Fantasy Scroll a blog for writers

Short Story Submission Strategy

Trinity Mirror Newspaper Printing Presses

Writing short stories is lots of fun and it’s a good way to start before working your way up to longer pieces. I’ve posted an article in the past where I am talking about why I think writing short stories is good for you.

Unlike a novel that takes months or even years to finish, short stories are written much faster. If you work hard enough and have the proper routine you could become a short story production machine in no time. Also, unlike a novel where you have one massive piece of writing that you are submitting to a hundred outlets, with short stories you are faced with the opposite: you have a few short pieces that you must submit to a limited number of markets, and in most cases (since most markets won’t allow simultaneous submissions) you may not be able to submit it to more than one market at one time.

So, what do you do? Is there a possible strategy?

Have Your Best Work Ready

This goes without saying – do not submit your story until it’s completed, edited, reviewed, proofread and, if you can, critiqued by people who know your genre. You don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot by submitting work that is not 100% ready. If you get feedback from markets who reject you, judge that feedback rationally and if it makes sens to you, see if you can make the story better. It’s true that the editor will work with you and try to improve your story, but your story must be perfect first. The editor will only try to make it stellar.

Research Markets

Once you have a completed piece you must know which market best fits that story. Is it literary fiction or genre fiction? Is it mystery, romance, or speculative fiction? Make sure you know your niche very well. The worst thing you could do is submit your story to the wrong market. You will waste your time and the editors’ time.

When it comes to looking for markets, there are a few places out there that you can use:

  1. Online
  2. Printed

With this in mind, in order to become a successful submitter of short stories you must maintain your own database of preferred markets. To know them, it’s not enough to just read about them. You must read those magazines, become familiar with the type of stories they prefer – length, style, voice, etc. The editor of each magazine will accept stories that are in line with the magazine’s overall style.

So, before you start submitting, make sure you read a lot!

Be careful what rights you give away

This is not to be construed as legal advice, but just a heads up: before you submit to any market, read their terms and conditions or their contract. Try to understand what kind of rights you are giving away. If you sign a bad contract, you might lose your rights to your piece for good. It’s unlikely, but be careful. If you are sending your stories to brand new markets, read their terms very carefully and if you are unable to understand something, ask someone. There are forums out there where people can help you.

Top To Bottom Strategy

Once you know what type of story you have, and once you have selected a few markets from the resources above, one idea is to take a top to bottom approach: submit to high-paying pro-markets first, and walk your way down.

Usually the markets are divided into Pro, Semi-Pro, Token and Unpaid. The Pro markets can pay anywhere between $0.06 per word up to $0.24 per word or more. Semi-pro markets pay around $0.02 – $0.06. Token markets pay around $0.01. These are not fixed numbers and are changing all the time. Read the market’s guidelines to get a better understanding about what they are paying. Some markets put minimums and maximums, others provide royalties on sales, royalties on anthologies, and so on.

A top to bottom strategy says this: You are confident in your writing and you believe your story is good enough to be accepted by a Pro market. If you can’t say that in good faith, then go back to the keyboard and work on your story until you can honestly say it is good enough for a pro market.

Chances are, statistically speaking, that your story will get rejected from a pro market. Don’t despair. Even award winning authors still get rejections. Keep going. Send it to the next market. Then the next.

Some tools, like Duotrope, allow you to order the markets by their likelihood to accept. Another highly important factor is the market’s response time. If you have 3 markets that are fairly similar, submit to the one that answers faster.

Lightspeed Magazine and Clarkesworld are known for their very quick rejections. They don’t like to waste their time and the writer’s time. By rejecting fast they give the authors the ability to submit someplace else.

Other markets, like TOR, Asimov’s, or Analog, might take 100, 200 maybe even 300 days to reject. So, if your story is rejected, you just wasted a full year without having your story published.

Get Feedback

There are a few markets out there, and sadly their number decreases every time, that provide some feedback when they reject your stories. Colored Lense, Ideomancer, Stupefying Stories- these are some of them. There are others, but you might have to discover them yourself, find out about them from Duotrope and the like, or from other writers.

Once you find an editor that gives feedback, make sure you save that name like gold. Don’t abuse it though. Keep your submissions far enough apart. You don’t want that editor to become your personal critique buddy, because he won’t.

But a first-hand direct feedback from an editor is a very valuable tool. Their response will usually pinpoint problems in your story. Don’t take their answer to heart or personally. Look at it objectively and realize if it helps your story, and if it does-fix it.

How many times?

