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                      W R I T I N G   W O R L D

A World of Writing Information - For Writers Around the World


Issue 8:07          8,324 subscribers    July 3, 2008

SPECIAL NOTICE: Please DO NOT REPLY to this e-mail; any messages
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The Editor's Desk
The Publisher's Desk, by Moira Allen
FEATURE:  How To Read 'How To Write' Books, by Sean McLachlan
The Write Sites -- Online Resources for Writers
FEATURE: Fiction Aficionado, by Shaunna Privratsky   
WRITING CONTESTS with no entry fees
The Author's Bookshelf

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                                  FROM THE EDITOR'S DESK

Getting Published
Just a quick note from me this month as we've got such a jam-packed
issue for you. Last month's Inquiring Writer question regarding the
difficulties of getting published prompted a huge response, so huge
that I don't have room for the Writing Desk in this issue.   

As we discuss in the Inquiring Writer, getting published is hard
but not impossible.  According to Publisher's Weekly, in 2007 three
thousand books were published every day. Granted, a lot of these
books were by established authors and 'celebrities' but that still
leaves a lot of room for the 'normal' author. As Patricia Fry notes
in her blog, http://www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog/ there is
still a huge market for books, but today's author has to work
harder than ever to get a place in it.  

Writing is not and never has been an easy route to money.  It is a
long, hard slog and only the persistent, the dogged and the
determined will make it. 

So before you venture into the world of publishing, you owe it to
yourself to ask yourself if you are committed to doing all that it
takes to get published.  If you are, then start to improve your
skills now. If you know you have a weak spot, do something about
it, because no-one else will do it for you. Work hard at improving
your skills and learn all you can about the publishing process. As
always, we're here to help you. Check out our articles online and
the sites we list too. Good luck. 

Until next time, 

                       -- Dawn Copeman, Newsletter Editor

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                                FROM THE PUBLISHER'S DESK

Backing Up Is Only Half the Battle!

As most of you know, I am a staunch advocate of "backing it up."  I
believe in backing up everything -- not just electronic files, but
scans of paper files.  Before moving to England, I scanned reams of
papers, and backed up the contents of our various computers (his,
mine and laptops) onto DVDs galore.

Then came the day when Dawn asked me for a file I'd promised to
send but had managed to mislay in one of my grand laptop-cleaning
moments (trying to make room for the bazillion photos I've been
taking).  No problemo; I backed it up, right?  It must be here, ah,

Happily, I found the file on the fourth DVD I tried, but came to
realize that "backing things up" isn't terribly useful if you can't
FIND anything.  So I launched into one of my typical grandiose
schemes that I thought might take a few hours and will probably
take weeks: Organizing and cataloging my archive. 

Along the way, I had the bright idea of loading everything onto
Pat's PC -- after all, unlike my paltry 30 GB laptop (with about 10
GB left), he's sitting there with about 180 unused gigs.  Wouldn't
it be great to have all my archives in one place, so that if I
needed a file, I could just load it onto a data stick and transfer
it from one computer to the other?  Piece of cake!

Until I loaded all my DVDs onto the PC and found myself facing, not
just a host of unorganized files (with dupes upon dupes), but a
host of files I COULD NOT READ.  A great many of my Mac files just
don't translate to the PC (such as "sit" archives and Eudora e-mail
files).  In addition, on the Mac it's not necessary to add file
tags to your documents (e.g., ".doc" or ".xls"), so Pat's computer
was failing to recognize files that it WOULD be able to read if
properly tagged. 

This wouldn't be an issue if I planned to plug away on the laptop
forever, but, I must confess, I'm leaning more and more toward
Pat's PC. (I know, I am betraying the Mac
Brotherhood/Sisterhood...)  If I wanted to have access to my files
on Windows, I'd have to do something. 

And so, stage 2: Copy unreadable files BACK to my Mac and convert
them, as necessary, to something the PC could read.  Generally,
this simply meant unstuffing SIT files and adding the necessary
document tags to the rest.  Until I unstuffed the archive that
contained my NOVEL.  My child.  My baby.  The book I lovingly
describe as "six great characters in search of a plot."  I finished
the first draft more than ten years ago, realized that the plot had
holes large enough to drive a chariot through, and put it aside as
I moved on to "full-time freelancing."

