A Baker’s Dozen of Favourites

bread

Here’s a list of personal favourites from my book To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories. Some are long, some are very short, some have been very popular with readers, others not, but they’re ones that, for whatever reason, I find I’m generally still happy to read.

Enjoy!

ADDENDA

For easy reference here are links to three non-fiction posts I published recently. They cover self-publishing, how to write flash fiction, and random tips on using WordPress.

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One Year of My Blog: 20 Useful Tips!

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(4750 words approx.)

Well, my blog has been going publicly for exactly one year today, August 22nd! It’s been an interesting and thrilling journey, with huge thanks to all those who have read and/or liked and/or commented on my posts, and/or followed To Cut a Short Story Short!

When I started I never imagined having any followers, let alone over 250! Also, it didn’t seem like I’d ever get any comments, but I’ve since written over 200 replies on my blog, plus probably half as many again to comments on my posts on Community Pool and other blogs! As for publishing two books (see Shop) with material from my blog, well that was something I didn’t imagine in my wildest dreams!

Anyway, the point of this article is to give some tips, mainly fairly simple, based on my experience along the way. They’re kind of random, just things that I thought perhaps not everyone might know, and I’m on the free WordPress.com plan so they may not all be relevant, depending on your hosting/plan.

Contents 

(to return to this menu simply use your browser’s ‘back’ button.)

1

2

Comments

Community Pool!

3

Dashboard versus Desktop App

4

Drop Down Menus

5

Followers

6

Getting help

7

Indents, Fonts and ‘White Space’

8

Index/Contents pages

9

Internal Hyperlinks in WordPress Documents

10

11

Menus/Categories

Publishing Your Work in Paperback/eBook/Audiobook form

12

13

14

Removing Blank Lines etc.

Scheduling Links from Blogs You are Following

Scheduling Your Writing

15

16

Spam

Stopping ‘Self-Pings’

17

18

Tags

Uploading Multiple Images to Media Library

19

20

Widgets

Writing Matters!

1. Comments

I make it a rule to always reply to comments, or at the very least, to ‘like’ them if they are brief. I usually find the easiest way is to copy the comment from my original post or community pool etc. into a separate word processing document (‘blog comments’) including the poster’s name and the date. Then I find it easy to answer them all in that document in one go, and then to paste back into the post/Community Pool or whatever.

What I’ve found really useful, is by clicking the date hyperlink on their comment, it takes you directly to the post, whether on the blog, Community Pool or an external site! So it’s very quick to paste my responses in context. Alternatively they can be answered in the notifications area (click the bell symbol in the top right hand corner and choose ‘Comments’) but the text box there is small so you can’t see the whole post in one go. Also, I usually prefer to remind myself of the previous comments on a particular post when I’m answering the latest, in case I want to refer to one.

2. Community Pool

Well, if you are reading this on Community Pool, you don’t need me to tell you that it is a fantastic forum! I saw it recommended for quite a few weeks before having a look, then taking the plunge and posting. My follower, views and ‘like’ numbers leapt up almost immediately!

It’s a great place to post links to your work and get feedback on it. Also, there are hundreds of interesting posts to check out from other bloggers.

For maximum response I’ve found it pays to get on page one, which becomes live at 12.00 local Eastern time in the USA as far as I can tell. Recently they’ve taken to posting the new page at this time, but not opening comments until up to an hour or so later. I contacted the help-desk about both matters but couldn’t get a straight answer to either, unfortunately.

3. Dashboard vs. Desktop App

I’ve found that for some things I prefer to use the Dashboard and for others the downloadable WordPress App.

https://apps.wordpress.com/desktop/

It’s worth trying the same operation in each to see how you find them. As you likely know, the dashboard is reached by typing in your website name followed by /wp-admin. I’ve saved it as an icon on my browser page. Click on that and it takes me straight there.

I’ve found it handy when editing a post to have it open in both the browser AND the desktop app and to edit it in the latter. After making some changes that I wish to preview, I just ‘update’ the page, then switch to the browser and refresh the page displaying the post.

4. Drop Down Menus

After a while the page of posts gets cumbersome, even when selected under one category (see 11. menus/categories), so you might wish to incorporate a drop-down menu. These appear when you hover the cursor over the category in the menu (you can try this now on my menu at the top of the page).

To add posts manually (which you have to if you are on WordPress.com) you go to dashboard/appearance/menus then click on ‘add post to menu,’ check the relevant box and click ‘add.’ It then appears at the bottom of the menu structure.

You then have to drag it into position below the category in question. Then you drag it a little to the right. When the menu is updated it will then appear when the mouse is hovered over the category. This process can be a bit fiddly but you get used to it. To facilitate dragging into position when there are a lot of menu items I select full screen and then zoom out until the menu items are quite small.  

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In my case the drop-down menus went off the screen, so I added some ‘dummy categories,’ A-D, E-H, for example and created sub-menus under each by dragging the posts further to the right. Then only the alphabetical categories pop up when you hover the cursor over the main category. You can see that in e.g. Longer Stories in my menu above. When you now move the cursor over the alphabetical categories the full menus of stories pop up.

Unfortunately, if you are on the free theme you can only have white backgrounds for drop down menus.

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By this system you can easily locate any of the 160 posts on my blog from the menu along the top of every page.

Here’s a helpful video that explains the process in detail:

5. Followers

I like to keep track of my followers, as they have been good enough to take an interest in my blog! On WordPress.com there’s no easy way to do this and no way to print them out either.

When I get a new follower I get an e-mail notification so periodically I copy and paste the followers’ names into a spreadsheet, together with the date, and the most interesting-sounding of the three posts listed. That takes about a minute per follower.

Then the spreadsheet can be sorted by name or date and it’s simple to click on the post link to check out their blog at a later date.

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If the follower number goes down (it does happen!) then to reconcile my spreadsheet with the figure on my blog, I go to ‘enhanced stats’ via dashboard/site stats (click on the Show Me button just below the date) and click on ‘followers’ in the top right hand corner. This list can be ‘zoomed’ in or out, unlike the app version. Then I go down the list versus my spreadsheet (set in descending date order) until I find the one(s) who’ve unfollowed. People sometimes change their account names, but you can match them from the date and there’s normally still a clue in the new name and/or their avatar. They are then moved to a separate spreadsheet. Sometimes they refollow at a later date. I don’t stress about the reasons for unfollowing!

6. Getting Help

In brief, I’ve found the quickest and easiest way to get help (on the free WordPress.com plan) is to e-mail ‘help@wordpress.com.’ A ‘Happiness Engineer’ will normally respond within 24 hours. If the answer isn’t particularly helpful (not unusual!) then another, hopefully more appropriate, answer is less than another 24 hours away! [But see section on displaying HTML in posts at end of this article.]

7. Indents, fonts and ‘white space.’

Normally I paste text into the editor from my word processor (Mac Pages ’09) after removing blank lines and new line codes via textmechanic. (Another way is just to paste it straight into HTML view.)

