PLEASE NOTE: The September maximum word count is 1000 - The October contest maximum word count will be 1500
Showing posts with label Articles on Writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Articles on Writing. Show all posts

Saturday, 19 September 2020

Why Does Fiction Matter?

There are some strange folks out there who say they don’t like fiction. 

Or rather, they perhaps just don’t understand its purpose.

Many people say they never read fiction because it’s not TRUE, so what’s the point?

To any budding novelist this attitude is as heinous as it is incomprehensible. 

Unfortunately it is also surprisingly common.

My Dad, for one, thinks that reading novels is just too hard so he’s never bothered with them.

When I asked him to read one of my books once he said, “Son, just tell me what happens.” 

One of his favorite lines about books is, “If it’s any good, they’ll make a movie out of it.”

How many times have you heard this?

Often I’m sure - not least because it’s true!

The implication here is obvious. 

To non-readers, it’s not the writing that’s important. 

It’s the story.

While great writing might profoundly impress writers like you and me, most people just want the message, rather than the medium.

I would say people like stories for four main reasons:



Validation and,

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.

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.

And no end in sight.

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.

And THAT'S why fiction matters!

Keep writing!

(c) Rob Parnell

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Common Writing Mistakes

Most books aren't rejected because the stories are "bad." They're rejected because they're not "ready to read." In short, minor stuff like typos, grammar, spelling, etc.

I don't mean places where we, as authors, deliberately break the rules. Those are fine. That's part of our job. Language always changes with use, and we can help it on its way. No, I'm referring to places where someone just plain didn't learn the rule or got confused or overlooked it during the self-edits.

I've been editing novels for over three years. Looking back at my experiences, I feel like sharing the most common mistakes I've seen. If you'll go through your manuscript and fix these before you submit it to a publisher, your odds of publication will increase dramatically.

Once you've found a publisher who publishes what you write, you want to present yourself in the best way possible. Submitting an unedited manuscript is a bit like going to a job interview wearing a purple Mohawk, no shoes, torn jeans, and a dirty T-shirt. Your resume may be perfect, and your qualifications impeccable, but something tells me you won't get the job.

The publisher is investing a lot in every book it accepts. E-publishers tend to invest loads of time,
and print publishers tend to invest an advertising budget and the cost of carrying a large inventory.
Why ask them to invest hours and days of editing time as well? If the publisher gets two or three or ten nearly identical books, you want yours to be the one requiring the least editing.

The first thing you need to do, and I hope you've already done it, is use the spelling and grammar
checkers in your word processor. This will catch many of the "common mistakes" on my list. But I've been asked to edit many books where the author obviously didn't do this, and I confess that I may well have been lazy and let a couple of mine get to my editors unchecked. Bad Michael!

Here's a list of the mistakes I see most often.

* Dialogue where everyone speaks in perfect English and never violates any of the bullet points below. Okay, I made that up. That's not really a common problem at all. But I have seen it, and it's a
terrible thing.

* It's is a contraction for "it is" and its is possessive.

* Who's is a contraction for "who is" and whose is possessive.

* You're is a contraction for "you are" and your is possessive.

* They're is a contraction for "they are," there is a place, their is possessive.

* There's is a contraction for "there is" and theirs is possessive.

* If you've been paying attention to the above examples, you've noticed that possessive pronouns never use apostrophes. Its, whose, your, yours, their, theirs...

* Let's is a contraction for "let us."

* When making a word plural by adding an s, don't use an apostrophe. (The cats are asleep.)

* When making a word possessive by adding an s, use an apostrophe. (The cat's bowl is empty.)

* A bath is a noun, what you take. Bathe is a verb, the action you do when taking or giving a bath.

* A breath is a noun, what you take. Breathe is a verb, the action you do when taking a breath.

* You wear clothes. When you put them on, you clothe yourself. They are made of cloth.

* Whenever you read a sentence with the word "that," ask yourself if you can delete that word and still achieve clarity. If so, kill it. The same can be said of all sentences. If you can delete a word without changing the meaning or sacrificing clarity, do it. "And then" is a phrase worth using your word processor's search feature to look for.

* Keep an eye on verb tenses. "He pulled the pin and throws the grenade" is not a good sentence.

* Keep an eye on making everything agree regarding singular and plural. "My cat and my wife is
 sleeping," "My cat sleep on the sofa," and "My wife is a beautiful women" are not good sentences. (I
exaggerate in these examples, but you know what I mean.)

* I and me, he and him, etc. I hope no editor is rejecting any novels for this one, because I suspect
that most people get confused at times. In dialogue, do whatever the heck you want because it sounds more "natural." But for the sake of your narrative, I'll try to explain the rule and the cheat. The rule
involves knowing whether your pronoun is the subject or object. When Jim Morrison of The Doors sings, "til the stars fall from the sky for you and I," he's making a good rhyme but he's using bad grammar. According to the rule, "you and I" is the object of the preposition "for," thus it should be "for you and me." The cheat involves pretending "you and" isn't there, and just instinctively knowing "for I" just doesn't sound right. (I think only native English speakers can use my cheat. For the record, I have great admiration for authors writing in languages that aren't their native tongues.)

* Should of, would of, could of. This one can make me throw things. It's wrong! What you mean is should have, would have, could have. Or maybe you mean the contractions. Should've, would've, could've. And maybe 've sounds a bit like of. But it's not! Of is not a verb. Not now, not ever.

* More, shorter sentences are better. Always. Don't ask a single sentence to do too much work or advance the action too much, because then you've got lots of words scattered about like "that" and "however" and "because" and "or" and "as" and "and" and "while," much like this rather pathetic excuse for a sentence right here.

* On a similar (exaggerated) note: "He laughed a wicked laugh as he kicked Ralphie in the face while
he aimed the gun at Lerod and pulled the trigger and then laughed maniacally as Lerod twisted in agony because of the bullet that burned through his face and splattered his brains against the wall and made the wall look like an overcooked lasagne or an abstract painting." Now tell me this sentence isn't trying to do too much.

