Short Stories

Calling Authors: Anthology Time!

The Legends of Ol’ Man Wickleberry

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Ol’ Man Wickleberry, rest his soul, died in the 1920s, attacked by a bear…or was it a zombie? I heard he was rabbit hunting…or was he prospecting? Or maybe he was defending his cabin from wild squirrels? At least we can all agree he died in northern Michigan – or did he? Maybe he was in California and his body was brought back to his family, and so now his ghost walks the beaches of lake Huron. Or maybe he spends his everafter trolling guests at a vacation lodge, or interrupting writers who stay up too late, or…

That’s the trouble with Ol’ Man Wickleberry, there are just too many legends! Heck, we’re not even completely sure when he died! In an effort to find the truth, Book Born, in conjunction with the Ink Slingers League, has decided to gather those legends into a single volume – an anthology if you will – where the proceeds benefit the Book Born 2017 Retreat Fund.

AUTHORS:

1) You do NOT have to be a “published” author to join us! Even if you’ve never published before – whether indy, self, or traditional- you can still submit a story

2) All stories must be between 1,000 words and 10,000 words.

3) All stories must be about Ol’ Man Wickleberry. They can be in his PoV, or anyone else’s – someone he is haunting, his dear old mother, whatever you can think of. They can be about how he met his end, or they can be about his ghostly afterlife (though they should at least mention what led to his grisly demise).

4) Stories can have adult components (such as language or violence) but please no erotica or heavily sexual stories. Ol’ Man Wickleberry doesn’t seem like the type to be gettin’ it on.

5) You MUST have a Smashwords author account. Smashwords’ rules, not mine. You don’t have to sell any books on Smashwords to make this account – it’s free and easy – but you have to have one for us to link to in the metadata.

6) We don’t guarantee any editing, so make sure you’ve done it before you submit. If a story has a lot of typos or errors we will reject it. We will also not update your story later. If you write a “better” version or a new author bio, or anything else. Once it’s published, it’s published, so make sure it’s the way you want it before you submit it.

7) You will NOT be paid. Though the anthology will be for sale, all proceeds will go to the Book Born 2017 Expo & Retreat Fund. This fund helps offset the cost of the first ever Book Born Expo and annual Book Born Retreat, which is currently set for October 2017 (pending finalization). If you’d like more information on either, please join the Book Born Facebook group where more it will be posted.

8) We do NOT require exclusive rights. It’s your story, and if you want to publish it elsewhere, go ahead. However, because there is money involved I will send you a basic contract that just says yes we have the right to use it and no, you know you’re not getting paid. You can get a copy of the contract here – it’s a word document, so please fill your info in and include it with your story. You must sign the contract for the story to be used.

9) All entries are due by January 1st, 2017. This gives us a month to compile the anthology and have it ready for a February 1st release on Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.

9) Cover, formatting, etc. will be provided by the Ink Slingers.

10) The only file types accepted will be .doc, .docx, .txt, and .rtf. We will NOT accept .pdfs.

11) Send your short story of no more than 10,000 words to joleene(at)joleenenaylor.com and include:

  • the signed contract as a separate attachment
  • your smashwords link
  • your author name and story title
  • a short blurb/synopsis of the story
  • your author bio
  • your website or blog link (optional)
  • a short blurb/synopsis of another work available for download (optional)

If you have any questions, please leave them here or drop me a line at Joleene(at)JoleeneNaylor.com.  Thanks and I’m looking forward to what you come up with.

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Categories: Short Stories

Short Stories That Are Too Short

Last semester I took part in a creative-writing class of about seventeen people, including our instructor. This class taught me many things about writing and gave me several new insights into my craft as well as many new tools to write more compelling and interesting stories. It also gave me a few ideas for articles, such as this one:

My classmates and I each had to turn in three short stories during the semester (two original short stories and one edited story). A few times people turned in stories that were really short and just had the barebones of a story. There were numerous reasons for why one or another student would turn in stories like that, with very little meat to it if any. Usually it was something along the lines of having their deadline sneak up on them and rushing to get something written and printed before class (I remember one girl was actually stapling the typo-plagued copies of her story together in the first few minutes of class before she turned it in. She later said that she’d rushed to get the story done, and had spent the first hour or so just wondering what the first few words should be. We all laughed at that, mostly because we’d all been there at one point or another).

However while other students were pressed for time, one or two said they were afraid that if they wrote anything longer it would be too long! When we heard this, we often told the student that their fear of making the story too long had actually made it far too short.

I’ve always defined a short story as between a thousand and ten-thousand words. This leaves a lot of room to work with, even for authors such as myself who are better suited to more expansive works like novels. Yet a lot of authors fear that getting close to twenty-five hundred words is going too far, getting too long, crossing into a territory reserved only for longer projects. Why?