To get an indent of approx. 0.5 cm, I go into HTML view in the editor and add the following code at the beginning of the first paragraph of text:

< div style=”text-indent: 20px;” >

(there should be no space after the first and before the second angled brackets)

Then I go back to the Visual screen and go through the text, hitting ‘enter’ wherever I want a new paragraph i.e. indent. It will now automatically indent the text at that point. I haven’t found an easier way as yet, despite some spurious ‘advice’ from the help-desk! (Seems like you have to be on a paid plan to do it via CSS).

https://www.hscripts.com/tutorials/css/text-indent.php

Fonts: In the customizer select a nice clear font for your display text and be sure to include some ‘white space,’ i.e. blank lines. I’ve seen blogs with huge paragraphs of unbroken text that are just too hard to read, unfortunately. I use Cinzel for headings and Lora for display, both ‘regular.’

Creating blank lines can be a problem. If there’s a blank line in the editor but not in the preview (not uncommon!) then you can go to HTML and delete any superfluous < div > symbols, or just put a period or dash in the text and colour it white with the text colour tool in the menu. This latter method has the disadvantage that the dashes/periods will appear in black under certain circumstances, e.g. when printing and in the WordPress Reader.

Incidentally, if you don’t want a blank line inserted in the WordPress editor when you press Enter, then use Shift-Enter. (That also works in Facebook, Whatsapp etc. to force a new line instead of sending.)

8. Index and Contents pages

If you want to go a step further than just a menu you could create separate pages for index and/or contents lists. I do this by having spreadsheets of the entries and periodically copying these into the blog pages, having added the latest stories/articles.

Once the page is uploaded I might edit it before the next update, e.g. remove ‘scheduled’ from scheduled posts, add a link etc., so to make sure I have the latest version in my spreadsheet before updating the next time, I copy it from the web page (in edit mode) back into the spreadsheet.

What I found was that to copy from the blog page into my spreadsheet (Numbers ’09) – in order to incorporate any online changes I made – I have to do this from the browser (I use Firefox), one column at a time. To paste back into the page I have to use the desktop app. Then I simply erase the old table from the index or contents page and paste in the new spreadsheet table to replace it.

I have found issues with copying and pasting WordPress that didn’t used to exist – for me, anyway – so to enable some copying and pasting within WordPress using Firefox I have to do the following:

In a Firefox tab, type ‘about:config,’ accept the warning, then in the search box type ‘dom.event’ From the few that come up select ‘dom.event.clipboardevents.enabled’ and toggle the value to false by double clicking. I don’t find it necessary to restart the browser, it works straight away. Then I can copy and paste from one post to another with e.g. coloured text, links enabled etc. When I’ve finished I toggle the value back to ‘true’ and close the tab. Otherwise I can’t copy and paste to e.g. Facebook. Problems, problems ….

9. Internal hyperlinks

In this article I listed all the ‘tip’ subjects at the top (under Contents) and set links to jump straight to them. So internal hyperlinks can be pretty useful!

Creating an internal hyperlink in a WordPress document is not completely straightforward, but is quite easy once you’ve done it a few times. The process involves going to the point you want to jump TO and typing an ‘id’ into an HTML tag. Then, in the normal Visual view, you set a hyperlink from the point where you want to jump FROM.

The link below explains the process well, but I’ll give an example. In my contents list I have an item – Widgets. So in HTML view I locate the header for that item. It is a level 3 header so it will be in the form of:

< h3>Widgets</h3 >

Then it is modified to:

< h3 id=”widgets”>Widgets</h3 >

(there should be no space after the first and before the last angled brackets)

Note that I could have named the id, “Fred” or anything I wanted, but here “widgets” seemed sensible!

Then I go to Widgets in the contents list at the top and in the usual Visual view I double click the word Widgets and then click the link symbol. Then in the URL box I type a hash symbol, followed by the ‘id’ I wish to jump to, in this case #widgets. Now once the page is updated and previewed, clicking Widgets in the contents list jumps straight to the relevant paragraph. Neat!

https://www.wendycholbi.com/anchor-links-jump-links/

10. Menus/categories

When I look at other blogs I usually have two questions. What is the blog about and what is actually on it? Often it is by no means obvious! Sometimes it’s just a long page of posts of indeterminate length and you even have to scroll through them to find the titles, they’re not listed elsewhere.

So, ‘What is the blog about?’ is easy, just have an informative ‘about’ page and an obvious link to that page. You can set it to be the Front Page (via the customizer), so that people land on it when they go to your blog. And clicking the header in any page takes you there too.

‘What is actually on the blog?’ is more complex but I’d recommend at the very least you install the ‘recent posts’ widget.

The main menu in my theme (Sela) appears across the top and I was able to add pages and categories to it via dashboard/appearance/menus. You could add posts to the menu but it would quickly fill up the menu bar.

So every post is assigned one or more categories, and will then be listed in chronological order when someone clicks on that category in the menu. In my case, for the most part I chose length of story e.g. ‘longer stories’ but you might choose travel, food, humour or whatever.

For a more sophisticated approach see 5. Drop down Menus

11. Publishing your work in paperback/eBook/audiobook form.

I wrote quite a comprehensive article about this recently. Basically, if you have 5000 words or more (50,000 plus is good) of decent content, then you can compile it into a document and upload it to Kindle Direct Publishing, where you can also design a cover. The process is pretty straightforward, very flexible, and ‘free.’ The cost of printing a paperback comes out of your 60% royalty when sold. Your book/eBook appears on Amazon worldwide within a day or so! The article also covers audiobook production.

https://simonjwood.wordpress.com/2017/07/08/publishing-the-best-of-your-blog-is-as-easy-as-1-2-3/

12. Removing Blank Lines etc.

When posting from my word processor (Mac Pages ’09) to the WordPress editor, new paragraphs are represented by blank lines instead of indents. Occasionally it doesn’t matter but it usually does.

There’s a useful site, textmechanic.com, where you paste your text, click on ‘remove empty lines,’ then paste it into WordPress. It strips all the code responsible for generating blank lines in WordPress, as well as empty lines.

It also strips italics so they have to be put back in manually (as well as any blank lines actually required) and I indent the paragraphs as described in ‘indenting text‘ above.

There are many other useful text tools on the site.

http://textmechanic.com/text-tools/basic-text-tools/remove-empty-lines/

13. Scheduling posts from blogs you are following

If you don’t want to receive notifications about new posts ‘as and when,’ you can arrange a delivery window to receive them. Firstly, go to the Reader, then click Manage under Followed Sites. Then click Settings on your followed sites and decide how you want to receive e-mail notifications from each of them – instantly, daily or weekly, or turn them off.

Then click on the little avatar symbol to the left of the notifications symbol at the top right of the screen. Then click Notification Settings/Reader Subscriptions. You can now set a day/time slot to receive scheduled notifications.

14. Scheduling your writing

Some people like to publish posts whenever they feel like it, whereas others prefer to schedule. I’ve come to definitely prefer the latter, with maybe an extra post on special days such as Christmas Day or Valentine’s Day. I think a weekly schedule is best but to push myself a bit I schedule every five days. Nearly always between 12.00 and 13.00 local time.

It’s useful to have a time chart of different time zones handy so you know what time it is around the world. In my naivety I thought I would just get views from Britain and maybe the USA, I had no idea how truly international WordPress is and I’ve had views from places as far-flung as Azerbaijan, Gambia and Papua New Guinea!

The dashboard has a nice view of scheduled posts on the home page and it’s very easy to edit the scheduled time and category via dashboard/posts and the ‘Quick Edit’ buttons that appear under the post names.

