Spring and the Comeback of Writing Richness

By Madeline (M.M.) Gornell

Rest Stop on the Writing JourneyIf you are a follower of our Writers in Residence blog, you may have noted by now my fellow writers possess a wealth of knowledge! I’m always learning from them, especially when it comes to where to, how to, and when to.[i] You’ve probably also gathered I spend a lot of time sitting around thinking about the art and craft of writing. Time, I must confess, that might be better spent actually writing or promoting. Nonetheless, everything started blooming out here in the Mojave last month, and I’m once again sitting around and thinking some more, and still reading Ngaio Marsh, and thinking about/starting several new books that would hopefully incorporate these thoughts and goals ((key word starting(smile)).

Spring Blooms

One of the things I’ve been thinking about is the art of bringing richness to my work. So what the heck am I talking about? Around Christmas I was thinking (posting) about lyricism, and recently just finished a Surfeit of LampreysNgaio Marsh’s tenth book, and written in 1941. In this novel, there is so much richness of characters and sense of place. I became one with the Lamprey family members and with Chief Inspector Alleyn. Not to say her dialogue isn’t snappy enough, or plot movement quick enough, or descriptive passages manageable. But given there is some reading-patience required, the rewards are great!

And where am I going with this? Sometimes, no matter what the current wisdom is, you have to write what you feel, like, and admire. Contrary to that concept, last year I spent too much time trying to tighten, streamline, improve my writing in line with current-guru directions (not necessarily a bad exercise for sure.) But now though, good or badI’ve finally realized the heck with it—just not me. Indeed, to the opposite end of current writing conventions, I’m going to go back in timeembrace, not try to eliminate or modernize a certain richness of style. One reader once mentioned to me, “I like your books, but you take too long to get to the action!” That reader is right. But the nugget for me there is—how important is that to me/you to the enjoyment of the tale and the emotional remnants remaining with the reader? It might just be a matter of prioritizing preferred outcomes?

An added note in taking my ramblings into account, I still don’t have a Smartphone. Maybe I’m also just a literary Luddite (living in the past maybe?) My hopefully helpful thought is, there are still people out there like me who when reading actually do want to  feel, know about settings, locations, character feelings, and emotional impacts in depth. And dialogue alone doesn’t get you there. I’m not sure exactly how to accomplish all of what I’m talking about, but I’m certainly trying in my rewrites to incorporates all the thoughts I’ve had lately into my work. (probably with an outcome of using more adjectives and adverbs than current writing connections condone–and not getting to the action soon enough!)

I’m also thinking about “words” and how picking just the right one brings lyricism and richness…but I’m out of time. Next post. Also thinking about the “leftover emotion” and imagery left after reading a book—I can still see Lamprey’s “lift” in my mind’s eye.

Comments are most welcome! And continued happy writing trails…


[i] Take for instance, last weeks post by Jackie Houchin on Making a booklet https://thewritersinresidence.com/2017/03/15/how-to-make-a-booklet-in-23-easy-steps/

How to Make A Booklet in 33 “Easy” Steps

By Jackie Houchin.

This is a “How To?” post on making simple half sheet booklets. Booklets can be used for any project or advertisement. I use them to print out my MISSIONARY KIDS STORIES so some of the younger kids can have a “hands on” experience and be able to re-read the stories when Mom’s laptop is not available. These booklets are pretty simple to look at… and I hope I’ve made the instructions simple, but…you judge.  The problem is, there will be differences between PCs and Apple computers and laptops, and with the various aged or brand new software you are using.

I’m using Window 7 with MS Word 2007, and a mid-range Cannon Printer.

READY,

    SET,

         GO!

 

1. Open a new document in Word (I have 2007)

2.  Go to the Page Layout tab.

3.  In the bottom right corner there is a tiny arrow – click on that for a “Page Setup.” (It will open with a small Margins tab, if not, change it to that.)

Snip - Page Set Up

4.  FIRST go to ‘orientation’ and change it to LANDSCAPE.

5.  SECOND go down to the “pages” drop down and click on BOOK FOLD.

6.  THEN, for ‘sheets per booklet,’ use ALL. (Your booklet – however long – MUST have pages divisible by 4, such as 12, 16, 20, 24, 48 etc., or your page printing will be off.  If necessary, press enter, until you have blank pages at the end to equal enough. (Check the page count at the bottom of your screen.)

