Research is good - even for fiction.
These days it's often important to put your story in the real world, where real things happen in real locations.
Readers can be fussy.
They'll go along with your story about a werewolf who falls in love with an advertising executive and whisks her off to a fairy castle in Patagonia - but if you screw up the bus timetable or mention plants that don't grow where you say they do, your dear readers will be all over you like a rash.
Or like white on rice, as an old producer friend used to say!
There's a fine line between veracity and invention.
The thing is that if you get your real world facts right, you make your fiction more believable - this is something that modern thriller writers like James Patterson, Kathy Reichs and Lee Child know all too well.
And not just facts about cities and roads - but also institutions and organizational structures like the CIA, FBI and police jurisdictions can become important and crucial to your plotting.
This is why you'll often need to research these things prior to building your novel template.
The last thing you want is for a smart reader to question your logic or your version of reality.
Even when school breaks happen can be significant to teenage novels where much of the action may take place between study periods and during semesters.
Plus, things like the weather can help you.
In the book version of Twilight, the fact that the town of Forks is almost permanently overcast is fundamental to the credibility of vampires being around in the daytime.
Conrad, Dickens and Austen used the weather often to set the mood of their set pieces - which is why they wrote about places they knew or had visited.
Research is important, yes, but it can also be a delaying tactic if you don't know when to stop doing it.
Long time ago I wrote a supernatural fantasy set in modern day London that had references to the Great Plague of 1665 and to the famous character of Thomas More.
You guessed it.
I spent literally months of valuable writing time boning up on the plague and the life of Thomas More.
I had stacks of notes and became really well informed about a subject that was probably only relevant to about one percent of my plot.
Though the information was useful, it stopped the writing of the book in its tracks.
Especially when a year passed and I'd lost the thread of the novel and basically had to start again.
Also, interestingly, I discovered during my research that Thomas More used to torture people in the basement of his house - admittedly on rare occasions.
Apparently this was some kind of sport the rich and powerful indulged in during those dark (Tudor) times, even when they claimed to be pious and God-fearing.
Of course I included this fact in my novel - and have since been accused of making it up!
The moral being: too much research can be dangerous.
Research is about balancing facts with veracity.
Fiction must be believable first, accurate second.
No amount of accuracy will help a dull story.
But veracity can propel a story into a something more, even if not all the facts are true - just ask Dan Brown, whose Da Vinci Code has been savagely attacked over the years for its bending of the truth!
Far be it from us mere writers to have to remind people it was always meant to be fiction...
Anyway, the trick is to allot time to research - give yourself a time limit, beyond which you will not continue.
If that doesn't work for you then do what I do these days.
Write first, then do the research after.
In order for this to work well you need to keep abreast of your general knowledge - and stay interested in the topics you write around.
Use your spare time to research - and don't let it encroach on your writing time.
That's way too precious to waste!
(c) Rob Parnell
Rob Parnell's Writing Academy
There has generally been a tradition in which science fiction books have been written and this hasn’t really changed. There are however some authors who invent new styles of writing and it is common knowledge these are the ones who write science fiction books.
This is probably because people who write science fiction books are so knowledgeable about their topic that they are able to write about the possible but also about the sometimes impossible situations and make them believable. Science Fiction writers have a completely different writing style which shows in their stories.
There are authors who wrote books about the most fearful things of their time – a good example is HG Wells. It is common knowledge of the panic caused by the reading of his book, War of the Worlds. It is easy to get completely engrossed in a science fiction book and believe what is written. HG Wells was a prime example of science fiction writing which was both realistic and believable, especially for the time. Telling a wild story just makes it more unbelievable – write your tall story in a believable way and include some truths to make it realistic.
Ray Bradbury is well known as the author of Fahrenheit 451 as well as being the best known science fiction writer in the world. Fahrenheit 451 is read across the country by high school students as part of their curriculum. He is also well known for writing abstract stories which aren’t able to be explained immediately. Many authors now use this form in their writing.