Sometimes you submit a story and it keeps getting rejected. What do you do? How many times do you keep going? It’s tempting to say forever, but that’s not realistic, so let me give you my own opinion:

If you have a story that you deem perfect and you matched it with pro markets and it gets rejected more than 7 times, there’s definitely something not right with it. I suggest you go back to that story and take it to a critique group. See if you can make it better.

Just keep in mind that this is not a hard rule: I’ve seen stories rejected 16 or 20 times only to be eventually accepted by a Pro market, without any changes. That’s to prove that the acceptance is a combination of what the editor likes and what their market had already published or has in their inventory. Sometimes your story is perfect, but it’s too similar to another story published last month. In that case, you are out of luck.

Down the line

If you fail selling your story to a pro market, move down to semi-pro markets and then to token markets following the same logic as above. If you get some feedback and you feel like your story got stronger, go back to Pro markets, but keep in mind to do not resubmit your work to the markets that rejected you, unless they specifically asked so.

Publishing for free – good or bad?

If you are serious about becoming a professionally published author the answer easy: no, do not publish for free (unless you donate your work for certain worthy causes). Would you ever go to work and work for 8 hours then go to the boss and say: “you know what, don’t pay me today. Just working and having people look at me and appreciate my working is good enough for me.”

Of course you won’t. So, as a writer I recommend that you strive to publish to paying markets for the most part. In the beginning it is going to be hard, but try to get anything. Even if you get $5 for your work, it’s something that you earned for your potential future career.

Now, let me play the devil’s advocate for a minute. There is a situation in which I think you should be allowed to give your work away for free: You’ve been writing for a while and you’ve been getting tons of rejections. Your morale is really low and you need a mental boost. Fine. Take what you think is your weakest piece and market it to some free markets. There are a few out there that are quite nice.

Putting something of yours out there will help you get a boost of confidence, it will give you reasons to show something to your friends, it will, on some level, validate that you can in fact do it. But don’t fall into the trap of sending too many. Remember – you want to make this your career. If you are okay with keeping it as a hobby it’s a different story.

Gatling Gun Submissions

Many writers take it heavy when a piece is rejected by a market. It happened to me and any author that has ever been published. You must learn to develop a thick skin. The knee-jerk reaction is to feel invalidated. You get a kick in your confidence’s butt. Many authors react by putting that piece away and think: “Okay, I’ll fix it later.”

No. Don’t fix it later. Fix it now.

If there is anything to fix, do it right away. If you have no additional feedback and you have nothing else that you can possible fix, just submit the story right away to a different market. You have nothing to lose if you do; but you have something to lose if you don’t: time.

Remember that your story’s lifetime is this: idea, creation, perfection, submission, publication. During the submission time your story is essentially “dead” – you can’t really work on it anymore, and nobody besides the editor who has it gets to read it. It’s dead, until it gets rejected or accepted. So, if you add “dead” times by keeping it in your drawer between submissions you are not helping yourself in any way.

Recap

Let’s bullet point the ideas in this article:

  • Read, read, read – the more markets and stories you read, the better you’ll become at writing
  • Write, write, write – the more stories you write, the better your writing will be
  • Get feedback – pair yourself with other writers or critique groups to improve your stories
  • Edit, edit, edit – don’t let a story go out until it’s near perfect
  • Submit to high-paying markets and work your way down
  • Submit to markets with fast response times first
  • When you get a rejection, fix if there is any feedback
  • Re-submit a story right after rejection
  • One bonus point: Before you submit: MAKE SURE YOU FOLLOW THE MARKET’s GUIDELINES – My Caps are not enough to emphasize that.

I hope you enjoyed this article. Let me do a shameless plug at the end: Remember that Fantasy Scroll is now a speculative short story market publishing fantasy, science fiction, and horror. If you are a writer looking to market your works, please stop by and submit your stories!

Last but not least: leave some comments about your own submission strategy. What has worked best for you in the past?

Best regards,

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Fiction Writing Tips Blog Carnival Issue #10

Welcome to the Issue #10 of the Fiction Writing Tips Blog Carnival. For those of you not familiar with what a Blog Carnival is, here is a short description: a collection of links pointing to blog posts around a specific topic. As you may have guessed it, this blog carnival will be centered around the subject of fiction writing, with a special interest for fantasy and science fiction.

Previous issues: #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9

Enjoy!

