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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 12:07          13,186 subscribers            April 5, 2012
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THE EDITOR'S DESK: The 20% Solution, by Moira Allen
THE INQUIRING WRITER: Is There Such a Thing as the 20% Rule? 
by Dawn Copeman
FEATURE: Eccentricity in Fiction, by Philip Martin   
COLUMN: Free Stuff for Writers: Your Inbox is Not Your Enemy, 
by Aline Lechaye
THE WRITE SITES -- Online Resources for Writers
The Author's Bookshelf

WRITERSCOLLEGE.COM has 57 online courses. Prices are low. If you 
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* Feedback. Get feedback for every poem and story that you write.
* Contests. Over 40 contests are always open and free to enter.
* Rankings. Statistics will show you how your writing is doing.
DON'T GET SCAMMED!  Choose the right Self Publishing Company for
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THE WRITING NICHE THAT PAYS THE MOST... No writer should be without
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The 20 Percent Solution?
Last month I saw Dawn's "Inquiring Writer" question (below), and
thought I'd weigh in with a short answer.  It turned into something
a bit longer...

Here's the question: How much do you have to change an article to
make it "acceptable" for republication?  According to the inquirer,
someone had suggested that if one changes an article by 20%, it
becomes a new article.  Speaking as both a writer and an editor,
I'd love to know where anyone got the "20%" figure!

First, let's ask an obvious question -- 20% of WHAT?  How do you
calculate that you've "changed" 20% of your article?  Does this
simply mean that 20% of the words are different?  (I suppose you
could do a word count, and decide that if your article were 1000
words long, you could create a new article by simply "changing" 200
of them.)  Does it mean that you've added a couple of paragraphs,
making your article 20% longer?  Does it mean that you simply CUT a
paragraph or two, making it 20% shorter -- without changing
anything else whatsoever?

Hopefully (or "it is to be hoped" to grammatical purists), that
little excursion into mathematics shows the folly of attempting to
assign any sort of numerical value to what does or does not make an
article "new" again.  Now let's look at the question from the
standpoint of the editor and the reader.

Editors and readers have much the same perspective on an article:
Have I read it before?  Let's say that you write a piece for
Writing-World.com on "how to craft a personal essay."  I buy it and
publish it.  A few weeks later, you send a piece to another writing
website titled "Tips on crafting personal essays."  Now, a lot of
my readers probably visit that other site as well, so here's the
question you need to ask: Will those readers feel that they are
reading pretty much the SAME article?  It's a question the editor
is going to ask, before deciding whether to accept the piece --
because chances are, that editor has already seen your article on
my site, or vice versa.

Changing a few words here and there, adding a paragraph, or cutting
a paragraph, probably isn't going to change the article
sufficiently so that readers will feel that they are getting
something new and different with Article B.  In fact, you could
probably rewrite and rephrase the ENTIRE article, changing every
single sentence in some way, and readers would STILL not think they
were getting a "new" article.  

In the most technical, legal sense, you could probably get away
with this, because copyright covers the actual form in which an
article is written.  If you rewrite an article by rephrasing every
line, then technically it may be considered a "new" article -- from
a copyright law standpoint.  [That's only if it's your own article,
by the way; there are still infringement restrictions on doing this
to someone ELSE'S article!] So if you had a contract with Editor #1
that provided exclusive publishing rights for Article A, and you
rewrote every line and sold it to Editor #2, Editor #1 probably
couldn't come after you for violating the contract.  However,
neither Editor #1 nor Editor #2 are going to be terribly happy with
you -- and you could end up losing not just one but TWO markets.  

Two other key questions on the legal side are (a) what does your
contract with publication #1 say, and (b) what are the requirements
of publication #2?  If the second publication does not accept
reprints, it's probably not going to be thrilled by "retreads"
either -- even if your contract with publication #1 permits you to
resell the work.  