To facilitate scheduling and writing generally, I keep a ‘writing assignments list’ on the wall by my desk, sorted into descending date order, which I update and print every couple of days or so. That way I can be sure to start on a story/article in good time. I nowadays always try to finish something with a few days to spare, then work on something else in the meantime, before coming back to finalize the former. Then I can see it with much fresher eyes and improvements/corrections usually leap out at me!

 –

15. Spam

Askimet seems good and I only once had a problem with Spam. The answer was to check the boxes for ‘Comment author must fill out name …’ and ‘Users must be registered …’ as shown in the screenshot below under ‘Other comment settings.’ I’ve only had once since. At least I think it was Spam …!

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16. Stopping ‘self-pings’

If you publish a post that contains links to another of your posts, you are likely to get e-mails alerting you to ‘ping-backs.’ I used to publish my index as a post and I would get over 100 e-mails, and on my phone too! The solution is to uncheck ‘Attempt to notify any blogs linked to from the article,’ as shown above under ‘Default article settings.’

17. Tagging

Any post can have up to 15 tags and categories in total (more than that and it won’t be displayed in the Reader). If you go to the Reader, click on Search and type in some tags (in the desktop app you can type them directly) you can get a feel for how quickly a tag’s ‘timeline’ moves from the times/dates on the posts. So ‘creative writing,’ for example, is a fast-moving stream with a lot of viewers, whereas ‘curious fiction’ has hardly any posts other than my own! I aim for a mix of fast and slow-moving streams. If you tag a post ‘creative writing,’ for example, you are likely to get a quick burst of views, than that’ll be it!

Now, when you publish a post, any follower who has subscribed to e-mail alerts will see either an extract from your post or the full post (depending on your settings in dashboard/settings/reading/‘for each article in a feed …’). This is followed by a list of your tags. If you’re showing just an excerpt, then a lot of space can be taken up by the tags and there’s less room for the excerpt. Also, who wants people to see all your tags? I don’t.

I couldn’t find any way NOT to display them, but found a simple ‘workaround.’ You simply wait until the post is published THEN, after receiving e-mail confirmation of this, add the tags. I go into dashboard/posts and simply copy tags from a similar previous post, perhaps amending a couple. Or you can paste them into a blank document or e-mail, edit them and paste them back in. To see the tags make sure they are enabled in Screen Options via the button at the top right.

Personally I prefer to have excerpts displayed in the e-mail. Otherwise people have no need to visit the blog and so won’t see the nice formatting and picture 🙂

18. Uploading Multiple Images to Media Library

It can be a chore doing this singly. I’ve found I can get a bunch of images (usually from Google Images or Pixabay) and upload them in one go. First I save them in a folder called ‘images.’ Then I go to dashboard/media/library and click ‘add new’ at the top. Then in the window that opens up (with the dotted line around it) I click on Select Files, highlight all the ones I wish to upload (shift and click, or command click if non-contiguous) and then click Open.

Other routes to upload images I’ve tried don’t seem to allow more than one at a time.

It takes a little while for all the images to upload but if you’ve got something else to do in the meantime I find this the better method.

19. Widgets

On WordPress.com we don’t have access to the wonderful world of plug-ins available to self-hosted sites, but some of the widgets available are pretty useful. As mentioned above, the ‘recent posts’ one is great. Anyone looking at the blog can instantly see and click on the list, although of course it doesn’t indicate what the post is about (if it’s not obvious from the title) nor its length. Widgets are selectable via the customizer.

My theme is Sela, which is free. I’ve looked at all the widgets available to me and the ones I use are as follows:

Translate. I’ve no proof as to whether anyone has ever used this but it translates everything, even the comments! Of course, it’s not perfect, but I’m sure it could be helpful and it’s quite fun to see your blog in some weird and wonderful language! Also very useful if you are actually learning a language!

Custom Menu. I set links to my About and Contact pages. The About page can always be reached by clicking the header, but just in case people don’t know that …

Search. self-explanatory.

Recent Posts. I set this to 14 posts and entitled it ‘Posts Published in the Last Ten Weeks’ (as I post every five days).

Archives. A drop down box that enables readers to select posts by month. Entitled ‘Older Posts.’

Top Posts and Pages. I ordered this by ‘likes’ and displayed it as an image grid. I think this looks very nice on the page and invites visitors to click on the images.

Follow Button. There are a few ways for people to sign up to follow a blog. This one seems very simple. It’s a blue button which also indicates the current number of followers (if selected). Click on it and you are asked to confirm, then you are signed up. You receive an e-mail about any new posts, unless you unsubscribe from e-mail notifications. (You can always view the posts in the Reader anyway. Just click on ‘Followed Sites.’)

One thing I found is that if you are a follower (I follow my own blog too) and you click on the button again (‘to see what will happen’!) you are unsubscribed, without any request for confirmation in my own case!

My Community. This is great! I have three of these on my blog. It displays a grid of avatars of those who have liked, followed or commented on the blog. I have one under the follower button, set to display followers only, then two in the footer, set to display ‘likers’ and ‘commenters.’ The first two show 50 avatars and the latter shows a smaller number, chosen from recent commentators. My favourite widget!

Recent Comments. This displays the avatar of the commenter together with their name and the post commented on. It doesn’t give any of the comment itself but clicking on the post name takes you directly to the comment in question.

Tag Cloud. This displays all the tags you have used on your posts. The more often they’ve been used, the larger the font. Click on any tag in the ‘cloud’ and it takes you to a page with all thus-tagged posts on it. You can set the maximum number of tags and also exclude any you don’t want displayed.

20. Writing Matters!

Well, I sincerely hope you found some of the above information to be useful. To round off the article, here are a few miscellaneous remarks about writing content, whether fiction or non-fiction.

Writing: I published an article, Flash Fiction Matters, which details how I wrote the stories on my blog and includes links to a number of useful books and websites.

Dictation/screen readers: I haven’t explored dictation myself as yet, but I have found it useful to use a screen reader to read my posts aloud. Then if there are any ‘typos’ I’ve missed it’s easy to spot them. Also, despite its limitations, it does also help to find unnatural sounding dialogue. My MacBook has quite a number of voices/accents available, or there are online resources too.

Touch typing: If you are using the ‘hunt and peck’ system of typing then I can’t recommend learning to touch type highly enough. That way any thoughts/ideas can be transmitted directly to the screen without the ‘barrier’ of having to find the letters first. It only takes a few weeks and will save countless hours in the future!

Timer: I have personally found a timer very useful for writing. I set it to 20 minutes and get up and walk around for a few seconds when it goes off. After three 20 minute sessions I’ll take a 15 minute break if I’m going to do any more writing. Of course, you stop the timer if going to the loo, hunting for ink cartridges etc.!

Displaying HTML code in posts: Well, this was a hard one! I’ve tried everything I could find online and also e-mailed the ‘help-desk.’ They sent one reply that didn’t work and haven’t yet replied to my response, and it’s  OVER THREE WEEKS since I originally wrote to them. VERY disappointing service in this instance.

The problem is that if you display HTML code in your post and switch to the HTML view for whatever reason, then the code is implemented when you switch back to Visual, changing its appearance. You can write it normally as long as you DON’T switch to HTML view before publishing. The usual advice is to use ‘code’ tags but that doesn’t work here. So where I’ve used code in the sections above, I’ve put a space after the angled bracket and an instruction to ignore the space when actually using the code. I’d be most grateful if anyone reading this could let me know how to display HTML in WordPress posts that doesn’t change when switching between Visual and HTML views!