My baby was written on a state-of-the-art Mac -- state of the art
for 1994, that is.  I think it may have had a whole 1GB of memory. 
It had a black and white screen, for I couldn't imagine what I'd
need color for (digital cameras hadn't even been invented yet). 
But worst of all, it was written in a program called FullWrite Pro.
 And here's what a FullWrite Pro document (not, BTW, my novel)
looks like when opened in Word:

ˇof setˇtheˇpic›tureˇof whatˇweˇare ˇ k ˇ ˇ
ˇthisˇfirstˇchap›terˇisˇayˇetˇofˇex›am›ples, ˇbut weˇdon"'tˇknow

Pause for a few hours of panic and despair as I try every
combination I can think of to open these documents.  I spent hours
searching for filters that might help (and ended up infecting Pat's
computer with a nice case of Adware/Spyware in the process).  Was
my novel gone forever?  Granted, I wasn't sure it was any great
loss, but one's first child has a certain sentimental value...

Well, suffice it to say that I DID find a method at last, which
involved opening the files in Word, doing some search-and-replace
to get rid of a few extraneous characters, then copying it into
BBEdit, which managed to recognize those silly "y's" as spaces.  A
little more S&R, save as HTML, open in Explorer -- and it looks
almost normal.  From there I'd copy each chapter BACK into Word,
and get rid of the last weird characters with a line-by-line edit.
(BTW, in the process of writing this editorial, I just discovered I
could have saved a couple of steps by pasting it into an e-mail
instead of BBEdit... Go figure.)

Which meant that I had to actually READ those lines as I edited
them -- and I made a discovery: My novel ain't so bad!  It still
has some rather huge plot holes, but now, I think I know how I can
fix them.  There is hope...

But that's not why I'm telling you all this.  There IS a moral to
this tale -- and that moral is, don't assume that just because
you've backed up your files, they are "preserved."  Software
changes, programs die, and when they do, the things you've created
with those programs may die as well. (I also have a pile of
PaperPort scans that can't be read by ANY image program!)  So if
you've been faithfully archiving your files over the years, take a
moment to (a) make sure you know what you have and where, and (b)
that you can still access those files.  If you have files created
by older software, or software you no longer use, or on a different
platform, don't wait -- convert them NOW.  And keep an eye on your
files, because who knows what software changes will come in the
next decade? 

Oh, and if you'd like to see a few of those bazillion photos I've
been taking (I have more than 5500 unedited photos on my laptop),
surf on over to the current issue of
http://www.TimeTravel-Britain.com, where you'll find some articles
and galleries pertaining to our recent travels. 

Happy archiving!

Moira Allen

resource for writers who want to create unique Celt-inspired plots
and avoid the common misconceptions and stereotypes!         

					By Dawn Copeman

Last month we had a question from Marion who has had problems in
getting her novels published. Marion's dilemma prompted a huge, if
divided, response from the Writing-World community. 

Some of you, like Lindsay Boleyn, Elaine and Marlene agreed with
Marion that they felt the job of marketing the book should be done
by the agent. 

Rhoda Greenstone, who has worked as an editor as well as having
clips from several "top drawer" magazines, met an agent at a
conference who asked to see her submission.   Rhoda continues:"
About a month after I submitted, the agent wrote back, telling me
how good my writing is, but she was turning down my ms. simply
because she didn't know what to do with it. 'Where would I place
it? How market it?' she asked. But she wrote that I had talent and
should be sure to 'let others see it who might bring my project to
the desired conclusion.' Then she mentioned she has a few clients
who keep her too busy to get involved with a new client anyway." On
reflection, Rhoda believes that the problem is that agents are very
busy and only want manuscripts 'that will be relatively easy for
her to market.'"

Most of you, however, have come to the conclusion that marketing
the work is now an essential part of the submission process. Anne
Taylor wrote: "Unfortunately, publishing has changed since it was
the pursuit of gentlemen who were willing to spend time recognising
potential in a writer, nurturing it while they lost money on early
works, to reap the flowering of that talent when it happened. Today
it is a market-driven business and the writer is the producer of a

Shaunna Privratsky recalls that she was receiving responses similar
to Marion's "when I shopped my third novel around."  She continues:
"One market wouldn't even read it unless I completed a reading list
of over twenty books, many of them out of print and not in our
library.  I slogged through as many titles as I could find, and
realized that what the editors wanted to do was to weed out
potential authors that were just imitating other books, most likely
without knowing it.  Also, many genres have standards that are kind
of 'set in stone' and if you differ from them, you better have a
darn good reason, and show that your way is better.
"At first I felt that the editors were just making me jump through
hoops, but I came to realize that they were doing me a favor.  By
setting their standards high, they force you to take an objective
look at your own work, and possibly revise certain aspects of it to
make it a more saleable work.  Because, bottom line, you want your
book to sell well, even more than they do."  