Though the question at hand is not about reprints per se, let's
take a quick moment to deal with that issue.  If your original
contract permits you to resell your article after it has been
published (e.g., you own second serial rights), and you can find
markets that accept reprints, marketing the EXACT SAME ARTICLE to
different publications is perfectly fine.  It's an excellent way to
make one article pay for itself over and over again.  

If you do have the right to sell reprints of a piece, or if you
want to rework a piece for different markets, here's one tip: be
sure that you are submitting it to markets that DO NOT OVERLAP. 
This can be very hard to do on the Web, because geography is not an
issue online.  In the print world, often the best way to find
non-overlapping markets is to look for regional publications.  For
example, while there are several major parenting publications that
have a national distribution, there are also dozens of regional
publications that are read only within a certain area -- so it's
easy to sell the piece to "Boise Babies" and "Tinseltown Tots." 
But be careful about selling a piece to a national publication and
THEN trying to market it to the regionals, because chances are that
both Boise Babies and Tinseltown Tots subscribers also read
"American Baby."  Another approach is to look for publications with
different overall subject matter -- your article on "Ten Natural
Treats for Toddlers" could appear in a baby magazine, a cooking
magazine, a health magazine, and/or a religious publication, all
without being changed at all.

The question at hand, however, is not really about marketing
"reprints," but about altering an article sufficiently so that it
dodges the legal issue of attempting to resell an article that you
may not have the right to resell.  Even if you can manage it, even
if you can get away with it, that doesn't make it a good idea!  A
much better approach is to take a single idea and see how many ways
you can spin off unique, stand-alone articles.  For example, if
you're writing a piece on crafting the perfect personal essay, try
a straightforward how-to article for one market.  Then do a "ten
tips on crafting the perfect essay" for another.  Incorporate an
interview with an essayist for a third.  Do a survey of essay
markets for a fourth -- and so on.  Think about multiple markets
when you're doing your research, so that you can gather more
material than you need for just ONE article -- giving you fuel for
multiple pieces that, far from conflicting with one another,
actually complement one another and enhance your reputation as a

Using this approach sets you up as a writer who appears to have a
LOT TO SAY about a particular topic.  The more you can say about
something, the more you will begin to appear as an expert on the
topic.  If you can produce two or five or ten or twenty articles,
all different, on the topic of how to craft personal essays, you'll
make far more sales than you would if you kept trying to revamp the
same piece.  You'll open more doors, reach more markets, gain more
readers -- and be well on your way to a book on the same topic.

Otherwise, a writer who simply tries to revamp the same piece over
and over again starts to look like a writer who has very little to
say.  Recycling is good for the environment -- but it's NOT an
effective way to market your material.  

-- Moira Allen, Editor

Spring Cleaning the Cupboards
Congratulations to Lisa L. of North Carolina and Oreta S. of
Georgia for winning our drawing for "The Writer's Year" Planner,
and to Georgia H. of Nevada for winning the drawing for "Writing
for Children and YA."  Thanks to all who participated!

Copyright 2012 Moira Allen 


Over 400 editors contribute their unique news and views each year.
That's news and views to improve your chances to get         
published. Monthly newsletter. Get 2 issues FREE.  


The Inquiring Writer: Is There Such a Thing as the 20% Rule?    

By Dawn Copeman

Last month I had this question from Patricia concerning reprints. 
She wrote: "I have heard someone say that if a previously published
magazine or newspaper article has been changed by at least 20 per
cent, then the new article is saleable again and does not infringe
on the copyright on the previous article. Although this person did
say it was a rather loose guideline, I still find this hard to
accept.  Is there any acceptable guideline on how much you need to
change an article to resell it?"

As you have seen from today's editorial, Moira Allen has already
given her opinion on this month's question and it is an approach
that I for one, agree with.  It is far better to try and find new
things to write about than to constantly re-hash the same article. 
That doesn't mean you can't write about the same topic, just that
you need to find a new approach, a new angle so that you are not
just re-writing the same things, but tackling a new aspect of the
original theme. 