 

Here’s a link to a blog post I wrote right at the very beginning. It makes interesting reading now!

https://simonjwood.wordpress.com/2016/08/24/onwards-and-upwards/

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on my blog. There are over 160! 

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 300 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Also, I’m very pleased to announce that ‘the best of my blog,’ To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories, and a short story, Bound in Morocco, are now both available as paperbacks and Kindle eBooks. Please see Shop in the menu above for full details.

Publishing the ‘Best of Your Blog’ is as Easy as 1-2-3!

 

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(3500 words)

  1. Introduction
  2. Self-publishing a paperback on KDP
  3. Self-publishing a Kindle eBook on KDP
  4. Creating an audiobook via ACX
  5. Links

INTRODUCTION

How would you like to hold in your hands a beautiful paperback with a selection of your best articles in it? Just a dream? No, it’s a reality, it won’t take you long and it won’t cost you a penny either!!

The steps are, One, go to KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and register your name, book title and description. Two, upload your content and upload/design the cover. Three, set the price of your book and click the publish button! Your book will shortly appear for sale on Amazon’s websites, world-wide!

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I published the ‘best of my blog,’ To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories, through KDP and if you can run a blog, then you shouldn’t have many problems self-publishing. Realistically speaking, allow a week or two for learning the process of designing and creating a paperback and/or Kindle eBook.

My book has a beautiful cover, the paper is cream and smooth, with little show-through, and the appearance is much better than most professionally published paperbacks! It is VERY different from any ‘print on demand’ type book you may have previously bought from Amazon.

This article covers the  publishing of a simple book i.e. table of contents and text, with KDP, in both paperback and Kindle eBook form, although you CAN also publish a range of other formats – comics, illustrated books etc. It is intended to be a brief overview to get you started, along with some tips from personal experience. Fuller details can be found via the links provided at the end.

Apart from a bar code and ‘printed by Amazon,’ you are solely responsible for creating the book content and cover. You also have control over many aspects of pricing and marketing. You can update the cover and/or the contents at any time, even after publishing, and it takes just a few hours for the new version to become active. You can also unpublish your book at any time.

Another self-publishing website is CreateSpace. I don’t have experience of that, but you may be interested to check it out. Some say they prefer it. All I can say is the quality of my KDP book is GREAT and it was relatively easy to do!

Remember, that self-publishing a book is NOT the same as selling a book! You are not going to get the publicity of a professionally published book with a publishing company behind you. However, whether you are aiming to sell a lot of copies or just to produce a book primarily for friends and family, the procedure is the same.

PAPERBACK PRODUCTION

Firstly though, do you have enough quality articles for a collection? The book doesn’t have to be large, it can be just thirty pages or so, or it can be as thick as you like. You have to be realistic here. Although it won’t cost you anything, you should aim to put a quality product out there. The feedback you get about your blog should be helpful here, as well as constructive criticism from knowledgeable friends.

Secondly, as you will be designing the book yourself, you need to know how to format and punctuate your work correctly. If not, you can research it or get someone who DOES know to help out.

So, the first step is to prepare the MS (manuscript). Depending on how you created your blog you will either assemble the content by combining documents already saved in your word processor, or by copying and pasting from your blog into a new document.

KDP provide downloadable templates, which you may wish to investigate. I didn’t personally use one, so I will describe how I did it myself.

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PAPER BACK ‘TRIM SIZE’

When you create a paperback, you will need to decide on the ‘trim size,’ or the actual size of the book. The default size on KDP is 6” x 9”. That is actually quite large. A more usual size is 5” x 7.75”. Once the book is published you CANNOT change the trim size so be sure you select a size you’ll be happy with. Having said that, the 6” x 9” size makes for a substantial book that looks very impressive!

To find the size options, you will follow steps one and two in the second paragraph of this article, entering your name and a provisional title. You don’t have to upload anything at this stage and can just ‘save and exit.’

Having left my trim size set to the default, I then set the page size in my word processor to these same dimensions i.e. 6” x 9”. I set a margin of 2 cm. top and bottom, 2.25 inner margin and 1.75 outer margin, and 1 cm. footer margin (for page numbers). I used Times New Roman 13 point with single line spacing to give a pleasantly sized, easy-to-read text. It also suited the length of my stories perfectly, fitting 200 word stories onto one page. You may well choose a slightly smaller font though. I also opted to keep the right hand margin unjustified, although it is more usual for this to be justified.

You can print out a couple of pages of 6 x 9, or whatever, onto A4 to assess the overall appearance, but later on you will be able to preview it on-screen in a realistic format.

WORD PROCESSORS

Now, if you have a PC, chances are that you will be working with Word, in which case you shouldn’t have many problems, it works well with KDP and their help-desk is geared up to it.

If you are using a Mac (as I was) then if you are using the current version of Pages then, unfortunately, you are out of luck! You will need to view the pages side by side to control the layout, the so-called ‘two up’ view, and the ‘new’ version of Pages doesn’t have it. It also doesn’t have the ability to set internal hyperlinks, which you will need for the Kindle contents page. (This is the so-called ‘upgrade’ BTW!)

I used the Pages ’09 version with very few problems.

THE MANUSCRIPT AND CONTENTS TABLE

So you will now assemble the MS (manuscript), keeping the layout user-friendly. In my book I started all two page stories on the left hand page, and also made sure that any pages with just one or two sentences fell on a right hand page. You want to avoid awkward page turns and you may wish to start all articles on the right hand page for example. You can look through a few books on your shelves to get an idea.

You will need to construct a TOC (table of contents), which is also helpful for keeping an eye on the order you put your articles/stories in. The actual page numbers can be filled in afterwards.

I made a TOC in a separate spreadsheet program (Numbers ’09), which copied well to the paperback MS. However, it didn’t work well with the Kindle version, so for that I used the ‘table’ feature in Pages. As there are 111 stories (!) in my book, that was a lot more work than most people are going to have to do. So you can use a similar ‘table’ or ‘column’ feature of whatever word processor you are using.

PRELIMS

The prelims or preliminary pages are the ones that precede the actual text. These include the title page, copyright notice, dedication, forward, etc. and TOC. These pages are numbered with lower case roman numerals. Normal numbering, starting from page 1, begins on the first page of actual text. To do this in my word processor (Mac Pages ’09) I had to learn how to split the MS into two sections. Then I numbered each separately using the appropriate number system. Not difficult though, once you know how of course!

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UPLOADING CONTENT

You don’t need to have finished your MS to upload content. You can have a trial with a preliminary version to see how the process works. Basically you export your MS as a PDF file (the preferred format, although there are others) and then, in the second page of the KDP creation screen, click on ‘Upload paperback manuscript,’ browse to your PDF file and click on ‘open’ (or whatever) to upload it. Depending on the size of the book this will take a few minutes.

Whenever you upload content it automatically replaces the previous content.

If there are any spelling errors you are taken to a screen where you have the option to ‘ignore’ them. Alternatively, you can exit, fix them in your MS and re-upload. You can click on a button at this stage to have a list of the spelling queries e-mailed to you.

COVER CREATION

Your book cover is obviously of paramount importance as this is what will be displayed on Amazon. You can either use a cover you have designed in an external program, or KDP have a cover creation screen, on the same page as the ‘Upload paperback manuscript’ button. Click on it and you will be given the opportunity to upload an image and to select a design from various templates.