Patricia Fry, author of 28 books and president of SPAWN (the small
publishers, writers and artists network) knows a thing or two about
getting published and has helped many others to publishing success.
 She wrote: "Many things have changed in the publishing industry
since I first became involved over 30 years ago. One change is the
increase in genres, sub-genres and crossover genres. And it is up
to the author, today, to identify his or her genre and the target
audience. Agents and publishers are also more open to an author
with a platform (a following--a way of reaching a particular

"I remember when it was the publisher's job to identify a book's
genre and to determine the scope of the audience for that book. But
today it is the author's responsibility to inform the agent or
publisher and convince him/her of their project's viability.

"I suggest to all hopeful authors that they study the publishing
industry before getting involved and they will have a much better
idea of what to expect and what is expected of them."

This is echoed by Anita McEllan, an editor.  She wrote: "Writers in
2008 who wish to enter the commercial marketplace successfully are
obliged to inform themselves about who exactly would seek to buy
their books. After all, no one needs a book the way people need
coats and shoes. Literary agents, editors, browsers in the
bookstore, acquisitions librarians spend maybe a minute or 3
deciding what to buy. They all want to answer, 'so what for

Many of you thought that Marion's problem was the fact that she
hasn't identified her book's genre. Gwynne Spencer points out
another flaw with not knowing the genre of your book. Gwynne wrote:
"An editor is the first stop a book takes on its way to a reader. 
One of the other big steps along the way is the bookseller.  When a
new title arrives, the bookseller must decide what part of the
bookstore to shelve it in. In huge bookstores, buying is done by
category buyers, and if your book doesn't fit in one of the clearly
delineated categories, who will do the buying? There is, so far as
I know, no buyer for the 'new and indefinitely uncategorized'
titles of this world. So knowing what category the book is going to
be acquired into is VITAL." Or as Anne Taylor put it: "Even if your
book is quirky and unusual it must fit into some genre and not
muddle genres or switch from one to another."

Alice J Wisler, who has just been through the whole publishing
process and whose first book 'Rain Song' will be published in
October echoes this advice. She wrote: "No publisher wants to
create a new genre with a new author. That would be going way out
on a limb. As a newbie, you have to fit in. If you think that isn't
original to do so, re-think your point of view. Publishers have to
sell your book to the masses.  Start out with what is tried and
true.  If you make it big, then you can be more unique and choosy
with what you write. However, you have to keep within the rules
before you can break them."  
Others thought that the problem with Marion's submission was the
fact that she isn't reading in her genre. As Anita Mclellan says:
"Without knowledge of what is out there, what is successful, what
is a failure, what is a near-miss, what is a surprise hit, a writer
can forge no bond with the people or the industry that revolves
around the genre. Libraries are useful. Writers' conferences are
wonderful. Best practices, innovations in the genre:  A chef who
never eats anyone else's cooking works in a vacuum." 

Alice Wisler agrees with this. She says: "As for reading books in
your own genre, I agree it takes time and if you don't find any
author you like, it may seem like a waste of time. But you have to
know what is out there, and what is selling in order to get your
foot in the publishing door. You don't have to be just like them,
prove to be even better. Being better is having a stronger and
tighter plot, more realistic dialog and unforgettable characters.
That's how you'll stand out in your genre. Focus on these."

Many of you also provided hints to Marion on how to find out about
books in her genre. Christine Verstraete, who has just had a book
published, had the following tips for Marion. "You don't need to
buy tons of books. Google the type of book you are interested in
like 'mystery books' or paranormal mysteries and check out authors'
websites. Many have a free sample chapter to read. Yahoo Groups
also has many author and book groups where you can acquaint
yourself with other authors, books and ebooks. Another idea is join
a book swap group and trade for the books you want to read, the
only cost being postage. Go to the library and look at what's on
the shelf similar to what you like to write. Online bookstores like
Borders, and Barnes and Noble have free email newsletters about the
latest releases which will give you an idea on what types of books
are selling. Hopefully you get a better idea of how to correct the
problem and find a home for your work!"

Finally, some of you, such as Tannia E Ortiz-Lopes, thought the
problem might be with the way Marion is submitting her queries. One
anonymous contributor said: "What she should be doing is crafting a
well-written, exciting query letter." He suggested that "Marion
should go to the agent's website for guidelines on query

Nancy Beck suggests that Marion checks out if her query letter or
manuscript is working by using the forum at AbsoluteWrite.com
http://www.absolutewrite.com. She said "they have a separate
sub-forum for critiques of different genres of novels/short
stories/whatever, and they can also crit query letters."