For example, many years ago I wrote an article on food allergies in
young children.  I was an expert at the time as my then toddler had
a severe food allergy.  My article was aimed at mothers, playgroups
and nurseries and was designed to teach them about food allergies
in children, how to recognise them, what to do in the event of the
child having a reaction and how to deal with having a food-allergic
child in their group. 

Had I wished to, I could have re-written this article, changing the
target from nurseries to schools and aiming the article at primary
or elementary school teachers instead.  Or, I could have aimed it
at high school teachers, for high school is, depressingly, when
most children with food allergies suffer from a fatal reaction:
being teenagers, they become a bit too carefree and reckless with
regards to what they eat.  Or I could have aimed it at catering
staff, to educate them as to why just the tiniest contamination of
a foodstuff with a potential allergen can be so deadly. 

I could now write it from the point of view of a parent whose child
has outgrown one food allergy only to have it replaced with two new
ones.  Advice on how to cope when any food could suddenly trigger a
reaction or tips on how not to panic when your child develops yet
another mystery allergy, although I'd have to learn that myself
first!  This is still the same topic, but these are all vastly
different articles. 

The thing is, you can, maybe, get away with changing a part of your
article and reselling it once and if you do want to do this, you
could take advice from Pocholo Peralta who says: "If I were
Patricia, I'll check my rewrite with CopyScape. If the rewrite
passes plagiarism, then I assume your rewrite could be copyrighted."

But, I would seriously recommend avoiding this route and trying to
come up with new spins on your original article instead. 

This month's question comes from Harold Bernbaum.  He wrote: "I
have a question that might be of general interest to your readers
and the answer of particular concern for me...

"About ten years ago I accompanied my wife to a writer's workshop
and subsequently began to participate. In that period I've written
about 300 short stories and begun five novels, now in various
stages of completion. I don't seem to have the attention span and
drive to plug through a book length process although I've great
We've also begun a genealogy and I've written approximately 15,000
words about family history. Last year I self published a collection
of my Martin Luther Gittleman short stories through Amazon entitled

"Writing was always a piece of cake. I'd think of a topic and a few
hours later I'd produced a coherent short story. 

"After publishing my collection I had some health issues (not
mental) and didn't write for a few months. Now I seem almost
incapable of writing. The rate at which I conceptualize a topic has
slowed down and few of those have resulted in a story.

"My question is: Has anybody else had a similar experience and how
did they vanquish the demons?"

Have you had a similar experience to Howard's?  If so, how did you
beat it?  Email me with your solutions to
editorial@writing-world.com. And don't forget to email me with any
of your questions either. 

Until next time, 


Copyright Dawn Copeman 2012


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Growth in eBooks Means Lower Profits for Publishers
According to research carried out in the UK by Bowker Market
Research UK, the value of books sold has dropped by 8% since 2008,
despite a growth in the number of books purchased.  Whilst the
purchase of physical books has dropped, the increase in the number
of eBooks purchased has increased, but this has led to a decrease
in profits. For more on this story visit: http://tinyurl.com/7hurcpk

Will Kindle eBook Prices Fall after Court Case?
Meanwhile in the US, there is speculation that the price of eBooks
for Kindle and other eBook readers will soon fall following the
conclusion of an investigation into price fixing by America's
Justice Department.  For more on this story visit: 

Canadian Libraries Boycott Random House
South Shore Public Libraries in Nova Scotia are boycotting
publishers Random House after the publisher introduced new, steeper
fees for libraries. South Shore Public Libraries Chief Librarian
Troy Myers said today that the Library will stop purchasing eBooks
published by Random House. In the past month, Random House has
drastically raised the price of eBooks for sale to Libraries. For
example, a copy of Catherine the Great, Portrait of a Woman by
Robert K. Massie was $30 for libraries in January 2012, $130 on
March 1 and $85 on March 20. An individual ordering the same title
would pay $25 through Amazon, $22.69 through Kindle or $20 through
Random House or Google Books. For more on this story visit: 


how to negotiate agreements, choose pricing strategies, define
tasks, deal with difficult customers, and much more in the award-
winning "What to Charge: Pricing Strategies for Freelancers and
Consultants" (2nd Edition) by Laurie Lewis. In print and Kindle
from Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/setyourfees


