How’d You Like my Dramatic Intro? The Games in Question? Writing Challenges…
Are you addicted to entering writing contests? I think I might be headed that way. And I think it’s because they punctuate my ho hum life with bursts of pure adrenalin pumping excitement. But it’s excitement I can engage in without leaving my studio and keyboard, so it’s still within my comfort zone.
If nothing else comes from the frantic writing, editing, and finishing it all on a deadline, and the nail biting as I hit the submit button, there is that… nice comfortable excitement. But my pod people (characters who live in my head, aka transplanted alien pods) keep urging me to do this because they want a chance to be heard. My book sales don’t really achieve that on a great scale.
I should clarify that I haven’t entered many yet. A lot of them I’m still investigating. My very first one this summer was a free challenge that rewarded ten chosen stories out of 300 submissions with publication in a trophy anthology. I was blown away when mine was selected, and I got hooked on the process.
Then, a friend told me about NYCMidnight competitions. If you want a thrilling way to hone your writing skills on a tight deadline with a genre that’s a mystery until the moment you’re scheduled to start writing, click on the link. There are multiple rounds to strive for, so multiple chances at untried genres with random objects and places thrown in. Can’t get more exciting than that!
My next goal is submitting to magazines. I’m excited about the anthologies planned over the next year with Dragon Soul Press and hope to try for a few. I did go for the competition offered by Uncharted Magazine seeking up to a 5,000-word novel excerpt. I have two novel WIPS I’m excited about that I submitted. By now I think you get that I’m excited about writing challenges.
And of course, there’s the big one looming in November, the free challenge that really gets those novels primed, NaNoWriMo. This year will be my second. No nail biting involved, just lots of writing and counting words. Totally fun.
Now, the downside to entering contests and challenges. I thought hitting the submit button was the most nerve-wracking part. Nope! It’s the waiting. But waiting means anticipation and anticipation means excitement, so you really can’t lose, if you like writing with a side dish of hurry up and wait, and wait some more. But hey, there’s always more stories to write and submit while you hunker down and wait for the email that might change your world. Hmmm. I think I just hit on the recipe for getting addicted to submitting to writing contests and challenges.
So far, I’ve also found that opting for the feedback, when it’s reasonably priced, makes the whole experience well worth the long process, however it ends. And really, the process is worth the process. I’ve learned tons for every submission.
Let me know what contests and challenges you enjoy, and how often you like to submit, and you don’t even have to confess to an addiction.
Below is another exciting opportunity for a short story contest.
I belong to a great group of global writers in the Fantasy Sci Fi Writers Alliance. We just developed a short story contest for our members. Click here for information and how to join.
Douglas W. T. Smith is the self-published author of Shadow of the Wicked, which ranked on Amazon’s Top 5 List in Dark Fantasy and Sword and Sorcery eBooks in 2021. Hailing from Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia, he is one of the CORE authors for Of Metal and Magic Publishing with a debut core novel To Wield the Stars due in 2022.
Between writing and reading fantasy stories, Douglas embarks on adventures in nature with his wife, son, and beloved dog.
We had an awesome Q&A session, and I’m sharing it with you here. Keep on reading…
Tell us about yourself. We would love to hear how you became a fiction writer and your life that led up to it.
It’s kind of a strange story. I had always dabbled in creative writing and reading books, but it wasn’t until a friend showed me Lord of the Rings. At the time I was at university, and I was studying something that I wasn’t enjoying, so after watching LotR I fell in love with the lore and Middle-Earth. After devouring the movies, I had an epiphany. I wanted to write an epic story like J.R.R. Tolkien. So, I started writing my first book. I wrote the first 100 pages and showed it to my friend. There were many inconsistencies, and it heavily mimicked The Hobbit. I was a bit devastated but then I began looking at online writing courses to improve my writing and discovered that I could change my university degree to Creative Writing and English Literature. Since then, I haven’t looked back. Writing stories is a part of my life and it will be something I want to pass on to my children.
Thanks so much for sharing that. What a great way to look at your writing career, as a legacy.
Can you share more about your Works in Progress? What are your plans for a full-fledged novel? Or do you prefer a shorter format? Are there any other plans you’d like to share? Any more stories for Jaromir and Talmage?
Shadow of the Wicked’s audiobook has taken up a bit of my time and I’m so happy to release that on all audiobook platforms. Outside of SotW, I’m currently in the last edits of my debut novel, To Wield the Stars. It will be published this year by OMAM Publishing in a shared universe. I’m pretty excited with that because I’ve been working on it for quite a while.
With Shadow of the Wicked, I wanted to write in the short form because I wanted to test my writing ability and see if I could write a story and keep it within the short form.
I have started the first draft for a novel in the same world–The Three Kingdoms. I have plans to write more stories for Jaromir and Talmage but I’m not sure what stories they have to tell. Maybe something as a ‘before event’ to follow their life story.
Congratulations on the audiobook release and I can’t wait to check out To Wield the Stars. What an intriguing title! Can you give us a little description/teaser?
Thank you. I’m happy with the title but I’m more excited about releasing the book cover, which you’ll have to wait and see when I do the release.
Here is the elevator pitch for TWTS.
Two sisters are separated across continents from an attack of a dragonlord and its army.
What drew you to sword and sorcery and dark fantasy writing? Do you write or want to write in other genres?
I have always loved fantasy. I played fantasy games and read a lot of fantasy. It only seemed natural to start writing fantasy stories. As I began writing, I discovered the sub-genres of fantasy and sword and sorcery felt natural to write.