The world is full of people who excel in their particular fields. Many are able to leave a huge legacy behind which has a lasting effect on the whole world.
(c) Barry Sheppard
Source: Free Articles from ArticlesFactory.com
Publishing pro and author/filmmaker Barry Sheppard has written and published many books with hundreds of reviews in newspapers, TV and radio. He is now concentrating on eBook writing/publishing and starting his own television station.
If you're just breaking into the writing business, you may be wondering if you should start by offering your work to nonpaying markets. Do new writers need to serve some sort of "apprenticeship" in such markets before moving on to those that pay? Are nonpaying markets the only way for a new writer to break in?
Sadly, some writers don't ask this question at all, assuming (for various reasons) that the answer must be "yes." Too many talented writers end up wasting considerable time writing for free, unable (or refusing) to believe that they could be paid for their material.
At the heart of this issue are two misperceptions. The first is the assumption that one must somehow pay one's dues, "crawl before one can walk," in the writing business -- and that this involves working for no money. The second is the phrasing of the question itself. Instead of asking "Should I write for nonpaying markets?" many writers should be asking "When should I write for nonpaying markets?"
The Apprenticeship Myth
Many writers believe that one's career must begin with nonpaying markets. Many articles extol the value of such markets for building clips, enabling one (theoretically) to move on to paying publications. Writers often assume that without a history of publication, no paying market will consider their work -- and thus, that they have no real choice.
It isn't true. My own experience offers a good example: In the beginning of my career, I wrote exactly three "unpaid" articles. The first (my first-ever publication) was for a monthly community paper. The second and third were for a weekly newspaper -- and these were based on the editor's promise that he would pay me once he had a freelance budget. By my fourth article, he did, and I was earning a whopping $15 per feature!
Did those unpaid articles help me break into better markets? No. My first magazine sale was to Omni -- and was due to a chance meeting between my boyfriend (now hubby) and the editor at a conference. My second was to Quilt, and was due to a query that described my enthusiasm for, and knowledge of, crazy quilts. (My career has been a bit of a patchwork ever since...)
Omni, alas, is dead, but specialty magazines like Quilt abound, and are more than ready to welcome new, unpublished writers. All you need are a good idea, the ability to turn that idea into a well-written article, and the confidence to send that article to an editor. If you can do all of the above, many editors truly do not care whether you've been published before or not.
In short, if you have a choice between offering your material to a paying or a nonpaying market, there is no logical reason to choose the latter. The nonpaying market will always be there if you fail to sell the piece -- but it need not be your first choice, or even your second or third. If your goal is to become a paid professional, it's far better to exhaust all possibilities of payment before turning to markets that don't pay (rather than the other way around). After all, you only have to "break in" once to be considered a paid author!
When Should You Write for Free?
Does this mean you should never write for free? Not at all! There are many excellent reasons to do so; it's just that "being new" isn't necessarily one of them. Here are some better reasons:
For fun. Sometimes you may want to write something for the sheer enjoyment of it -- whether it's likely to find a paying market or not. (After all, someone must be writing all those variations on "how to bathe your cat" that circulate on the Internet!) One of my earliest "sales" was an "outsider's" view of dog shows, which was published in a breed-club newsletter; later, I actually managed to sell it to a major dog magazine. (I doubt, however, that I'll ever find a paying home for "I Was a Teenage Were-Elkhound"...)
To support a cause. Instead of contributing money to organizations or issues you believe in, you may choose to donate your writing skills instead. Your "payment" is often simply the knowledge that you are increasing awareness of an important issue. If you already have a "name," lending it to your chosen cause can be an important contribution in itself.
To help a favorite organization. You may enjoy contributing an occasional piece to your company, community, or church newsletter. Be careful, however: Once such organizations realize that you can write, you may be flooded with requests for more freebies. Before you say "yes" the first time, be sure you will feel comfortable saying "no" later.
To enhance your career. Many unpaid markets can be career-builders -- including your own website. Writing FAQs for your own site (or others), contributing articles to professional newsletters, or writing for professional journals can be good ways to build your reputation. They may also help you develop contacts that can lead to more lucrative work later.