I think it might have something to do with magazines and getting published in them. Many magazines, especially ones that pay, have a maximum word-limit, usually around five-thousand words or so. This creates pressure on the author who wants to be published. They want a wonderful and engaging story but at the same time they’re hampered by the feeling that they can’t go over a certain word limit or they won’t get published in this or that magazine. Even self-published authors aren’t immune to this: many indie authors write stories and send them out to magazines, often to get people to read their work, along with maybe a desire for income and maybe a small wish to show the critics of self-publishing that we can get published in the same magazines as traditional published authors and still have quality work.

The thing is, a story is going to be the length it needs to be. You can’t help it. Twice I’ve thought up and even written short stories that turned out that they needed to novels. And even when a short story manages to stay a short story, I find that a story that needs to expand to four or five thousand words or more is going to expand that length. As much as you try, you won’t get it down to twenty-five hundred without sacrificing quality. At least, not very easily.

I usually end up writing short stories between four and five thousand words. In fact, I try to make sure they stay that length. I’ve tried for shorter but that usually doesn’t happen, and longer stories do sometimes happen, though they often get shorter when I start to edit. The thing is, these stories are going to be as long as they need to be and sometimes you have to accept that. If you want to write a story that’s shorter than what you usually write, do it more as an exercise, as a way to get better at saying something in less words than normal. Don’t feel like you have to make a story shorter, but just try and see if you can. And if you can’t, don’t feel disappointed about it. Just meant that story wasn’t meant to be that short.

And if you’re worried about getting published, there are plenty of magazines, anthologies, contests, and podcasts that accept longer short stories and even short novelettes. Just do your research, you’ll find them. Or don’t go looking for them at all, but try and put together a collection of short stories. You have full creative control then and can make your stories whatever length you desire.

Or perhaps short stories aren’t your thing. They’re certainly not my area of expertise, though that hasn’t stopped me from trying. Either way, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Plenty of authors don’t do short stories and they’re excellent. Just stick to your area of strength and see what amazing stuff you can do there.

But if you do endeavor to create amazing short stories, just remember not to let the length of your story become an inhibition and a drag rather than a tool for successful writing. As I and my classmates have learned, length is important, but it’s by far not the most important thing to keep in mind. That would be the story itself.

 

On an unrelated note, thanks to Ruth Ann Nordin for the new background on this site. I was kind of attached to the old one, but I like what’s here now. It’s warm and welcoming, if you ask me.

Categories: General Writing, Psychology of Writing & Publishing, Short Stories, The Writer & Author | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Following Up on Submissions

The last time I posted an article, I wrote about submitting a short story to a magazine. And as promised, I’m following it up…with an article on following up on those submissions when a lot of time has passed.

Most magazines promise on their websites that they’ll get back to you on your submission in 2-6 months. What they don’t tell you is that work and submissions tend to pile up, especially when the magazine may be an operation run by only a few or even just one person. And imagine getting several submissions at the very least every month for short stories, articles, art pieces, and just about everything else under the sun. Your submission could be lost underneath all that.

So if you find a magazine has been taking its time getting to your submission, it can be helpful to send them an email and ask politely if your story has been looked at yet. Here’s what I normally put down in an email when I’m following up on a submission:

Dear [Insert magazine name here],

I am writing to follow up on my submission [insert story name here] which I sent in [insert how long ago or date you sent it in] to see if it is still being considered for publication. If you could please get back to me when it is convenient for you, that would be great, and thank you for your time and consideration.

Hoping you are well,

[Insert name, pen name if applicable, and contact information]

It’s also a good idea to attach your short story to the email in case it got lost somewhere among the submissions.

Normally a magazine will get back to you pretty quickly after this sort of email is sent. Even then though, it may take some time for the magazine editors to get back to you on your short story. If that’s the case, it may work in your favor to send an email every month or so inquiring about the status of your short story. That way it’ll stay in the forefront of the editors’ minds.

Also, remember to always be courteous and polite in your emails. They could just send you a form rejection letter right away, so the fact that they are taking the time to actually look at your story, no matter how long that time is, to possibly publish it is worth staying on the magazine’s good side. And when the magazine finally does take a look at your short story, no matter what the result is, be courteous and thank them for the time they took to read the story you sent them. That way, if you send them something in the future, they’ll be inclined to work with you and show you the same kindness and understanding you showed them.

Do you have any tips on following up on submissions?

Categories: Business Plan, Digital & ePublishing, General Writing, Marketing & Promoting, Psychology of Writing & Publishing, Publishing Basics, Short Stories, The Writer & Author, Traditional Publishing, Writing as a Business | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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