Writing Jobs and Opportunities
Front Row Lit Open to Submissions
We recently branched off from our parent site Front Row Monthly
(http://www.frontrowmonthly.com) in an attempt to highlight and
promote aspiring writers.  We have no formal submission policy as
of yet, but our basic requirements are as follow:

1. Original work only
2. Topics can include just about anything.  We will accept poetry,
fiction, creative non-fiction, etc. about anything that piques the
writer's interest
3. 2,000 words or less (although a Part 1, Part 2 concept can
certainly be an option)
4. Unfortunately, there is no pay at this time, but opportunities
may exist for internship possibilities for college students
5.  If the piece was previously published, we would like to credit
the other website out of respect to their product
6. We carry no stipulations on when the writer could publish it
again, and the person submitting the work will retain all rights to
the material.

All work should be filtered through me at adamh@frontrowmonthly.com.

BANG! Publishing Seeks Crime Fiction
BANG! Publishing is an innovative new publisher of crime fiction
series - and we're looking for great authors to join us! 

BANG! Publishing is looking for aspiring authors to submit
manuscripts for first novels that have the potential to become a
series of novels. All submissions will be carefully reviewed and if
a manuscript makes it through the review process BANG! will offer a
contract for publication based on an advance and royalty structure
via our digital platform.

We are looking for great unpublished crime novels - fresh writing,
appealing characters and a dynamic plot from which further novels
can expand. We promise that your manuscript won't languish in the
digital slush pile. We're as eager as any author to help books find
their audience, so we will get back to you on your manuscript
within 6-8 weeks of submission.


"Writing to Win: The Colossal Guide to Writing Contests" is now
available.  This is the largest, most comprehensive guide to
writing competitions available in print (and Kindle). The 2012
edition features over 1600 contest listings for writers worldwide -
including over 450 listings new to this edition.  No matter where
you live or what you write, you'll find a competition that's right
for you! The guide is updated with the latest deadlines, entry 
fees and prizes. Get it now at https://www.createspace.com/3778183
or visit Amazon.com to order the Kindle edition.


FEATURE: The Case for Intriguing Eccentricity in Fiction 
By Philip Martin 

"Eccentric" means odd, unusual, outlandish, askew, and unbalanced.
Webster's dictionary defines it as something that "deviates from
regularity." In geometry, it refers to something not centered,
something lopsided. 

Odd or quirky is, it turns out, naturally interesting. We are drawn
to look more closely at something that deviates from the ordinary
or expected. We are intrigued by something strange, unpredictable,
peculiar, and curious. We want to know more about it.

The word ODD comes from the Middle English word ODDE, from Old
Norse ODDI: a point of land. In other words, it is something that
sticks out like a sore thumb.

Eccentric, in short, means different.

You want to make your story different - in an intriguing and
appealing way. You want your story to stand out from the crowd.

This may seem obvious. But many beginner stories are what I'd call
centric. They plunk themselves down safely in the middle of the
expected; they refuse to venture far from normality. Beginning
writers may be afraid or unwilling to challenge, threaten, or
puzzle that sense of normalcy in their story. 

But a story is about something different that happened. A story by
definition is eccentric. A good story is not a tennis ball, a
perfect sphere to hit back and forth over an imaginary net. It is
odd and misshapen, like an old dried apple. It looks different than
other apples. It rolls in an unexpected direction. It makes us
wonder about its origins. And it catches our interest. 

Something odd needs to appear early in the pages of a manuscript to
catch the attention of agent or editor. Those savvy shoppers of
literary works are not looking for familiarity, but for freshness. 

Remember, there is a stack of fairly equivalent works available to
any editor, piled high in stacks or entire rooms of slush-pile
submissions. Unless your story quickly offers a quirky aspect, it
will quickly be tossed aside.