To help and inform others. At a certain point in their careers, many writers (and others) feel an urge to "give back" some of what they have learned over time. You may decide to write about "what you know" as a way to mentor others in your field, or perhaps as a way to repay the mentoring you yourself received at one time. Sharing information may not make you rich, but it can be exhilarating.
When You Shouldn't...
Just as there are good reasons to write for free, there are also bad ones. Here are some that commonly plague new writers:
"I'll do anything to see my name in print." Seeing your byline is a thrilling experience -- but don't assume that the only way to get it is to give your work away. If you have a well-written story or article, why not send it to a paying market first? If it's accepted, you'll experience a double thrill: That of seeing your name in print, and of seeing it on a paycheck.
"I want to find out if I'm good enough to be published." Nonpaying markets are not a good place to test your abilities. Many such markets are stuck with whatever they can get (i.e., whatever unpaid writers will give them), which means that they often don't have the luxury of "rejecting" mediocre writing. Getting published in such a market, therefore, is no true test of your marketability. A better test is to submit to paying markets; if your work is accepted, you have your answer, and if it is rejected, you can explore ways to improve your material. (Keep in mind that a single rejection is no indication of quality; some articles never sell, no matter how good they are. Test the market with more than one article, and test more than one market with the same article, if you're rejected by the first.)
"I want to polish my skills before submitting to 'real' markets." To be blunt, if you don't think your material is worth publishing, why submit it to anyone? Nonpaying markets don't appreciate being dumping grounds for mediocre material. If you want to polish your work, do so through a class or critique group. Otherwise, send out your work -- and use the feedback you receive to identify areas where you may need improvement. "Polishing" is a lifelong task; since it's never finished, you might as well start selling at the same time!
"So-and-so gave me a start, and I don't want to let him/her down." Loyalty is a wonderful thing, and it can be difficult to abandon an editor or publication who accepted your work when no one else would. It's also hard to say no to someone who has learned to count on you. However, recipients of such loyalty can sometimes misuse it: Editors of nonpaying publications would often prefer to hold on to a writer "in the hand" (you) than seek out new sources. Don't let such a relationship interfere with your ability to move on to new markets.
"I'll write for nonpaying markets until I'm good enough for 'real' markets." The trick word in this sentence is "I." The issue here is often not whether your writing is good enough, but whether you feel that you are good enough. I've known too many writers who produced excellent material -- but felt that they weren't "ready" to send that material to paying markets. This often involves issues of self-esteem, fear of rejection, fear of failure, or even fear of success. Most often, writers who make this excuse doubt themselves or even their "right" to call themselves "writers." But that's another column...
Writing for free is simply an option, never a necessity. The bottom line is that if your writing isn't good (and you know it), your energies are best spent seeking ways to improve it. If your writing is good, and you believe in it, don't sell yourself short by failing to sell yourself at all!
Find Out More...
>Ways to Profit from Writing for Free - Audrey Faye Henderson
Copyright © 2001 Moira Allen
Moira Allen is the editor of Writing-World.com, and has written nearly 400 articles, serving as a columnist and regular contributor for such publications as The Writer, Entrepreneur, Writer's Digest, and Byline. An award-winning writer, Allen is the author of eight books, including Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer, The Writer's Guide to Queries, Pitches and Proposals, and Writing to Win: The Colossal Guide to Writing Contests. In addition to Writing-World.com, Allen hosts VictorianVoices.net, a growing archive of articles from Victorian periodicals, and The Pet Loss Support Page, a resource for grieving pet owners. She lives in Maryland with her husband and the obligatory writer's cat.
We've all done it. We have all made as many excuses as there are stars in the skies to get out of writing. We want to be a writer, yes, but we don't want to do the work sometimes. Too bad wanting doesn't pay the bills. To be a writer you must, well, write.
