PLEASE NOTE: The September maximum word count is 1000 - The October contest maximum word count will be 1500

Monday, 3 August 2020

Don't Worry, Be Happy, AND WRITE!

How long should my story be? Who should I send it to? What do I put in the cover letter?
I don't have any credits, what now? Do these questions go through your mind as you sit down to write a story? If so, then read on.

As the former Grand Poobah of the Science Fiction Forum at Inkspot, I dealt with many new, and not so new, writers. The questions they asked have revealed a common thread among them, fear. If you're one of these writers, let me give you a word of advice. Relax!

First of all, don't concern yourself about submission guidelines, story length, chapter length, precise genre typing of your story and all the other technical stuff. Especially if you haven't even started writing your story. Until your story is finished, these questions, and other related topics, are basically irrelevant. Just write your story. Stories take on a life of their own and create their own length and flow.

After writing, edit without mercy. Make each word count. Be sure your scenes and characters are clear, alive and interesting. Include at least one conflict, and have that conflict resolved by the end of the story.

When your story is done, that's when you research markets and follow their guidelines. Even guidelines have some flexibility. Word count can be a "little" above or below what they say. If your word count is well above what they state, query the publication to see if they ever serialize stories. After your research is done, mail off your manuscript and forget about it. Focus on the new story your working on. You're working on a new story aren't you?

If your story is rejected, just file the rejection letter, or throw it away, and submit the manuscript to the next publication on your list. Don't take the rejection personally, because it's not. There are more reasons for rejection than I can count. The publication is full, a story like yours was just published or will soon be published, for some personal reason the publisher didn't like it, your name is similar to the name of someone the publisher doesn't like, he read a story like yours a year ago and didn't like it and so on. But don't let this discourage you. If your story is good, and you know it is, it will be published. Your job as a writer is not to sweat the details, but to write and get published. Stay focused on the story, and don't confuse writing with the research you must do to be published.

So focus on the joy of writing, do the job of submitting and have fun.

Following are some common questions, and their answers.

Q: What font should I use?
A: Use Times New Roman set at 12 point.

Q: How long should a manuscript be?
A: This varies according to each publisher, but here is a pretty accurate guideline.
Short story - up to 7,000 words
Novelette or Novella - 7,000 to 15,000 words
Novel - over 15,000 words
Graphic novel - 40 or more pages
Book outline - 5 to 15 double spaced pages

Q: What is a publications response time?
A: You can find this in each publication's, or publisher's, guidelines. I usually add a month before sending them a follow-up letter.

Q: What should I have in a follow-up letter?
A: Keep it simple. I just say this, "On (date) I sent a (manuscript or article) to you titled (title). Would you please update me as to the status of my (manuscript or article)?
Thank you for your time.
(your name)

Q: How do I simultaneously submit a story?
A: If you are sending a manuscript to more than one publisher at a time, simply write a cover letter as normal, but toward the bottom include, "Be advised that this proposal (or article) is being reviewed by other publishers (or publications).

Q: What is standard manuscript format?
A: First, be sure to read each publication's guidelines. Proofread the entire manuscript, and be sure to use spell check. On the first page in the top left corner put your name, address, phone number and social security number. On the top right corner put the word count. On the following pages put your last name, manuscript title and page number in the top right corner. Print your manuscript on white, 20 pound, 8 1/2 x 11 paper and do not use a dot matrix printer. Use only one side of the paper and have a 1 1/2 inch margin on all sides. Double-space the entire manuscript. When done, make a copy of the manuscript, and send out the copy. Keep the original for yourself. And ALWAYS include a SASE.

Q: How do I write a cover letter?
A: Keep it simple. A cover letter simply says, "Hi. Here's my story. Here's where I've been published (if you have been). Thanks." My cover letters follow this format:

My name and address


Their name and address

Dear Mr. X,

"One Per Customer" is the story of a futuristic murder mystery, where we find the murderer is ourselves, in a very abstract way.

My writing has appeared in numerous publications, including: "Aphelion," "Twilight Times," "My Sister's Secret Place," "Erotic Fiction by Rose," "EWG Presents," "Planet Magazine," "Hadrosaur Tales," "Realm Of The Vampire," "Realm Of Darkness," "Cutter Magazine," "Newsbits Weekly," "Forty-Niner Newspaper," "Western Photographer Magazine," "National Management Association Bulletin" and "Art Direction and Design of Orange County Newsletter."

I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Jeff Colburn


Jeff Colburn is a freelance business writer. He can be reached at his site, The Creative Cauldron

Source: Articles Factory