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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

                  http://www.writing-world.com

Issue 14:21          13,000 subscribers          November 6, 2014
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MANAGE YOUR SUBSCRIPTION: See the bottom of this newsletter for
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COPYRIGHT NOTICE: No material published in this newsletter may be
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otherwise noted. Unauthorized use is a copyright infringement.
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IN THIS ISSUE:
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FROM THE EDITOR'S DESK, by Moira Allen
     Charting Our Course for 2015
FEATURE ARTICLE, by Audrey Henderson
     Enriching Your Writing with Big Data
CRAFTING FABULOUS FICTION, by Victoria Grossack     
     Map Your Settings
NO-FEE WRITING CONTESTS FOR DECEMBER
PLUS: NEWS FOR WRITERS; THE WRITE SITES
                           
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EVERY WRITER NEEDS A HOLIDAY!  "The Writer's Guide to Holidays, 
Observances and Awareness Dates" offers 1800 events worldwide --
Instant inspiration for those days when you can't think of anything
to write about!  Holiday topics are a favorite of editors, so fuel
your inspiration and jumpstart your articles today!  Available in 
print and Kindle editions; for more information visit
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WRITING-WORLD.COM'S WRITER'S YEAR PLANNER FOR 2015 IS HERE! We're
delighted to announce the "Writer's Year" planner for 2015.  Use
it to plan your writing schedule, keep up with deadlines, record 
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and just figure out where the time goes!  As always, the electronic
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For details, download links, and links to the print editions, visit
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FROM THE EDITOR'S DESK - by Moira Allen
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Charting Our Course for 2015
----------------------------

Let me begin by extending a warm "thank you" to the 102 readers who
completed our survey last month!  And thank you especially for all
those wonderful and supportive comments!  Most respondents had been
subscribers for more than three years, which says a great deal
about this newsletter all by itself.

I invited readers to participate in the survey to help me determine
ways in which this newsletter will change in 2015.  Unfortunately,
I didn't quite get the answer I was looking for -- for, believe it
or not, I was actually fishing for "bad news"!

Let me explain...

As many of you pointed out, this newsletter has gotten very long. 
It is usually in the range of 18 pages, and I know that many of you
print it out.  That's a lot of paper and a lot of ink.  I remember
my own frustration back when one of my favorite newsletters,
Inscriptions, reached a similar length -- and now I've done the
same thing.  So I was rather hoping to hear, "Oh, well, no one
really wants THIS section or gets much out of THAT section -- it
can go!"  

No such luck!  In fact, every section got pretty much the same
level of response.  The highest possible score was 4.0, and most
sections were above 3.5 ("usually interesting/useful" to "always
interesting/useful").  The lowest-ranking section was "guest
editorials," and we haven't had enough of those to really provide
much to judge by (I blush to say that my editorials were the
highest ranking section -- again, I thank you!).  Even the contest
listings, which had the highest number of "no interest" votes,
still came out at 3.62.  

Length isn't the only challenge we're facing.  The others are
"time" and "money."  For the first time since its beginnings nearly
15 years ago, Writing-World.com is feeling a pinch.  The recession
has hit a number of our advertisers, which, in turn, hits us. 
Dawn's decision to leave the newsletter came at a welcome time
financially, but this, in turn, means that the newsletter now takes
up a great deal more of MY time.  I have no intention of turning my
back on Writing-World.com any time soon -- but if I can find ways
to tighten the belt and loosen the time constraints, I'll be a much
happier camper.

The key is finding a way to do that and keep the readers happy as
well...

So here's the plan.  In 2015, I intend to "split" the newsletter. 
There will still be two issues each month.  But instead of having
both a full-length feature AND Victoria's column (which is itself
the equivalent of a full-length feature) in each issue, I'm going
to split those apart.  The first issue of the month will offer a
feature article and the contest listings; the second issue will
offer Victoria's column and Aline Lechaye's "Free Stuff for
Writers."  This will have the advantage of making each issue
shorter and more manageable for readers -- and less expensive and
less time-consuming for me.  (It makes Victoria happy too -- she
was beginning to find it burdensome to produce two columns every
month.)

Many of your comments involved the format of the newsletter.  To
sum them up, my impression is that many of you would like to drag
me, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century -- i.e., the
century of HTML newsletters.  I admit, I have been resistant to
such a move (and there are still many of you who plead for the
plain, easy-to-read text edition).  However, I also have to admit
that, after exploring some of the templates available from AWeber,
well...  An HTML version really DOES look rather cool!  So I hope
to begin experimenting with an HTML version beginning in 2015 --
provided it is also possible to enable subscribers to choose plain
text if that is their preference.  (I'm still waiting for an answer
from AWeber on just how this is handled.)  Stay tuned for further
details...

A few people asked why the current edition is so "narrow."  The
answer to that lies in the mailing service -- that's where AWeber
wraps the text.  I think the issue here is that many e-mail
programs offer a viewing window of a limited size, and AWeber's
goal is to make sure that the message doesn't get truncated on one
side, or start
wrapping
oddly...

Moving on to the issue of content, respondents asked for articles
on a wide range of topics.  Many, however, seemed unaware of the
range of material currently available on the Writing-World.com
website (one even commented that s/he didn't even know we HAD a
website!).  One of my goals with the newsletter has been to avoid
repeating articles on topics we've already covered -- but if my
readers don't KNOW what we've already covered, that doesn't help! 
So in 2015 we'll be adding a "look-back" feature that will provide
snippets and links to the wealth of content (over 900 articles and
columns) available on Writing-World.com itself.