The first step can be the hardest. And that first step is to not make an excuse - to actually sit down and write. No finally deciding to fold the laundry. No raking the yard. None of that. Put those simple tasks aside now and sit yourself down at your desk. Excuses are the things that ruined one too many writing careers. What careers, you ask? Well, I can't name any because they aren't there to name. Get it?
Being a parent offers us so many more excuses than the non-parent. We have little mouths to feed, errands to run, kids to taxi, food to clean off the carpet, etc, etc . . . It becomes so much easier for us to make that extra excuse to not sit down and write that story we wanted to write or work on our novel. We have lunches that have to be made first. Baths come next. Bed-time story... and so on and so on. Finally, well, we are just too tired.
Nonsense! Okay - we get tired and we must sleep. That's a given. But there are all those times we aren't sleeping that we could have been writing. We watched T.V. instead. "Could have wrote one thousand words, but Ally McBeal looked so much better." "E.R. was on so there was just no way to break away." "The kids wanted to stay up and watch RugRats and I just can't resist watching, too." Sound a little familiar? An excuse.
There are legitimate times that you really can't write, but there are many more times you could have. You didn't have to watch three movies back to back. You didn't have to take a two-hour bath. You didn't have to read all day. I know - now it sounds as if I am saying you should stop doing everything you like to do. Wrong. Just cut back. Writing is important to you or you wouldn't be here reading this. I am merely suggesting you cut some self-indulgences in half, freeing up some of that time you may claim you don't have for writing. Life doesn't revolve around you having to write all the time, but it should revolve around it some.
It is just too easy to come up with reasons for not having time to write. Your assignment - Find all the excuses TO write. What makes you love to write? Why is it so important to you? What are your writing goals? How can you better reach them? Write these questions with your own individual answers and then every time you feel yourself making an excuse, pull your assignment out and read it. Next thing you know, you'll be writing more often than making excuses. Better yet, keep the assignment posted somewhere and every time you find yourself giving into excuses, make a list to keep with it. No more excuses!
(c) Angela Giles Klocke
You write a book for someone else, and they pay you to put their own name on it.
Is that even legal? It is. And professional ghost writers defend their right to do it.
There’s money to be made here because there are many people who have a lot to say but do not necessarily have the time nor the skills to write it all down.
However, there are some pitfalls to the ghost writing business.
First piece of advice? Always have a contract in place before you start the actual writing.
It will save you a lot of heartache - and lawsuits - in the future.
It’s worth remembering that not all ghost writing will entail writing books. Some corporate executives want their company statements written by someone else.
Scientists and doctors sometimes procure the services of ghosts to write their dissertations and academic reports.
Celebrities have been known to hire ghosts to maintain an online presence for them.
Webmasters too will often want their sales pages written for them - to which they will attach their own names.
If you’ve ever helped anyone with an article for which you never took any credit, you’re involved in a form of ghostwriting.
Some wannabe authors will even pay you to write their fiction for them - a scenario that, to be honest, rarely ends well.
Many people will want you to write their autobiographies - and may well have lots of money to pay for them.
At least once a month I meet someone who says they’ve led such a fascinating life that ‘everyone’ tells them they should write it down - or at least get someone else to do it.
As a writer, I know my own life story is not particularly riveting to anyone but me. Publishers, too, generally don’t care about normal people’s lives, even when their histories are sometimes astonishing.
But that doesn’t mean YOU shouldn’t get paid for writing them!
It’s surprisingly easy to get lots of potential clients when you set yourself up as a ghostwriter.
It seems there are hundreds of punters out there constantly looking for scribes to write for them - or at least toying with the idea.
The real issue you have to face is which of these people are ever going to pay you a fair going-rate for your services.
When people ask how much you might charge to write an autobiography for them and you mention $5,000 as a minimum starting point, you will often be met with total incredulity.
But you will need to stress that book writing takes time - and is clearly a skill the client doesn’t possess!
A thorough and well-researched book may take anything up to a year to write.
So there’s a year’s salary for most - right there.