 

Fantasy Fiction Writing Tips

fiction writing tipsChrys Fey presents More On Character Development posted at Write With Fey, saying, “Aspiring writers always want to know how to create characters. Really, you can’t know enough about character development.”


fiction writing tipsInk Wise presents 9 Words and Phrases to Delete From Your Writing posted at Wise Ink Blog, saying, “When authors use “filler” words—words that slow the pace, add unnecessary emphasis, add wordiness, etc.—it can be detrimental to the readers’ experience! Filler words can be the difference between a “I couldn’t put this book down!” review and a “This book was really slow . . . I had to stop reading because I couldn’t get into it” review. Filler words are often invisible to the author in revision. Authors might just see the great storyline or the great content and pay less attention to the words used to tell the story or the content. Here are some of the words and phrases you should cut to make your writing more effective.”


fiction writing tipsMary Jaksch presents How to Write Better: The Art of Dynamic Descriptions posted at Write To Done, saying, “Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, your ultimate goal is to enchant, enthrall, and transfix your readers, right?
But how to do it? The simple answer is: tell a story… (But there is a problem.)”


fiction writing tipsNathan Bransford presents Favorite Writing Tips posted at Nathan Bransford Author, saying, “Thanks so much to everyone who entered the #FaveWritingTip contest! We had several hundred excellent entries, and I collected some of the best responses below.”


fiction writing tipsEllen Brock presents Nailing Your Novel’s First Chapter posted at Writing Forward, saying, “First chapters are important. Really important. If you’re submitting to agents and editors, your first chapter is not only their first impression of your work, but it’s often their only impression. This is a lot of pressure. If you’re like most writers, this pressure makes you anxious, causing you to second guess yourself, your story, and your ability to write.”


Fantasy Fiction Writing Help

fiction writing tipsJoe Bunting presents 8 Formatting Tips and Shortcuts For Writers posted at The Write Practice, saying, “I consider myself primarily a creative writer, but to pay the bills, I take on many the odd job involving writing. Because of that, I’ve been doing a lot of editing lately, editing blog posts, articles, books, and more. With all this editing, I’ve found that I keep making many of same changes again and again. Yes, there are typos and grammatical corrections, but a surprising amount of the editing I do is just simple formatting.”


fiction writing tipsKatie McCoach presents Developmental Editing: What is it Exactly? posted at Katie MacCoach Editorial, saying, “I’ve been fortunate enough in that many of my clients are already aware of developmental editing and why it’s important for their work, however this is not always going to be the case. Many authors, even self-published ones, still underestimate the importance of a “story” edit. That’s right, developmental editing focuses on the story, characters, plot, structure, readability, credibility, intended audience, and most important of all – will readers enjoy it?”


fiction writing tipsKsenia Anske presents When Is It Time To Choose a Name for Your Novel? posted at Ksenia Anske Fantasy Writer, saying, “Choose the title right away. It will change itself if it needs to.”


Fantasy Fiction General Writing

fiction writing tipsRoz Morris presents How do I develop something special in my writing? posted at Nail Your Novel, saying, “What a lovely question. Let’s tackle it in stages. It can’t be rushed. First of all, don’t be in a hurry. Styles don’t develop overnight. They soak into you from your reading. Which leads me to…”


fiction writing tipsDarcy Pattison presents I Don’t Like Your Story posted at Fiction Notes, saying, “What do you do when your friends or your editors don’t like your story?”


fiction writing tipsElizabeth S. Craig presents Approaching Messy First Drafts posted at Elizabeth Spann Craig, saying, “The disastrous jumble reminded me (sadly) of my current first draft. I also wonder as I read it if I were on drugs when I wrote it. 🙂 I suppose what I was writing made perfect sense to me the day I penned it. I suppose. But now it resembles just as much of a mess as the lights. I knew from the beginning, though, that this particular first draft was one to be reckoned with.”


fiction writing tipsAndre Cruz presents 5 Things A Writer Should Kill For posted at The Word, saying “That’s right, I said ‘kill.’ Hey, don’t look at me that way, you were the one who had clicked on the title to get here. As for that snazzy title, I have no regrets. Especially since I am a writer by day and a serial killer by night.”


Fiction Writing Tips Blog CarnivalThis concludes this edition of the Fiction Writing Tips Blog Carnival. I want to thank all the contributors and invite them to submit more in the future.

If you enjoyed these articles, please leave some comments on the authors’ blogs and on this blog.

Submit your blog article to the next edition of Fiction Writing Tips Blog Carnival, to be published on February 28, 2014 using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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Self-publishing Guides Review Blitz

self publishingAward-winning author Hank Quense is hosting a review blitz for his self-publishing guides. To participate, please read Hank’s message below and follow the instructions:

 

“I’ve written a series of four books to demystify the self-publishing and book marketing processes. I’ve spent a year on these Self-publishing Guides and now it’s time to get some book reviews for all four books. I have a plan to encourage folks to write and post positive reviews for my books. I’m calling it a Review Blitz and it will involve giveaways. I’ll be giving away American Express Gift

Cards to be awarded via a random drawing.