The writer's challenge is to tell a fresh story. As William M.
Thackeray (Victorian novelist, author of "Vanity Fair"), summed it
up: "The two most engaging powers of a good author are to make new
things familiar and familiar things new."

But how do you put a fresh spin on old, familiar things?


Why does this beginning of a great short story, "The Skaters," by
Carrie Young, work so well?

If I am ever going to tell Borghild's story, it had best be now.

Quickly, the story unveils its quirky premise:

Borghild once told me that if she had used her good sense, she
would have gotten rid of the snow globe that Ingvald had given her.
At least hidden it in the back of the cupboard instead of letting
it sit on the kitchen table where Gunnar could stare at it. It was
a small globe - scarcely bigger than the sugar bowl - and inside
it, the snow granules whirled around three skaters: a scarlet-clad
girl with yellow pigtails and two boys in blue wearing Norwegian
visor caps.

- "The Skaters" by Carrie Young, in the collection of short stories
titled "The Wedding Dress"

The story begins with a classic "here is a story" start, followed
quickly by that odd statement: "if Borghild's had used her good
sense, she would have gotten rid of the snow globe."

Why? We want to find out.

Especially in developing their main characters, too many beginning
writers avoid eccentricity in favor of protagonists that are too
centric: likable, fairly competent, complete, and satisfactory in
most ways. These decent characters don't rock the fictional boat.
The only challenges to these nice fellows and gals come from the
outside world, not from their own flaws. 

The beginning writer tends to create a likable character, and then
works like the dickens (an inappropriate pun, as Dickens was known
for quirky and oddly-named characters, like Scrooge) to throw a
plethora of convoluted plot points at them. In short, these
amateurish, unpublished novels are plot, plot, and more plot,
happening to fairly predictable characters.

Inexperienced authors make the mistake of growing to like their
protagonists too much; they don't want their hero or heroine to be
too challenging or difficult. But the ones we enjoy the most are
often the most unpredictable, from "The Cat in the Hat" to Pippi

Some of the best characters are deeply flawed. Think of Sherlock
Holmes, one of the most enduring, but not always endearing. Indeed,
he was often quite rude and condescending, even to his best friend
Dr. Watson. The quirky Holmes was "bohemian." He kept "his cigars
in the coal-scuttle, his tobacco in the toe end of a Persian
slipper, and his unanswered correspondence transfixed by a
jack-knife into the very centre of his wooden mantelpiece. . . ." 

Holmes was prone to flights of depression, drug consumption, and
passionate violin playing. In short, Holmes was a most eccentric
character . . . and therefore, unique and memorable.

For the sheer fun of it, let's look at some other examples of
eccentricity unleashed!

New wine in old bottles
To write the exceptional tale, you need to know more about your
genre. In other words, to think outside of the box -- first get to
know that box better. Read extensively, so you don't repeat
versions of stories. 

Storytellers are unabashed recyclers, and folk stories are a
treasure trove of plots with a lot of life left in them. For
example, the SurLaLune fairy tale site (
http://www.surlalunefairytales.com) notes at least eleven
traditional versions of "Sleeping Beauty" found in traditional lore
from Chile to Sweden. And it cites many modern literary
adaptations, such as the novels "Enchantment" by Orson Scott Card,
set in modern and ancient Russia; "Spindle's End" by Robin
McKinley; and "Briar Rose," Jane Yolen's interpretation set in the

Many popular works of modern fiction draw heavily from old tales.
Look at the popularity of the novel "Cold Mountain," a Civil War
tale with echoes of Ulysses' journey home in the Odyssey, and the
popularity of the movie "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," the Coen
brothers' award-winning movie, also based on that mythic journey
but now set in Depression-era Mississippi.

To recycle, ask two questions: 

First, what is the core story of the old tale? 

Then, how would someone in a different time or setting react to
that string of events? How might the story change today -- and yet
what universal truths might stay the same?