* Too means also, two is a number, to is a preposition.

* He said/she said. Use those only when necessary to establish who's speaking. They distract the reader, pulling him out of the story and saying, "Hey look, you're reading a book." Ideally, within the context of the dialogue, we know who's talking just by the style or the ideas. When a new speaker arrives on the scene, identify him or her immediately. Beyond that, keep it to a minimum. Oh yeah, and give every speaker his/her own paragraph.

* Billy-Bob smiled his most winning smile and said, "What's a nice girl like you doing in a place like
this?" I don't like this. Use two shorter sentences in the same paragraph. Billy-Bob smiled his most
winning smile. "What's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?" Same effect, fewer words, no
dialogue tag (he said).

* In the previous example, I don't like "smiled his most winning smile," because it's redundant and also cliched. Please, if you find yourself writing something like that, try to find a better way to
express it before you just give up and leave it like it is. During the self-edit, I mean, not during the
initial writing.

* "The glow-in-the-dark poster of Jesus glowed in the dark." This editor won't let that one go. Much too redundant, and it appeared in a published novel.

* Lie is what you do when you lie down on the bed, lay is what you do to another object that you lay on the table. Just to confuse matters, the past tense of lie is lay. Whenever I hit a lay/lie word in reading, I stop and think. Do that when you self-edit. (Note: Don't fix this one in dialogue unless your character is quite well-educated, because most people say it wrong. I do.)

* Beware of the dangling modifier. "Rushing into the room, the exploding bombs dropped seven of the soldiers." Wait a minute! The bombs didn't rush into the room. The soldiers did. To get all technical about it, the first part is the "dependent clause," and it must have the same subject as the "independent clause" which follows. Otherwise it's amateur, distracting, and a real pain for your poor overworked editor.

* If you are able (many readers are not), keep an eye out for missing periods, weird commas, closing
quotes, opening quotes, etc. When I read a book, be it an ebook or a printed book, I can't help but spot every single one that's missing. They slap me upside the head, which makes me a great editor but a lousy reader. If you're like me, use that to your advantage. If not, that's what editors are for!

(c) Michael LaRocca

Source: Free Articles from

Kick Start your Short Fiction Stories

Is writing a novel something you’ve always wanted to do? Do you not have the faith in yourself to finish it? It’s very common amongst budding writers but is easily cured. A good way to start is by writing a short story rather than going straight into a full length novel.

When you start writing your short story you may find that it ends up being more of a full length novel but it’s a good place to start. Short stories are also a good way to get your profile started – short fiction is often published in magazines. Short stories is definitely the way to start your writing career and it will probably give you the confidence to tackle a full length novel before you know it!

Short fiction is based purely on the word count of your story and is therefore structured quite differently. For a full length novel or story you have plenty of time to reach the crux of your story but when writing short fiction you need to get to your climax as soon as possible and then work in the background around it. Readers are nearly always hooked straight away and you can then bring all the parts of your story together as the rest of your story is written. This is a way of writing used by many short fiction writers and is certainly a great place for you to start.

Once you have written what you want to say put it away for a day or two. Go back to it with a hammer and smash out every word not needed. Start taking out the word "that" and carry on from there. You have to be ruthless. You cannot afford to fall in love with every word or sentence. You will end up with a crisper story.

There is another form of short story writing which is a brand of storytelling using 6 word sentences. Writers who write this form of story telling take their work very seriously and strive to make their work exactly ‘short’! It is a form of storytelling not suited to most people and is not really a good place to start. You should however make sure that you keep your short fiction just that...short! Don’t waffle on and on and end up with something in the middle of a short fiction story and a novel! The number one priority for you is to keep your readers interested.

When you have made a start it may be difficult to keep your work to a short or moderate size. If you find you are able to write so much additional information and have so much detail to add it may be that you just carry on and write that novel after all!

(c) Barry Sheppard

Publishing pro and author/filmmaker Barry Sheppard has written and published many books with hundreds of reviews in newspapers, TV and radio.
Source: Free Articles from

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

You Got The Power

The more you write, the more you realize how hard it is to get anyone to take any notice of you.

Newbies often worry that their words are going to have some awful and monumental impact on people - way out of proportion to reality.

First time novelists often email me in varying states of panic, asking if it's okay to say this or that.

Others are so afraid of putting their name to their own writing, they want to invent pseudonyms - usually just before publication! In case their own words come back to bite them somehow.

In today's world, it's hard to even get noticed, let alone raise a stir in people enough to provoke a response.

There's about billion new words appearing on the Internet every day. In the real world, probably a billion again appearing in new books, newspapers and magazines. Writers everywhere are trying to read and to be heard, to be taken seriously.

And yet, a celebrity's kiss will always be more compelling news.

You've got to see things in context.

While it takes courage and determination to stand up and be counted, you have to understand that there's a lot of people out there that are already on the journey - people that have already discovered that endless self-promotion is just part of a writer's job - and that 99.99% will most likely seem ineffective.

Especially nowadays when a reader's time is so precious.

It would be nice to believe that all the words we slave over will one day have impact and carry the weight we give them.

But the fact is most people are more interested in their own words than anyone else's.

Self-interest is hard wired into our natures...

Ironically it's understanding this that will help you improve your writing.

My articles often focus on the need to connect with your reader.

It's well known in the marketing world that a reader's primary concern is: "What's in it for me?"
I call this WiiFM.

This is true of fiction, too.

People read because they want to feel a connection with the characters and the story. They see themselves as your hero. When you are being completely honest, readers don't automatically think, "Ooh er, what's this writer like?"

No, they most likely think, "Yeah, I understand that. That's what I would feel, do, be like, act in that way."

Books like Twilight and The Da Vinci Code become bestsellers simply because more people relate to the characters and the stories than they do other, just as competently written books.

Again, 'connection' is the key.

And as a writer you have to constantly strive to find better ways to connect.