Here’s the deal.

Step 1) Select one of these books to read and review:

  • Self-publishing a Book
  • Marketing Plans for Self-publishing Authors
  • Manage Your Self-publishing Project
  • Business Basics for Authors

You can find out more about these books on my Amazon page or on my Strange Worlds Online website. You can also download a brochure.

Step 2) Send me an email at hankquense@icloud.com telling me which book you chose and I’ll send a 100% discount coupon to download the book from Smashwords in the format you wish. (Note: this is a different email address than my usual email address)

Step 3) post your review during the week of 3/1 thru 3/7/14

Step 4) For extra credit (and rewards), write a blog and post it during the week of 3/1 thru 3/7/14.

Step 5) Send me an email at hankquense@icloud.com when the review is posted. If you wrote a blog post, send me a link to the site in addition to the review posting.

Here’s how the drawing will work.
If you write a review and post it on Amazon, you’ll get entered into a contest for a $50 gift card.
If you post the review on Amazon AND Goodreads, you’ll have two entires in the $50 gift card drawing.
If you post a review on Amazon AND write a blog post about the book, you’ll get an entry into a drawing for a $100 gift card.
If you post a review on Amazon AND Goodreads AND write a blog post, you’ll get two entires in the $100 drawing.

CAUTION: posting stuff outside the week of 3/1 thru 3/7/14 will be appreciated but will not qualify you for the drawings.”

Good luck, everyone!

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Creating a Fantasy World – Names (Part 3)

name-tag

Part 3 of the series Creating a Fantasy World

Names

The names you use in your story are sometimes those that people will long remember, even if the plot of your story becomes fuzzy in their head after years. Who will ever forget names like Harry Potter, Winterfell, Middle-earth, or Eragon? Or how about names used in classic literature, such as Oliver Twist or Huckleberry Finn?

A good name sticks with you and a good name gives a certain feel to a person or a place. If I tell you about two towns, one called Evildome and one called Faeglade, you will immediately make some assumptions. Maybe they are incorrect, but that’s not the point. The point is that the names should be loaded with some substance other than being a combination of letters that no one else had thought of before.

So, what can we name in a story?

  • Characters
  • Places (world, continents, cities, areas)
  • Fauna and Flora
  • Objects
  • Abstract concepts

When you think about the names in a new world, one thing has to be taken into account from the beginning: the names cannot be confusing. You must keep track of all that you name and be sure that names are not similar, not only in writing, but also in speech.

Names of places

When you are naming places that are in each other’s vicinity, follow these rules:

  • Limit the number of names starting with the same letter
  • Avoid almost completely having names starting with the same syllable or group of letters
  • Avoid too many names of a similar length
  • Avoid too many names that are very long
  • Limit the names containing dashes and apostrophes
  • Try to avoid having names that rhyme

There’s one exception to the last one and that is when the rhyming is done on purpose to signify a group of places that are related. Think: Westchester, Eastchester, Manchester, or Hiburgh, Loburgh and Middleburgh. You get the point. When it looks like the similarity between the names is done on purpose, and actually serves a purpose, it is okay. When it looks haphazard, it doesn’t sound good.

The next thing to keep in mind is the type of place you are talking about. Two major distinctions are sci/fi vs fantasy and within each you have sub-divisions. Take some examples:

Xycoon vs Kyrandia

You can argue either way, but the first name does sound more sci/fi whereas the second one sounds more fantasy.

To find names for sci/fi places you should probably turn to technology. Names of engineering things will convert well into sci/fi names. For fantasy, you will probably look into religious and spiritual items and objects and try to convert those into names. Also for fantasy, looking into history will provide good inspiration.

Naming Characters

what-is-your-nameWhen it comes to naming characters, the same rules apply, but the first rule should be taken more seriously: make sure that none of your main characters and even those less important, do not have names that start with the same letter, or are otherwise similar. This will confuse the reader, especially in a complex world. Here are some examples of bad combinations:

  • Rick and Dick
  • Sam and Sid
  • Toby and Cody

When selecting a name for your characters, try to make the names age appropriate. I know it sounds silly– after every person goes through all stages of life, so the name should apply to all ages. But, still, we associate certain names with old and others with young. So, it’s all about finding an age appropriate name for the character at the time of your story.

Which ones of these feel young and which ones feel old?