Steve Hustings also offers some advice. He suggests that if Marion
is finding it difficult to classify her work, "that the ms be sent
to a ms editor with a request that the ms editor define the genre
and market to the author."

Finally, some words on the reality of getting published by Kriste
Matrisch from Writers Relief Inc. She says: "Keep in mind that on
average, your query needs to be seen by at least 100+ agents before
deciding to revise or abandon the project. Securing agent
representation is a tough task. " 

Thank you to everyone who responded. This month I have a question
on organizational skills from Beth. She wants to know how we handle
editing and re-writes. She wrote: "I start with the original, save
it and proceed to copy it to Word to rewrite it. I do the same with
all the rewrites and corrections, bouncing from one word document
to another. The problem I end up with is I cannot remember which
document I want. I get lost. Manuscripts disappear, confusion
abounds and I get frustrated. 
"What organizational skills do other writers have? How do you
reference without going through all the corrected manuscripts to
find the piece that you know is perfect for this story? I find the
perfect manuscript is the one I just did but it could be ten Word
documents back. Just how do you organize your editing? Getting
started and organizing the plot etc, is no big deal. It is the
clean up stage or editing that I find hard to deal with."

How do you deal with re-writes?  Do you have any tips for Beth? 
Email your responses to me at editorial"at"writing-world.com with the
subject line Inquiring Writer and you can use the same address if
you have any questions to put to the Writing-World community. 



FILM LITERARY GROUP.COM. Dear Writers: Now that the WGA strike has
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screenplays to motion picture companies, executive producers and
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screenwriting career. Take a proactive stance and review their
Website http://www.filmliterarygroup.com or contact 310/556-2040.


British Authors Protest At Age-Rates For Books
There is a war waging in the world of British children's fiction.
The UK Publisher's Association Children's Group wants to introduce
age guidance rating for children's books such as 7+, 10+ etc. The
authors, however, are up in arms at the idea, saying that it will
deter some children from reading books when they are actually at a
level to be able to read them as they could decide they were too
babyish or too hard. For more information on this visit:

Romance Author Walks for Cancer Charity
Texan romance author, Victoria Graydale, has entered a three day,
60-mile walk to raise money for a breast cancer charity. Just to
enter the walk she needs to donate 2,200 dollars, so she is using
the publication of her latest book 'The Wizard's Daughter',
published by Stargazer Press, to help raise the money. Graydale is
donating 5 from the sale of each book bought directly from her or
her website directly to the cancer charity. For more information or
to support Victoria, visit: http://www.victoriagraydale.com 

Germany's Top Literature Prize Awarded To Artist
Germany's top literature prize, the Frankfurt Peace Prize worth
Ä25,000 (38,600) has been won by a visual artist and not a writer.
The prize, which has been awarded since 1950 by the German
Publishers' and Booksellers' Association, went to Anselm Kiefer for
his range of paintings and sculptures which carry anti-war messages.
For more information visit: http://tinyurl.com/5pwq9r 

Google And Intel Give Staff Break From Email
Having designed email in the first place, Google and Intel have now
realised just how annoying email can be and have come up with ways
to protect staff from information overload. Google has developed a
system which turns off the email for up to 15 minutes at a time and
Intel has introduced 'no email' Fridays and email free Tuesday
mornings. Both firms say productivity has increased without the
constant interruption of email. For more information visit:

CWA Dagger Award Shortlist Announced
The shortlist for the 2008 Crime Writer's Association (CWA) Dagger
Awards is up and this year you can talk about the short-listed
books on a special online forum. The winners will be announced at a
luxury dinner at the Park Lane Hotel, London on July 10. In the
meantime to view the shortlist and discuss the books visit: 

Books That Make You See Red
The Times newspaper has asked a group of critics and authors to
list the books that they hate. Yes, the books that they can not
bring themselves to finish or that make them feel angry at the
thought of reading them again. What's more, they're inviting your
comments too. To view the most hated books and perhaps list your
own visit: 


The Author's Repair Kit is a NEW ebook designed to help you breathe
new life into your faltering or failing book. Use Patricia Fry's
post-publication book proposal system and heal your publishing
mistakes. The Author's Repair Kit, only 27 pages: $5.95.