Old stories persist because they embody ancient truths, fears, and
wonders. As Newbery medalist Nancy Willard said, using a
traditional tale is like getting on a wise horse: it knows where to
go and how to get there on its own. 

This leaves you, as the writer, free to concentrate on telling the
story well, on making sure your version is fresh, on finding a new
twist or interpretation to breathe new life into the performance.

Two ideas offer a unique intersection 

In a 1968 article in The Writer, "Thoughts on Plots," Joan Aiken
pointed out that it takes two ideas, colliding, to spark a story.

I shall always remember H.E. Bates [English, 1905-1974], that
master of the short story form, saying that besides inspiration and
a lot of sheer hard labor, a story requires, for its germination,
at least two separate ideas which, fusing together, begin to work
and ferment and presently produce a plot. 

This tallies with my own experience. . . .

Many stories have been told, but unique intersections of any two
ideas will be more original. Take a story of a dragon in a cave.
Then take a story of a door-to-door vacuum-cleaner salesman. Both
have been told. But the combination of the two? Less likely.

Think of the number of ideas you might generate by watching a
traffic intersection where two busy streets come together. At the
intersection, you'll not just see more traffic, but you'll now have
the likelihood of interesting episodes as people face more
decisions, have to deal with crossing traffic, and end up in
surprise situations and, yes, collisions.

Phyllis Whitney liked to write stories that involved occupations.
The occupation was one story; the romantic suspense tale was the
other. Many novels use as their second story that angle of an
occupation -- doctor, cowboy, detective -- explored in detail
throughout the book and with its own storyline. This offers
frequent collisions of the dramatic plot with interesting
occupational situations. 

Consider whodunits such as the Egyptian archeologist mysteries by
Elizabeth Peters or the National Park ranger mysteries by Nevada
Barr, and any number of similar series. The details of professional
practices are interesting in themselves, and they always contribute
substantially to the story of the mystery investigation.

Aiken herself liked to collect odd clippings from the London Times:

I used to find the personal ad columns very fertile sources.
Sometimes, as an exercise, I set myself the task of combining two
or three into a short story. Consider these: 

"Agile bagpiper with waterproof kilt wanted for party."

"Model rhinoceros wanted." 

"Would exchange gentleman's library for Jersey herd."

Consider the YA novel "Skellig," by David Almond (1999 fantasy,
winner of prestigious Whitbread Award). First story thread: young
protagonist, Michael, has just moved into a new house with his
family. His baby sister is extremely ill and in the hospital. Soon,
he meets a friend, a strong-willed girl named Mina. 

Second thread: Michael discovers in a corner of their new home's
cluttered garage a pale mysterious creature, seemingly near death.
Secretly, Michael tries to help it survive. 

The two stories at first move independently, but then come together
wonderfully, with hints of the angelic imagery of mystical poet
William Blake.

Many authors have talked about the special serendipity of odd items
-- newspaper clippings, curious observations, interesting details
about this and that -- noted in a journal or kept in a file, that
eventually come together to spark a fresh story.

I've advised many would-be authors that while they have a decent
single-line story, their manuscript lacks the complexity that might
be furnished by the inclusion of a good second story. The main
story is just too direct; it suffers from a lack of interesting
intersections with another story line.

Exercise your creative muscles
Creativity is the capacity to think about anything in a new,
original, unique way. It's not magic; it's a willingness to try new
ideas. True, new ideas may prove to be pointless, a waste of time,
stupid, not so new . . . who cares? The dumb idea often leads to
the brilliant idea.

Thomas Edison was a prolific inventor. He kept his achievement
level high by setting a quota for himself: one minor invention
every ten days, and a major one every six months. That's not so
different from a good writer who produces a short story or article
every week or ten days, and several major works a year.

"Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle
them, and pretty soon you have a dozen."
- John Steinbeck

Ray Bradbury started his career with a quota of a short story every
week. He'd start on Monday and it would be out the door by Friday.
Try creativity exercises. Look at your outline of plot points, then
scramble them. Turn things upside-down. Reverse roles.