Several people commented on the format of the Writing-World.com
website itself, which is another issue.  As it happens, I'm working
on a redesign -- I'm still not happy with the navigation system,
because it's difficult for ME to find things, and I'm the editor! 
However, Writing-World.com is NOT going to become a blog.  (Yes, I
know that Wordpress has wonderful templates -- but the thought of
trying to transfer 900+ articles to Wordpress does NOT thrill me!) 
And yes, I know the ads are distracting.  They are also the reason
why we have a site at all; Writing-World.com has always paid its
writers, and until I win the lottery, ads are what make that
possible.  

One final issue raised by several respondents was the length of our
articles.  Couldn't they be shorter?  Couldn't we make the
newsletter more accessible to folks reading it on their phones? 
How about just short blurbs with links to the longer article
online?  I've given this one a bit of thought, and the answer here
is... no.

Here's my reasoning on this one.  The goal of Writing-World.com is
to equip writers for success. (In fact I'm planning to make that
our motto!)  Success in writing does not come easily.  It requires
tools, and those tools cannot be reduced to bite-size, convenient
chunks.  There's no other industry in which one can learn what one
needs to be successful, or even get a job, by reading summaries and
blurbs and snippets.  And I believe most of my readers are serious
about writing and about becoming successful -- or more successful. 
My goal is to provide the tools those readers need to make their
work stand out in this incredibly competitive business.  I realize
that we're all busy people, but there are no shortcuts to success. 
Sure, I could "dumb it down" -- but I feel that this would be a
huge disservice to the thousands of readers who rely upon
Writing-World.com to help them make their dreams and goals a
reality.

And that, really, is my bottom line for 2015.  I may reformat, and
restructure, and redesign -- but my fundamental reason for
providing this newsletter, and the Writing-World.com website,
remains the same: to help you succeed.  To do that, I will continue
to select the most useful articles and resources that I can find,
because you deserve nothing less.  And I hope we'll stay together
on this road for many years to come!

-- Moira Allen, Editor

Copyright 2014 Moira Allen

This article may be reprinted provided the author's byline, bio and
copyright notice are retained. (For an author bio and complete
details on reprint terms, please visit 
http://www.writing-world.com/admin1/reprints.shtml)

Link to this article here:
http://www.writing-world.com/coffee/coffee86.shtml

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VICTORIANA LOVERS:
------------------
THE NOVEMBER ISSUE OF VICTORIAN TIMES is now available! As ever, 
we've brought together a unique collection of articles from 
Victorian periodicals to celebrate the season!  As it grows cold
outside, warm yourself by the fire with articles about the folklore
of cats, advertising swindles, London's old stone signs, tile 
painting, some eccentric invention ideas (think Victorian "Shark
Tank"), and of course a delicious assortment of recipes and treats!
Visit http://www.mostly-victorian.com/VT/issues/VT-1411.shtml to
download the free electronic edition or access the print edition.
=================================================================

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FEATURE ARTICLE: Enriching Your Writing with Big Data
By Audrey Henderson

================================================================

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably heard
the term Big Data.  You may wonder just what Big Data is and what
all the fuss is about. Perhaps you've read too many stories about
huge data breaches or fathers finding out that their teenage
daughters are pregnant by receiving baby-related promotions
(Target, anyone?) and decided you wanted no part of that sort of
potential privacy intrusion.  Or you may simply have dismissed the
term as one more tech buzzword.  

The fact is, however, that harnessing the power of Big Data can
lend an air of authority and depth to your writing that might tip
the scales in your favor with an editor or publisher. And while you
may have privacy concerns, Big Data resources that are likely to be
useful to you as a writer usually divulge little or no personal
information. What IS required to utilize Big Data in your writing
is an instinct for asking the right questions and the persistence
to pursue information -- skills many writers possess in abundance. 

What Is Big Data?
-----------------
A 2013 article on the Forbes website lists one of the simplest
definitions of Big Data:

"Big data is a collection of data from traditional and digital
sources inside and outside your company that represents a source
for ongoing discovery and analysis." 

Information drives Big Data, and information is exploding at an
exponential rate.  To gain perspective on just how much information
is involved, consider the fact that since the 1980s, per-capita
data storage capacity has doubled every 40 months.

Many retail and other corporations such as Target and Amazon
collect huge reservoirs of data. Customer preferences and purchase
records are maintained not only to fill orders and stock shelves
but to create customer profiles. When cross-referenced with
demographic categories such as age, gender, zip code and ethnic
background, customer profiles can be utilized to create targeted
ads and other directed outreach efforts, such as the infamous
Target miscues involving baby-related marketing.

How Big Data Can Enrich Your Writing
------------------------------------
Do you need or want to know the daily count of passengers for each
stop on the public bus system in your town to include in a blog
post or a magazine assignment? Would it be useful to include
detailed information about flight delays and on-time performance
for domestic airlines for a book you are writing?  No matter what
you are writing, chances are your work could benefit from including
data and statistics.  

For instance, if you are writing about ways to prevent a repeat of
the housing crisis that began in 2008, you could include statistics
comparing average housing prices and foreclosure rates for
different neighborhoods. You could drill deeper to include
information about vacant properties, crime statistics or seemingly
mundane but relevant details such as the average distance to the
nearest grocery stores. Consider the following examples of
paragraphs that might be included in a book or article about
on-time airline performance and the passenger experience.

Without Big Data: "If you have had the feeling during the past
several months that flying has become a hit or miss prospect in
regards to on-time performance, you may very well be right.
Thousands of flights are delayed and cancelled across North America
every month. Sometimes weather is the culprit; other times holiday
rush periods are responsible."