A traditional in-house publisher’s ghostwriter may get anything up to $100,000 per manuscript, to give you some perspective.
The best way to go is to advertise yourself as a ghostwriter - say on Facebook - and deal with each inquiry separately.
I’ve found that sustaining a dialog over time before mentioning price is more effective than simply quoting quickly, which generally goes nowhere.
You need to find out exactly what your potential client wants. How they want everything to work, including how and when payments will happen, what approvals the client is looking for and how the contract will look once it’s finalized.
In amongst these details, you will also want to familiarize yourself with the envisaged project.
Face-to-face meetings often help here because there will be nuances about what the client expects from a ghostwriter that are impossible to discern through email or via the phone.
When you’re satisfied you know what you’re letting yourself in for - and that the client does too - then this is the time to present a quotation that will also act as a contract of employment - once it’s signed by the client.
The quotation should list the time frame, the payments, exact specifications as to what is to be considered "a final manuscript" and usually some leeway for the client to make changes and request deletions.
There should be clauses that deal with the relationship breaking down plus riders that perhaps outline that future payments may be in order if, for instance, the manuscript becomes a runaway bestseller without your name on it.
Conversely, you’ll want a brief clause that will make it clear you are not legally liable in any way should the client get sued over the manuscript’s contents.
While it might be nice to charge a dollar a word for short ghostwritten articles, you’ll rarely find anyone who wants to pay more than $50 for an 800-word piece.
Many punters want to pay less than $5, clearly slave labor - and not to be encouraged.
Just say no, would be my advice.
For short projects you might want to charge an hourly rate of perhaps $50 an hour, although most clients are nervous of hourly rates, especially if they’re unsure of how fast or slow you work.
What I usually do is to set a fixed rate for the job, payable upfront - or at least a quarter upfront - and then an hourly rate for unplanned amendments or later consultations.
The first couple of consultations I will do most times for free.
Big jobs require sizable upfront payments in my view.
Many ghostwriters I know have gotten suckered into writing for free, only to have their manuscripts rejected half way through the job, losing the client and their pay.
This can happen, so you really must make sure you get paid for what you do before you start. At least then, if things go badly before the completion of the project, your time and energy has not been entirely wasted.
Good luck if you’re ready to take this ghostwriting path.
True, it’s not for every writer. I get way too involved in my own stuff to have the necessary patience for ghostwriting.
I’ve only done it a few times - and realized quickly the work was not for me.
But, you never know, YOU might be really good at it!
Ghost Writing does pay pretty well, after all.
(c) Rob Parnell
There are some strange folks out there who don't like fiction. Or rather, they don't understand its purpose.
Robert Mitchum -- otherwise an actor I greatly admire -- said he never read fiction because it wasn't true, so there was no point.
To any budding novelist this attitude is as heinous as it is incomprehensible. Unfortunately it is also surprisingly common.
My father for one thinks that novels are too hard to follow so he never bothers with them.
'If it's any good, they'll make a movie out of it,' is one of his favorite lines.
How many times have you heard this?
The implication here is obvious. To non-readers, it's not the writing that's important. It's the story.
Whilst great writing might profoundly impress you or me, most people just want the message, rather than the medium.
People like stories for 4 main reasons:
4. To gain hope & salvation
These reasons have been the 'point' of telling and listening to stories since the beginning of time.
As a species, we need them.
They divert our attention from the mundane and take us out of ourselves for a while.
They can show us things we didn't know about ourselves and others. We may gain valuable new perspectives to help us to better understand our neighbors, foreigners, even our enemies.
We need stories to make us feel better about ourselves -- as human beings, as well as personalities. That's why we like to identify with heroes and warriors -- indeed, anyone who can show us how to overcome obstacles.
Finally we need stories to help us make sense of life and the world around us.
In real life, there are no beginnings and endings, just infinite sequences.
You know how it is. You listen to the news. Everything is a segment, a teaser, a sample of every day life. Nothing makes sense because there's no structure.
Without the confines that fiction offers us, we are drowning in a bewildering sea of actions and feelings and urges with no meaning.