  • Dana / Esther
  • Jenny / Abigail
  • Raya / Ephronia

This is not something to go crazy about, but keep it as an ace in your sleeve, something you use to provide an additional flare to your character.

The next thing is trying to give names a meaning. Be careful though, don’t be too overt or it will wind up sounding silly. A scientist named Atom or a knight named Arrow will ring comical. Try to be a bit more subtle.

The other side of the coin is also valid: avoid names that are already too loaded with meaning and will detract from your story by forcing people to make assumptions. For example, don’t name your characters Ophelia, Brutus, or Saddam.

Using generally accepted bad/evil words as root for villan names, and good/positive words as root for heros is a good idea, but again, you must do it subtly. Think about Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. You almost don’t need to see the movies and you can still almost “feel” the character from the name.

Naming of Flora and Fauna

I cannot think of a lot of good reasons why you would name plants and animals differently, except when you invent brand new ones. There will be a chapter on Fauna and Flora, but when it comes to naming them: keep it simple, unless it is an important part of the story. If you start re-naming the entire animal reign, you will regret it later. Every time you name something, you have to explain it. Even if you explain it, readers won’t remember it right away. If there are too many of these, the story will start to be a difficult read.

If people are riding in your story, let them ride a horse, unless it’s very important for the story that the animals are not horses, or that your horses have eight legs. If you just want to add spice to your story by having some sort of magical steed called Gapherion, make sure it’s worth it and it’s somehow related to your plot. Otherwise, the readers will sense that you are trying to hard to make your world different. Remember: just naming things differently doesn’t make them different. A simple talking horse or a walking tree will be stronger than a talking klimpazoo or a walking dimpledary. That’s because now the reader can focus on the supranatural power of something that he/she is familiar with. Changing both the name and the feature might have less of an impact.

Naming of Objects and Abstract Items

This is where you should really let your imagination go wild. In fantasy and science/fiction stories the world is usually filled with unusual items and abstract concepts. Sometimes the objects are integral to the story, for example: Holcrux (Harry Potter), Lightsaber (Star Wars), etc.

Obviously, these names should be unique, unless you rely on concepts that have already been defined and work in your story as well. For example, nobody will mind terribly if you use “phasers” in your sci/fi story. But even if you use an existing name, make sure you give it a fresh, new feel. Maybe the shape is different? Maybe the result of using it is different? Just find a way to make it ‘yours’. However, do steer away from concepts that are too much related to something very specific. Some readers won’t like if you use the “lightsaber” because that is too much indicative of a Star Wars Universe. So: be fresh!

Finding Names

When it comes to character names, you’ve probably heard this one a hundred times before: use a baby names database. Keeping with that tradition, my favorite place to go is: http://www.babynames.com/

Besides the baby names database (or book), there are also a few websites out there that will help you generate names. Most of them have cool selection features, such as name length, name type and so on. Here are my favorites:

In addition to this, if you are using the popular Scrivener software to write your fiction, the program has a very cool name generator embedded in it. Another free software to generate character names is Bad Wolf’s Character Name Generator, available for free at this url: http://www.characternames.org/.

So, as you can see, there are a lot of places to give you inspiration. But that’s just it: inspiration. Don’t forget that these tools are available to everyone in the world. Chances are if you discover a cool name somebody else probably had already used it. The last thing you want is to publish the “Legends of Iskandar,” only to discover that a book was published two weeks before where the main character is also Iskandar.

Therefore, what you should do is use the websites here for inspiration, but then add your own twist to it. Change a letter, reverse two letters, add something. Make it yours!

When it comes to anything other than character and places names, the stage is wide open. A way to look for interesting names is to get your hands on a multilingual technical dictionary. If you are lucky you will find a comprehensive one, but normally you would find them specific for medicine, finance, etc. The way they work is they have the word in English followed by the translation in various other languages.

Scout the words in other languages and look for interesting sounding words. Don’t use them as is, of course, but use their root to create something that you need. Perhaps you can use the English to locate the proper concept, then look for the way the word is spelled in other languages and go from there.
Of course, not all object and concept words must be completely made up. You are also free to use regular words, but combine them in an interesting manner. Think of these: Wheel of Time, Spear of Destiny, Dragonstone.

How Do You Track It?

Just like we discussed in the language section about a dictionary, in the name section you will have a glossary. Create headings for each letter of the alphabet and put all the names under each letter. If you want you could make this glossary manually, in Excel or any similar table-software. But there’s an easy way to do it automatically:

Create a new Word Document and add a table with two columns. On each row type a name in the first column. In the second column give some description for that name. Select each name one by one and mark them as an index entry (In Word 2010 this command is under References -> Index -> Mark Entry, or Alt-Shift-X). At the end of your document, after a Page Break, insert the Index (In Word 2010 this command is under References -> Index -> Insert Index). Now Word will automatically create your alphabetized glossary for you.