With Big Data: "If you have had the feeling during the past several
months that flying has become a hit or miss prospect in regards to
on-time performance, you may very well be right. As of July 2014,
there were more than 38,000 flight cancellations and 600,000+ total
flight delays worldwide during the previous 30 days. Of these,
nearly 18,000 cancellations and approximately 175,000 delays
occurred in North America alone. Sometimes weather is the culprit;
other times holiday rush periods are responsible."

As this example illustrates, detailed data can add a sense of
authority to your work, especially if you are writing long-form
nonfiction articles or books. In this case, the source is the
FlightStats website.  But similar examples can be generated by
inserting statistical data from other categories, including Chicago
neighborhood crime statistics, Hawaii tourism, and household
clothing expenditures into general narrative text.

CHICAGO NEIGHBORHOOD CRIME DATA: 

Without Big Data: "The large number of shootings in Chicago over
the 2014 Independence Day weekend generated nationwide headlines. A
casual observer might form the conclusion from Chicago news stories
reported during the holiday weekend that the entire city is plagued
with violence and bloodshed.  In fact, the overall violent crime
rate for Chicago is lower than the rate for property crimes, which
are more likely to occur in Chicago's affluent and densely
populated downtown."

With Big Data: "The large number of shootings in Chicago over the
2014 Independence Day weekend generated nationwide headlines. A
casual observer might form the conclusion from Chicago news stories
reported during the holiday weekend that the entire city is plagued
with violence and bloodshed. But according to the Crime in Chicago
database, maintained by the Chicago Tribune, violent crime reports
for West Englewood total 3.2 per 1,000 people, the highest in the
city.  By contrast, property crime reports in the Loop total 10.7
per 1,000 people, far and away the highest rate in the entire city.
In other words, the overall violent crime rate is much lower than
for property crimes, which are more likely to occur in Chicago's
affluent and densely populated downtown."

HAWAII TOURISM: 

Without Big Data: "Hawaii tourism suffered a steep decline as a
result of the Great Recession in the United States and the tsunami
that devastated Japan in March 2011.  But since the US economy has
moved into recovery, and as Japan has rebounded from its nuclear
and natural disaster, tourism numbers in Hawaii have been on the
upswing. Recent tourism figures are trending close to the record
number of visitors notched before the recession.  Indications point
to a continued recovery in tourism the rest of the United States
and from Japan -- the state's two most important markets."

With Big Data: "Hawaii tourism suffered a steep decline as a result
of the Great Recession in the United States and the tsunami that
devastated Japan in March 2011.  But since the US economy has moved
into recovery, and as Japan has rebounded from its nuclear and
natural disaster, tourism numbers in Hawaii have been on the
upswing.  Recent figures are trending close to the record number of
nearly 7.5 million visitors arriving by air before the recession,
notched by the 2006 Annual Visitor Research Report issued by the
government of Hawaii.  Indications point to continued tourism
recovery according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, with more than
3.2 million visitors arriving by air from the rest of the United
States through May 2014, and nearly 590,000 visitors arriving by
air from Japan during the same period -- the state's two most
important markets."

CLOTHING EXPENDITURES: 

Without Big Data: "From 1985 to 2005, the average annual household
expenditure for clothing increased every year, with the highest
proportion of spending devoted clothing for adult women. But
household spending for clothing experienced a significant drop in
2010, largely due to the recession. Nonetheless, the proportions
for spending in 2010 were comparable to those of pre-recession
levels, with spending for clothing for adult women leading all
other categories."

With Big Data: "From 1985 to 2005, according to the Bureau of Labor
Statistics, the average annual household expenditure for clothing
increased every year from $1,405 in 1985 to $1,886 in 2005, with
the highest proportion of spending, $499 in 1985 and $633 in 2005,
devoted to clothing for adult women.  But household spending for
clothing experienced a significant drop for 2010, to $1,700,
largely due to the recession. Nonetheless, the proportions for
spending in 2010 were comparable to those of pre-recession levels,
with $562 in spending for clothing for adult women leading all
other categories."

Big Data Sources for Your Writing 
---------------------------------
In past decades, obtaining statistics to add meat to the bones of a
story often required lengthy sessions in the library poring over
dusty newspapers or rolling through reels of microfilm.  Nowadays,
many online resources exist that have already done much of the
heavy lifting of streamlining Big Data into manageable parcels.
Statistics are readily available for nearly every subject in the
form of online data sets created by marketing departments,
government entities and industrious individuals.  Many of the most
useful online Big Data sets are available for access via the
Internet free of charge; others charge modest fees. Accessing a few
data sets still necessitates a trip to the public library -- just
like the good old days.

Uncle Sam has traditionally represented one of the best sources of
Big Data.  Online portals such as the Library of Congress, the
Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention and the Bureau of the Census are virtual treasure
troves.  Since the beginning of the Obama administration, the
Data.gov website has also become a go-to, user-friendly database of
federal information.

Think tanks like the Brookings Institution (liberal) and the Reason
Foundation (conservative/libertarian) along with nonpartisan
research portals like Pew Research Internet Project represent
excellent sources for both data and analysis. Local municipalities
and county governments are increasingly likely to make raw
administrative and demographic data available to the public. If
there are no online open data resources available in your area,
send an email or place a call to the relevant government or
municipal agency to inquire. 

The advantage of using official government and other well-regarded
sources like these is that you are more likely to obtain data that
is rigorously collected and reported.  However, even data from
impeccable sources may be flawed. For instance, official crime
statistics from a municipality may count a shooting where the
victim was robbed only as a shooting -- or worse -- count the
incident as two separate occurrences.  Exercising due diligence in
sourcing the data by checking out the About Us, FAQ or similar
section of the website or portal to determine how the data is
collected and analyzed is essential to ensure that the data you
include is as accurate as possible.
 