7.  NEXT  Set the INSIDE and OUTSIDE margins to .5″  Set the TOP and BOTTOM margins anywhere from .5″ to 1.0″ as desired for more or less white space.

8.  Leave O for the GUTTER if you plan to open the booklet flat and center staple it together, or sew it down the middle. If you plan to close your booklet and staple it along the left side, or use a spiral or squeeze binding, then set the GUTTER at .25″ or .5″ inch.

******

 9.  Still in the Page Setup box, go to the Layout tab.

Snip - Page Set up - PAge Layout

10.  Set the Section Start at “New Page.”

11.  Warning: DO NOT CHECK the box for “Different First Page.” Somehow it screws up the order of pages in printing.

12.  Set the headers & footers at .5″.

13.  The vertical alignment stays at “Top.”

14.  Click OK.

******

15.  You will see a vertical half page. Make this title page special, with fonts or photos.

16.  Start your work (or copy and paste from another document) on the following page.  You can change fonts and sizes, spacing and indents, add photos, clip-art, tables, charts,  etc., and change the style by using the Home settings. (For my stories, I use an easy-reader font and the block style of indents.)

Snip- Word home page

******

17.  To add page numbers, go to the Insert tab.

Snip - Header Footer Page Number

18.  Go to the Header & Footer square and click on Page Numbers. It will give you choices as to where you want the numbers placed. For a booklet, it’s best to place them at the center of either top or bottom. You can also “format” what they look like, and at what number you wish to start. Experiment with what you prefer. I start with #O since I don’t want the front cover to be page one.

19.  When you are finished,  MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A NUMBER OF PAGES DIVISIBLE BY FOUR, as per the page number on your screen, NOT on the document, even if you have to “enter” your cursor several times to get a few blank pages at the end.

******

NOTE: I am using a Cannon MG5500 Series Printer, so the following may differ with your machine. Use these as general instructions, and adjust for yours.

20.  Click on “print” (not quick print).

Snip - Print Screen

21.  When that window opens. Choose the number of copies you want to print (or experiment with one at first), and check “Collate.”

22.  Click on “Properties” (upper right corner of your print box).

Snip - Print - Properties - Page layout

23.  Go to the Page Setup Tab.

24.  Make sure LANDSCAPE Orientation is checked.

25.  Check DUPLEX Printing

26.  UN-CHECK “automatic” if it is checked. (With “automatic” checked, the printer will draw the paper back inside to print the opposite side before going on, but THIS DOES NOT WORK WITH A BOOKLET. The second side will be upside down.)

27.  Click on OK, then OK to print.

28.  The printer prints ONE side only, then stops. (It will look weird at first.)

29.  Take your printed pages out and re-insert them, according to how YOUR printer works.

Snip - Print again

With my printer (a front feeder), I keep the pages face up and just lower them down to the paper feed tray beneath the output.  I don’t turn them over or rotate them clockwise (like in this screenshot), STRAIGHT DOWN just as they came out of the printer (EVEN if my printer screen SAYS to rotate them, I don’t.  THAT works only for full page documents, NOT for booklets which are printed and compiled differently.) TEST yours first!

30.  Click “Start Printing” when prompted.

******

 31.  After the second side is printed, take the pages out, align the edges carefully and fold them in half crosswise to find the line where the staples or sewing will be placed. (Or crease them heavily in preparation for stapling or binding them along the left side.)

32.  Use a stapler that opens flat, place cardboard or wood beneath and staple two or three places, with the inside pages of your booklet facing down.

33.  Open and carefully bend the staple ends tight. Fold and crease tightly.

 

AND…

    VOILA!

         A BOOKLET!

 

Megan reading Dead Mice

Megan reading MK Story #1 – “Dead Mice”

 

Ready for the Padded Cell

me-at-mellonA former private detective and once a reporter for a small weekly newspaper, Gayle Bartos-Pool (G.B. Pool) writes the Johnny Casino Casebook Series and the Gin Caulfield P.I. Mysteries. She also wrote the SPYGAME Trilogy: The Odd Man, Dry Bones, and Star Power; Caverns, Eddie Buick’s Last Case, The Santa Claus Singer, Bearnard’s Christmas and The Santa Claus Machine. She teaches writing classes: “The Anatomy of a Short Story” (which is also in workbook form), “How to Write Convincing Dialogue” and “How to Write a Killer Opening.” Website: http://www.gbpool.com.