By doing this you will be able to look at all the names under each letter and figure out if any of them are too close in look and sound.

This word document can become the name idea pad for your world. You can brainstorm new concepts, name them, and track them here. That’s why the description column is important too: it will let you memorialize what the concept or object means. Later on, when you want to use the object, you can look in this table.

The name glossary is also important to help you make sure you do not repeat names when you don’t have to. For example, if you create a character with a less unique name, like Frank, and use that character in a unique setting, you don’t want to use another Frank in a different story in a different setting. This becomes particularly valid if the first Frank is a very memorable character. If someone reads both stories it is not unexpected for them to assume that we are talking about the same Frank. Of course, the story itself might make that clear, but why add the additional reader confusion?

On a general note, make sure you are always equipped with a notepad or other note-taking mechanism. (As a writer, you should always have that anyway.) Then, every time you stumble upon an interesting name, or an interesting word that has the potential of being a name, write it down. Keep an ongoing name database and try to organize it a bit. Maybe keep separate sheets for long names, short names, male names, female names, fantasy names, sci/fi names and so on. When you have some downtime (do you ever???) spend some time on the name generating sites and grab a few for your database. It will be very useful later on when you are pressed for time. I make a point to generate three to five new names per week.

Also, remember that once you locate a cool name, you can always use that name as a root and extrapolate other names. Usually you do that by altering the beginning or the ending, like:

Harlin, Marlin, Karlin, Sarlin, Harlick, Marlick, and so on.

The more names you have the better you will juggle your creativity when you are looking to use them in your world.

This concludes the second chapter of this series. Hopefully once you are finished with your work you will be in the same spot where I am with my world. To see what I’ve done, click on the link below:

Creating a Fantasy World Demo – Part 3 – Pending

Creating a Fantasy World Demo – Part 2

Creating a Fantasy World Demo – Part 1

Last, but not least, please comment below and share your ideas on names in fiction.

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Fantasy Scroll Is Now A Short Story Market

Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror MagazineIt has finally happened! A long dream has come true: Fantasy Scroll is now a short story market!

I’ve been thinking about this for ages and finally, on the last stretch of 2013, I managed to pull all my resources together and create a new online magazine. Here are the highlights:

Magazine Homepage: http://fantasyscrollmag.com/

Submission Guidelines: http://fantasyscrollmag.com/submissions/

Submission Form: http://fantasyscrollmag.com/submit-story/

What is accepted:

Fantasy Scroll Mag is seeking original science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories, regardless of sub-genre.

Lengths accepted:

Microfiction: < 500 words Flash Fiction: 500 – 1500 words
Short Stories: 1500 – 5000 words

Please help us create a buzz by posting about this new market on your blogs, social networks, writers’ groups, and so on. Thank you!

Iulian

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Fiction Writing Tips Blog Carnival Issue #9

Welcome to the Issue #9 of the Fiction Writing Tips Blog Carnival. For those of you not familiar with what a Blog Carnival is, here is a short description: a collection of links pointing to blog posts around a specific topic. As you may have guessed it, this blog carnival will be centered around the subject of fiction writing, with a special interest for fantasy and science fiction.

Previous issues: #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8

Enjoy!

 

Fantasy Fiction General Writing

fiction writing tipsChrys Fey presents How To Write A Short Story posted at Write With Fey, saying, “Writing a short story is just like writing a novel. You will need an idea that you can lay on a page to blaze into a story. When you get an idea you are halfway there.”


fiction writing tipsArt Holcomb presents Improving Your Fiction: The Relationship Chart posted at StoryFix, saying, “Relationships are at the heart of all great stories. They bond the reader to the work by giving them someone to root for (or against). They are the foundation of the subplots which broaden and deepen our novels and films. And they supply the emotional reactions that propel the plot forward.”


fiction writing tipsVictoria Grefer presents How much description is too much? Too little? posted at Crimson League, saying, “Authors: when plotting (whether by outlining or while writing) and when editing for content, have you found that one of the most difficult, most painful requirements is cutting out ideas, descriptions, and scenes that you personally love but just don’t contribute to the overall plot?”


fiction writing tipsMonica M. Clark presents How a Scene List Can Change Your Novel-Writing Life posted at The Write Practice, saying, “By the end of this post you will have a nagging urge to use an excel spreadsheet. Don’t make that face—I know you’re a writer and not a data analyst. Or if you are a data analyst—I get that you’re on this blog to get away from your day job. But guess what? At the suggestion of Randy Ingermason—the creator of the Snowflake Method—I listed all of the scenes in my novel in a nice little Google spreadsheet. It changed my novel-writing life, and doing the same will change yours too.”