Do not eliminate commercial sources of data out of hand. Many
commercial websites draw their reports from well-regarded data
sources. If you find a commercial site with data that you would
like to use, check out its About Us or FAQ pages just as you would
for any other site. For instance, Flight Stats, the source of the
statistics quoted in the example above, is a commercial website.
However, reading through the FAQ section of the website reveals
that FlightStats sources its airline performance data from the
Federal Aviation Administration ASDI Data Feed, the European Data
Feed, the GDS (Sabre, Amadeus, Apollo, Galileo) data set and from
direct airport and airline data feeds. 

Discovering and Deciphering Big Data Sets
-----------------------------------------
You don't need to be a professional researcher to unearth Big Data
statistics and information to enhance your writing. A combination
of keyword searching and examining various websites and portals
should yield plentiful information. The list below represents
search terms I used with a standard browser-based search engine to
generate the data for the four examples listed above.

* On-time flight database
* Chicago crime data
* Demographic data on Hawaii visitors
* Data on fashion

That said, extracting the data to enhance your writing frequently
involves some digging even after you have discovered useful web
portals.  For instance, on the FlightStats website, I navigated to
the Delays tab, which revealed the information I was seeking. The
numbers included in the Hawaii tourism example were extracted from
two sources: the Annual Visitor Research Report, a PDF document
posted on the Visitor Statistics site of the Department of
Business, Economic Development and Tourism portal maintained by
Hawaii.gov; and the 2006 Annual Visitor Research Report, a second
PDF document available on the Hawaii Tourism Authority website. 
The Chicago crime data stats were easier to access, displayed on
the splash (entry) page of the Crime in Chicagoland portal. 
Finally, the statistics included in the fashion example were pulled
from a June 2012 Spotlight on Statistics in Fashion slide show
posted on the BLS website.

If your searches fail to turn up viable leads, or if you are
mystified by the data you uncover, the reference librarian at your
local or university library will undoubtedly be happy to assist
you. Be prepared to provide a general description of the type of
book or article you are researching as well as its potential
market. You should also inform the librarian of previous search
terms you have used and websites you have already consulted.  This
information will assist him or her in narrowing down potential
resources. Many libraries provide research services free of charge;
others charge a modest fee. If you have extensive search needs, you
may need to set an appointment.

So don't be afraid to seek out and use the resources provided by
Big Data in your next Big Project.  It might provide just the
details you need to earn a Big Paycheck!

For More Information:
---------------------
Editor's Note: Three pages of Big Data and related resources were
provided with this article.  To keep the newsletter manageable, we
are including the links only in the online version of the article
at 
http://www.writing-world.com/freelance/bigdata.shtml

=================================================================

Audrey Faye Henderson is a writer, researcher, data analyst and
policy analyst based in the Chicago area. Her company, Knowledge
Empowerment, http://www.knowledge-empowerment.net/, specializes in
social policy analysis concerning fair housing, affordable housing,
higher education for nontraditional students, community development
with an asset based approach and sustainable development in the
built environment

=================================================================

Copyright 2014 Audrey Henderson

This article may not be reprinted without the author's written
permission.

Link to this article here:
http://www.writing-world.com/freelance/bigdata.shtml

*****************************************************************

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NEWS FROM THE WORLD OF WRITING
================================================================= 

Now You Too Can Write a Sherlock Holmes Story...
------------------------------------------------
The US Supreme Court has upheld a ruling that put 50 works
featuring the famed detective Sherlock Holmes in the public domain.
 The estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has long fought to retain
complete copyright ownership of the Sherlock Holmes stories, hence
requiring license fees from anyone seeking to write or produce
anything Holmesian.  The estate wished author Leslie Klinger to pay
additional licensing fees for the use of the character; Klinger
finally sued, and the seventh US circuit court of appeals ruled in
his favour, determining that the 50 Sherlock Holmes works published
prior to 1923 are in the public domain.  Only the last ten stories,
published after 1923, are still subject to copyright.  This means
that writers are now free to write their own Sherlock Holmes tales
without having to pay a licensing fee to the Doyle estate.  For
more details, visit http://tinyurl.com/pqbx6qs

Vote for Your Favorite Books
----------------------------
Voting has opened for the 2014 Goodreads Choice Awards.  Visit the
Goodreads site and register to vote for your favorite books in 20
different categories.  Each category has 15 nominees (I found this
a great way to discover books I hadn't even heard of yet), and you
can also write in your own favorites.  To plate your votes, visit
https://www.goodreads.com/choiceawards/best-books-2014 

November is Picture Book Month
------------------------------
In November, Picture Book Month celebrates the print picture book
in an international literacy initiative.  On the Picture Book Month
website, each day there will be post from a "picture book champion"
explaining why picture books are important and/or what they have
meant to that person.  As one writer notes, such books are
important because they are the first books we read -- and help set
our reading habits early in life.  You can join the movement by
becoming a "picture book ambassador" and posting a logo and link on
your blog or website.  For more information, and to read each day's
posts, visit http://picturebookmonth.com/celebrate

*****************************************************************

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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!

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CRAFTING FABULOUS FICTION: Map Your Settings
by Victoria Grossack

=================================================================

Perhaps you have decided what will happen in your story.  Perhaps
you have a good understanding of the characters and the
conversations.  It may be time to focus on another aspect of your
story: WHERE the events take place.