On a practical, down to earth level, that's why writing a blog is always a good idea for a writer, not only to improve your writing as you do it, to get used to regular writing, but also to 'converse' with your audience and potential fans of your work.

You need to work in different writing mediums too - to strengthen your writing muscles and your skill base.

You have to be aware of societal changes - and regularly adjust your perspective to incorporate new mindsets, new ideas and new technology.

Making a two minute YouTube video promoting your book might seem a daunting project but, given the mindset of the average punter, it's something you should seriously consider. If only to help a larger number of people visualize your writing, in a way that is more commonly apprehended today than the mere written word ever is or was.

Don't be afraid to experiment. Never say no to a new way of thinking - and never stop learning.

Too often old writers, even quite successful ones, get stuck in their ways and watch with incomprehension as younger writers rise to the fore and pass them by.

If you're not afraid to fail, you have more power than you think.

Especially if you embrace technology - and are determined to use it effectively.

Keep writing!

(c) Rob Parnell
Writing Academy

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Write Strategy: Think, Believe, Attack

Think of writing like's about DISCIPLINE.

Writing, like other forms of art, work or talent, requires discipline. It won't ever be enough that you say to yourself that you are a writer. Only when you write and write with discipline can you call yourself one. Before you can earn a black belt in karate, you have to dedicate yourself, practice and instill discipline in yourself to learn the moves and techniques.

The same goes for writing. Don't just read books. Devour them. Ray Bradbury, author of Zen in the Art of Writing, suggests books of essays, poetry, short stories, novels and even comic strips. Not only does he suggest that you read authors who write the way you hope to write, but "also read those who do not think as you think or write as you want to write, and so be stimulated in directions you might not take for many years." He continues, "don't let the snobbery of others prevent you from reading Kipling, say, while no one else is reading him."

Learn to differentiate between good writing and bad writing. Make time to write. Write even though you're in a bad mood. Put yourself in a routine. Integrate writing into your life. The goal is not to make writing dominate your life, but to make it fit in your life. Julia Cameron, in her book The Right to Write, sums it best: "Rather than being a private affair cordoned off from life as the rest of the world lives it, writing might profitably be seen as an activity best embedded in life, not divorced from it."

Believe that EVERYONE HAS A STORY -- including you.

Extraordinary things happen to ordinary people. As a writer, your job is to capture as many of these things and write them down, weave stories, and create characters that jump out of the pages of your notebook. Don't let anything escape your writer's eye, not even the way the old man tries to subtly pick his nose or the way an old lady fluffs her hair in a diner. What you can't use today, you can use tomorrow. Store these in your memory or jot them down in your notebook.

Jump in the middle of the fray. Be in the circle, not outside it. Don't be content being a mere spectator. Take a bite of everything life dishes out. Ray Bradbury wrote, "Tom Wolfe ate the world and vomited lava. Dickens dined at a different table every hour of his life. Moliere, tasting society, turned to pick up his scalpel, as did Pope and Shaw. Everywhere you look in the literary cosmos, the great ones are busy loving and hating. Have you given up this primary business as obsolete in your own writing? What fun you are missing, then. The fun of anger and disillusion, the fun of loving and being loved, of moving and being moved by this masked ball which dances us from cradle to churchyard. Life is short, misery sure, mortality certain. But on the way, in your work, why not carry those two inflated pig-bladders labeled Zest and Gusto."

Attack writing with PASSION.

The kind of writing you produce will oftentimes reflect the current state of your emotions. Be indifferent and your writing will be indifferent. Be cheerful and watch the words dance across your page.

Whenever you sit down to write, put your heart and soul in it. Write with passion. Write as if you won't live tomorrow. In her book, Writing the Wave, Elizabeth Ayres wrote: "There's one thing your writing must have to be any good at all. It must have you. Your soul, your self, your heart, your guts, your voice -- you must be on that page. In the end, you can't make the magic happen for your reader. You can only allow the miracle of 'being one with' to take place. So dare to be you. Dare to reveal yourself. Be honest, be open, be true...If you are, everything else will fall into place."

(c) Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ

Shery is the creator of WriteSparks! - a software that generates over 10 *million* Story Sparkers for Writers. Download WriteSparks! Lite for free

Write Possibilities

We writers are a powerful lot. We control time. We dictate actions. We control destinies.

We can make two completely opposite people fall in love with each other, and we can create family feuds that can last for centuries.

We can make our heroine travel back in time to rescue her soulmate, and we can give the most villainous person the punishment she deserves.

We can take our characters to the most exotic places and give them their own adventures.

Simply put, we writers can create our own possibilities. In our world, nothing is impossible.

Try creating your own possibilities using the given prompts below.

There are 4 givens: theme, setting, character and key object. Randomly pick 1 from each and use these to start off your piece.

Themes: deception, irony, love lost, infidelity, rejection

Characters: chemist, divorced woman, doctor, teacher, singer

Key object: yellow bag, pen, knife, shoe, fuse box

Settings: space colony, gym, park, lab, retirement home

Here are a few examples using the above prompts:

Write a story about love lost, with a doctor as the main character and a shoe as the key object. Set your story in a park.
Write a story about infidelity, with a chemist as the main character and a pen as the key object. Set your story in a gym.
Write a story about deception, with a singer as the main character and a yellow bag as the key object. Set your story in a space colony.
Write a story about rejection, with a divorced woman as the main character, and a knife as the key object. Set your story in a retirement home.
Write a story about irony, with a teacher as the main character and a fuse box as the key object. Set your story in a lab.
Mix and match the themes, characters, key objects and settings. You can come up with more than 30 possibilities just using the ones already given.

Write stories... write your possibilities!

(c) Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ

About The Author  Shery is the creator of WriteSparks! - a software that generates over *10 million* Story Sparkers for Writers. Download WriteSparks!

Friday, 21 August 2020

Helpful Tips on Writing Short Stories

When it comes to writing everybody is different. Personally, before I had been given an opportunity to write a short story, or even had any desire to write one, had anyone asked me what my perception was of this type of writing, I would respond that I thought it was probably quite easy - that it was certainly an easier mode of writing to pursue.

