science reporter Ruth Anders gets invited to a national press conference for the Kepler project, she knows it’s going to be a memorable experience. But nothing could prepare her for the extraordinary events that take place. […Read more]

Get the book

You can download the book for free and side load it (i.e. manually move the file) to your Kindle or other eBook reader. But more than that, you can copy the file and send it to friends you think might like it, share it on reading groups. All for free.

You only pay if you want to. So, if you want you can wait till after you’ve read it, and then decide, yeah, that was worth a quid of anyone’s money. Or you might not… but that’s okay.

You can still buy it from Amazon or Kobo Books if you want the convenience of the file syncing straight to your device. I try to keep the price point at 99p or the equivalent in USD (about $1.60).

If you really like it, and me, you can buy it direct from The Great Escape Books page, which guarantees you the best format file, no links, and all the money goes to me.

Twitter went crazy today with artists, writers, musicians and other creatives reacting against the Green Party policy on copyright.

**Warning, this blog post may contain political opinion**

Copyright is a strange beast. For many people, it’s an inconvenience standing between them and content they would like to access, copy or distribute but can’t, or shouldn’t, because someone owns it. I remember being in this group when I wanted to photocopy books for study at university, and did so on occasion, under the disapproving glare of posters above the photocopier.

For others it is the only thing that protects them from having the things they create exploited by opportunists in the first group. Now, as a writer, I’m in this group.

A policy document from the Green Party came to light today in which stated the following…

The Green Party: Policy

As a producer of so called “cultural products” this scares me beyond words. My writing is not a cultural product. It is not a product of culture, it is a product of me. If there must be a day when I can no longer claim control over by creative babies, let it be after my death so I do not have to endure it.

The backlash has been epic… well it has in my corner of the internet. This article on the Telegraph website covers the highlights: Authors criticise Green Party plan to reduce copyright to 14 years

But moving slightly away from the Green Party policy, to a more general view on copyright, why is it that “copyright” is so often considered synonymous with inaccessible or controlled?

Copyright law does not, in itself, state that material cannot be “copied”; it defines who has that say and protects their decision. Copyright holders are free to grant rights to third parties and do so all the time. How do you think publishing contracts work? They can even distribute their IP under a general licence, like creative commons, so that it CAN be copied and re-distributed for free, but it is their choice.

So the copyright holder might ask the consumer to – God forbid – pay for the creative content they spent hours, weeks, months, sometimes even years creating.

In the wake of today’s uproar, I read at least one blogger’s opinion in favour of the 14 year cut off who countered with the argument that people in other industries didn’t get paid for work they did 14 years ago… and to that I say well, no, they get paid when they actually do the work. Many struggling artists do not.

Copyright kicks in when content is created, not when it is published or sold. Some artists strive for years to get work recognised. A ticking clock would not be helpful; my own mortality provides enough of that already.

This sums up some of the astounding misunderstanding around copyright pretty well: 5 Seriously Dumb Myths About Copyright the Media Should Stop Repeating

So can we all, please, stop demonising copyright.

If reform is needed, it is needed in the way we go about licensing IP; make ownership and licensing more transparent, so that people can engage with, and request licenses from, content owners.

Camp NaNoWriMo – update

Camp NaNoWriMo 2015 official posterIt’s two thirds of the way through April and Camp NaNoWriMo and I’m slightly behind on my targets. Although I’m not technically behind on average, I have less time to write over the next week and a half, so hitting my 60,000 word goal is going to be a stretch. Nevertheless I shall give it my best shot.

The re-write of my novel Mime is progressing well. I have a clear list of the missing material that I’ve made good progress checking off. I did however want to be further ahead with re-writing scenes which need major changes by this stage.

My additional challenges of 30 pieces of micro-fiction and 3 short stories have received less attention. I’ve had less time to write than I’d hoped this month and my priority has always been the novel edits.

I’ve got a much better idea of my concentration levels and the amount I can get done in any one sitting. Going forward I think a more modest 30,000 target for each month will be very achievable and give me something to aim for outside of NaNoWriMo.

Are you taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo? How are you doing? Do you think you’ll reach your goal? What have you learned during the process?

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