Fiction is an opportunity to visit virtually places that you and
your readers could never otherwise experience.  Dragon lairs,
floating cities, Roman gladiator fights, or the construction site
of the Taj Mahal -- these are all impossible to get to these days. 
It is true that you can journey to India, pay an entry fee in Agra
and tour the Taj Mahal, but you can't go back to the time when it
was being built.  Roman gladiator fights have been over for
millennia, while dragon lairs and floating cities never even
existed, except in people's imaginations.  

Great settings can enhance your story.  They can give your readers
a wondrous experience, make or break a mood, or even increase your
plot possibilities, as your characters interact with their
surroundings.  Especially in adventure stories, settings can play a
role in whether your characters live or die.  

But in this column, we won't discuss which settings are perfect for
your story, in part because that is a very subjective decision that
should be left to you, the artist (though it may get covered
later).  Instead, we'll focus on what you can do to improve YOUR
understanding of your story's settings.  After all, authors often
play "host" to readers, "showing them around," and it helps to be
as well-informed about where your story is taking place as you can.

Dream Up Possibilities
----------------------
The first step is to think of settings in the first place, which
depends heavily on your story and your characters.  Where do they
spend their days?  Where is it logical for them to be and to go?

Sometimes a story's environment is defined at the outset.  An
astronaut may be in the International Space System (ISS) -- not
exactly a floating city but perhaps it will evolve into one --
because these days astronauts don't really go anywhere else.  On
the other hand, you may be writing a story where you have many more
options with respect to setting.  Perhaps your characters are
traveling, and are taking a long journey in wagon trains from east
to west, like pioneers of yore, in which case you can choose to
focus on your favorites along the route.  

Other story settings may be more mundane.  Perhaps you are setting
your story in a small town, and you have little to do besides
invent a few houses and street names.  Finally, some settings may
be absolutely fantastic: the dragon's lair, the wizard's castle,
the vampire's crypt.

Whatever your possible settings, I suggest that you make a list of
them, either mentally or in a file.  I believe, too, that unless
you are writing a very short piece -- or unless your characters
really can't go anywhere, which could be true if you are up at the
ISS or if your characters are prisoners in some jail cell -- it is
good to have several settings in mind.  Most readers expect to
visit more than one imaginary place in a story, and you should be
prepared.

Research Locations
------------------
After you have come up your list of possible settings for the
scenes of your story, you may need to engage in research to get
them right.  If you place your story on the ISS, you will need to
understand it better than most potential readers.

The best thing you can do is to personally visit your settings or
reasonable proxies for them.  For example, perhaps your characters
work in a restaurant or a museum.  Everyone has eaten in a
restaurant, but have you spent time in a restaurant's kitchen? 
Everyone has visited a museum, but have you been to the museum
basement or the museum office?  By visiting these places -- even if
you will not be using the exact places that you visit -- you can
learn a lot about details and the atmosphere.

Some places are difficult to visit, but you can still do research
to learn more.  If you want to set your story on the ISS and you
are not in the space program and lack the millions of dollars
needed to go up as a tourist, you can still become better
acquainted with the place by taking a YouTube tour with Astronaut
Suni Williams.  You may find similar videos, articles and
documentaries about other hard-to-reach places.

Whatever your possible settings, when you do your visits or your
research, look around you -- in all six directions.  Left, right,
front, back, up and down. (Most of us forget "up" and "down.") What
do you see; what do you notice?  What would your characters notice?
 Where does the light come from?  Is it warm or cold?  Dry or
moist?   How does it smell?  Do you hear anything?  How does it
feel to walk on the floor (or to float around, if that is what you
are doing)?

Also, check your emotional reaction to these places, and take
especial note of items that can impress you or make you
uncomfortable.  How does it make you feel to be in a room with all
sorts of knives?  Do all the crates in the museum basement make you
uncomfortable as you wonder what -- or who -- is in them?  Is it so
luxurious that your protagonist feels out of place, or so
disgusting that your hero is nauseated?   

You do not need to replicate the details you see exactly, but these
details can provide inspiration for your story.  You may be
surprised by what bits and pieces will prove useful as you start to
invent.

Of course, not all places can be visited, either in person or by
watching a video.  Some places, such as dragon lairs, exist only in
imaginations.  That does not mean you should not do research.  You
should ask yourself relevant questions, such as the ones above, and
then make up the answers.  Look with your mind's-eye in all the
directions, and ask what your characters would see and what else
they would notice.
 
Make a Map
----------
Whether your world is based on reality or is entirely imaginary,
you may find it useful to make rough sketches or even detailed
maps. Sketches and maps can help orient you as you write your story
and plan the action.  It can also help you keep from contradicting
yourself.

If you're creating a world with a lot of details and information,
maps and sketches can save you a lot of grief.  My co-author does
all our Tapestry of Bronze maps, which are so nice that we include
them in our books and at our website.  However, we created them as
research tools for us as writers, not as illustrations for our
readers.  We needed to remember the names of the gates of Thebes
and how long it took to travel to Delphi.  We needed to know where
the rivers were around Olympia.  When we work on a new project,
instead of having to re-research these details, we can just glance
at one of our maps.  We had to invent some of these things, but at
least we're consistent within our series.  The maps save a lot of
time and tedium.

You may not be mapping a city or the route of a journey.  Perhaps
you are sketching the floor plan of a house so that you remember
where the front door is, whose bedroom is on which floor, and how
many bathrooms the house has.  Perhaps you are just drawing the
furniture in a room so that you know how a murder takes place. 
Perhaps it is a dragon's lair, and a plan will give you an idea of
the relative sizes of the dragon, the cave, and the people who have
come to steal (or steal back) the treasure. 