Stories 'frame' real life into manageable chunks that have tangibility, involvement and purpose, whether for us individually or as a race.
Surely that's what we were placed on this earth to do!
To make sense of who we are and why we are here.
THAT'S why fiction matters!
(c) Rob Parnell
Creative writing is more than providing people with information. It is the art of sharing one's thoughts and emotions. It is like giving your readers a part of yourself. Not everyone is given the talent to compose one. But if you are willing to learn, there are a lot of ways to consider. Here are some of them.
1. If you are not a college student yet, think about taking up Journalism, English literature or other related courses. This will equip you with the necessary knowledge. You may also consider enrolling in short courses specifically for this form of writing. It may be best to attend workshops as well. There are also online courses available.
2. Write and write and write. Every time you see something that amazes you, write. Each time you feel happy for a reason, jot it down. If possible, do this every day so you can finally find your momentum.
3. Identify when is the best time for you to write. This is to be able to manage your time perfectly. This is also to enable you to produce more inspiring pieces.
4. Read and read and read. If you want to learn about creative writing, you have to know how each creative writer expresses their ideas. Read their works. Study each of them. Discover why people love them.
5. You must also be sensitive to your environment. Study everything that is around you. Interact with people to know their thoughts. Read blogs online. In this way, you will know the plot or highlight of the stories that will interest most of them.
6. Prepare yourself to rejections. Take every rejected work as your chance to improve. Know if in which aspect of writing you still need to harness. Consider every comment or feedback as an inspiration. Remember, some famous writers have experienced rejections several times.
7. You have to be imaginative as well. See in your mind's eye the flow that you will like for your writing.
8. Know your niche. You cannot be a good creative writer if you will cover all the disciplines. You cannot possibly do that. Discover where you are good at and focus from there.
Creative writing is not confined to poetry, short stories, essays and others. It is not all about fiction. It can also be non-fiction. Today, personal blogs can be considered one form. Bloggers share their own tales, which is mostly about travels or other things they enjoy doing. They do this artistically.
If you write for a living, make it a point to track your work hours by using a time tracking tool. It helps analyze your time better.
(c) April Dee Barredo
It's unbelievable that with all the creative writing courses out there, that no one teaches the necessity of researching your market before you set pen to paper.
Yes, we all want to be creative and let our imagination go. At the same time, wouldn't it be great to have some of your work published? Even better wouldn't it be awesome to know that you have upped your chances of getting published by around 80% by simply doing a tiny bit of browsing in a library or bookstore?
Here is a way to make sure that there is an interest in your type of story before you pick up a pen or pull out your laptop:
1) Go to the local bookstore and read the writing magazines. Editors actually tell these magazines what they are interested in, in a fairly timely manner. Most of the guess work is taken out for you. You know which editors are looking for what type of stories.
2) Look at the current Writer's Guide. It is filled with editors and publishers looking for fresh material. And guess what? They also tell you what each editor wants and what they are sick to death of.
3) Check out the bookshelves to see which children's books are featured. Is there a trend or pattern? For example the last few years Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl and Charlie Bone have all been hot. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that magical characters have taken kids and editors by storm.
4) Ask kids what their favorite books are. Ask them why they like one over the other. Ask if their friends are into the same books. Model these themes.
There is no need to make over the wheel or hire a psychic to figure out what publishers, editors and your audience - kids, are looking for. Gather this information and apply it to your writing.
Watch the number of your submissions rise, while your rejection letters become few and far between.
(c) Caterina Christakos is the author of How to Write a Children's Book in 30 Days or Less and countless articles both on and off the net. For easy tips on how to write a children's book, click HERE
Erotic books is a term that is used to describe short stories, magazines, and other kind of literature that describe or give accounts of relationships between people especially sexual relationships. They may be factual or fictional though there is little difference between these two especially when it comes to erotic literature. These books contain explicit sex stories that are intended to arouse the reader.
