Print and be Damned


A feature on getting fiction published

Alistair Canlin leads a double life. By day he works with retailers in Glasgow, by night he works with strippers, zombies and murders and he’s not alone.

“There are lots of us writers out there.”

Every year hundreds of people take part in the National November Writing Month, NaNoWriMo, all attempting to have drafted manuscripts by the end. Well, they do say everyone has a novel in them.

As if to prove the point, Canlin has written four: Heaven, the tale of a Glasgow strip club, Twisted Love, about a partner turned killer, Black and White, which follows a forensic photographer and Middle Class Zombie.

Yet these are not the fruits of NaNoWrimiMo or any other writing group; instead Canlin’s work comes from an Open University course and self publishing.

“To be honest Lulu is not a proper mainstream publishing deal; I am still pursuing that, along with an agent.

“I have a box filled with rejection letters that one day I intend to paper a room with. Rejection is just part and parcel of being a writer.”

Si – fi author, Tara Harper explained that (in the United States) each year only three out of every 10,000 submitted manuscripts are actually published.

Harper explained this turnover to be a product of the profession’s demands. Work must be well written, edited and commercially popular, to get to print.

With such odds, it is no wonder self-publishing sites have boomed. They give writers the assurance of print and allow them control of production, with some sites offering choice of lay- out and finish.

Despite this democratic effect, the revolution has not been embraced by everyone.

Author Kristine Kathryn Rusch was quoted saying ‘vanity presses are called vanity for a reason. They appeal to the writer’s vanity, not the writer’s sanity. Stay away if you want to be a serious writer’.

Yet, self- publishing can lead to mainstream success, as Canlin found out, when an American producer read Heaven and wanted to adapt it to film.

Another success story of self- publishing is that of Catherine Baird, a writer from Cumbernauld. She replied to Padgett Powell’s book of questions, The Interrogative Mood, with her own book of answers, The Responsive Mood.

As well as selling her book on Amazon website, Baird read it alongside Powell in Glasgow Centre for Contemporary Arts.

While the novel had finesse enough to gain his endorsement, it was rejected by Cargo publishers, due to its abstract nature.

This concept of style dictating success is one Baird is familiar with, despite writing and editing Valve literary journal, published by Freight, she is not optimistic about her solo work getting the same reception.

“The stuff I write is never going to be in the genre which millions of people will buy. When it comes to literary fiction, or really exciting Scottish literature, publishers don’t give it as much of a push.”

That being said, there are a wealth of literary journals and magazines on the Scottish writing scene looking for such material. One of which is Octavius, a magazine open to submissions from any Scot in higher education.

Octavius editor, Samuel Best, said: “We saw a gap in the market for student writing, and decided that we should create a platform for newcomers to have their work published.

“Within just a week of launching we had a flood of submissions and some of the pieces were incredible: professional-standard writing without the famous name behind it.”

This quality of work is often the product of writing groups, scribes who share and critique each other’s work to get the best finished product. Many of these can be found in central Glasgow haunts, such as the Scotia Bar.

So if you fancy writing but aren’t sure where to start, why not visit: the Scottish Poetry Library to find a group near you. Or to submit work see Books from Scotland’s list of literary journals.

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