Fantasy Fiction General Writing

fiction writing tipsKsenia Anske presents STARTING AND ENDING CHAPTERS, OR WHERE THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO CUT IT? posted at Ksenia Anske, saying, “Whereas I have sort of adopted the guideline on the opening of the novel being the summary of the whole novel, going as far as trying my opening sentence to be the summary of the whole novel, in chapters I sort of summarize the whole chapter in the first paragraph. I try to give enough of the space and time and who does what to sketch out what’s about to happen, like, setting a stage, then for the rest of the chapter I simply expand on it.”


fiction writing tipsBrian DeLeonard presents Using Villains to Shape Your Hero posted at Mythic Scribes, saying, “In a previous article some time ago, I wrote about developing a character named Breldin, and how I created his home setting, the town of Trindall Grove, based on the way I wanted to shape his personality over the life that he’s lived.”


fiction writing tipsJessica Schmeidler presents How to Achieve Coherence in Writing posted at The Write Shadow, saying, “Are you a sequential thinker? Many of us think we are, but when we take a closer look, it becomes apparent that we’re a bit more spatial than we’ve given ourselves credit for. While this may not seem like a very important bit of information to know about ourselves, it can actually come in quite handy when we’re writing.”


fiction writing tipsJohn Hansen presents Writing An Antagonist posted at Teens Can Write, Too!, saying, “There’s something about antagonists that, I think, inherently fascinates us as readers. We all get at least a little curious about what leads someone to become “evil,” why it is they do what they do, and so on.”


Fantasy Fiction General Writing

fiction writing tipsAnne R. Allen presents Are Your Family and Friends Sabotaging your Writing Dreams? posted at Anne R. Allen’s Blog, saying, “Writers participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) may discover that friends and family aren’t entirely enthused by your decision to disappear into your computer for a month. (I have a secret suspicion that Chris Baty invented NaNo in order to escape those painful family Thanksgiving dinners.)”


fiction writing tipsKimberley Grabas presents To Blog Or Not To Blog: Is It Really Necessary? posted at Your Writer Platform, saying, ““There are millions of blogs out there. What’s the point of adding another to the mix? What are the chances that my blog will stand out from the hordes of others competing for the limited attention of readers?” Sound familiar? Many writers feel this way, but is it a sound argument? Go ahead and change “blog” to “book” and re-read the above three sentences. Uh-oh. See what happened there? You’ve just argued yourself out of a career in writing. 😉 So, let’s assume that if you feel your book has a chance of standing out, despite all those that came before, then so does your blog. But the bigger question that I think writers are really asking is this: will the results I receive from a blog be worth the time I put into it?”


fiction writing tipsAva Jae presents How Important is Word Count posted at Writability, saying, “While I don’t think it’s something you need to stress over while first drafting—you can always refine during your revisions—after the first draft, you may want to take a good, hard look at your word count and make sure it’s within what’s expected for your genre and category. Particularly if you’re pursuing traditional publishing.”


fiction writing tipsHeather Webb presents When Writing Sucks and You Want to Quit posted at The Debutante Ball, saying, “You’re in a deep funk and can’t get out of it. Writing is HARD and it’s getting the best of you. Publishing is even HARDER and it makes you want to cry. The words aren’t flowing, life is a big ball of stress and distraction, and you just don’t know if you have it in you. What do you do?”


Fiction Writing Tips Blog CarnivalThis concludes this edition of the Fiction Writing Tips Blog Carnival. I want to thank all the contributors and invite them to submit more in the future.

If you enjoyed these articles, please leave some comments on the authors’ blogs and on this blog.

Submit your blog article to the next edition of Fiction Writing Tips Blog Carnival, to be published on January 31, 2014 using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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How To Write A Fast First Draft

type-fast

The more I write, the more I value the advice from professional writers: write first, edit later. Some say write drunk, edit sober, but I feel that might lead to other issues. But going back to the point of this article—why does it take so long to come up with the first draft? Speaking from experience I can identify two reasons:b

  • Being obsessive about the perfection of the manuscript
  • Abiding to a myth that writing perfectly from the start gets you through the end faster

The first issue is something I find most people are battling. It’s that compulsion that makes you delete two words just so that you replace the third one behind them with a better word and then resume writing (by retyping those two words as well). It’s that annoying squiggly line that tells you made a typo and you must go back to fix it.