These erotic books have grown in popularity in recent times and this is the case because nowadays it is difficult to differentiate between romance and erotic books.These two terms are practically synonyms in todays world.The fan base is increasing in society as people become more liberal.The internet is the largest source of erotic books and erotica materials.Since the internet is not restricted in any way in the majority of the world in terms of access, people can access the Erotic Books and other erotica materials any time.Why has the internet become such a popular source of erotic books?
Other than the obvious nature of the availability of the internet, it allows for anonymity for the writers of erotic books.This anonymity has encouraged writers to exploit their talent in writing such content.Some of these writers even provide these erotic books for free over the internet.The need for the erotic books has not been promoted by the internet alone.Programs on TV and pornography pictures over the internet have led to increased need for these books.Television programs have become more explicit by the day and this has made this kind of content somewhat in more demand.The religious groups that have always been fighting against availability, in public, of this erotic content have since lost steam. The writing of erotic books is an art that consists of great sexual knowledge and while kept separate from porn.The writing is very descriptive and is meant to arouse the reader sexually.To achieve this is a great feat that they need themselves will sometimes explore and even meet people to get ideas for books and story lines.However not all erotic books are focused on sexual content, some are romance books with limited sexual scenarios.These can be read by young people as even the love scenes are not so explicit, not so arousing.It goes without saying however that an erotic book is just a book and goes through the normal stages until publication, except of course, the unpublished ones.The reader has to research and learn new trends in the sex content and every time gives the readers content that is fresh and not the normal stuff they are used to.They say that sex is a dirty game, the dirtier, the better.So the sex scenes are being made crazier, with new techniques of lovemaking and sex being invented daily to spice up the act.In fact some people read them to kick start their own lives as sex has become boring with their partner.
(c) Carmella Borcher
Research your target market. Do they use the type of story you want to write?
Short stories can be of any length from a few hundred to several thousand words. Make sure you aim at the length required by your chosen publication.
Before you start writing decide whether you are going to write this piece in the first or third person. It doesn’t matter which as long as you are comfortable with your decision, but don’t switch from one to the other. It is important to remember that if you write in the first person you can only include what that person sees, thinks and feels.
If you are using the third person it is important that the author should stay out of the story. The reader should never be made to feel as if they are watching a play where they can see all the characters and events. Get inside the head of the main character and stay there. See everything from that point of view. In longer stories and novels it is OK to change your viewpoint from one character to another but only when the main character isn’t present. Don’t switch about from one to the other in the same scene, don’t do it too often and only do it when it is essential to the plot.
Don’t bother too much about length in your first draft, you’ll lose spontaneity. You can edit down to the correct word count when you’ve finished. It is better to do this than try to pad out a piece which is too short.
Having written the story the first thing you should do is read it out aloud. This will show you words and phrases that you have used too often. The most usual fault made by new writers is to name the characters every time they do or say anything.
E.g. ‘“What are you doing?” Mary said. Without waiting for an answer Mary went to the window. Mary looked out over the garden.”
“Just looking for a book,” John said. John went over to Mary.’
Too many Marys and Johns. Only use names when it isn’t obvious who is speaking or performing some action.
Limit the number of characters in your story. Two or three are perfect. Four is acceptable but any more are too many unless you are writing a long short or a novel.
What to Aim For
Most editors love humour. (That is humour – not slapstick comedy.)
They also like a work which ends on a hopeful or upbeat note. They like the main character to win out in the end because readers tend to identify with that person. The reason for this is that editors of magazines want their readers to go on buying the publication. They are not going to do this if, after reading it, they are left feeling miserable, deflated and depressed. Readers are not particularly interested in your skill as a writer. They are only interested in how the result makes them feel. Of course you have to be skilful but the important thing is how it leaves them feeling.
That doesn’t mean that if your inspiration leaves you with a gloomy story that you have to scrap it. Write it. Then read it and try to work out how you could alter it to make your main character a winner instead of a loser.
When you have written the first draft of your story you have to refine it.