FEATURE: How to Read 'How To Write' Books

By Sean McLachlan

We all read them, those innumerable books telling us how to make it
big as writers. They inspire, inform, entertain, and enlighten, but
are we using them to their full potential? Are there better ways we
could spend our time? Here are a few ideas on how to get the most
out of those how-to books on your shelf.

Consider the source. 
The first thing one notices about "how to write" books is their
sheer quantity. Every large bookstore has a shelf of them, and
there are several imprints, like Writer's Digest Books, that
publish only this type of guide. One way to separate the wheat from
the chaff is to look at who wrote the particular title you are
considering. Orson Scott Card, for example, authored 'How to Write
Science Fiction and Fantasy.' Considering the talent and craft that
go into his speculative fiction, not to mention his success as a
writer, you can be sure to learn a thing or two from this book. As
a speculative fiction writer myself, I've found his work to be
highly useful. On the other hand, I once read a book on how to win
short story contests that turned out to be by a writer who had only
won (get this) ONE short story contest! The book was brief,
overpriced, and regurgitated information that any beginning writer
should already know and can get elsewhere. For example, if you
don't already know that you need to read the submission guidelines
carefully, winning a writing contest should probably not be your
priority. Keeping the author's qualifications in mind will help you
spend your hard-earned money wisely and effectively.

Notice the differences. 
Once you've read enough of this sort of book, you'll notice that
different writers have different processes. A case in point is a
very inspiring book titled 'Word by Word: An Inspirational Look at
the Craft of Writing.' This is a collection of lectures and keynote
speeches by famous writers at the Maui Writers Conference. Dozens
of big names like Tony Hillerman, Mitch Albom, and Ron Howard share
their ideas and techniques on fiction, nonfiction, and
screenwriting. What becomes immediately apparent is that they all
do it differently, but they all do it well. Some write every day,
some only a few times a week. Some outline, some only scribble a
few notes before diving in. Their process does not have to be your
process. You must find the technique that works best for you, but
they can help give you ideas for what to try as you search for your
own methodology. 

Notice the similarities. Again with the Maui Writers Conference
book, or any anthology of writers talking about their craft, you
can notice certain things that are consistent among them.
Persistence is the big one. Successful authors all kept at it,
making sure to constantly push their writing forward. They believed
in themselves (at least most of the time) and didn't give up.
There's a hilarious section in 'On Writing' where Steven King talks
about writing while sitting at a little desk between his washer and
dryer. He never gave up, and look at him now. Also, successful
writers all took their writing seriously right from the start,
believing in their work as well as themselves, constantly looking
for new ideas or new insights into their characters. They acted
like professionals before they were professionals.

Read beyond your specialty. 
Just because a certain book covers writing outside of your genre,
or even your form, doesn't mean it can't be of use. Orson Scott
Card gives a lot of insights into craft, POV, and description that
are useful for writers of any type of fiction, not just fantasy and
science fiction. Poets can teach prose writers a lot about packing
as much punch into as little space as possible, while prose writers
can teach poets how to delve into their character's minds. While
books covering your specific field tend to be the most useful for
you, don't overlook potential titles that can broaden your horizons
with a different perspective.

Are you procrastinating? 
While books on writing can be valuable tools for helping your
career, they can also be another of the many ways to avoid writing.
Like the writer who spends more time talking about writing than
actually writing, there are writers who spend more time reading
about writing than working on their next book or article. Set a
daily or weekly minimum for work and stick to it. The "how-to"
books are for later. Write now.

Don't give up your regular reading. 
While reading another writer's experience and advice can be
inspiring and helpful, don't forget that all your reading should be
research. Every novel you read can tell you something about plot
and atmosphere. Every poem can teach you about economy of style.
Every newspaper article can teach you about organization and
clarity. Even poorly written works can teach you valuable lessons
in what not to do. Save some time for what got you into writing in
the first place--your love for the printed word.

Don't forget the boring, practical titles.
OK, reading the Chicago Manual of Style or Strunk and White's 'The
Elements of Style' isn't as inspiring as reading the latest how-to
from Writer's Digest, but it can often be more useful. Every writer
should have both of these books in their library. Editors hate
sloppy errors such as run-on sentences, comma splices, and improper
capitalization. They are overworked as it is, and faced with the
choice of taking a good article that will need a lot of copyediting
and an equally good one that is mostly free of mistakes, the choice
will be obvious.

So read those "how to write" books, but remember they are only one
tool in your writing career. They can't replace hard work and
inspiration, but reading them with a careful eye can help you on
your way to writing success.