 

“Hi. My name is Johnny Casino. I’m a retired P.I. with a past. I just hope it doesn’t catch up with me. That’s how I was introduced in the first book about yours truly. It was fun reading about my exploits. I guess when you’re in the middle of it; you don’t see what’s happening around you. But the stories in The Johnny Casino Casebook 1 – Past Imperfect do a pretty good job telling part of my life story.past-imperfect-cover-12

 

“Since the book is about pasts, mine and a few other people I bumped into along the way, it gives you a pretty good idea who I am. Anyway I thought so when I read it. But sometimes what you think you know isn’t the truth. I found that out the hard way.

 

“You see, I grew up in a Mob family in New Jersey. Nothing like having a father who is the consigliere for one of the top Mob families in the country. And my darling mother was the daughter of another Mob boss right outta Chicago. What a pedigree. My name was Johnny Cassini back then.

 

“Me and my brother were raised thinking this was the only life there was. But after a while I got tired of it. Maybe that’s because I watched a lot of old movies while waiting for protection money to be dropped off at my hotel room in those days. These were Black & White films on the movie channel. But a steady diet of Bogie, Cagney, and Edward G. Robinson opened my eyes. And it wasn’t just seeing them splattered on the pavement. Sometimes these tough men played the good guys. That’s when I started seeing a different side of things.

 

“So I fled to Miami and joined another Mob. I know that didn’t exactly remove me from the life I was starting to hate, but I was seeing it from a different perspective. I worked on a gambling ship and met a lady who changed my life. She wasn’t the only one. Not by a long shot, but this gal was the wife of the Mob boss in Miami. She was steering me away from her daughter who was even more trouble. And then everything went to hell.

 

“A dealer on that gambling ship went overboard one night, literally, so I switched identities with him and then hightailed it to Los Angeles. So Johnny Cassini died and Johnny Casino was born. But the story didn’t end there. I was having a hard time shaking my life of crime and got myself into some hot water when I was working for this guy in L.A. He had me kidnap this lady. She’s the one who really changed my life.”

 

“Let me take over from there, Johnny. Hi, my name is Ginger Caulfield. I’m a private detective, too. I was on a case and ran into Johnny during his crime wave here in Los Angeles. It was an odd meeting to say the least. He kidnapped me, but I could tell the guy had something, so when the case was over I told him to look me up sometime because I might have a job for him. He did.

 

hedgebetfinalcovercropped“Johnny worked for me several years until he had enough P.I. hours under his belt to go out on his own. I hated to see him go, but I knew he worked better alone. Most of the time I do my work solo like the case at the racetrack in Hedge Bet. I should amend that statement because I got my husband, Fred, to do some work for me. His trip to Mexico to bring back a witness led to a few choice words from him, mostly unprintable. But the guy’s a natural P.I.

 

“I had been in the detective business for a while and knew good people like Johnny when I saw them. In fact I knew a few things about Johnny that he didn’t know, but I have a reason. You see my uncle is a spy. His name is Robert Mackenzie and he has had some incredible exploits around the world ever since World War II. His story, at least the parts that can be told, are in a series called The SPYGAME Trilogy documented by a writer who I got to know through the years. She’ll explain this next part.”

 

“Hello, folks. My name is Elaine Barton. My dad was involved in Colonel Mackenzie’s exploits and I got caught up in a few exciting adventures in books like The Odd Man, Dry Bones, and Star Power. The trilogy covers about fifty years and follows not only Mac’s life but also my father’s Air Force career. Parts of my life got caught up in this tale, too, and I put it all in book form. Though you’ll see in the books, some of it almost didn’t get written.”

the-odd-man-cover-4-croppeddry-bones-cover-view-2-smallstar-power-cover-trial-2

 

“Thanks, Elaine. Since I knew my Uncle Mac had ways of checking on people, I had him check out Johnny Casino. I learned his real name, bookcoverpreviewcroppedor at least I thought it was his real name, until another story in the Johnny Casino Casebook series uncovered something that even Johnny didn’t know. It changed everything for him. It’s in The Johnny Casino Casebook 2 – Looking for Johnny Nobody. That’s when I started seeing a pattern.”