If the sketch is just for you (and not going on your website) you
don't have to fill in all the details.  You may not know what lies
to the east (yet).  You may not know what is in the attic or the
basement of your characters' house, and perhaps it does not even
matter.  In fact, if you are planning to write a series, you want
to keep some areas undeveloped for rooms and places you may need in
the future.  For example, I recently started a mystery series set
in the fictional town of Maryannsville, Indiana.  As I wrote
"Academic Assassination," I needed to know many things: the address
and the floor plan of the Martins' house, the Irvin Lecture and
Music Hall at Cogito University (the Cog), and a few of the shops
in Maryannsville.  As I work on the second book in the same town, I
am inventing other places, such as where the bookstore is, and the
mansion of the president of Cogito University.


Conclusion
----------
Maps and sketches can help you keep your stories straight.  You
won't need them for all your locations, but in some instances they
can be invaluable.  Once you know your way around your story's
settings, you can move your characters through them with confidence
-- and guide your readers through your fictional world as well.

=================================================================

Victoria Grossack studied Creative Writing and English Literature
at Dartmouth College, and has published stories and articles in
such publications as Contingencies, Women's World and I Love Cats.
She is the author of Crafting Fabulous Fiction, a step-by-step
guide to developing and polishing novels and short stories that
includes many of her beloved columns. With Alice Underwood, she
co-authors the Tapestry of Bronze series (including Jocasta,
Mother-Wife of Oedipus; The Children of Tantalus; and Antigone &
Creon), based on Greek myths and set in the late Bronze Age. Her
independent novels include The Highbury Murders, in which she does
her best to channel the spirits and styles of Jane Austen and
Agatha Christie, and Academic Assassination (A Zofia Martin
Mystery). Victoria is married with kids, and (though American)
spends much of her time in Europe. Her hobbies include gardening,
hiking, bird-watching and tutoring mathematics. Visit her website
at http://www.tapestryofbronze.com, or contact her at tapestry (at)
tapestryofbronze (dot) com. 

=================================================================

Copyright 2014 Victoria Grossack 

This article may not be reprinted or posted without the written
permission of the author.

Link to this article here: 
http://www.writing-world.com/victoria/crafting54.shtml

Want to learn more about crafting fabulous fiction? Get one-on-one
guidance with Victoria Grossack's personal writing class; visit
http://www.tapestryofbronze.com/VictoriasWritingClasses.html.

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THE WRITE SITES
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------------
If you're like me, you write - you don't draw, brochures exist only
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consistent, but this may offer writers inexpensive solutions for
non-writing tasks.
http://studio.envato.com/


ATTENTION READERS: This section is becoming YOUR section!  Send me
your suggestions of your favorite sites and blogs for writers. 
(Tell me about your own site if you think it's appropriate.)  Sites
for consideration in this section must offer a significant amount
of useful information for writers at no charge (even if the site is
otherwise involved in marketing a product or service). Please send
your suggestions to editors@writing-world.com with "WRITE SITES" in
the subject line.

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CONTESTS, from Writing-World.com!  "Writing to Win" brings you 
more than 1600 contest listings from around the world.  You won't 
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NO-FEE WRITING CONTESTS FOR DECEMBER
================================================================= 
This section lists contests that charge no entry fees. Unless 
otherwise indicated, competitions are open to all adult writers. 

DAVID J. LANGUM, SR. PRIZE IN AMERICAN HISTORICAL FICTION/
AMERICAN LEGAL HISTORY/BIOGRAPHY
----------------------------------------------------------
DEADLINE: December 1 
PRIZES: $1,000 in each category
DETAILS: Historical fiction: Fiction set in the American colonial
and national periods that is both excellent fiction and excellent
history, and that, to some extent makes a delineation between
fiction and history.  History: Legal history or legal biography
that is accessible to the educated general public, rooted in sound
scholarship, and with themes that touch upon matters of general
concern to the American public, past or present.
ELECTRONIC ENTRIES: No
CONTACT: The Langum Charitable Trust, P.O. Box 12643, Birmingham,
AL 35202, langumtrust@gmail.com.
WEBSITE: http://www.langumtrust.org/histlit.html

GOLDEN KITE AWARDS
------------------
DEADLINE: December 1
PRIZES: $2,500 to authors and illustrators in four categories
DETAILS: Fiction, Nonfiction, Picture Book Text, and Picture Book
Illustration. Entrants must be members of SCBWI.
ELECTRONIC ENTRIES: No
CONTACT: SCBWI Golden Kite Awards, 8271 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles,
CA 90048-4515, sararutenberg@scbwi.org 
WEBSITE: http://www.scbwi.org/Pages.aspx/Golden-Kite-Award

THE LYRIC COLLEGE POETRY CONTEST
--------------------------------
DEADLINE: December 1
GENRE: Poetry
DETAILS: Up to 6 poems, maximum 39 lines per poem. Open to
undergraduates enrolled full-time in a US or Canadian college or
university. 
PRIZE:  $500 and publication
CONTACT: The Lyric College Contest, c/o Tanya Cimonetti, 1393 Spear
Street, South Burlington, VT 05403, tanyacim@aol.com
URL:  http://www.thelyricmagazine.com/colleage_all.html

SCHNEIDER FAMILY BOOK AWARD
---------------------------
DEADLINE:  December 1
GENRE:  Books
PRIZE:  $5,000 in three categories: books for 0-10, 11-13, 14-18
DETAILS: The Schneider Family Book Awards honor an author or
illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the
disability experience for child and adolescent audiences. The book
must portray some aspect of living with a disability or that of a
friend or family member, whether the disability is physical, mental
or emotional. Open to books published during the two years
preceding the deadline. 
WEBSITE: http://www.ala.org/awardsgrants/schneider-family-book-award

