Friday, February 4, 2011

Blog Tour Stop: Willie Meikle


Hi, I'm Willie, and I'm a writer.

If that sounds like an AA introduction, it might be more apt than you think. Writing is an addiction, and I'm hooked.

I started nearly twenty years ago now. Since then I've had over 200 short stories and ten novels published in the horror and fantasy genre press 

In this chapter I'm going to share what I've learned so far, but remember, I'm still on the steps as well, just a bit higher up.

Step 1: Get an Idea

For me, they come visually, like photographs of a particular scene. I look closely at the scene, and the participants start to move and talk. The story forms from there.

Whichever way the idea comes, hold on to it. Don't let it go. Ideas are precious and there are only so many new ones to go around. I carry a notebook at all times in which I jot them down. It tends to be full of fragmentary pieces of information such as "Remember the fat man with the umbrella", but it is enough to jog my memory later on.

Step 2: Write It

This is the important bit.

Many people get to step one, get a fully formed idea in their heads then they never go any further. They look up the staircase ahead of them, decide it's too steep, and they stop. (Personally I'd shoot them for using up a perfectly good idea, but that's just the addict in me taking over)

Here's Willie's first rule:

Rule 1: Don't look up to the next steps until you've completed the one you're on.

At this stage, the most important thing you can do is sit on your rear-end at a table and write. It doesn't matter what medium you use, pen and paper, word processor, charcoal or crayon. Get the idea out of you and onto something else. Only then can you sit back and look at it without passion. And quickly following the first rule comes the second:

Rule 2: Always read what you've written and rewrite if necessary

Editors are always commenting on the amount of rubbish they receive. A lot of this could be avoided if authors re-read what they'd written before sending it out for consideration. This is especially true in these high-tech days where the click of a mouse can send a submission around the world in seconds.

So that brings us to rule 3:

Rule 3: Know when to stop.

If you find yourself describing in minute detail the way your hero scratches his bum, you probably need to stop (unless you're writing for some of the more specialist top shelf magazines, but I won't go into that.)

Step 3: Send it

It's time for some research. Most of you will have your favourite magazines, periodicals and books. Do they publish anything like you've written. If not, are their other publishers who do? Take a trip to the library and newsagent and make a list of markets. Rank them in your order of preference. Here's rule 4.

Rule 4: Know what your chosen market wants before you send them your work

Again, editors receive a lot of stuff that is not even close to what their readership wants.

Most markets give out writer's guidelines. Write to the editor and ask for them. Then study them and make sure your work is suitable. Then you can send it off to the highest ranked market on your list, remembering to provide return postage in the envelope.

And now you wait.

Step 4: The waiting

Believe it or not, nobody is forced to read your work. I'd go over that statement again if I was you - it's something every beginner needs to learn.

So, here is rule 5

Rule 5: Don't fret over your submissions. Go back to Step 1 and write, write, write.

At this stage it's a bit like snakes and ladders, only without the ladders. You get up to step four and there's a giant step ahead of you, so you slide back to step 1 and try again.

Sometimes on your way up the steps you'll find a rejection letter. Don't despair - everybody gets them. Send your work out to the next ranked market on your list, take a note of any constructive criticism, wallpaper your toilet with the letter then forget it. The important thing is to keep going up the steps.

Step 5: Get a ladder

One day you'll get to step 4, exhausted as usual and wondering if it's worth it, and there'll be an envelope waiting for you. When you open it, as if by magic, a golden ladder will appear to take you upwards. You've got an acceptance letter.

After you've finished leaping about like a crazed child, try to calm down and read it properly. Here is rule 6:

Rule 6: Be sure you know what you are selling.

Editors know that you want to see your work in print. Some of them will try to use that fact to sign you up and tie you down. If you've reached this point, and haven't done so already, you should consult a good book on your rights as a writer. Your local library should have one. And don't worry. In nearly twenty years I've only had one bad experience with an editor. It wasn't life threatening.

You've got another wait ahead of you now, as you wait for your work to see the light of day in print. The temptation at this point is to sit on the big step and look back at how far you've come.

Here is rule 7:

Rule 7: It's OK to gloat. It's not OK to gloat too much.

So turn round, and you'll find another set of stairs ahead of you. These are the same as the one's you've already been on, but you're higher up now, and when you slide down the snake, it doesn't go all the way back, only to the last big step. One day, your work will appear in print and you'll feel elated. You'll still be climbing steps for a while, but now you'll be climbing them as a published writer.

And so you go on, up to the next big step. Here is rule 8:

Rule 8: Remember the steps you've already climbed.

When rejections are piling up, when your muse has deserted you, remember back to the ladders and the big steps.

And, just once, look up the stairway.

I was stuck on a really big step for a long time, the one that had "SELL A NOVEL" stamped on it. I have slid down so many snakes that the seat of my pants is shiny. Then I got a ladder, then a few more. I'm up there now, swinging my legs over the drop and gloating. But I know the stairs go on behind me, and soon I'll be turning round and facing them again.

Want to race me to the top?
Author bio:  William Meikle is a Scottish writer with ten novels published in the genre press and over 200 short story credits in thirteen countries. He is the author of the ongoing Midnight Eye series among others, and his work appears in a number of professional anthologies. His ebook THE INVASION has been as high as #2 in the Kindle SF charts. He lives in a remote corner of Newfoundland with icebergs, whales and bald eagles for company. In the winters he gets warm vicariously through the lives of others in cyberspace, so please check him out at