But in a couple years that changed and I now find myself eating my words. Having initially tried and failed to write a number of short stories, I then found myself attending various workshops and reading tips online to try to understand why I was failing so miserably at grasping this art. And so, through a lot of study and practice I slowly learnt that there is indeed a large amount of skill required when it comes to this genre of writing, and that patience with both the story and the pace at which the story is born are crucial to your success.

There are lots of reasons why short stories are hard to write:

Thinking it is easy- There is often an under-estimation of just how hard short stories are to write. Because of that most individuals approach it as an easy task and leads them to take on this art under-prepared. Just because it is a short story and not a novel does not mean it is an easier; in fact some might find writing short stories a harder task.

Lack of preparation-  Writing well is an art; it requires study and practice. Many people find it difficult to write a short story because they haven't spent sufficient time reading short works by other writers, or looking into the skills and techniques needed to grasp the crucial techniques. It just like doing a research paper in college, you aren’t going to start writing without any knowledge about your subject. If you are serious about writing then you need to spend time researching the art of writing before you dive headfirst into the action.

Jump into Action- Short stories are by default...short!! This means that you are limited in the number of words that you have available for setting the scene at the beginning of the piece, and so you must be brave and leap right into the action. For writers who are used to writing longer novellas or novels, this can be challenging. It takes some practice to condense your writing and clearly get the message across.

Use of Diction- Some short stories don't use any diction, but rely solely on the narrator to guide the reader through the story. Others use diction as the focus of the text, and this helps set the pace, action and tone of the piece. But with only a few hundred or thousand words at your disposal, the use of diction must to be perfect if it is going to work as the driving force throughout the story.

Use of Language- If you are writing a story that does not use diction as the driving force then you need to rely on descriptive language. But as with diction, the use of words and thus the use of time are limited significantly in a short story. Often individuals find it very difficult to write a short piece because they find it very hard to make every word of language count.

In conclusion this form of writing is not as simple as you may think but don’t give up hope. It is going to take research and practice but if you have a true love for writing then the outcome will be worth it.

(c) Heather Kraus

Thursday, 13 August 2020

11 Great Reasons to be a Writer

Today I thought I'd outline the perks associated with living the writer's life. Some of them are obvious but others less so.

1. You Get Your Name in Print
Obvious. The career writer knows that many people spend their entire lives trying to get to this, stage one, of the writer's life.
You never take it for granted. It's what you slave for, yes, it's what you want but, more, what you really want is your writing in print.
Having your words in print is like an endorsement of who you are. Somehow you matter. And that feels good.

2. You Get Recognition
There are two aspects of this. One, you get people coming up to you in the supermarket who know your name - which is kind of weird the first time it happens - actually every time it happens because it's easy to forget you're famous, especially if you're not very famous!
Two, you go places or call people and they say, "Yeah, I know you," and it takes you by surprise. It's like having a flag bearing messenger running ahead of you, breathlessly telling people you're coming - and you're some sort of dignitary, so they'd better listen to you!

3. You Get Respect
You come up with an idea and you write it down, send it out and you are taken seriously. This in itself is wonderful. Of course you still get rejections but when you've had a little success, people listen for longer, they consider your idea, they let you pitch it and don't treat you with contempt. They're considering your idea rather than just little old you - which is the position you've always wanted to be in.

4. You Get Royalties
Those checks come in and of course, it's never enough. Okay, so you don't have to go back to real work but, consider this:
Rich artists will attest that, the bigger the royalty check, the less it's about you.
A certain responsibility comes with success. You're not only doing what you do for yourself. There's all the administrators, marketing people and retailers that are relying on your creativity to pay their wages to consider. Plus the duty of integrity you owe to your readers.
Scary thoughts - especially if you only went into the game for yourself.

5. You Get to Sleep In
Can't beat it with a stick.
We all get those times when you wake up and don't feel like facing the world. When you're a successful writer - as in you get paid for what you do - it's okay to indulge in those luxuries once in a while. Ah, bliss.

6. You've Got No Boundaries
You get to define your own priorities. You get to plan your day, your week, your year, your life.
If you want to spend a couple of months working on a novel, you can. If you want to develop a movie project idea, you can. If you want to do nothing for a couple of days, you can.
Of course, there's always the commercial consideration. You have to be sure that some money will come from your ideas eventually - in the future or in the short term - but whether and when you work on them, well, that's your decision, your call.
Nice work if you can get it, as they say.

7. You Get to Speak
People want you to talk, to come to their venues and say something. This is very flattering, especially if they say they don't care what you talk about, as long as you're there.
You get to talk about yourself and answer questions they want to ask you. It's nice to get those opportunities because it's like, what else was I going to do?
And you're going to pay me too? Wow, that's pretty cool.

8. You Get Presents
It's something that goes back to the beginning of time. People give gifts to those they like or revere. It's a show of respect. It can be very disarming, especially when it's unexpected, which is pretty much all of the time!

9. You Get Fans
It's weird when people quote your own lines back at you, especially when you hadn't thought those particular lines were important.
You get people that tell you they've been following your career, that they have read everything you've written, that they are your number one fan. You smile, you say nice things and you hope you won't let them down.
It's hard sometimes because you're thinking, "Thank you, but I'm just me!"

10. You Get Holidays
At last, a perk that is serious fun, even if it doesn't happen too often!
People often assume that when you're a writer you're already living one long holiday, so why would you need to go away? Uh, well, it doesn't quite work like that...
Just because you're doing something towards your career every day doesn't mean you don't feel the need to get away sometimes.
The best thing is, within reason and prior commitments, you can just go, whenever and wherever you like. But of course, you'll usually find an excuse to make it work related too!

11. You Get To Claim It All Against Tax
If you're an artist, an actor or a writer, then it's assumed you're being that 24/7. Everything you think and feel is about your work. Everything you do is about your work. Therefore, everything you do - and buy - is, at least in theory, tax deductible. Yowzah.

