Life has kept me away for a while, but I’m back with the ongoing guest post series. It is my absolute pleasure today to welcome to this site award-winning author and writing teacher, Paul McVeigh. The highlights of his insightful responses are marked in blue.
1. At what age did you start writing fiction? What prompted you?
I came to writing fiction when I was in my 30s. Before that I had been writing for the theatre and stand up comics in London. An editor for an anthology saw a comedy show I’d written and asked me to submit a short story. I made my first stab at fiction – at prose – and have been trying to get better at it ever since.
2. In your opinion, what makes a successful novel?
Gosh! I think it’s somewhat down to personal taste – whether it has been successful for the reader. For me, personally, a successful novel has conjured a world I can see, hear and feel. It has created a character I believe in, engaged me emotionally, and told me a story that I must follow regardless of how difficult it might be at times.
3. What are the top three books on your reading list right now?
I’ve just finished June Caldwell’s electric short story collection, ‘Room Little Darker‘, and short story writer Tom Lee’s twisty debut novel, ‘The Alarming Palsy of James Orr‘. I’m reading Lidia Yuknavitch’s ‘Book of Joan‘ at the moment.
4. Which authors have been your biggest influences?
I’ve loved Dickens, Graham Greene, Claire Keegan, Anais Nin, Henry Miller, Maya Angelou.
5. What resources/ steps would you recommend to an author seeking to build a platform?
Find something you love and share it with everyone. Be as generous as you can to other writers online.
Resources: you can follow my blog for competitions and submission opportunities and links to interviews and writing articles.
Check out the author interview archives at Paris Review and the short stories in the New Yorker.
6. As a creative writing teacher, what advice would you give to aspiring/ emerging fiction writers? Could you talk about your own journey as a writer and writing teacher in this context?
Well, I’d say get used to rejection. It happens to us all. I know writers who got rejected even after 4 or 5 novels already published.
You will also have to get used to living with recurring, crippling doubt. Develop ways of ignoring it, side-stepping it, reasoning with it… whatever works for you, but don’t let it make you stop. I find taking the pressure off helps – ‘I’m only doing this for myself, no-one will ever see it’.
7. You’ve written short stories which have been received very well at some great venues. What tips would you give a short-story writer looking to break into good markets and competitions?
Read lots of short stories. Read the best. Read some classics from Chekhov and Hemingway, try some American Gothic from Flannery O’Connor and, modern masters like George Saunders and Kevin Barry and my personal favourite, Claire Keegan.
Read your stories out loud. You’ll find it really helps with the editing.
If you’re going to enter a completion, the first page is crucial – grab the attention of that judge/reader.
8. Tell us about your book: The Good Son. How did it come about and how has the journey with this book changed you as a writer?
When I wrote ‘The Good Son‘ it came from that very first short story I’d written. The character came out when I first tried to write prose and after the story had been published and well received it gave me the confidence that I had something to explore. I had so much more to say about the character and his life that it felt, at the beginning, like it was easy (I was so wrong!).
The novel developed from the short story as I decided to explore the setting – the environment and the time it was set in – and the boy’s family. It took a long time to learn how to craft a novel and develop all the characters – not just the hero.
9. You teach workshops on writing short stories: what are the next venues where writers can sign up?
I’m teaching in Singapore (sold out), in Adelaide on Nov 18th at SA Writers, in Melbourne at Writers Victoria Nov 19th & 20th (19th sold out) and in Kuala Lumpur on Dec 2nd and 3rd. I will also be participating in three events at the Singapore Writers Festival Nov 3-5, and at the George Town Literature Festival Nov 23-25.
Paul McVeigh has just been shortlisted for Irish Short Story of the Year at the Irish Book Awards! You can read his story ‘Hollow’ here and vote for him here.
The Good Son, Paul McVeigh‘s debut novel, won The Polari Prize and The McCrea Literary Award. It was shortlisted for The Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award, The Guardian’s ‘Not The Booker’ Prize and a finalist for The People’s Book Prize.
Born in Belfast, Paul’s work has been performed on stage and radio, published in print and translated into seven languages. His short stories have been published in anthologies & literary journals like The London Magazine & The Stinging Fly. They have been read on BBC Radio 3, 4 & 5. For more on Paul, his role as a writing teacher, co-founder of the London Short Story Festival, and Director of Word Factory, click over to his website.
Have you read Paul’s work? Have you worked with a writing teacher or conducted a workshop yourself? What was the experience like? Would you like to talk about the influence of a writing teacher? Do you have questions for Paul ? Have you checked out his shortlisted story? Paul is giving away a signed copy of his book to one of the commenters!
This post was written for the IWSG. Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for organizing and hosting the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) every month! Go to the site to see the other participants. In this group we writers share tips, self-doubt, insecurities, and of course, discuss the act of writing. If you’re a writer and a blogger, go join rightaway! Co-hosts this month are:Tonja Drecker, Diane Burton, MJ Fifield, and Rebecca Douglass!
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Welcome back Damyanti and this is a great post. I’ve tried hard to get over rejection – it just comes with the territory of being a writer, I tell myself!