 

“Hey, Gin. Johnny here. You aren’t the only one who is starting to see a pattern. When I had a case in Las Vegas, I met one of the biggest headliners in the world, Jack Lynn. He turned up in two of my stories, but then I noticed he was also in The Santa Claus Singer about a lounge singer called Frankie Madison. He met Jack, too.”

 

“I’ve got another one for you, Johnny. One of the guys I trained after you went out on your own, Chance McCoy, has a story about him and me in the upcoming short story collection called Second Chance. Chance is a special guy. You see, he got killed on a case, but his story doesn’t end there. Not by a long shot.”

 

“I can give you another one, Gin.”

 

“Lay it on us, Elaine.”

 

“I’ve heard a rumor that there is a particular elf, yes, I did say elf, who is thinking about starting his own private detective agency to help ‘the little guy.’ How does something like this happen?”

 

“Maybe we should ask the author of all our books. Hey, G.B. What goes? The ladies and I want to know.”

 

“Okay, Johnny. I’ll confess. When I started creating this fictional world I had no idea you all knew each other, but as this world grew I saw connections between all of you. First it was Johnny knowing Ginger Caulfield. Then I wondered how Gin knew so much about Johnny’s past and I realized her uncle was Mac Mackenzie. Who else would have access to all that secret stuff?

 

“As for Chance McCoy, he told me a bunch of his stories and when he needed a fellow P.I. to help him out in a case, it just happened to be Gin Caulfield.

 

“Did I say he told me’? Yes, I did. If any of you readers have ever been to an author panel, I bet half of those writers mentioned that when they write their stories, especially the dialogue, they just sit back and let their characters speak because those people really do talk to us. That doesn’t mean we are ready for the padded cell… yet.

 

“We do ‘hear’ those voices if we have created a character with a past and a personality. And by that I mean that you should try writing a biography of your main characters and even for a few of the other people who play an important part in the story.

 

“You, as the writer, need to know as much as you can about the character you are working with. If you know where he or she was born, their education or even lack there of, or maybe even their desires or hates, you will be able to craft a character with depth. And maybe, just maybe, you will discover something about a character that they didn’t know. That’s what happened when I found out something about Johnny that shocked him and me.

 

“I can’t explain it, but by knowing who my characters are, I hear their voices and I basically transcribe what is being said in my ear. On top of that, I marvel at the fact that some of my characters actually know each other, but the small world I created is only a part of the larger world around us. I sometimes wonder if any of my other characters know or have run into these people sometime or somewhere. Anything is possible in fiction… if it is fiction. Or maybe there is a parallel universe where they all live—”

 

Knock, knock, knock.

 

“Excuse me; somebody is at the door. I think it’s the guys from the asylum. They tracked me down and they are going to take me back so I can do some more writing.

Catch you later.”

typewriter

Bloodbath at the Keyboard

4618c-bonnie

Bonnie Schroeder has been a storyteller since the fifth grade, when her teacher suggested she put her vivid imagination to work as a writer.  She took the advice to heart and has pursued the craft of fiction ever since. In addition to her women’s fiction novel Mending Dreams, she is the author of numerous short stories, screenplays, and nonfiction articles. She lives in Glendale, California.

 

 

Over a year ago, I wrote a post about editing, full of measured and objective advice about reducing one’s word count. I boasted that I had trimmed 5,000 words from my Work in Progress and had “only about 10,000 words” more to cut. I achieved that goal almost painlessly.

Proof that the Universe has a sense of humor: I was offered a publishing contract, but only if I could remove another 3,000 to 5,000 words from the manuscript.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” I muttered as I started reading, convinced I had already pared the word count to the bare bone. At this point the manuscript consisted of about 109,000 words.stack-of-papers

This last read-through, performed after the manuscript had “cooled” for a couple of months, was a humbling experience.

There was still plenty of fat left in those pages.

I had apparently developed a fondness for the word “so,”—to the extent that it had become invisible to me on past readings. As in “So,” she said, “what have you been up to?” Or, “So, are you going to tell me what happened?”red-pen

Removing all those “so’s” made a tiny dent in the word count, but I had to get more aggressive.

You know the edict, “Kill your darlings”?