 Copyright (c) 2008 by Sean McLachlan

Sean McLachlan worked for ten years as an archaeologist before
becoming a full-time writer specializing in history and travel. He
is the author of Byzantium: An Illustrated History (Hippocrene,
2004), It Happened in Missouri (TwoDot, 2007), and Moon Handbooks
London (Avalon, 2007), among others. Drop him a line at
seansontheweb (at) yahoo (dot) com.

For more information on improving your writing skills visit: 



Aimed at writers who, like me, work with their children at home,
this site has a lot of useful articles and resources.

This site, which offers a paid membership option to get your work
seen by editors, also has a great free to access archive of
articles on fiction, children's writing and improving your skills. 

This is a huge, huge site which covers absolutely every area of
writing. There are reviews of writing software, writing magazines,
listings of agents, articles, fact sheets and links to useful
sites. You will need to set aside some time to explore this site. 

Nathan Bransford's Blog
Nathan Bransford is a literary agent who tells it exactly how it
is. If you're trying to get published, visit this site and have a
good long read.

Nancy Christie's Writer's Place
This site lists jobs, conferences and features some useful tips and
links to resources as well as a regularly updated blog.

Long Story Short
This site is unique in that it replies personally to every
submission, working with authors to help them develop their
stories. It publishes stories, runs classes and has information
sheets too. 


WORLDWIDE FREELANCE WRITER - You can download a free list of
writing markets if you subscribe this week. Discover almost 2,000
writing markets from USA, Canada, UK, Europe, Australasia.

PRODUCT REVIEWS:   By Dawn Copeman

I haven't yet finished working through the "You Can Write a Novel
Kit", probably as last month was also Newbie Writer's Spend an hour
of each day writing your novel month. So in the meantime here's
another product that I've been using. 

Whitesmoke All-In-One Writing Software
I was wary when I was asked to test this product. I've tried
so-called writing assistant programs before and found them to be
unwieldy and unpractical. One I purchased based on some very
impressive testimonials involved having to cut and paste entire
sections of text, but not too much in one go, into the program. It
was a nightmare and put me off such programs for a long, long time.
This one, however, is fantastic. It is unbelievably easy to use.
You just install it and it sits there, working away in the
background whilst you work. It automatically springs into life
whenever you make a typo or grammar fault. It works in real time
and works no matter what program you are using. Heck, it even
checks what I type into Google! Plus, if like me you've got works
in progress saved all over the place, you can quickly give them a
check too by pressing the F2 button. Furthermore, it offers various
writing style checks too, including business and creative. This
writing software, unlike others I have tried, does what it says on
the tin.

Do you have a review of a writing book or product? Do you agree or
disagree with my reviews? If you want to share your reviews with
others then email me with the subject line 'reviews' to

CAN'T GET PUBLISHED? Be a Well-Fed Self-Publisher and make a
living! Control the process and timetable. Keep the rights AND most
of the profits.  Here's the step-by-step blueprint used to create a
full-time living from ONE book!  By the award-winning author of The
Well-Fed Writer. http://www.wellfedsp.com.


FEATURE:  Fiction Aficionado

                        By Shaunna Privratsky 
An apt description of fiction is "interesting people in difficult
situations."  A person who loves the written word, who is
enthusiastic and knowledgeable about it, is a fiction aficionado. 
Selling fiction can be an uphill battle, but if you arm yourself
with these fiction facts you'll win the war with publication and

Fiction writing is all about story.  Readers and editors won't care
about your brilliant syntax or convoluted flashback sequence.  They
want entertainment.  So write the story first and worry about the
elements of fiction later.

The foremost part of a short story or novel is situation.  Ask
yourself "what if..." and the answer will be your story's
situation.  The plot or events in a story happen when the hero or
heroine tries to resolve the situation.  Develop a clear and
compelling plot by choosing an intriguing situation.   

Characters are essential.  You must create charismatic, believable
people that readers will care about and relate to.  Generally, the
shorter the story, the fewer characters you need.  Endow your
characters with agreeable as well as unpleasant attributes to
humanize and bring them to life.   

Complications drive the story forward.  Your heroine escapes the
marauding raiders, only to find herself trapped in a dungeon with
thousands of venomous snakes.  Throw a few hurdles into your
protagonist's path for plot twists and action.  The complications
be caused by a villain, opposing force, natural causes or poor

The climax is the grand finale.  The bigger the stakes, the more
impact the climax will have.  Will your hero die in the battle to
save his son?  It doesn't have to be a life or death situation, but
the impact on your protagonist should be life altering.  