There is a KDP image gallery but it is very poor. I used an image from Google Images for Bound in Morocco and an image from Pixabay for To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories. Pixabay is good as the images are high quality and free.

The only problem I found here was that the design I chose for To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories (multiple clocks and part of a lady’s face) is very ‘busy’ and I couldn’t find any text colour for the book description that worked over the image. Surprisingly, the program doesn’t have the facility to put a block of colour on the cover for the text to be placed on, so I had to put my book description on the first page of the prelims.

There is also a space for information about the author and for you to upload a photograph. The cover creation program is quite flexible in terms of the fonts, font sizes and colour combinations you can select. I found it fairly straightforward and was very pleased with both of my covers in the end.

BOOK PREVIEW

Once you have created a suitable cover and uploaded a MS you are ready to preview the book. You simply click on ‘Launch Previewer,’ at the bottom of the screen. The preview takes a few minutes to prepare, then you will see quite a realistic view of the book, where you can look through the pages to check the format, and even read the text, although it’s quite small. If you are not happy with any aspect of the book (quite likely!) you would exit the program here and either upload a corrected MS and/or go into the cover creation program to fix any issues there. 

When you are happy, you click on ‘save and approve’ and then ‘approve.’ However, you can re-upload a corrected MS and/or change the cover at any time, even after publication. In the latter case it usually takes less than a day for the changes to take effect in the published product. That’s a fantastic facility and one I hadn’t expected.

PRICING

Once you’ve approved the book as above you proceed to the pricing screen. The first time you publish on KDP you have to do a ‘tax interview,’ which takes a few minutes. As a non-US citizen I just had to mainly answer ‘no.’

Then you have to supply some international banking info. which can be obtained from your bank statement.

The way I priced my books was as follows. Firstly, I selected a paperback price that seemed realistic. Your royalty is 60% but the cost of the paperback comes out of this. To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories, which is 256 pages, is charged at £3.30 to print a copy. The screen tells you how much you will earn per sale after deductions, VAT etc., so if you wanted to make, say, £2 per sale, you would adjust the price of the paperback accordingly to give this profit. You don’t want to set the book price too high but you don’t want to make too little profit either.

You choose a primary sales country (the default is U.S.A.), then all other prices are set from this, although they can be individually adjusted. Paperbacks have six sales zones and Kindle eBooks have 12. I left the primary sales country set to USA and then set a slightly different price for the UK, to give a more ‘rounded’ figure.

Finally, when all the above has been done, you are ready to hit the ‘publish’ button! Remember that your book will shortly be available for sale, so be sure it is a professional product. Although you can make changes, you don’t want anyone to buy it in the meantime and be unhappy, thus leaving a bad review! Also, that opens the ‘returns’ can of worms. There is no provision for proof copies so you will need to order a copy ASAP to check through it for errors. Then you will correct the MS and re-upload, as described above.

COPYRIGHT WARNING

You are likely to get an e-mail, warning you that your content has been found on-line (if you select some text from one of your articles and paste it into Google then it will likely come up in many places where it’s been cached). You are asked to confirm that you are the copyright owner (if it’s all your own work then you are). So, in this instance, you proceed to your ‘Bookshelf’ on the KDP site, go into the title in question, go through to page 3 (Pricing) and click on Publish again.

There are some restrictions about what you are supposed to display on your blog versus what is in your book, which you can read if interested!

KINDLE eBOOK PRODUCTION

An eBook is quite a bit easier to produce than a paperback as there is much less to design. You don’t have to publish a paperback at all of course, although I think most of us would love to see an actual physical copy of our work!

Firstly you copy your paperback MS to a new file or start a new one (as described above) if you didn’t make a paperback. Kindle doesn’t use page numbers so disable this feature. Because of the different look of eBooks on different viewers and with different fonts it’s hard to control the format, but you don’t want headers to come at the bottom of a page for example. So I went through the whole MS, putting in page breaks before every heading and sub-heading. I found it necessary to do a ‘carriage return,’ then to add a page break, to get the right on-screen appearance. Indent settings are preserved though.

That’s really all you have to do with regard to the MS, but you will likely need an active TOC (table of contents) or readers cannot easily locate chapters.

In my program (Mac Pages ’09) I had to go through the whole book, clicking all 111 story headings and creating bookmarks from each. Then in the TOC I created hyperlinks to jump to these bookmarks. Tricky at first but easy once understood.

With Word there is an easier way to do this I understand, for which info is freely available.

The cover is created in a similar way to the paperback, but even if you designed a paperback cover in their program, you have to do it all over again for the eBook. Also, there’s nowhere to display the book description (there is no rear cover), so you need to put that in the prelims.

Having prepared the eBook as above you are ready to upload the file and preview it. The preferred format is .doc or .docx but there are a number of others.  In my case I didn’t have the option to export to .docx and none of the other formats offered by my program preserved both italics AND the hyperlinks (aargh!). So I (eventually) used Zamzar, the brilliant free online resource, to convert my .pages file to .docx, which worked perfectly.

You can preview onscreen, or the way I prefer is to use the downloadable Kindle previewer app, which you can download from the Upload Manuscript screen. Then you will need to download an HTML version of your file, from the same screen. Then you locate this on your computer, unzip it and navigate to it from the previewer.

The previewer lets you simulate phone, tablet or Kindle and you can choose a wider variety of fonts than the on-screen viewer.

Once you are happy with the look of your eBook (and chances are you are going to have to modify your MS, re-upload and re-download another HTML version two, three or even more times!) you proceed to the Pricing screen, set your price and primary zone as discussed below, and click the Publish button. Again, you can easily make changes after publishing.

PRICING E-BOOKS

I found that Kindle prices vary wildly on published books. After a few false starts I decided to price my eBook such that I make about the same profit as for the paperback. This selling price will be considerably lower as you don’t have to pay for paperback production and the royalty can be higher too.

You have the option to join Kindle Select and to choose either 35% or 70% royalty. I couldn’t see any advantage to the lower rate, so chose 70%, leaving the primary sales zone set to USA and, again, adjusting the UK price to give a more ‘normal’ figure. Personally I couldn’t see any reason not to join Kindle Select either, which gives you additional revenue streams.

CHECKING SALES/GETTING PAID

KDP has a comprehensive online sales report page where you can easily track your sales and royalties. The first royalty payment is not made until 60 days after the end of the month in which your book first appeared for sale.

AUDIOBOOKS

Well, the idea of turning your book into an audiobook may seem like another pipe dream, but again, it is a realistic aim! The company you deal with is ACX, Audiobook Creation Exchange. There is a sizeable audiobook creation ‘home industry’ with tens of thousands of ‘voice actors’ registered. They are known as ‘producers’ as they usually produce the finished product too.

If you think a collection of your blog articles/stories would make a good audiobook (and there are guidelines to this on the ACX site) then you register your details and upload a few pages of your book. This is then searchable by prospective producers. If they like the sound of it they may choose to ‘audition’ it, i.e. produce an audio clip of them reading it. You can then listen to any auditions and, if you like them, contact the producer.

Alternatively, you can easily search the producers by genre/accent etc. and listen to samples of their readings.  It will say if they take on split-royalty work (see below) or not, and their hourly rate for up-front payments. Then you can click on a button to ‘make an offer’ for them to record your work. You indicate the date you require the audiobook to be completed and a time from one to three days for them to respond.