I hope all of the above reasons will inspire you to pursue the writer's life.
If you're in any doubt as to your abilities to compete, take a good look at the people you regard as rich and successful. What have they got that you haven't?
Talent? Good looks? Luck?
Nah, it's all about commitment - and the courage to believe.
Keep writing!

(c) Rob Parnell

Friday, 7 August 2020

Writing is a Life Long Sentence

1. Read Like it's Going Out of Fashion

You've heard it a million times before. You can't love writing without first loving to read. Read a lot. Read everything. Analyse writing and writers. Study what works, what doesn't, wonder why and learn from it.

Realize too that the published writing you see has probably been worked and reworked over and over to appear effortless. Don't assume professional writers get it down perfect every time. They don't. Their work has been analyzed, edited and beaten into shape by themselves and other editors.

2. Study Your Own Writing

Study every word, every sentence, every phrase. Are you maximizing the effect of your words? Could you say the same thing a different way?

Don't just blindly accept your words as perfect. Professionals know there is always another way of stating something, setting a scene, explaining an emotion. Too many novice writers fall in love with their words, refusing to accept there might be a better way to get to what is true.

3. Learn to Love Criticism

When we start out, criticism hurts - big time. We've bared our soul. We've agonized over our words and are proud of what we've said. Off-hand comments about our work can feel like a body slam, even an attack on our capabilities, our character, our integrity.

But that's not what is going on. People love to criticize - it's human nature. Even the best writers are criticized. The point is to learn from criticism and rise above it. Listen to what is being said, make changes if necessary but do it for yourself. You are the final arbiter - but don't be blind or sulky about it. Take it on board.

4. Read Aloud to Others

Reading out loud can highlight the strengths and weaknesses in your writing. Especially in the areas of rhythm, wordiness, and dialogue. It's a great test.

Read to friends and family, yes, but also read to other writers. Let them make comments. Enjoy the process.

Try this. Read a short piece to a group of friends/writers. Make note of how your writing sounds to them. Listen to suggestions. Make changes, read it aloud again. Keep doing this until everyone involved thinks the writing - every word, every phrase - is perfect.

5. Try Different Styles

It's too easy to get stuck in one area of expertise. If you're a fiction buff, try writing magazine articles or screenplays. If you're a journalist, try free-form fiction. If you're a literary type, try writing advertising copy. Don't limit yourself. All types of writing are good in their own way and experimenting with them can teach you little tricks that help you become a more mature, fully rounded writer.

Novice writers tend to think they shouldn't experiment, that somehow it might taint their art. Nothing could be further from the truth.

6. Take Courses, Read More Books on Writing

The process of being taught, of exposing yourself to the ideas of others, cannot be underestimated. Even if you disagree with what is being said, it all helps stretch you and give you a deeper understanding of what is good and right for your writing.

When you take lessons in writing, study hard, do the exercises, listen to the feedback, act on it and write some more. Your writing will improve the more you do it. Don't sit and fret over your writing. Just do it.

7. Seek Out Good Advice

I quite often hear novice writers complain that they're learning nothing new about writing from the various authorities they consult. They sound disillusioned, as if there's more pertinent information out there if only they could find it.

Odd. considering I've never met a seasoned writer didn't love to debate the absolute basics of word-play, grammar, sentence structure and all the other little things that novices seem to grow weary of hearing.

Remember. You can never hear good advice too many times.

8. Give Back

Share your knowledge. Teach what you have learned about writing to others. Too often novice writers can feel there's some sort of clique of professionals who don't want to talk to them or associate with them.

We writers, whatever our abilities, must learn to see ourselves as a community with similar aims - to actively enhance all our writing - to raise the bar and to act for the betterment of all writers.

9. Constantly Want More From Yourself

Stretch yourself continuously. Find new ways of expressing yourself.
Writing is sometimes a strange past-time. A writing project that begins like an adventure can quickly become an obsession that ends up feeling like some self-inflicted curse!

But all writing experience is good, whether it's fun or not. Not all of your writing is going to be fun and fulfilling. Some of it may be a hard slog or a nuisance. This is okay.

If you want to succeed in writing, it should become your life, your passion, even your reason to be. It's a fine and noble way of life. If you want it, embrace it, and your writing will benefit enormously. Go for it!

Best of luck and - whatever you do - keep writing.

(c) Rob Parnell

Writing Academy

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Becoming a Better Writer

The urge to write fiction seems God given for some, a learned skill for others.

One thing is certain – it requires practice and a particular mindset. But, if you’re a beginner, where do you start?

The following 10 tips will help kick-start your writing habit, whether you’re a complete novice, or perhaps a pro who has lost their way!

1. Step Away From the Car, Sir.

Slightly detach yourself from your surroundings. Stop participating and begin observing. In social situations, watch people, see how they act and – more importantly - interact.

Don’t pass judgment. Take it all in – and draw on it later when you write.

2. Look Harder, Homer

Stop and look around you. Consciously notice the buildings, what’s underfoot, overhead, and what’s right in front of you.

At home, look at something you take for granted. An iron, for instance. Find yours and study it.

3. Write Thinking Will Be Rewarded.

A simple technique. Your mother is making tea and you are chatting to her. Take a mental step back and describe the scene.

Similarly, when you’re outside, describe your environment as though you were writing it down.

4. What Reasons Do You Need?

Don’t wait for inspiration – just write!

Force yourself to write anything at all. A shopping list. An overheard conversation. Describe your bedroom.

It doesn’t matter how personal it is, or how trivial, just get it down!

5. Wakey Wakey!

Set your alarm clock for an hour earlier than normal.

When the alarm goes off, get up. Don’t dress, bathe or eat. Don’t even make coffee. Just stagger to your writing space and write the first thing that comes into your head for five minutes.