The resolution stage follows the climax and ties up the loose ends
of the situation.  This is where lessons are learned, final
motivations are revealed and the aftermath of the climax is sorted
out.  Oh, the hero didn't die-he just fainted from blood loss.  He
is reunited with his son and they live reasonably happy until the
next situation arises.

Equally important to fiction writing are the supporting details of
your story: description, dialogue, back-story, setting and emotion.
 Don't forget sensory input. Like a dash of paprika or cilantro, a
little bit of each adds texture and depth to your story.

Description should be as brief but as telling as possible.  A
half-page of wardrobe inventory stops the narrative dead-and you
may lose the interest of your reader.  Don't just say she was
beautiful; mention the effect she has on a male observer.  "Her
face had a subtle mystery, one I couldn't wait to solve."  You can
find out later the color of her hair or the shape of her mouth.

Dialogue moves the story along, imparts back-story and reveals a
character's personality.  Taglines should be simple "he said, she
said."  Do not use adverbs in taglines.  Why not?  You are telling
the reader how to interpret the dialogue.  He or she is not
involved, so they feel left out and lose interest.  The emotion
should be evident in the words themselves and supporting details of
the scene.  

Back-story should be just that: in the background.  You know that
the heiress used to be a stripper in her past life - how are you
going to let the reader know her dirty little secret?  Maybe she
could bump into an old "client" or colleague.  Back-story adds
depth to the main plot and can add fascinating subplots.

Setting should be subtle but there.  Give the reader a mental
picture by mentioning the fog rolling in over a mountain lake or
the sun's heat pounding a city sidewalk.  Remember all the senses
for varied and memorable description.  A few details are all you
need, for the reader will "fill in the blanks" with imagination and
his or her past experiences.  

A great tool to enrich your writing is right under your nose -
literally.  Any type of writing, but especially fiction, should
appeal to all of the reader's senses: smell, touch, taste, hearing
and sight.  The senses bring the world around us into focus.  Too
often, writers concentrate exclusively on how things look and
neglect a whole spectrum of sounds and tastes that will resonate
with your audience.

Strive to be specific when using the senses in your writing.  Name
specific things; count exact numbers, measure and record car makes,
architectural styles, and kinds of birds or animals to make your
world come alive.  

Write: "The three cars in the driveway looked fresh off the
assembly line.  The mica paint chips sparkled on every flank, the
tires plumped in their pristine blackness and the bumpers dazzled
in their brilliance.
"The nearest hood was hot to the touch and the ticking of a cooling
engine spoke of a recent trip.  A faint smell of rich leather and
richer perfume seeped from the smudge-less windows.  New they might
not be, but Mrs. Carmichael sure knew how to take care of her dead
husband's automobiles.  Why, the cherry-red Corvette made my mouth

Notice the specific details and the various senses being appealed
to.  As well as setting the scene, some of Mrs. Carmichael's
character and back-story is discovered - she is a widow, she keeps
things neat and her husband owned fine automobiles.  A feel for the
unnamed protagonist is revealed through his observations.

Whenever you need to describe a scene, setting or character, close
your eyes.  Try to uncover a unique reflection using some of the
other senses.  Sight is relied upon so heavily that observation can
become worn-out clichťs.

Attention to details takes merely mediocre sensory input and
transforms it into spectacular description.  Did her dress whisper
as she walked, or jangle from the beaded hem?  Was her hair
redolent of apple blossoms from the orchard, or smoky from a
crowded tavern?  Was his shirt rough tweed or soft cotton?  Did the
peach melt into succulent juice or produce a bitter grimace?

How many senses can you include in a passage?  As many as it takes
to paint a vivid picture in the reader's mind.  You want the place
or scene to come alive, to make the sights, sounds, smells, tastes
and feelings real.  If you provide enough sensory input, the reader
projects himself or herself into the scene and becomes involved in
your story.

Mix up the senses you include in your description.  Just like
sight, you can rely too heavily on other senses.  You can best
catch this in the revision process, by either adding additional
details or eliminating too trite observations like "her lips tasted
salty from crying" or "the brook babbled."

Use your mind's eye as well as your ears, nose, tongue and hands to
bring your prose to life.  Add specific details and pay attention
to different types, styles and classes of things for
verisimilitude.  Put sparkle into your story by celebrating the
sensational senses.          

Finally, emotion should be evident in dialogue and action.  If your
characters don't care, why should the reader?  Allow the hero to
cry at his wife's funeral or the heroine to get mad at the boorish
innkeeper.  Plot drives a story, but emotions connect the
characters and reader and linger long after the last page has been

Don't be overwhelmed by all the aspects of fiction writing.  Just
write a super story, then go back and check each element.  With
enough practice you will become a successful fiction aficionado and
sell your fine fiction.            