Very interesting write-up. Anand Bose from Kerala
Great post. I recently co-headlined a writers’ conference in Utah where I taught six different workshops. It was the first time I’d taught so many in one go, so I was nervous. Most of the courses I’d developed for that conference, so I had no idea how they’d be received.
It was such a great experience! The students were very passionate and involved, and there were some fantastic discussions in each class. As writers, we can learn so much from sharing what we know. I’d definitely do it again.
A fabulous interview with some great insights and learnings. I liked the advice on being generous in supporting and cheering fellow writers/bloggers. I like Paul’s favourite authors and hope to read his book too!
i’m happy to see that most of this is stuff I have subconsciously been following over the last decade..especially when it comes to the rejection letters 😀
Some good stuff here. Thanks for visiting my blog yesterday. Cheers.
Some good insights here. I love the tip about assuming you’re writing for yourself. If I think about how it could possibly be received, that’s when I tend to stop in my tracks!
It is always a pleasure to read about writers’ journey, those who inspire them, and the ups and downs they have worked through. I found this to be an encouraging article. Paul McVeigh gave great advice on sidestepping the traps writers often find themselves in – doubt and rejection. There’s a lot of great advice in this post.
Thank you – so glad you found in it encouraging..
Michelle, thanks for your comment! You’re the winner of the signed copy of Paul’s book. Hope you enjoy it.
Wow! Thank you! I am very humbled and appreciative.
I enjoy reading well-written short stories, especially travel writing. They are put together well, focus on the right angles and elements and read easily. Each time, I think “That’s not too hard to write, I can do that!” But, of course, writing a good and engaging story that ends with a bang is very hard. And, I can’t do it (yet). I never had a (creative) writing teacher before, but it sounds like Paul is the perfect mentor! Great interview!!
This was a fascinating interview. I always enjoy hearing authors talk about writing. McVeigh revealed some interesting nuggets and some info that made me think, especially that The Good Son developed from an earlier short story. Proof that good ideas can be mined even further. He began like all of us, deep in the writing trenches, but he’s very talented and he stuck it out. I wish him well with his new book.
Thank you. And good luck with your writing.
Excellent tips, Paul–read the classics, get used to rejection, live with doubt. Truer words…
Thanks for bringing us this precious advice, Damyanti. I haven’t read Paul’s books as yet but his journey seems to be quite interesting.
I love the advice to be generous to other writers online. It’s so nice when others are supportive of your writing endeavors. Can make a huge difference in your motivation to keep at it.
I find when you give from generosity and not to receive you get it back 10 fold. Good luck
Thank you for sharing such an informative guest post, Damyanti! I have yet to read Paul but can see how his advice might be something for me to follow if I were to hone my skills as a writer (which, I surely intend to do!) Nuggets of wisdom that I ought to share with the rest of my blogger friends.
I like the advice on getting used to rejection. This is something I struggle with.
Me too. The worst thing you can do is let it win. Fine to take at little time if you need to BUT don’t let it make you stop. Good luck.
Its a very helpful interview.Always enjoy reading your blog as it gives me new knowledge and the next steps I should take.
Always good of you Damyanti to share Paul Mcveigh writing mantra with us. Keep the series up 🙂
Hi Damyanti – so glad you’re back … and with an excellent guest post – lots of tips here … and I like the tip about the first page being ‘top notch’ drawing the reader in .. makes perfect sense. I’d love to do one of Paul’s workshops … sometime … perseverance pays off … cojoined with confidence. I must check out his works …. cheers and thanks for the introduction – Hilary
I look forward to you coming along sometime. You can read a couple of stories online and even watch me read on You Tube! Of course I’d love you buy The Good Son too 🙂
As always, very helpful advice here. Shared on my blog at franklparker.com/2017/11/01/writing-tips-from-an-expert/
“a successful novel has conjured a world I can see, hear and feel. It has created a character I believe in, engaged me emotionally, and told me a story that I must follow regardless of how difficult it might be at times.” Excellent advice!
🙂 Good luck with yours!
He has some fabulous favorite writers!
Find something you love and share it – good advice.
Thanks for another wonderful interview, Damyanti!
“Be as generous as you can to other writers online.” Yes. It’s a great way to pay it forward.
As a reader, I read both novels and short fiction. I love the literary genre as well as the suspense/thriller genre…and some historical fiction too.
I’m also trying to expand my reading horizons by reading books translated from other languages.
With regards to working with a writing teacher/coach…I’d love too but I think it’s probably very expensive. Maybe I need to do a bit of homework and check out the options.
Question: When a writer considers securing the services of a writing teacher/coach, is having a fair amount of writing experience an advantage?
I haven’t read Paul’s work, but he gives some very sound advice. I especially love how he talked about taking time to LEARN how to write a novel. Whew! People have this conception that you can just sit down and write a book…without learning the HOW. LOL. You can build a train too, but it’s best if you learn the mechanics first. =)
P.S. I nominated you for an award last month, then failed to come around and say something. You think you’ve been away long… 😉