I’d done that, sliced them out with a push of the “Delete” button, and I was convinced I’d purged them all. But oh, no.

The number of darlings I found on this last go-round astonished me.

delete-key

Out went some of my favorite paragraphs, ones that looked lovely but added nothing to the storyline.

The bloodbath continued unabated, and this time there was pain. I loved some of those passages—I loved them too much. I’d labored over every sentence, every phrase, every word, and removing them from the manuscript was like ripping off pieces of my skin.

What made it worse, as I highlighted passages and pressed “Delete,” was the realization that no one but me would ever see these words arranged just so, words I’d sometimes had to wrestle onto the page to convey a certain image, a certain feeling. I hated myself for condemning them to obscurity.

“But wait,” cried a tiny voice at the moment of my deepest despair. These precious prose snippets weren’t really gone; they were safely housed in a prior version of the manuscript, safe within a digital file on my computer, backed up to the cloud and three separate flash drives. They could live on, forever if need be, waiting for me to resurrect them in another book, another time.

Maybe I will, and maybe I won’t, but I sleep better knowing they’re there, waiting patiently, and if they never get their moment in the sun, they won’t know.

After all, they’re only words.

Aren’t they?

I did meet my publisher’s requirement, so the agony was worth it. I trimmed another 3,998 words from the manuscript, and it is now a relatively svelte 105,000 words. But I still miss some of those paragraphs. . .

The Value and Fun of Writers Groups by Linda O. Johnston

lindaphotoLinda O. Johnston, a former lawyer who is now a full-time writer, currently writes two mystery series for Midnight Ink involving dogs: the Barkery and Biscuits Mysteries, and the Superstition Mysteries.  She has also written the Pet Rescue Mystery Series, a spinoff from her Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime and also currently writes for Harlequin Romantic Suspense as well as the Alpha Force paranormal romance miniseries about shapeshifters for Harlequin Nocturne.  Her most recent release is her 44th published novel, with more to come.
*  *  *
I have been a writer for a long time, and love it.  And one of the things that I find particularly valuable to me and to my writing is joining writers groups. 
 
If you’re a writer and you don’t belong to any kind of writers group, I highly suggest that you find one or more to join. They provide knowledge, support, friendship and more.
 
I’m using the term writers group very generally here, to include all kinds of groups and organizations where writers, whether published or not, join together because they are writers.  The groups have various backgrounds and purposes–and so do their members.
 
One basic kind is a critique group.  I belonged to a wonderful one for twenty years or so before it disbanded.  Around four to six of us at a time got together often to read portions of our own work aloud and critique each other’s stories and writing.  The value was in learning what other people thought of something we’d written so we could determine if any changes were needed before submitting it to an agent or publisher.  Plus, there was a lot of value in simply getting together with friends whose actual day-job careers were different but who all loved something we each treasured: writing.
 
I also belonged to a couple of critique groups at different times where a number of people paid a published, sometimes noted author to belong to the group.  In one, we each could get a critique every time we met.  In another, we would each schedule when our critiques would occur and submit copies of several pages of our work at the session before our critique.  We received comments from each other, but also from the skilled and noted author, again providing help in what we were doing.
 
Those weren’t my only critique groups, either.  Some lasted a long time, but most others were only for a few weeks before they either disbanded because we didn’t gel right, or I simply withdrew because I didn’t get what I’d hoped for out of it.
 
Another kind of writers group that I value is belonging to organizations where members also love and promote a particular genre.  I currently belong to Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime, as well as chapters of those organizations that are local to my home in Los Angeles.  I enjoy them all!  I used to always suggest that everyone I knew who wrote fiction should join RWA because of the general writing support it provided, but lately it has narrowed its focus to–what else?–romance writing and reading.  It remains a wonderful organization but it’s not for everyone.  MWA and SinC are for those who write mysteries of any kind.  Sisters in Crime was started years ago when there was less support and regard for women who wrote mysteries.  That has changed over time but the organization goes on–and now there are also “mister sisters.”  And oh, yes.  I also belong to the Dog Writers Association of America. 
There are also more general writing groups which members join because of what they do and proximity to where they live, not necessarily because they write the same kinds of things.  Some of them are fairly large and have monthly meetings where members can hear speakers and schmooze as they eat and discuss what they’re up to in their writing.  That includes the Independent Writers Club of Southern California (IWCSC).  I’ve attended some of their meetings now and then but am not a regular member.
 