Copyright (c) 2008 by Shaunna Privratsky

Shaunna Privratsky is a fulltime author with over 400 published
articles as well as the editor and publisher of The Writer Within
Newsletter.  Learn 1,000's of more writing tips in Shaunna
Privratsky's book, 'Pump Up Your Prose' $ FREE sign up to The
Writer Within Newsletter at http://shaunna67.tripod.com" We're a
paying market!

For more information and advice on fiction writing visit:


Roy Barnes will tell us how to get free press trips.

Finishing her series on fiction Shaunna Privratsky shows us how
trimming down our word count can help our bank balance. 

I will review the You Can Write a Novel kit and we've also got
information on the annual 'I Love to Write Day' and your answers to
the Inquiring Writer. 

Coming soon to Writing World: articles on poetry, writing history
and the benefits of critique groups. 

Your next issue will appear in your inboxes on August 7.



TheFictionWritersJourney.com is the website of writing coach and
novelist, Emily Hanlon. Emily demystifies the writing process with
her two pronged approach of teaching technique and unleashing
creativity. She offers coaching, workshops, and TeleSeminars and is
holding a weekend retreat in Litchfield, CT May 2-4. Emily also
offers two Mentoring Programs: Creativity as A Wellspring of Life
and Writing Your Story, Creating a Tapestry of Your Life: Memoir
Writing as a Healing Journey. If you are looking for help on
writing technique or unleashing your creativity, explore these
TeleSeminars from Emily Hanlon, now 50% off.




This section lists contests that charge no entry fees. Unless otherwise
indicated, competitions are open to all adult writers.

DEADLINE: August 1, 2008
GENRE: Nonfiction
DETAILS:  2500 words max on the theme: "Naval Intelligence in
Combat; what have we learned and how do we adapt these lessons to
the Navy's Maritime Strategy?"
PRIZE:  $1000 and five year membership of Navel Intelligence
URL:   http://www.usni.org/magazines/essaycontests.asp 
EMAIL:  navintproessays"at"aol.com

DEADLINE: August 15, 2008
GENRE:  Short Stories and Nonfiction
DETAILS:  2000 - 2500 words. Stories should engage readers'
understanding of the "humanistic apprehension," bringing to light
"real men and women having
to make their way" in the face of "changes and loss, triumphs and
disappointments." Entries are expected to draw on particular North
Carolina connections and/or memories.  
OPEN TO: 	All, writers can be from anywhere, but the story must be
based in and around North Carolina. 
PRIZE: $500 & Stipend for Writer's Residency at Weymouth Center for
the Arts and Humanities in Southern Pines, North Carolina;
publication in the fall issue of NCHC's bi-annual magazine North
Carolina Conversations
URL:     http://www.nchumanities.org/flowers.html 
EMAIL:   nchc"at"gborocollege.edu

DEADLINE: August 15, 2008
GENRE: Short Stories for Children
DETAILS: 1,000-1,600 words (prefer 1,400 words) Christian themed
stories for children aged 6-12. Stories should have a contemporary
setting (no historical or Biblical fiction).     
PRIZE:  $1000 and publication
URL: http://www.upperroom.org/pockets/contest_winner.asp 

DEADLINE: August 30, 2008
GENRE:  Short Stories 
THEME: Summer Parties and Humor
DETAILS: Humorous short stories, 1000 to 2500 words.
PRIZE: Various summer party prizes
URL:   http://tinyurl.com/6x2kgg 

DEADLINE: August 31, 2008
GENRE: Short Stories
OPEN TO: US Citizens 21+
DETAILS:  2500 words max story. 
PRIZE: $750, publication in Family Circle, a nationally known
women's magazine; a gift certificate to a mediabistro.com course of
his or her choice and one-year mediabistro.com AvantGuild
membership.  Two runners-up receive $250, a one-year
mediabistro.com AvantGuild membership, and possible online
URL:  http://www.familycircle.com/  

DEADLINE: September 1, 2008
GENRE:  Poetry
DETAILS:  14 lines max poems using Shakespearean or Petrarchan
PRIZE:  $50, $35, $15, 
URL: http://www.illinoispoets.org/pdf/sonnetcontest2008.pdf     


AUTHOR'S BOOKSHELF: Books by Our Readers


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Unleash Your Writing Muse, by Tamara Hanson

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