6. Oh God – Not That!

Think of the most awful and embarrassing thing you’ve ever done - the more cringe-worthy the better. Now write about it. All of it, in all its gory, horrible detail.

Then hide it away for a year or so before you read it again!

7. Like Your Style, Baby.

Don’t limit yourself. Write poems, songs, dialogue, fact, fiction, even practice writing advertising copy or horoscopes.

Your expertise improves in all areas – an improvement in one area can reap benefits in another.

8. The Sincerest Flattery

Take out a classic book from your bookcase. Copy out a paragraph. Think about the words as you write them. Don’t get intimidated!

9. Wanna See My Invention?

When you’re not writing, string together stories in your mind. Think of plots, characters, settings, dénouements.

Ask yourself what you should do next to improve your writing.

Develop this technique into a habit.

10. It’s A Goal!

When you start writing regularly, set yourself small goals. Anything from 200 words a day, or just a commitment to writing in your diary.

Later extend to finishing a short story, or an article or a poem. Perhaps one in a week.

The trick is to set goals you can achieve easily.

That way you’ll get the writing habit - and you won’t forget to enjoy it!

(c) Rob Parnell

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

Thursday, 16 July 2020

Should You Write For Free?

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:

  1. 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"...)

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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:
  1. "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.

  2. "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.)

  3. "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!

  4. "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.

  5. "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!

Ways to Profit from Writing for Free - Audrey Faye Henderson

Copyright © 2001 Moira Allen

Moira Allen is the editor of, 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, Allen hosts, 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. She can be contacted at editors "at"

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Does Your Story Have A Theme?

It should.

A theme is a one-line explanation of your story.. Every story should have one because our stories are about something.

When I say should, I mean that this isn’t always the case. Especially so for beginner writers, who may not know, that the theme carries the story. Or even those who’ve been writing for years may not be aware of the importance of a theme.

And a theme is important.

A theme is what will keep you on track as you write the story.

What happens if you write without a theme in mind? Two things…

1.You stray from the subject


2.You write more than one story.

Let me give you an example of a story written with a theme in mind…

The theme to a story I once wrote was, ‘Vanity Leads To Destruction.’

Very briefly, this story is about a female character that believed herself to be so beautiful, in the end she lost everything.

Writing this theme on a post-it note and sticking it on my computer, I was always reminded that my story had to revolve around this theme. Having a theme helped me stick to the story I had intended on writing and not stray from it – not even a little. It also helped me to focus only on what was essential to my story.

So according to my theme, ‘Vanity Leads To Destruction’…

• Every action my character performed was to show her vanity

• Her goals sprung from her vanity

• What motivated her was her vanity

• Her words (dialogue) showed her vanity

• How she handled situations showed her vanity

• The interaction with other characters showed her vanity

• The conflict was a result of her vanity

• The highest peak in my story, the climax, showed an intense moment of whether her goal would be met (whether her vanity would work for, or against her)

• And the ending? The ending showed how she was led to destruction because of her vanity

By following my theme, everything in my story was precise.

If I showed my character not being vain in any instance, then I would’ve strayed from my theme.

If you didn’t consciously write with a theme in mind, then your story won’t have one. Chances are, your story isn’t focused. But then again there is the other possibility… At times we fluke things.

Perhaps without consciously knowing, a theme is running through your story.

Check your story to see if this is the case. If it is, are you sticking to the theme?

If you find that some parts of your story are straying from the theme, those parts will need to be changed to accommodate the theme.

Now the other possibility…

You don’t have a theme and none is running through your story. That’s okay. We can still save it. Read through your story and see what it’s about. Then come up with the most appropriate theme to it - A theme that makes sense yet won’t mean too much work to change the story.

Rewrite those parts that don’t accommodate the theme.

It is easier if we come up with a theme while we are at the plotting stage. It saves all that rewriting but not to worry… You won’t make the same error again in your next story!

(c) Nick Vernon

Besides his passion for writing, Nick Vernon runs an online gift site where you will find gift information, articles and readers’ funny stories. 

Does Each Element of Your Story Further The Theme?

Whichever theme you choose, all the elements, which make up your story, dialogue, conflict, scenes, etc should be written with the theme in mind.

Your theme should progress the story.

If you find that anything in your story doesn’t progress it, it should be cut when you are in the editing stage.

Before we see an example of elements written with a theme in mind, let’s think of a theme and a story….

The theme is…

‘Arrogance Leads To Humiliation’

Very briefly, this story is about a character that believes he is better than his colleagues.

His goal is to get promoted to a managerial position. What will prevent him from reaching his goal, is the fact that management are aware of his arrogance and they don’t believe, with his attitude, he is the right person to manage the staff.

To meet his goal, the character will take on more work than he can handle. He will do this to prove to management, that he is the right man for the job. But in the end, he will make a grave error and his arrogance will lead him to humiliation.

Now let’s take a look at the elements of this story…


The character’s dialogue will show his arrogance, by the tone of his voice and the words he chooses to express himself.


I will show my character is arrogant by the way I describe him and from how other characters see him.


I will explain what makes him think he is better than everyone else.


I will state his goal and show how it arises from the fact that he believes himself better than everyone else.


The setting is going to be in an office environment. I can show his arrogance through the setting by perhaps describing the contents of his desk (trophies) and his desk area in general (diplomas on the walls.) etc.


The conflict will come from himself. He is the one that creates it by doing and saying thingsScience Articles, which create dislike.


The climax is the highest point in my story where the conflict and his arrogance will come to their peak. Here we will see how he tries to overcome the conflict and reach his goal by taking on more work.


I will end my story with my character’s humiliation. He takes on more work and makes an error in judgement. Which not only prevents his promotion but also gets him fired.

My theme here would have run its course.

(c) Nick Vernon

Besides his passion for writing, Nick Vernon runs an online gift site where you will find gift information, articles and readers’ funny stories.

Source: Free Articles from

Can Your Theme Be Proved In Your Story?