Then there are wonderful, supportive groups like Writers in Residence, which I was privileged enough to join recently.  It’s a group composed of delightful, caring and smart women who get together to discuss where we’re all going in our writing careers and support one another–in our discussions and online on social media and more.  Some of us write in similar genres but not everyone.  We’re all at different stages of our writing careers.  And I feel very fortunate and happy now to be a member!
 
There are probably plenty of kinds of writing groups I didn’t mention here–but feel free to add them in a comment.

HIDING UNDER THE DUVET….. by Rosemary Lord

just-rosie-3Rosemary wrote her first book when she was ten years old – for her little brother. She also illustrated it herself. It was later rejected by Random House!

She has been writing ever since.

The author of Best Sellers Hollywood Then and Now and Los Angeles Then and Now,  English born Rosemary Lord has lived in Hollywood for over 25 years. An actress, a former journalist (interviewing Cary Grant, James Stewart, Tony Hopkins, John Huston amongst others) and a Senior Publicist at Columbia Pictures, she lectures on Hollywood history. Rosemary is currently writing the second in a series of murder mysteries set in the 1920s Jazz Age Hollywood featuring Lottie Topaz, an extra in silent movies.

*  *  *

When it all comes plummeting down – what do you do?  When there seem so many small fires to be put out. And all around you people are having dramas – then turning to you for help. What do you do?

I just want to hide under the warm, plump duvet (a European eiderdown) and never come out. But I don’t have that luxury.

How do you keep your head – “when all around you seem to be losing theirs and blaming it on you.” As Kipling put it so well. “… if you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowances for their doubting too. If you can wait and not be tired by waiting…”

But I digress.

So, how do you write when you’re snowed under?

How come other writers seem to have it all organized? Able to write at the same time each day, without distraction. Able to churn out book after book…..  I know that writer-mothers of young children seem to find the time to write their books – while the kids are napping or at school, waiting at soccer practice or for the laundry cycle to finish. My writer friends with full time jobs find a way. Sue Ann Jaffarian is a paralegal, Pamela Samuels Young an attorney. They write before going to work, in their lunch hour and at weekends.

Before I ever get to the office, the phone calls and urgent emails start early in the morning. And I can’t remember when I last stopped for lunch. For the last couple of years, I often work 6 or 7 days a week. So where am I going wrong?

(As Anthony Newley’s song “What Kind of Fool Am I?” floats around my head…)

Since my husband died so unexpectedly, I have been working day in and day out to save the Woman’s Club of Hollywood from being turned into an anonymous block of condominiums, instead of the charming Spanish-style historic property where Jean Harlow and Douglas Fairbanks went to school and where Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and a host of Golden Era celebrities helped served the Hollywood community for over 110 years. So I feel it’s worth saving. Worth fighting for. But at what cost – to me.

So here I am – an author, a writer who has so little time to write. One of my publishers has just asked me to do a new version of one of my Hollywood books. “How long do I have,” I asked, trying not to panic.

I’ve stayed up all night to finish a book by the deadline. Getting the copy sent off to London by eight in the morning – that is four o’clock in the afternoon in London time. But I did it. I’ve arisen at 5 am, in the dark, to get a couple of hours writing in before the day starts. But it doesn’t last. I get too tired, then find myself nodding off over the computer keys. And how is it that I seem to gain weight, when I hardly ever have time to eat? That’s just plain unfair!

Goodness! This sounds like whining. Not my intention. More a ‘Dear Abby, How do I get off this hamster wheel?” Or: I’m a writer – get me out of here!

I have so many voices in my head that need to be heard – or read. So many books to write, screenplays to finish. All the characters that float around my imagination, hoping that I will turn them into words on a page for readers to discover. All clamoring, ‘Me too! Don’t forget about me…”  And Lottie Topaz has been so very patient with me, waiting for me to finish her second volume and share her emerging adventures.

The people in my head, my wonderful characters that I can breath life into, they all have a song to sing – a story for me to tell.

So why are there so many things, big and small, going on in life that need my attention at the present? Am I avoiding something? Why can’t I be more disciplined and just focus on my writing. Ignore the pleas for help. Just tell people to get lost. Leave me alone.

