Award-winning NZ author Michael Botur has his sixth short story collection, Hell of a Thing, entered in the Ockham NZ Book Awards 2021.
The book is 16 stories, his US breakthrough and is published by The Sager Group.
Mike offers 10 smart, savvy modern-day tips whether you want to write 300 word flash fiction, 2000 word short stories or 90,000 word novels.
1. Begin by writing stories which you have personally been involved in, or been told about by a friend. Embarrassment, regret and desire are the best inspiration.
2. Every sentence must tell us something about the character or advance the plot. Kurt Vonnegut gets credit for this advice, but he probably didn't originate this.
3. You have to get the reader on side. This means no matter how nefarious your lead character, they have to be one shade more likeable than their antagonists.
4. Your first draft probably has too much dialogue — so cut half. A conversation written with quotation marks rarely needs to be longer than a two sentence exchange.
5. This is 2020 — so show us that it's 2020. Give us a realistic world of cellphones, social media, apps, capitalism, big box retailers, expensive petrol, insecure jobs, blended families, wild house prices and road rage.
6. If you're just beginning with fiction writing, go for easy wins so you feel successful. Flash fiction only asks 300 words, and there's a high chance of getting it published somewhere.
7. Give specific detail. Don't go easy on yourself. Telling us that your character went on a business trip to China isn't terribly interesting; telling us your character grabbed a last-minute Malaysian Airways ticket to attend the China Important and Export fair to re-negotiate zinc prices? That sounds authoritative.
8. The best way to work out if you have written a successful story is by describing it to a friend. If you can give a 30 second summary of your story from start to finish, and your friend appears impressed, you have success.
9. Ask for feedback on your drafts from people who are different than you in gender, ethnicity or outlook.
10. Don't ask for feedback on your work from people you don't respect.
Oh, and once you've written a draft you think is great, expect it to require up to 10 drafts to get it perfect. Sorry. Annoying, eh?