Your theme has to be something you can prove in your story - It doesn’t have to be a universal truth. This means that your theme doesn’t have to be something that happens in real life all the time (providing our logic can accept it, in order for us to believe it).

Whatever story you choose to write, be it a contemporary or a story which requires elements of fantasy such as in horror, science fiction etc… the events of that story have to appear logical.

What is not logical and consequently not believable is…

A character that has no knowledge of computers and overnight becomes a computer whiz

A car that goes over a cliff, bursts into flames and the character manages to escape unscratched


These are not believable because they can’t and don’t happen in real life and our logic doesn’t accept them.

Your theme will be believed when you prove it (providing of course you can.) Let’s see how you can do that.

We’ll start with a theme…

“Hard work leads to success.’

Our story is about a character whose goal is to reach a managerial position within the company that he works. For the reader to see how the character will reach his goal I will show him…

  • Working hard
  • Working long hours
  • Using his initiative
  • Being responsible

And all those qualities, in the end, will secure him the promotion he has been aiming for.

So my theme here will be proved that ‘Hard work leads to success’ because my character succeeds in the end.

From the examples I have given so far, you may have noticed that my stories end on a happy note. Yours don’t have to. The ending will depend on the story you are writing and how you, the writer, prefers to end it.

I could have done the reverse with this theme. I could have said,

“Hard work doesn’t lead to success.”

My story will be the same but in the end I will have the character missing out on the promotion. Both themes will be proved because I have proved them in my story.

Any theme can work in a story providing you can prove it.

Have you proved your theme?

(c) Nick Vernon

Besides his passion for writing, Nick Vernon runs an online gift site where you will find gift information, articles and readers’ funny stories. 

Source: Free Articles from

Is The Theme Reinforced In The Ending?

By now you should have an idea that your theme has to reach its conclusion just as your story does. But our theme has to do more than reach its conclusion – it has to be reinforced in the end and by doing this, it will strengthen all that we have said in our story.

So if we took a theme…

‘Persist and in the end you will succeed’

And I showed my character working hard to achieve his goals, persisting, even if at times those goals seemed unreachable, then I would’ve showed that all his hard work did pay off in the end. By having him succeed, it would reinforce the theme that had been running throughout the story.

Let me further illustrate this point by giving you a more detailed example.

The theme is…

‘Persistence pays off’

The story is about a writer, who has been writing short stories for years, but has not succeeded in getting published yet.

In your story you will show his persistence with…

•How he makes time to write, even when his day is already full by his full time job and other responsibilities

•How his every thought is consumed by his writing

•Showing him sending story after story to publishers

•How he doesn’t let the fact that his family believe he’s wasting his time, distract him from his purpose

Simultaneously I will place him in win and lose situations - Losing when his stories are rejected - Winning when he receives encouraging notes from publishers.

And in those instances where he is winning, I will show gradually that resistance is starting to pay off, till I reach the end of my story where I will have one of his stories accepted for publication and thus bring my theme of ‘Persistence pays off’ to its conclusion.

By showing the reader how persistence is paying off, I would have reinforced the theme in my ending.

Is your theme reinforced in the end of your story?

(c) Nick Vernon

Besides his passion for writing, Nick Vernon runs an online gift site where you will find gift information, articles and readers’ funny stories. 

Source: Free Articles from

Is The Theme Running Throughout The Story?

It’s no use coming up with a theme and not using it. Short stories are about a character or characters and about one situation or happening in those characters’ lives.

By concentrating on that one thing, our stories are focused. You will need to focus to maintain a level of intensity and sticking to the theme enables us to do that.

Let me give you an example…

Scenario One

Let’s say your story is about a young man (main character) who is being harassed (one situation) by the school bully (secondary character.) Let’s place the setting in grade school.

Now if we focus on that single happening and in our story say….

• What started the bullying

• What the main character felt, confronted with this problem

• What the main character did to overcome this problem

• If the main character won or lost against the bully…

Then we’ll be focusing only on that incident which is what our story is about.

Scenario Two

Now if we took that situation further and in our story said that this character grew up and was bullied in high school and then later by a colleague…

That will be listing three incidences, which will weaken our story because we are not focusing.

Remember a short story is short.

We don’t have too much leeway to develop too many things so we have to be selective with what we choose to concentrate on. Short stories work best when they span over a short period of time.

Like in scenario one, this incident might span over a couple of days or a week, where in the second scenario, it spans over a number of years. The shorter the time span the more intense the story.

Your theme should begin at the beginning, run through the middle and conclude in the end. So let’s put a theme to the first scenario…

‘Strength Comes From Within And In The End Prevails.’

How can I have this theme running throughout my story?

Initially I will portray my main character as a weak individual. But I will excuse his weakness, by saying perhaps that…

“He comes from a closely knit, loving family and initially doesn’t know how to deal with such a conflict.”

As my story progresses, I will gradually show his inner strength and I will do this through incidences, which will show his maturity, like…

•He helps out by caring for his younger siblings and contributes with the housework.


•I can show him cutting the neighbours’ lawns or delivering newspapers before school to show that he contributes economically too.

If I do this, my ending (when he wins against the bully) will be believable because I have developed his inner strength. My theme would have run its course.

Is your theme running throughout the story?

(c) Nick Vernon

Besides his passion for writing, Nick Vernon runs an online gift site where you will find gift information, articles and readers’ funny stories. 

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Start as a 5-minute Writer

5 minutes. That's all you need to begin writing. You don't have to set aside a morning, a day or even a weekend to write.

If you do, it will only put pressure on you; writing then becomes a chore, an appointment in your already busy schedule.

And like your other appointments, you'll be tempted to move your writing schedule some other time.

So rather than put yourself in a position where you "have" to write because "it's in my schedule," start by finding 5 minutes in your day and then use those minutes to write.

How long does it take for your e-mails to finish downloading? There's your 5-minute writing time.

Your casserole takes how many minutes to simmer? There's your 5-minute writing time.

How long do you have to wait for the bus (or train) at the terminal? There's your 5-minute writing time.

