Friday, 9 November 2012

The quiet joys of first publication

This week saw a little milestone for me as a writer - my first published piece of work. To be more accurate, my first published piece of fiction (I wrote a non-fiction book for work a couple of years ago).

My short story 'The Same Old Song of Plenty' was published in a new online literary journal The Bohemyth on Wednesday. I learned two simple lessons as a result.

Lesson #1 Social media is a good thing for new authors

I first heard about Bohemyth via Twitter - MJ Hyland tweeted a link saying a new literary journal was looking for submissions so I checked it out and emailed my story off to them. A couple of days later I got a response saying they were going to publish it in their second issue. I'd never have heard about it in the first place if I wasn't using Twitter. Tweeting links round after the story was published was also a great way to get the word out - as a result Bohemyth had it's highest traffic day since launching.

You don't need to have bucketloads to say to make the most of Twitter - in fact, at first it's probably best if you don't. Just get on there, follow some people who like the things you like and start participating in a few conversations. I spend most of my time on Twitter involving myself in whatever conversations I have an interest in. My followers (and the people I follow) include prize-winning authors, friends, librarians and people who just like books.

The point is this - Twitter breaks down the lines between speaker and audience and makes everyone a mixture of both. It's your tin can and string to an almost endless community of people who love the same things you do. Use it.

#2 Having your story published makes people read it differently

This is an interesting one. In theory I could have emailed the story to everyone I know and they'd probably have read it. Having someone else select your story as worthwhile and make it available on a platform that has nothing to do with you, however, alters perceptions.

Once your story has a barrier between author and reader behind it (in this case publication by a third party), it allows people to read it in a different way. Someone has chosen your work and said 'this is worth reading'. The word 'barrier' may sound negative in this context but that detachment makes all the difference.

Feedback on the story started coming in (from people I know as well as people I don't) and the nicest surprise was their responses. People told me they like the story (which was wonderful) but they also told me which lines or phrases they particularly loved. Several chose different bits and one person highlighted a line I almost left out of the final draft. My favourite bit of feedback came from someone on Twitter who said she'd like to sit quietly on a park bench with the main character.

I guess what I'm saying is that having your work read by friends and other writers is great. Friends tell you they like it because they like you; other writers tell you what's wrong with it as they're reading with a critical eye. Having the story published, however, allows people to read it free of either of these roles. It also allows more people to read it.

Wednesday was a great day for me as a writer in the early stages of his career. It was, of course, great to be told people liked the story but, more importantly, it gave me the confidence to think this is something I can do. Something that, with plenty more hard work, I can be good at.

So, a good day, a couple of useful lessons and now time to move on to the next story.

If you'd like to read 'The Same Old Song of Plenty' it's here -

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