Maybe I’m just going through a phase…

Although this week, after what seems like an eternity,  the court trial starts on behalf of the Woman’s Club trying to release itself of heavy financial burdens unfairly foisted on it by nefarious beings. So that will settle one long chapter in its saga. And hopefully offer me some respite.

Looking back, I could have taken a different path. Would it have been easier? Probably. But look how much I have learned, people I have met – characters and stories I have discovered.

But still, right now, what I’d really like to do is dive back under the warmth of my duvet – for a while.

Know what I mean?

 

GET YOUR STORY PUBLISHED by Miko Johnston

Have you ever tried to get a story accepted into a writing contest or juried anthology? Wouldn’t it be advantageous to have a confidential resource who can give you a competitive edge? If so, then read on because I am going to share with you my secrets for getting your work published.

First, some background. Several years ago, I tried to get a short story accepted into a Sisters In Crime anthology. I wrote what I thought was a good story that fit the theme and technical requirements. I ran it though a few critique groups to help me polish it. When I got the notification that the piece wasn’t accepted, I was heartbroken. I made it my mission to get my work accepted into the following anthology. The result: my story “By Anonymous” made it into Last Exit To Murder, published two years later. I succeeded in more ways than one; having a story in a prestigious anthology helped me win a publishing contract for my novels.

The experience taught me that it takes a lot more than just writing a good story to get your work into a competitive publication.

I       THE MORE SPECIFIC, THE BETTER

It’s hard enough to figure out what editors will consider ‘good’ or worthy of publication, but it’s even harder when they don’t clearly define what they want. If getting published is your goal, your odds are always better with a single genre competition and a clearly defined theme. Focus on competitions with a limited scope. ‘Stories under 500 words’ is vague , but ‘Heartwarming stories about rescued animals’ is more specific.

II      READ THE SUBMISSIONS GUIDELINES CAREFULLY AND BELIEVE THEM

Every contest or anthology will issue submission guidelines that contain vital information. Guidelines begin with an explanation of what the stories should contain or be about. For example, mystery anthologies generally want stories that include at least one murder or serious crime. If there is a theme, the guidelines will often state how the theme should be incorporated. Remember: the more specific the requirements, the easier it is to figure out what the editors want. Pay attention to technical information such as word count, page set-up, method of submission, and deadline for entries. Take that information seriously; consider them demands, not requests.

III     LEARN FROM THE PAST

Writing contests and anthologies are often sponsored by established organizations. Unless the sponsor is new, go back and read their previous publications. Determine what type of writing appeals to them. If everything they’ve published is dark, obscure and literary, your hilarious page-turner probably won’t get accepted. If the mysteries tend to be cozy, save your gruesome piece for another publication.

The sponsor’s website can provide invaluable help. Search online for any information about the selection process or editing of past competitions. I read through the Sisters In Crime L.A. website archives and located an old interview with the editors of an earlier anthology. All of them agreed that stories about previously unknown aspects of the city were more interesting than those that focused on familiar places and events. The anthology selections supported that. Which brings me to the next point:

IV      AVOID THE OBVIOUS

If the theme is U.S. landmarks, leave the most popular choices to ‘Family Feud’ and go with something less familiar. There are two reasons for this: First, many writers will select something famous like the Hollywood sign or the Statue of Liberty. Since editors may want one story based on that location there’s more competition. Or they might get bored reading story after story about the same place and reject them all. Secondly, as already stated, stories about unknown or unusual places and events appeal to editors. Think how omnipresent the White House has been in films, but we vividly remember Mt. Rushmore in “North by Northwest” or Devil’s Tower in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” because they stand out due to their uniqueness.

V       WORK IT, WORK IT, WORK IT!

Everything I’ve shared with you so far will give any writer a competitive edge. The rest is up to you, though. You have to write a unique story. Start early, as soon as the announcement comes out. Brainstorm a few possible themes and work on them until you have a strong idea for a story. Take every advantage you have. I submitted one story to that first anthology although two submissions were permitted. For the next anthology, I finished my story months in advance and decided to write another before the deadline. I’m glad I did; the first piece was rejected, but the second one made it into the anthology.

Will any of my tips guarantee your story will get published? Of course not, but I assure you it will increase your chances of success. Good luck!