Are you a full-time author? If not, how do you balance writing and other work?
I would love to be a full-time author but unfortunately, I’m not. I make time for writing. I get up early at 5am and write–or do writerly things–and I’m up late. I don’t sleep much but I try to work around my family and lifestyle outside writing.
With a little one around the house, what are your tips for finding time to write while sharing life with a young family?
Create time. If you want it, make time to write. There’s a quote from Stephen King.
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”
It is all about time management. If you want to write stories, write them–even if no one will read them. There’s a lot of times during the day you can sneak in a quick writing/ editing session.
What’s your advice or thoughts about getting involved in writing communities and reaching readers through supporting other writers?
I think writing communities are essential to make it as an author. Whether it be online or physical, the interaction and motivation from these communities are invaluable. It can open opportunities, grow your reader audience, and boost your author profile like this interview!
These opportunities can be a lot of fun, too, and I’m thrilled to have you here today.
What is the writing community like in Australia and New South Wales, in particular? Do you get to participate in local events? Is Australia your primary market, or are you reaching other markets?
In my local area, it’s a hard community to crack. The demographics are a lot different from the city. However, in Sydney the events are fantastic, and the community is a lot stronger, but I did find more success and community engagement from my online platforms.
What’s your advice about focusing on the best social media platforms, sorting through all the noise, to make what you do count?
I think the bare minimum for an author is to have a website. If you turn that into a blog–even better. My best advice for handling social media is do it within your means. If you can only commit to 1 or 2 social accounts that’s okay. At the end of the day, we can only do what we have time for and what we prioritize. If you have edits to do to finish your novel and your time schedule is tight, prioritize what you want first. During your marketing plan, I think it’s absolutely necessary to be present on social media–whether that’s one or two accounts–if you want to sell books.
Do you recommend Patreon for burgeoning writers? What are your top tips for starting one up? Same question for creating a website, newsletter, or YouTube channel. Any plans to expand?
I have a Patreon account and to be honest it’s okay, but it comes back to my previous answer–if you have the time to commit then by all means. With my experience, I think Patreon will be successful later on as I build more of a reader audience and have more time to offer exclusive deals but for now, I give free stories, merchandise and editing opportunities on my Patreon Tiers. (So, if you want to sign up, there’s some great options!)
I’ve recently signed up to Story Origin and I think that’s another essential for authors. It’s a platform to do newsletter swaps to grow your mailing list. I think it’s fantastic and all authors should have a mailing list.
Awesome advice and great suggestions. Thank you. It helps to hear from someone who has navigated so many of the choices we’re faced with.
If you want to get exclusive stories and content, or know when Douglas’ next book will come out, visit his patreon.com/douglaswtsmith and sign up. See below for more ways to follow Douglas.
What has been your biggest highlight of the last year?
My biggest highlight of last year was publishing Shadow of the Wicked. To finally self-publish a book and call myself an author.
That is a great accomplishment. What was the main thing that prompted you to self-publish?
Thank you. The main thing that prompted me to self-publish was building my mailing list. I wanted to give out short stories as a reader magnet but as I began writing the story of Talmage and Jaromir, the narrative took control, and it became a lot bigger than I expected. I grew more in love with the world I was creating and the characters that I felt that Shadow of the Wicked needed to be published as a novella.
Where do you want to be as a writer in five years?
I want to be a full-time writer. I want to publish a minimum 1 book a year.
Awesome! Follow Douglas in the links below to stay on top of his upcoming works!
Any parting advice to those who dream about writing?
Find time to write. Get up 10-15mins early to write or on your lunch break. All those small increments of writing, sand grains, create a beach. It takes time so make the time. It’s a marathon not a sprint––unless it’s a writing sprint.
Great recommendations! And that makes me think of another question. I’ve been discovering just this summer the value of flash fiction and short story challenges. Tell us about your favorite writing challenges. Will you be hosting any like the writing sprints you mentioned?
I used to do short story challenges. For example, each month the Australian Writers’ Centre does a short story challenge, Furious Fiction. It was great to get the creative juices flowing if they were going stale and stagnant. I haven’t done one in a long time because I’ve had a full schedule but if I ever fall behind in my book ideas, or writing–I know where to go.
I’ve spoken to the head of the FSF Writer’s Alliance about hosting a writing sprint but I’m waiting to hear back from him. I love writing sprints. I did a couple on Twitter and TikTok, but I want to do it on Instagram as a live stream.
When I did the sprint, I wanted the participants to do something writing related. I know it’s called a writing sprint but if you weren’t drafting a story, I wanted writer’s to at least edit their book or have it related to their current project––without the distractions and with a community.
For a fun video Interview, check out the conversation with Douglas and our friend from the U.K., dark fantasy author Anna K. Moss.
You can discover more about Anna and her exciting new book here. Anna and I will be having our own conversation in the upcoming weeks, so stay tuned!
More about my featured Spotlights
I hope you enjoyed meeting Douglas and getting a glimpse into the life of an Indie Author for some fun and inspiration in your own creative journey. I will be featuring more of my fellow Writers’ Alliance members, other authors, artists, and creators right here, so please like this post and follow me to keep on top of the latest. Feel free to leave comments.
My next guest will be a writer of horror fiction from Canada, E. B. Hunter. If you would like to be featured, shoot me an email. I would love to meet you. Please visit my pages for more about me and my books while you’re here. Thank you so much for dropping in.