There are currently nearly 50,000 producers registered (about 5,000 of whom are ‘Audible approved) and only 1,750 books registered. So on the face of it the chances are good that you can find someone suitable to produce an audiobook for you.

The cost of producing the audiobook is charged by finished hour. So, for example, my book To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories, is 256 pages long and would take about six hours to read aloud, according to ACX. The minimum charge is $225 per hour, so that would be about $1350 or £1050.

If you give exclusive rights to Audible, Amazon and iTunes, then you receive a 40% royalty on sales. If not, it’s 25%. Assuming you choose to do so (and why not?!) then you receive the full 40% royalty if you pay the producer upfront. Or you and the producer may agree to split the royalty, in which case you don’t pay anything up front. Then you and the producer both receive 20% forever. Bear in mind that most Audible audiobooks are sold for £8 or less, and, of course, the producer would have to be willing to gamble on producing an audiobook for an unknown author.

In a similar way to the book creation program, there are three screens to go through. When you get to the final screen you will be required (at some stage) to complete a ‘tax interview’ and provide international banking details. You have to do this even if you already provided the information in the KDP book creation program.

CONCLUSION

So I hope this article has been helpful in providing a useful outline of the self-publishing route. With the technology now available to print ‘on demand’ books of a very high quality at a realistic price, if you have the content, then there’s really nothing to stop you!

LINKS

Kindle Direct Publishing:

https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/

https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help?ref_=TN_help

(You can contact the help desk via the button in the bottom left hand corner, then subsequent contact (if required) can be conducted by replying to their e-mails. They normally respond within 24-48 hours to the initial query.)

Creating a copyright page for your book:

https://kindlepreneur.com/book-copyright-page-examples-ebook/

Free file conversion:

http://www.zamzar.com/

Audiobook Creation Exchange:

http://www.acx.com/

http://www.acx.com/help/how-it-works/200484210

My KDP published books:

https://simonjwood.wordpress.com/books-by-simon-j-wood/

Shop

 

To Cut a Short Story Short – The Book!

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I’m very pleased and excited to announce that the ‘best of my blog,’ in the form of 111 stories, has just been published on Amazon in paperback as To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories.

All the stories have been rechecked, and revised where applicable, and the book has over 250 pages. It also includes a 4000 word ‘bonus story,’ a ‘horror comedy,’ which will NOT be appearing on my blog. It is priced at just £8.99/$10.99.

A Kindle eBook version is also available at only £3.69/$3.99 and features a clickable contents list for quick access to any story.

In both versions the word count for each story is given in the contents table for ease of selection.

Description:

A young magician in a pub opens his hands to release a cloud of tropical butterflies; a female bookseller is forced to attend a dance in drag to atone for a misdemeanor; a lonely man searches for a mysterious woman on a cruise; four school friends experience terror on a caravan holiday, and a macabre stranger wanders the streets at midnight, stealing dreams.

Ranging from just 100 up to 4000 words, these and 106 other memorable little stories are found in this eclectic and tantalizing collection by Simon J. Wood.

To Cut a Short Story Short preview

[2nd Sep 2017] Also, I’m excited to announce that a talented voice actor/narrator, Angus Freathy, is producing the above book of short stories as an audiobook! It will be available on Audible, Amazon and iTunes by mid-November, just in time for Christmas! His ‘voices’ really bring the stories to life!

Angus Freathy audiobooks/samples

Angus Freathy bio/samples

Bound in Morocco

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The longest story on my blog (which is not included in the collection above) has recently been published separately in paperback and Kindle eBook. Entitled Bound in Morocco, it has 42 pages in the print version. It is priced at just £4.69/$5.99 for the paperback and only £1.99/$2.99 for the Kindle eBook.

Description:

Marcus Slater decides to forgo the cold, wet, wintry weather of England to join a walking party in the sunny climes of Morocco. There, against a backdrop of the curious, ancient towns of southern Morocco he meets the enigmatic Sylvia and finds himself embroiled in a game he cannot possibly afford to lose.

Bound in Morocco preview

Both books have wonderful covers and the paper quality is lovely. Highly recommended, and they make the perfect gift too! 🙂

Both books are available in paperback and Kindle eBook form on Amazon, worldwide.

Flash Fiction Matters

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I’ve had a few requests to detail how I write the stories on my blog, To Cut a Short Story Short, so here is an article explaining just that, with the hope that the reader may find something herein they can use or adapt  to help in their own writing.

I’ve divided it into two sections. 1. Ideas and inspiration and 2. Mechanics of writing (‘my system’).

1. IDEAS AND INSPIRATION.

The stories on my blog are generally written in response to two kinds of prompts. Either to use designated words to start and be included in a story (for example, Everybody to start the story and must and celebrity to be included elsewhere) or a theme, such as, ‘write a 500 word romantic comedy.’

All the 100, 200 and most of the 300-600 word stories were written using designated words (for a writing group). Most of the others were written for flash fiction competitions using a theme.

Sometimes the theme/starting word etc. will suggest an idea. Other times I’ll have an idea in mind and adapt it to the theme/starting word etc. The rest of the time it’s down to hunting through story prompts, looking for an idea that will fit the words/theme.

Sitting down and actually writing the story requires the leap to inspired thought – maybe visualizing a scene, hearing dialogue in the imagination, ‘seeing’ characters interacting, having a story line (maybe very simple) flash into the mind. This is an imagination-based process, and as such, improves with practice.

Sometimes this leap occurs spontaneously. A story scheduled for 3rd June, Angels and Cards, just came into my head, even the ‘punchline’! Sometimes, it’s a minimal stimulus. Just seeing a word (‘Dreamstealer’ led to Steal a Little Dream) or a scene (seeing my father’s grave led to Scene in a Lincolnshire Churchyard) or thinking ‘what if?’ (What if I had a nuclear bomb in my car boot? led to The Biggest Bang!)

Sometimes I’ve been lucky enough to dream the whole story (The War and Starvation Diet, Flip Side, Don’t Know What to Write?). 

So where have the ideas come from for the stories on my blog? Well, I’ve had a look through all my posts and identified the genesis of every story/article.

Inspired by starting/designated words to be used

41

Autobiographical/personal experience plus fantasy element – ‘what if?’

22

Writers’ Digest (Brian A Klems)/miscellaneous prompts

14

Writing group assignments

13

Almost wholly autobiographical

11

Competition theme

11

Other

7

Miscellaneous ideas from fiction/videos

6

Inspired by true events (not personal)

4

Dreams

3

WordPress blogging course

3

135

A vague prompt isn’t enough of course. ‘Write a 500 word romantic comedy’ isn’t much use. Adapting it to ‘Write a 500 word comedy about a divorced female piano teacher who is middle-aged, not unattractive, scatty, forgetful and has two enormous dogs.’ Then you’re in business! Not hard to think of what someone like that might get up to and the result was Clarissa’s Missives and Clarissa’s Missives – Part Two.

An example of a story that was stimulated by the starting word I had to use, Communion, was Here Comes the Sun. The song Communion with the Sun by Todd Rundgren came into my head. That features the lyrics Ra!, Ra!, Ra!, and I imagined the sun rising, a huge orange disc, above a mountain plateau and a sacrifice to the sun god. Then I visualized a man and a woman walking up a mountainside trail carrying torches. That was enough to get going!