THOMAS & LILLIE D. CHAFFIN AWARD FOR APPALACHIAN WRITING 
--------------------------------------------------------
DEADLINE: December 1
PRIZES: $1,000 
DETAILS: Honors a book of poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction
by an Appalachian writer. 
CONTACT: Dr. Tom Williams, UPO 630, Department of English, Morehead
State University, Morehead, KY 40351 english@moreheadstate.edu
WEBSITE: http://www.moreheadstate.edu/content_template.aspx?id=4944

ELIE WIESEL PRIZE IN ETHICS ESSAY CONTEST
-----------------------------------------
DEADLINE: December 8
PRIZES: $5,000, $2,500, $1,500, 2x $500 
DETAILS: Open to full-time US junior and senior college students.
Students encouraged to write thought-provoking personal essays that
raise questions, single out issues and are rational arguments for
ethical action. Suggested topics on website. 3000-4000 words.
Student must have faculty sponsor.
ELECTRONIC ENTRIES: Yes, required
CONTACT: Prize in Ethics Essay Contest, The Elie Wiesel Foundation
for Humanity, 555 Madison Ave., 20th Floor, New York, NY 10022
WEBSITE: http://www.eliewieselfoundation.org/prizeinethics.aspx

FRIENDS OF AMERICAN WRITERS BOOK AWARDS
---------------------------------------
DEADLINE: December 10
PRIZES: $2,000 minimum
DETAILS: The author must be or have been a resident of AR, IL, IN,
IA, KS, MI, MN, MO, ND, NE, OH, SD or WI; or the locale of the book
must be in one of those regions. The books can be fiction or
non-fiction of literary quality (not poetry). The book must be
published in the calendar year prior to the awards year. We also
give awards to juvenile works.
ELECTRONIC ENTRIES: No
CONTACT: April Nauman,  Adult Literary Chairman, 1179 Wenonah Ave,
Oak Park, IL 60304, A-Nauman@neiu.edu; Tanya Klasser, Juvenile
Literary Chairman, 55 W. Delaware Place Unit 314, Chicago, IL
60610, brujota1@aol.com; for general questions e-mail
info@fawchicago.org
WEBSITE: http://www.fawchicago.org/awards.php

FIRST CRIME NOVEL COMPETITION
-----------------------------
DEADLINE: December 15
PRIZES: Advance against royalties of $10,000
DETAILS: Open to any author who has not published a novel (except
self-published novels). Murder or another serious crime or crimes
is at the heart of the story.
ELECTRONIC ENTRIES: Yes, required
CONTACT: First Crime Novel Competition, St. Martin's Minotaur/MWA
Competition, St. Martin's Minotaur, 175 5th Ave., New York, NY
10010, MB-MWAFirstCrimeNovelCompetition@StMartins.com
WEBSITE: http:// 
http://us.macmillan.com/minotaurbooks/writing-competitions 

LITERARY LAUNDRY
----------------
DEADLINE: December 15
PRIZES: $500 for best poem
DETAILS: All pieces submitted for review will be entered into
consideration for our Awards of Distinction. Poets may submit up to
three pages of poetry, which could be one three-page poem or many
short poems. 
ELECTRONIC ENTRIES: Yes, required
WEBSITE: http://www.literarylaundry.com/submissions

NEW VOICES YOUNG WRITERS COMPETITION
------------------------------------
DEADLINE: December 20
PRIZES:  $100 in each division
DETAILS:  Open to Writers aged 11-14 (middle school) or 15-18 (high
school). Poetry, nonfiction, short stories. Middle School: Poetry
20 lines maximum, prose 750 words max; High school: Poetry 30
lines, prose 1,000 words.
WEBSITE: 
http://newvoicesyoungwriters.com/nvyw-competition/how-to-enter.html 

DEAD OF WINTER HORROR CONTEST
-----------------------------
DEADLINE: December 21
PRIZES: Amazon gift cards, $35-$50 depending on # of entries
DETAILS: The judges prefer gothic, dark fantasy, erotic horror
(PG-13 max), noir, psychological horror, quiet/soft horror, and
suspense horror. The judges tend not to like sci-fi horror,
extreme/splatter horror, Lovecraftian, etc. Please no creepy
children, people who don't know they're dead, or overdone
"monsters" (vampires, were wolves, sasquatch, etc.). As to gore
level, we'd far rather know what's going on inside a character's
head than to see it on a pike. Stories must be set in winter.
2000-3000 words. 2014 theme is "Toys in the Attic."
ELECTRONIC ENTRIES: Yes, required (dow2012@toasted-cheese.com)
E-MAIL: editors@toasted-cheese.com
WEBSITE: http://www.toasted-cheese.com/ezine/contest.htm

ANISFIELD-WOLF BOOK AWARDS
--------------------------
DEADLINE: December 31 
PRIZES: $10,000 
DETAILS: For outstanding works that contribute to our understanding
of racism and our appreciation of the rich diversity of human
cultures. Poetry books may be entered under the fiction category.
ELECTRONIC ENTRIES: No
CONTACT: Karen Long, c/o Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards, The Cleveland
Foundation, 1422 Euclid Avenue, Suite 1300, Cleveland, OH 44115,
Submit@Anisfield-Wolf.org
WEBSITE: 
http://www.anisfield-wolf.org/submissions/submission-guidelines/

ERIC HOFFER AWARD FOR PROSE
---------------------------
DEADLINE: December 31 (quarterly)
PRIZES: $250
DETAILS: Open to short works of fiction and creative nonfiction, to
10,000 words, unpublished (do not submit if published online).
ELECTRONIC ENTRIES: Yes, required
CONTACT: The Eric Hoffer Award, P.O. Box 11, Titusville, NJ 08560,
info@hofferaward.com
WEBSITE: http://www.hofferaward.com/HAprose.html