Stuck in a long check-out line at the supermarket? There's your 5-minute writing time.

How long before it's your turn to do your morning ritual in the bathroom/toilet? There's your 5-minute writing time.

I'm certain you can think of other situations in your life where you can snatch those 5 minutes.

In 5 minutes, write how you're feeling at that moment; describe where you are; do a one-paragraph character sketch of the tired-looking cashier; make a list of things you want to do or don't want to do at the present.

Snatch those 5 minutes of writing time every day. That's not a lot to ask for when there are 1,440 minutes in a day.

Start as a 5-minute writer. Give yourself time to be comfortable and used to this new habit. Allow those 5 minutes of writing time to blend in with your every day life. Soon you'll be writing beyond your 5-minute writing time, and you won't even notice your 5 minutes are up!

(c)  2003 Shery Ma Belle Arrieta

Shery is the creator of WriteSparks! - a software that generates over 1,000,000 Story Sparkers for Writers.
Download WriteSparks! Lite for free

How to Generate Story Ideas Quickly and Easily

You love short story writing but just at the moment the ideas won't come. Sound familiar? With these idea generators you'll never be left in the doldrums again. Get your next story out of your head and onto the paper in no time.

​Want to enter a short story competition but the ideas won't come? Got an editor who's after you for a story for her magazine that you can't say 'no' to? Got a mind that's as empty as the Sahara? What you need is a sure-fire method to kick-start those creative juices. And guess what...?

Do this right now: Go to the mirror, look yourself boldly in the eye and say with as much conviction as you can muster "I am a writer! This is just a temporary hiccup in the great digestive system of life. I vow to be burp free from this moment on".

Now, don't you feel better already?

OK. So let's take a look at two ways I've used to get over this problem in the past. At least one of them should work for you. Try and treat these methods as a game so that you begin to enjoy them, and often your heart will go into it as well as your head.

Method 1 - Talk Rubbish

Rubbish? No, I haven't lost my marbles. This method works like a charm.

What has happened is that your imagination has gone into a sulk. So what we need to do is get it off its derry air and working again.

Begin to write words and phrases, any words, any phrases, just as they come into your head. Don't censor them in any way, just let them flow. Like this:

Flypaper, astronaut, Kentish Town, lucky parsnip, crystal glass, stapler, weekend away, Morris dancing ...

Now we use the writers five good friends What, Where, Why, When & How.

Example: What was the flypaper doing? Falling off the hook.

Why was it falling? Because Tiddles had climbed onto the wall cabinet and knocked it off.

Where did it land? Onto the mortgage acceptance form ruining it irreparably.

When did the mortgage acceptance form have to be in? Tomorrow at 12 noon.

How did Mrs Harforth of 16 Shellness-on-Sea Caravan Park bring triumph out of disaster? Or failure? (Maybe because it was the wrong house for her/them.)

Now we're up and running and we can take Mrs H along her exciting and emotional journey to a breathtaking and satisfying conclusion.

Start with any WWWWH question and work through one stage at a time until you've got a result that could be a goer. If the first word in your list doesn't go anywhere, try the next and so on.

Method 2 - Fantasy rubbish This is an extention of the previous exercise but this time we write down short sentences where something is HAPPENING. There must be movement going on to get your inner visual imagination into gear.

For example:

Delores watched the balloon bump languidly into the ice cream van...


The F15 fighter plane roared through the valley sending sheep and cattle fleeing...

As for single words, just think of any old sentence, no matter how silly, and don't stop until you've got half a dozen or so down on paper.

Now begin to ask the questions. What, where, why, when and how.

Take the first example. What if the balloon collides into the ice cream van? Does the dashing young ice cream vendor catch it and hand it back to the blushing Delores? Does a small child, trying to catch it, rush across the road in front of on-coming traffic? Does the balloon burst and frighten a dear old granny buying an ice cream, causing her to drop it?

Not earth shattering story lines I know, but they would make a start - and that's what we're trying to do, make a start. Just keep developing the original incident until you've got the germ of a plot going.

So, there you have it. I hope these block-busters (sorry) will come to your aid and help you get that story started!

(c) Mervyn Love

Mervyn Love has been writing stories and articles since time immemorial. He would be delighted to have you visit his website at which has a grand selection of resources, articles, competition listings and links which will benefit any writer from the aspiring to the well published. 

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Does The Title Reflect The Story?

We all have different tastes in what we like to read. Some have a particular taste for horror, while others prefer romance or fantasy or crime stories, etc. My favourite genre in short stories is horror, so once the title grabs my attention, I will enthusiastically read the story.

You may want to leave your readers in no doubt of the type of story you have written. That’s fine. You want to grab all the fans out there and/or recruit new readers into the genre you are so fond of writing.

So, how do you select a title that reflects your story?

Should the title always reflect the story?

Not always. But your title must have some sort of connection with your story.

Is There A Connection Between Your Title And Your Story?
If you choose not to have the title reflect the story that’s fine too. But there should be some relevance between them.

If, for instance, your story is about a man walking on the moon, then it wouldn’t make sense to title it, ‘Walking on Mars.’

If your story is an uplifting tale about two characters finding love, then your title isn’t going to mention death, unless of course one of the characters’ die.

At first your title may not give away the nature of your story. But once having read the story, the reader will understand the connection. Let me give you a few examples…

‘The Fire In The Sky’

This can be the title of a story in which an airplane explodes in midair or a story about a meteorite on its way to earth, etc.

‘An Angel Amongst Us’

Can be the title of a story about a person with extraordinary kindness or about an angel that leaves the heavenly realm to reside on earth, etc.

You can be ambiguous in your title if you wish. Your title doesn’t always have to reflect your story. Having more than one possible meaning intrigues the reader but remember…

There has to be a connection between your title and your story.

(c) Nick Vernon

Besides his passion for writing, Nick Vernon runs an online gift site where you will find gift information, articles and readers’ funny stories. 

Source: Free Articles from