Once an idea has made that leap to inspired thought, I’ll either write it down for further investigation, even if it’s just an outline and a couple of lines of dialogue, or preferably make a start on it there and then.

Often I don’t know how a story will end. That will usually come as I’m writing. If not, then an ending has come to me subsequently, often in the shower, which is where I’ve had some great ideas! Something to do with running water, warmth and relaxing I imagine…

Once I’ve got some thoughts on what I’m going to write, I start typing and usually find ideas really start to ‘flow.’ For instance I write some dialogue and I can imagine someone answering it. Whilst doing that I might suddenly have insight into what could happen later in the story, and so on. As mentioned in the second section of this article I personally don’t do much editing on the first draft, I just let the ideas flow and get them down, with an eye half on the word count! I think regular practice helps here. I’m finding it much easier and quicker to write stories now than a year ago. It hasn’t done my editing skills any harm either!

As flash fiction is so short I don’t normally write out a plan but with the longer stories I sometimes write a list of scenes in advance and allocate a word count to each.

I would just add that I’ve found the ability to touch-type invaluable, and if you are relying on the ‘hunt and peck’ system I highly recommend learning it. The time spent will be repaid time and again.

To end this section, here are some books and websites I used that you might like to check out.

The Short Story Writer’s Toolshed  Della Galton

Busy Writers Guide series  Marcy Kennedy

Master Lists for Writers  Bryn Donovan

The Five Minute Writer  Michael Geraghty

Solutions for Writers  Sol Stein

Stephen King on Writing  Stephen King

http://www.writersdigest.com/prompts

http://www.writepop.com/category/1001-story-ideas

http://www.wordola.com/

2. MECHANICS OF WRITING (‘My System’)

I’ve developed a system of writing flash fiction which I’ve found very helpful, and which can be applied to longer works too with some adaptation. 

The basic procedure, in a nutshell, is to write freely up to about twice the word limit I’m aiming for, or a bit more. Usually I’m writing for a 300 word limit (with a view to posting a longer version on my blog) so I may write 500-800 words. Then I will create several versions of the story by editing out 100 words at a time, usually one a day or sometimes one in the morning and one at night. This makes it a whole lot simpler and easier!

Having reached the final 300 word version I’ll then go back through the versions, from shortest to longest, incorporating improvements found at the shorter levels. As this generally means that the versions will be shortened I can then borrow a phrase or two from the next longest version up.

Finally, I’ll check all the versions from longest to shortest and make sure they are consistent. Then I’ll post the shortest version in the 300 word story group I run, the longest (usually) on my blog, To Cut a Short Story Short, and the intermediate versions are available for flash fiction competitions etc.

That probably sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is, so here is an example.

Away with the Fairies

With this particular story (scheduled for June 18th) I had to write a 300 word story beginning with the word ‘Everybody’. In this instance nothing came to mind for a few days so I looked in Master Lists for Writers by Bryn Donovan. There I found – ‘The outlandish thing a ‘crazy’ person kept insisting was real? – it’s real!’ Nice prompt! But what crazy idea? Soon the idea of someone insisting they have fairies in their garden came to mind.

The first draft was saved as ‘300 story 16-2 first draft 780 words’. It’s very important to keep track of all the versions!

I don’t spend time editing the first draft, I just focus on getting the ideas down. I’ll keep an eye on the word count but if it runs on a bit, then I’ll let it. Then I’ll correct spelling and obvious grammatical mistakes, save it and forget about it. If I fancy doing more writing I’ll work on something else.

Then, the next day I read through the first draft, make obvious corrections and, in this instance, saved a copy under the filename ‘300 story 16-2 700 word version’ (which seemed a good target for the ‘blog’ version, bearing in mind Stephen King’s received wisdom, 2nd draft = 1st draft – 10%). I went through this, cutting out redundant words/sentences and rephrasing others, until I got it down to 700 words. Once again save and forget!

The next time I look at it, usually the next day, I’ll repeat the procedure. In this instance, first save a copy and name it ‘300 story 16-2 600 word version’. Then go through this, again cutting out 100 words. Sometimes aspects of the story have to be completely cut out, but I know they are in the full version so can be posted on my blog!

The next day, save a ‘300 story 16-2 500 word version’ and cut another 100 words out. Once again, save and forget!

I’ll repeat the procedure until I arrive at the 300 word version, simply entitled ‘300 story 16-2’ in this instance. Sometimes this stage is a bit trickier, particularly if starting at 600-800 words! But I’ve always managed it and kept the essence of the story, except once when I had to rewrite a slightly different version.

Which begs the question, which is the real story? Is the 300 word story a cut down version of the long version or is the long version an expanded version of the 300 worder?! If you didn’t know how it was created you couldn’t tell.

So, now I have a streamlined 300 word version for my writing group, hopefully still containing some of my favourite sentences.

Now, I’ll start a process that I’ve termed ‘back-editing.’ This entails getting the 300 word version and the 400 word version on the screen, side by side, and copying and pasting improved phrases/words from the 300 to the 400 word version. As the story is being streamlined I usually find more concise and sometimes better ways of saying things.

This process can be done in odd moments and I often do it lying in bed!

So for example, in the 500 word version of Away with the Fairies I had this:

In another draw I found a bulky sketchpad. As I turned the pages I was astonished to see page after page of well-executed pencil drawings of fairies. Some had been competently coloured with watercolours. I noticed a number had been dated and on some there were notes. ‘Seen over pond,’ ‘Tianna, sat on bench,’ etc. – 56 words

In the 400 word version it became:

In another draw I found a bulky sketchpad. Turning the pages, I was astonished to see page after page of well-executed drawings of fairies, some competently coloured with watercolours. Many had been dated and on some there were notes. ‘Seen over pond,’ ‘Tianna, sat on bench,’ etc. – 48 words

Finally, in the 300 word version it became:

In another draw I found a bulky sketchpad, full of well-executed drawings of fairies, some expertly coloured with watercolour. Many were dated, and some annotated, ‘seen over pond,’ ‘Tianna – sat on bench,’ etc. – 34 words

Essentially saying the same thing.

So by plugging this into the 400 word version it allows me to ‘borrow’ 14 words (48 minus 34) from the 500 word version that had originally been edited out. And of course, plugging it into the 500 word version I would be able to borrow 22 words from the 600 word version (56 minus 34) etc.

Then I’ll do the same with the 500 and 400 word versions etc. Finally, having repeated this procedure up to the 700 word version (which would probably allow me to incorporate another 20-30 words from the original first draft) I will then check back down through the versions, from longest to shortest to ensure consistency. This is quite a quick process and I might do them all in one session of about 20-30 minutes.

With practice the above procedure is a whole lot easier than it sounds and is quite ‘painless,’ compared to trying to edit, say, 550 words down to 300 in one go. And that would only give one version too.

In the case of Away with the Fairies, writing and editing the story, as detailed above, took about three and a half hours in total, spread over a week. The end result was five versions of the story, from 300 words to 700 words in length, and (I think) a tighter, smoother story in every version, with no ‘typos’ and very few (if any) mistakes in grammar or punctuation.

Of course, one could simply keep a close eye on the word count and not go so far over the limit, then the number of versions would be less, as would editing time. However, personally speaking, I enjoy the process so I don’t mind.