Have you ever seen a dog ragging a new piece of blanket in its bed? It shakes it, chews it up, tears at it until it’s just right, then, when it’s nice and comfortable, it curls up on it and goes to sleep. That is what you must do with your story.
It is only when you get to this stage that you need to start editing for length.
At this stage it is better if it is too long rather than too short. Your end product will be better if it is pruned not padded. Ruthlessly cut out all the words you don’t need and all the things that aren’t necessary to the plot (very important – only include what is absolutely essential to the action). Still too long?
Look for long sentences and paragraphs. Could you re-word them so that the same information is given in a sharper and therefore more interesting way? TV is here. People don’t sit down for long periods with a good book. Verbal diarrhoea is not attractive. Don’t scatter adjectives and adverbs like confetti.
A short story should be a walk with a purpose not a ramble in the country. Keep working on your masterpiece until it has fulfilled all the criteria and is exactly the right length. Check it over one last time.
Print out your story. On the cover page put the title and word count and your name, address, phone number and email address. Write a brief covering letter.
Put all the pages together with your letter and a stamped, self-addressed envelope and fasten the together with a paper clip – not a fastener or staple. Put all this into an envelope which is the right size. Don’t stuff it into one that is too small or a large unwieldy floppy one. It is acceptable to fold your ms. once but no more. An envelope designed for A5 paper is fine.
Now address it to the fiction editor of your chosen magazine. Use the correct postage and send it off. Then you wait – and wait. Don’t expect a quick answer. Get back to the computer and start work on your next submission.
You Must Always
Save, save, save your work and always save a backup on a floppy disc at the end of every session on the computer and keep it somewhere safe.
Leave good left and right hand margins. Use double spacing. Use one side of A4 paper. Use a font like Times New Roman 12 pt which is pleasant to look at and easy to read. Number the pages. Put the title and your surname at the top of every page. Have a title page showing, apart from the title and the word count, your name, address, ‘phone number and e-mail address.
Keep yourself out of the story. Stay inside the head of your main character. Read your story aloud to see if it sounds right. Research your target market. Do they use the type of story you want to write? Stick rigidly to the word counts they accept. Don’t think they will make allowances for you. Remember that you are just one of a great number of hopefuls. Ensure that you give your manuscript the maximum chance of success. If it’s outside the guidelines busy editors will probably return it unread.
After you’ve finished editing and rewriting do a final spell-check. Don’t rely solely on the one run by your computer programme. Some words such as there/their/they’re, to/too, its/it’s may not be picked up. Also watch your apostrophes.
And once again so you don’t forget. Save, save, save your work and always save a backup on a floppy disc at the end of every session on the computer and keep it somewhere safe.
Be as professional in your presentation and approach as possible. Be prompt in sticking to deadlines. If you are commissioned to present a piece by a certain date be sure to honour it. Enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope with your ms. Never use paper fasteners or staples to hold your pages together. Paper clips are perfectly adequate.
Stick rigidly to the word counts they accept. Don’t think they will make allowances for you. Remember that you are just one of a great number of hopefuls. Ensure that you give your manuscript the maximum chance of success. If it’s outside the guidelines busy editors will probably return it unread.
You Must Never
1. Hassle the editor for a decision. If you do your ms. will probably come winging back to you unread.
2. Tell editors that you are a new author and hope to play on their sympathy. Your presentation and work should be so good that they won’t guess that you are a beginner.
3. Tell editors that your submission is so good that they are bound to want it. They will promptly be inclined to decide that they don’t.
4. Tell them what you expect them to pay. Wait and see if they make an offer. None of us can afford to be picky. There’s too much competition. Writing is a buyers market, not the writer’s. The time to negotiate for higher rates is when the editor knows you and your work and has accepted several of your submissions.
Wait and see if they make an offer. None of us can afford to be picky. There’s too much competition. Writing is a buyers market, not the writer’s. The time to negotiate for higher rates is when the editor knows you and your work and has accepted several of your submissions.
(c) Theodora Cochrane has been a published author for many years.