JEFFERSON DAVIS BOOK AWARD
--------------------------
DEADLINE: December 31
PRIZES: "A modest cash award"
DETAILS: To recognize outstanding scholarship on the Confederacy
and the Confederate period.  The Jefferson Davis Award is for an
outstanding book-length work of narrative history published during
the preceding year. 
ELECTRONIC ENTRIES: No
CONTACT: See entry form for list of judges and addresses.
E-MAIL: jcoski@moc.org
WEBSITE: http://www.moc.org/site/PageServer?pagename=prg_books,
http://www.moc.org/sites/default/files/PDFs/book_award_announcement_2014.pdf

LOCAL POEM COMPETITION (UK)
---------------------------
DEADLINE: December 31 
PRIZES: £1,000
DETAILS: Submit up to three poems (max. 25 lines each), about
something or someone from your home area. Your poem can be
descriptive, romantic, historic, factual or personal, as long as
there is a local connection. UK residents only. 
ELECTRONIC ENTRIES: Yes
CONTACT: United Press, Admail 3735, London, EC1B 1JB, UK 
WEBSITE: http://www.unitedpress.co.uk/competitions/

MATTIA FAMILY POETRY COMPETITION (CANADA)
-----------------------------------------
DEADLINE: December 31 (closing date varies and is announced on
site) 
PRIZES: CDN $100, $50, $25
DETAILS: A family-oriented poetry site. Limited to poems under 100
words.
ELECTRONIC ENTRIES: Yes, required
E-MAIL: 2011@mattia.ca 
WEBSITE: http://www.mattia.ca/competition14/rules14/rules14.html

L. RON HUBBARD’S WRITERS OF THE FUTURE CONTEST
----------------------------------------------
DEADLINE: December 31 (quarterly)
PRIZES: $1,000, $750, $500, plus $5,000 grand prize for best story
of year
DETAILS: Fantasy, Sci-Fi or Horror: All types of science fiction,
fantasy and horror with fantastic elements, 17,000 words max. Open
only to those who have not had professionally published a novel or
short novel, or more than one novelette, or more than three short
stories, in any medium. 
ELECTRONIC ENTRIES: Yes
CONTACT: Writers of the Future Contest, P.O. Box 1630, Los Angeles,
CA 90072
WEBSITE: http://www.writersofthefuture.com/contest-rules-writers/

MICHAEL SHAARA BOOK PRIZE
-------------------------
DEADLINE: December 31
Prizes: $5,000
DETAILS: For excellence in Civil War Fiction. Any novel about the
Civil War published (for the first time) in the current calendar
year to "encourage fresh approaches to Civil War fiction" is
eligible.
ELECTRONIC ENTRIES: No
CONTACT: The Michael Shaara Book Prize, Civil War Institute at
Gettysburg College, 300 N. Washington Street, Campus Box 435,
Gettysburg, PA 17325, civilwar@gettysburg.edu
WEBSITE: https://www.gettysburg.edu/cwi/events/shaara/about.dot

SPUR AWARDS 
-----------
DEADLINE: December 31
PRIZES: The Spur Award
DETAILS: Categories include novels, short stories, nonfiction
books, documentaries, poetry, songs and more.  See website for full
details, rules, and the list of judges to whom entries must be
sent.  Open to works published in magazines, periodicals and
anthologies, their creation dependent in whole or in part on
settings, characters, conditions, or customs indigenous to the
American West or early frontier. To be eligible, works submitted
must be set in the American West, the early frontier, or relate to
the Western or frontier experience. 
ELECTRONIC ENTRIES: No
CONTACT: WWA Spur Awards Chair, Eli Paul, 5559 NW Barry Rd #362,
Kansas City, MO 64154, elipaul2014@yahoo.com
WEBSITE: http://www.westernwriters.org

MONTHLY/RECURRING COMPETITIONS:
===============================
The competitions below are offered monthly unless otherwise noted;
all require electronic submissions.

FANSTORY.COM
------------
PRIZES: $100 and other prizes
DETAILS: Various monthly fiction, nonfiction and poetry contests;
for some, you must become a member of the site.
WEBSITE: http://www.fanstory.com/contests.jsp

THE NEXT BIG WRITER
-------------------
PRIZES: $100, $50, $25, plus review and membership
DETAILS: Must be a member. Competitions throughout the year,
including novels and flash fiction. 
WEBSITE: http://www.thenextbigwriter.com/competition/index.html

PENN COVE LITERARY ARTS AWARD
-----------------------------
PRIZES: $50
DETAILS: Submit fiction, creative nonfiction, prose poetry, and
writing for children/young adults to 1,000 words. The first story
that "knocks the judges' socks off" each month is declared the
winner. Use the link below to access the submission page - that
page has links to the guidelines for submissions.
WEBSITE: http://whidbeystudents.com/student-choice-contest/

SCRIBOPHILE WRITING CONTESTS
----------------------------
Bimonthly/Quarterly
PRIZES: $50 to $100 Amazon gift certificates
DETAILS: Short stories, flash fiction, poetry, on themes posted on
website.
WEBSITE: http://www.scribophile.com/contests/ 

WRITER'S DIGEST YOUR STORY COMPETITION
--------------------------------------
Bimonthly
PRIZES: $100 in WD books
DETAILS: We'll provide a short, open-ended prompt. In turn, you'll
submit a short story of 750 words or fewer based on that prompt.
You can be funny, poignant, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your
story. 
WEBSITE: http://www.writersdigest.com/your-story-competition

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