Talk about keeping it in the family. My ‘wee’ cousin, Gary Bonn, my guest blogger today, is Anne’s (from my Wartime Rations blogs) son. Alex (Percy Huggins) – also from Wartime Rations – is our uncle, so I guess we both acquired the writing genes from him.
Gary has published two books, Expect Civilian Casualties and The Evil and The Fear and is one of the founders of the Writers co-operative WriterLot.
Over to you, Gary, and many thanks from your ‘big’ cousin!
Some time ago I invited Diana to contribute a short story to WriterLot. In return she suggested I write a blog post – on that very subject.
What is WriterLot?
A couple of years ago I contacted two friends and suggested we invite our favourite writers to team up on a website that offered at least one new piece of writing per day – to fill someone’s coffee break, wind down time, or supply a bed time story. A fiction and non-fiction site that people could access for free.
I had no idea it would be followed in quite the way it has. None of us were prepared for the response.
It was intended to be fun, and still is, but we didn’t expect 150,000 people around the world to look at it.
Part of the fun comes from challenges the other writers give each other. The intention is often to take you out of your genre and comfort zone.
“Gary, you’ve never written from the point of view of an animal. Write something from a frog’s eye view.”
“Write a short romance with dialogue but only full stops as punctuation – nothing else: and make it work.”
“Write a short story that changes genre half way through – but make sure the reader doesn’t notice.”
Lol, I love this gang – when I’m not swearing at them. Being challenged to work with unfamiliar genres and narrative techniques is very stimulating.
Recently I’ve been working with another writer, Christy, on a science fiction project for WriterLot. We’re stunned at the response to it – and it’s been picked up for publication.
Ren Warom and Stephen Godden invented whole worlds for WriterLot (Umwelt and Tales of the Shonri), and keep their stories for WriterLot mainly in these worlds. Tales of the Shonri was published. Ren has an agent for her first manuscript, and we’re all waiting to hold the book in our hands.
Others write whatever comes into their heads, or indeed, house – as Island Writer has done so vividly.
Recently, some of us have used the site to supply whole, or part, books scene by scene or chapter by chapter.
This has built followings of avid readers for the writers. With the audience requesting weekly posts rather than two weekly. They also ask when the book will be published and where it’s going to be stocked.
There’s a slightly bittersweet edge to WriterLot too. We only meant it to be recreation, but soon realised readers want us to produce work absolutely on time – and that can be a struggle when writing/editing/family – even tragedy, get in the way. But you don’t mind – the readers are giving us a huge compliment and that’s a spur to action like nothing else.
If you’re feeling low, Bill Webb will tell you a hundred ways to please your husband, “Be in the same room when you speak to him”: Bill brings us beautifully observed sanity and madness – wrapped in humour.
WriterLot’s mysterious Issy comes at us from all literary angles – never the same twice.
Alison Gardiner… what can I say? Just go and look at her titles to see that you’ll need something wrapped around your abdomen to stop your laughter muscles exploding. Only read for short periods.
Cat Coffey always approaches things laterally. She creased me up with a one minute short, “Navigational Error” and goes from strength to strength.
Alf Haywood, well, he just gets better and better. Mostly romance – with a little naughty on the side.
Boopadoo, a great writer of short stories in anthologies, is about to have complete novels published – deservedly: his writing blows us away.
Jae Erwin takes into what could almost be a genre unique to her – the spiritual thriller. Be prepared to gasp and go dizzy with amazement from time to time.
Girdharry, who has so many enchanting short and serialised stories on WriterLot, has given in to her increasing popularity and is writing full length novels.
Russell Jones had some “guest” slots offered and, after impressing everyone again and again, joined us. He’s built quite a following already – and it’s growing.
WriterLot may be launching whole careers. Patrick LeClerk is published, with his headlong thriller “Out of Nowhere”, and has more books on the way. Janet Allison Brown – already a successful children’s writer, has blossomed into paranormal and romance too. Louise Cole is about to be published as well – with a book that is so breathlessly exciting I’d describe it as aerobic reading.
I’ve had a couple of books published, and another being edited now. Busy times for all of us. What made this all happen?
Behind the scenes of WriterLot are very special elements. The secret formula contains such ingredients as, an obsession with writing, an obsession with each other’s writing and the knowledge that, if you ask one or more of the gang to do a 20-30 hour structural edit on your latest manuscript, they will – without hesitation. And they’ll do all this for you again and again and again. They’ll go on to copy edit, proof read, whatever you need.
And, when they ask you to do the same, you feel a heady flush of excitement, and dive in.
The workload is immense, and I doubt that, after helping each other, any of us have much in the way of free time.
The final element in this formula, is brutal respect. You are required to be as negative, pedantic and nit-picking about each other’s work as possible – quite aggressively so. We know that “nice” comments are worse than useless. When any of us receive someone else’s work to look over, before it goes to an agent or publisher, the writer expects us to tell them every last thing that could possibly lead to rejection and every way that the manuscript could be improved. You simply cannot be sweet about it. It’s taken us some years to understand that if someone has just spent 20-30 hours tearing your work to shreds – it’s because they think the story and writing are worth it.
The best comment I’ve received in an edit? “Gary, your head is a strange and possibly dangerous place.”
Hmm, actually I think “Before you write another book – see a therapist”, tops that (thank you Louise Cole).
I’m not sure how all this happened, but it’s wonderful to be in this gang of skilled and generous people.
Right, Diana, your turn: a short story for WriterLot, please!