Ask questions.

Think of metaphors. Einstein flashed on his theory of relativity by
thinking about a person riding on a train.

Go for walks. Play. Be a child.

Try mind-mapping: take a piece of paper and write a central idea in
the middle, then work outwards, making free associations with that
first word, then with the new words, until the page is full of
creative associations, far-flung but connected.

Enjoy nonsense.

The phrase "What if . . ." is the magic wand of the writer. Ideas
come from the ability to daydream and imagine. As Richard Matheson
said, his novel "The Shrinking Man" was "researched" by taking a
chair and sitting in his basement for hours.

J.R.R. Tolkien kept one scrap of paper, an intriguing phrase that
came to him, for no obvious reason, which he jotted down on the
back of a student's exam: "In a hole in the ground there lived a

Years later, he returned to that scrap to begin his children's
book, "The Hobbit." His imagination had long chewed on the obvious
question behind that mysterious phrase: what is a hobbit? 

Remember to ask the next question, the one that comes after the
first creative flash. Neil Gaiman, talking in a 1997 article about
playing the "what-if" game, offered this example: "Well, if cats
used to rule the world, why don't they anymore? And how do they
feel about that?" Creative answers come from constantly asking
yourself more questions about your story.

Eccentricity alone is not enough to shape a great story. But it
does create interest. It draws the reader in with the promise: here
is a story of something odd and amazing. Want to hear about it?
The answer: of course!

This is true of editors as well as ordinary readers, perhaps even
more so. An editor should be viewed as a very jaded person with a
very big pile of manuscripts on his/her desk. They read a lot. What
might seem fascinating to you may not even flicker the needle on
their interest-o-meter.

You can never go wrong with leading off with a broad hint that you
are about to tell a truly amazing tale. Tempt them with a promise
of something quite out of the ordinary.

It's also worth noting that the oddities should not be random or
unrelated. When the waking Gregor Samsa discovers that he is a
sentient bug . . . this must pay off in some fashion over the
course of the story. 

As Chekhov pointed out, if there is a gun hanging over the mantle
in scene one, it should be fired before the end of the play. The
same is true for quirks. I don't know why Long John Silver was
originally given a parrot and a wooden leg by Robert Louis
Stevenson, but both aspects do play a dramatic role in the
"Treasure Island" story in small but significant ways.

Quirks, of course, are just the beginning of your story. Once you
have the reader interested, it's up to you to embellish and develop
the story.

(Excerpted from "How to Write Your Best Story".

Philip Martin is a book editor and author with broad experience
across diverse aspects of the literary landscape.  A former
acquisitions editor for The Writer Books, he is now the publisher
of Crickhollow Books. Martin is the author of "The Writer's Guide
to Fantasy Literature" and "How to Write Your Best Story" (from
which this article is excerpted); he has also edited "The New
Writer's Handbook," two volumes of advice for writers.  Martin has
worked for several years documenting Midwestern folkways, directing
oral history research projects and producing museum exhibits,
public programs and publications; he has written several books on
regional cultural heritage.  He lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin;
visit his website at Great Lakes Literary (

Copyright 2012 Philip Martin

For more tips on using personality to plot fiction read:    


An epublishing revolution is sweeping the industry. We explain what
is happening and show you how to self-publish your own eBooks.


Free Stuff for Writers: Your Inbox Is Not Your Enemy

By Aline Lechaye

Does it feel like emails have taken over your life? Do you get
depressed every morning when you open your inbox and see the number
of unread messages waiting for you? Did your best friend just call
to ask why she didn't get that "happy birthday" email from you this
year? This month let's look at some websites and software that can
make emailing easier... and maybe even fun. (PS: Check back next
month for some great Twitter and Facebook tools!)