Finally, the finished version is copied and pasted from my word processor, Mac Pages ’09, into WordPress and the formatting adjusted. I schedule at five day intervals so I’ll then slot the post in at a suitable future date. The day before it’s published I’ll have a quick read through just to check it’s OK, then the next day you can read it on my blog!

Also, I’m very pleased to announce that ‘the best of my blog,’ To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories, and a short story, Bound in Morocco, are now both available as paperbacks and Kindle eBooks. Please see Shop in the menu above for full details.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on my blog. There are over 130! 
 –

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 300 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

This Post is Dedicated to You, Dear Reader.

Blogging Fundamentals: Day 4 – A post addressed to my ‘dream reader’. (in 500 words)

dream reader picWhat happened to Day Three you may ask? Well, that task was to go to the Reader and find five blogs to follow. There were so many interesting ones though, I’m still undecided. So WIP on that one!

If you are also doing the course then, like me, you may be confused over the changing name/length. What started out as Learning the Fundamentals (the 14 day course I signed up for) seems to have morphed into Blogging Fundamentals, variously described as ‘a two week course’ and ‘a three week course’ and also seemingly called Blogging 101!
The three week course is five days a week so 15 in total. The contents appear to be the same as LTF with an extra task ‘Blog Events’ inserted towards the end. Guess I’ll just have to miss out on that one!
Anyway, getting down to the nitty-gritty, ‘today’s’ task is to write a post addressed to my ‘ideal reader’ – you perhaps? – and to include a new-to-me element too.
Well, I must admit I’d never given any thought to my ‘dream reader’, just writing for myself and a few friends. However, in posting existing stories to my blog and writing some new ones I have started to give more thought as to how they would seem to a hypothetical reader. Do they make sense? Would anyone really say that? etc.
As covered in my last Blogging Fundamentals post, the To Cut a Short Story Short menu displays the different story lengths: 100 words, 200 words, longer stories (300 to 7224 words), stories, poems and essays done for a writing group (TASWG), and an index of all stories with their lengths.
If you select 200 words (say) then all the stories are visible, most recent first, and you can enjoy reading a few at a time. As you have to scroll down to read them from where you left off it might be easier to choose them from the index after a while though.
I personally find myself baulking at long stories and novels, whereas I don’t mind reading something half a page long or so. A very short story can also be memorable and thought-provoking of course.
As the WordPress.com sites are optimized for mobile and tablet viewing they are ideal for reading on a bus or train, and in bed.

So I guess my ‘ideal reader’ would be anyone who enjoys very short stories of a quirky nature covering different genres. So, if you fit the bill, why not give To Cut a Short Story Short a try!

Oh, and for the new-for-me element, I just learnt how to get a YouTube video to run from a certain point (thanks to a WordPress tutorial). So, not much to do with this blog really, but here’s a very entertaining video of mind-bending, zany public statues and sculptures, set to run from a giant clothes peg! (of course you can rewind and watch it from the beginning!).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dm3R7RzVrL0&feature=youtu.be&t

Again, If you made it this far, many thanks for reading – see you with my next blog!

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on my blog. There are over 100! 

Titillating Titles and Tantalizing Taglines.

Blogging Fundamentals: Day 2 – ‘Take control of your title and tagline’ (in 300 words)

jelly wheels
Well, day two’s assignment of Learning the Fundamentals was to pick a new title and tagline. Hmm, not something I’d given much thought to, merely using my name and what the blog is about, namely ‘flash fiction’ i.e. short/very short stories.
Looking on WordPress Reader revealed a myriad of witty/attention-getting site names. OK, so I could see the point but wouldn’t it mess with Google’s indexing?
Twenty minutes of searching later, and none the wiser, I decided not to worry. After all, surely WordPress wouldn’t recommend we chose tags and titles that’d make our blogs LESS likely to be found, would they?!
The first thought that came to mind, for no reason at all, was Jelly on Wheels. A quick search revealed things called Jelly Wheels. Seems they’re used on skateboards. Too similar…
The next idea was the title of one of my stories, Dream of a Stone Horse. I like that but it sounded like it might get hits from the riding and sculpting fraternities.
Another thought was Inside the Mirror. On second thoughts, perhaps not…
Re-reading the WordPress ‘tips’ article, they suggested rejigging a phrase or a book or song title. Suddenly, To Cut a Long Story Short by Spandau Ballet started playing in my mind. Hang on a minute! What about To Cut a Short Story Short?! My blog is for ‘flash fiction’ which according to Wikipedia was previously known as Short Short Fiction. No entries for that title on Google. Good news! So, a new site name was born.
A tagline? Well, Curious Flash Fiction sounded good (it’s not Della Galton after all) and I thought I’d keep my name in there too. Job done!
Again, If you made it this far, many thanks for reading – see you with my next blog!

Onwards and Upwards…

hot-air-balloons

Blogging Fundamentals: Day 1 – “Who am I and why am I here?” (in 500 words)

Well, Learning the Fundamentals, day one (of fourteen) and day three of my very-short-story blog – simonjwood.wordpress.com – going live!
I waited until the blog was up and running – now I’ve got some spare time again! Looking at the assignments ahead I see there’s still much to learn, so onwards and upwards…
Why am I here? Principally to get some readers for my stories!
Who am I? Well, a guitar teacher, but read on…
It’s been a sharp learning curve since starting my blog four weeks ago, at first rereading and re-punctuating 90 stories, copying and pasting them from Mac Pages into the WordPress editor and thinking ‘this is easy!’, then previewing and finding all my indents and paragraphing had disappeared!
Perhaps you know the feeling?..
There’s too much info on-line. I just wanted someone to say “look, this is how it’s done…”
Some ‘workarounds’ did the trick though (maybe I’ll detail them in a future blog) and I think my site works well now.
If you’re in the same boat, try and get a friendly geek to help – it’ll be considerably less painful!
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I started writing almost a year ago (joining a monthly 100 word story group in September 2015) and I find the creative process interesting and enjoyable, the editing less so!
I soon wanted to write another story, and another… so I started a 200 word fortnightly group that October. It’s still going, but with only two authors at present; several others are ‘interested’ but ‘don’t have time right now’, hmm
With the blog set to ‘private’ it seems my visits whilst building the site were counted. Consequently I’ve amassed nearly 3000 views! On ‘public’ they don’t count. Straight away I had some ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ (whoopee!) but now my posts have presumably dropped off the WordPress reader I’m waiting for Google to kick in.
I submitted my site map to Google and Bing to expedite things but it didn’t quite work like the articles said (no surprise there!), so not sure if it’s helped.
Incidentally, my story index is a post. After going live I updated it and received an avalanche of e-mails, one for each story! Seems I shouldn’t have selected ‘allow ping-backs and trackbacks’!
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What do I hope to achieve with this blog? Well, in addition to gaining readers, it should help me develop, by writing for a (potentially) larger audience and seeing the bigger WordPress ‘picture’. Maybe I’ll get to interact with some ‘proper’ writers too?!

Over the next six months? Well, I aim to publish twenty six 200-300 word stories and about ten longer ones, plus twelve Tetford and Salmonby Writing Group assignments starting in October, when we meet again.
I’ve entered some competitions too – ‘first time lucky’, but nothing since, unfortunately. I’ll keep trying though!

Paraphrasing our TASWG slogan – “who knows where my writing journey could take me?”

If you made it this far, many thanks for reading – see you with my next blog!