Boomerang (currently for Gmail users only) is like your own
personal secretary. Not only can you schedule when your sent emails
will arrive in someone else's inbox, you can also archive messages
and have them show up back in your inbox when you need them (or
have time to actually read them). Writers will particularly love
the "remind" option that reminds you to follow up a sent email if
you don't get a reply within a certain period of time -- it's
perfect for keeping track of submissions! Boomerang runs on
Firefox, Google Chrome, and Safari. Download and install at

(By the way, if you find that dealing with your email inbox is
driving you insane, you might also want to play The Email Game
(http://emailga.me), made by the same people who made Boomerang.
Simply enter your email address into the box provided, then watch
your productivity soar as you race against the clock to clear your

LetterMeLater (http://www.lettermelater.com/) is another site that
allows you to send emails at a future time. You can also schedule
emailed text messages to cell phones (check 
http://www.livejournal.com/tools/textmessage.bml?mode=details to
see if your service provider is included). Best of all, after
you've created an account on LetterMeLater, you don't even have to
log in to the site to schedule your emails. All you have to do is
send the emails to Me@LetterMeLater.com, along with the recipients'
emails and the time you'd like the email to be sent. Learn more at

Let's go to extremes here and use email like it's more than just a
mode of communication. Use http://emailfuture.com/ to remind
yourself (or someone else) of important dates such as birthdays,
anniversaries and so on. Or make up a list of goals you'd like to
accomplish over the next five years and arrange to have that
emailed to you at the end of that time. Email Future can send your
emails up to 10 years in the future (if you want to be really
extreme, try http://www.mailfreezr.com/, which lets you send emails
up to 100 years in the future). Think of all the fun you could have
with that... and in the meantime, feel free to try out 
http://textitlater.com/, a free scheduled texting service -- use it
to text reminders to yourself or friends. 

Don't have time to read that email now? Forward it to
24@hitmelater.com and it will be sent back to you 24 hours later.
Don't want to wait that long? The "24" can be replaced with any
other amount of time (so you would forward your email to
2@hitmelater.com to have it sent back to you two hours later).
Learn more about the service at http://www.hitmelater.com/. 

Finding attachments in your email can be a long and frustrating
process. Where is that attachment with the notes you need? Who was
it that sent it to you? Was it your sister? Or maybe it was your
uncle? When was it sent? Thankfully, we now have 
http://attachments.me/ to help us out. Search photos, documents,
and even words within documents to quickly find exactly what it is
you're looking for. 


Aline Lechaye is a translator, writer, and writing tutor who
resides in Asia. She can be reached at alinelechaye@gmail.com.

Copyright 2012 Aline Lechaye


SERIOUS ABOUT WRITING? Join the National Association of Independent
Writers and Editors, the professional association with a
career-building difference. We partner with you to create a
strategic online presence with genuine credibility. You get a free
NAIWE-linked website (and more) so you'll be where people come to
find writers. Join us today at http://naiwe.com!



On Creative Writing Exercises
This is a set of eight creative writing exercises designed to help
fiction writers to improve their craft. 

Story Generator
This site offers character profiles based on psychological
personality types, plus a story generator tool and a character
generator tool. Fun to play with!

Writer Underground
This used to be copywriter underground, hints and tips from a
working freelance copywriter; now, however, Tom Chandler writes
about writers and writing in general.  I will warn you, though,
this is a blog that sucks you in.


AUTHOR'S BOOKSHELF: Books by Our Readers

Creating Blockbusters! How to Generate and Market Hit Entertainment
for TV, Movies, Video Games, and Books, by Gene Del Vecchio

How to Write Your Best Story, by Philip Mann

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Writing World is a publication of Writing-World.com

Editor and Publisher: MOIRA ALLEN (editors "at" writing-world.com) 

Newsletter Editor: DAWN COPEMAN (editorial "at" writing-world.com) 

Copyright 2012 Moira Allen

Copyright © 2017 by Moira Allen. All rights reserved.
All materials on this site are the property of their authors
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unless otherwise indicated.
For more information please contact Moira Allen, Editor