Guess what? You don’t have to!

Most of the words and sentences you write will be edited later. Chances are some of those words you agonize over right now will be changed and some of those typos will be moot. So, why bother? A two step forward, one step back approach to writing is a killer for your imagination and your fingers. It’s like running a marathon, but every few yards you’d stop, sit and clean your sneakers until they are perfectly clean. It kills your rhythm and your momentum.

And when I say it makes your fingers tired, I am not joking. If for every line of text you delete one word and you retype two, you are typing two too many words per line. And your writing time is extremely precious, much too precious to be spent at this stage on fixing your writing.

Your first draft is not good

As for the second part: unless you are a genius (and I sure hope you are) your first draft will not be your best work. I know for a fact that is true for myself. No matter how much I think a first draft is good, after a month of breaking away from it, I inevitably red line that text to death. Why is that?

The answer is this: every manuscript contains a story and the writing represents the way that story is told. So, as a writer, you must figure out the story (with its characters, setting, and plot) and then figure out a way to deliver it that works for that particular story. So, your first goal here is to get the story down. In time, your style and your voice will develop and will define itself unique to you. So, the more you write the less you will have to figure out how to deliver the story; it will come more naturally and your first drafts will become better. But never overestimate your first draft. As soon as you do, you will become a “fix-as-you-go”-er, and that will kill your time and imagination.

If you are an outliner, you might say: But I already know my story. I have a detailed outline. To which I say, fine, but get to the end of it and see if your story still matches up to your outline 100%. From experience I can tell you that it won’t. And also, the fact that your story is already formed in your head is not the problem here. The problem is trying to put it on paper perfectly from the first run.

As a matter of fact, the outliners have a much bigger problem than people who write without an outline. You have the story in bullet points, and now you are looking at a scary blank page. It’s very tempting after you wrote one page to go back and “fix it,” or “make it better,” just to have a reason not to move on to page #2. That’s the death of your manuscript. You’ll be running a marathon through quicksand, holding bags of gravel in your hands.

Stop it! Keep writing. Fix later!

Okay, So What Do I Do?

So, what do you take from all of this? What is the big, elusive secret to writing a fast first draft? There’s really no secret. You know it, but you must accept it: Allow yourself to write badly. Turn off that spell checker. You don’t need it. With today’s tools you can spell check a huge manuscript in a matter of minutes. But that’s to be done later. First, forget that you can even use your backspace. Imagine you are writing on a typewriter. The hassle of going back and fixing something on a typewriter is so big, you’d never do it. Keep going forward and never backward.

Once you get into that state of mind, you need two more things: focusand time. Both are easier said than done, believe me!

Focus means that you should eliminate all your distractions, get yourself in a location that is prone to writing, and shut off the world. Close the door, turn off the TV, radio, or anything distracting (unless you are someone who can only write with music). Most of all, put your phones and IPads far away from you and don’t keep your email open. Close everything that doesn’t have to do with writing your manuscript.

Time is the second aspect and it’s a big one. We all know that time is scarce, besides being money. But time is not completely difficult to manage, with a little effort. In a previous article I describe how you can write by time and accomplish your daily quota, so probably you should read that if you are having trouble managing your writing time.

As an example, in my best weeks, I probably write about 15,000 words. This means that, theoretically, should I be able to keep that pace, I could finish a 90,000 words manuscript in just six weeks. That’s a month and a half to a complete novel! It’s possible!

The truth is, if you want to be a writer, you must put in the effort. Just like your biceps doesn’t grow just because you lift a 20 pound barbell every Wednesday morning, your writing skill will not improve if you do not put in the effort.

So, manage your time, keep focused, write your weekly quota every week, and always keep moving forward!

Re-frame Your Thinking

I know it’s a very hard thing to do, because this asks us to let go of things we’ve been taught all your life. At work, we write emails and memos and they have to be perfect. We agonize over a message for thirty minutes to make sure none of the words are misspelled or (my God!) the wrong words. It’s the reality of the world we live in.

But when it comes to your writing, here is a realization that could help you break through that paradigm: NOBODY gets to see your first draft but you!

Read that out loud a few times. Nobody gets to see it and nobody should, because it is not good. Even if it is good, it should be deemed not good until reviewed. So, all you have to do is relax and give yourself the permission to write badly.

Once you’ve pushed through that first draft, turn away from it. For two weeks, maybe more. Work on other things, other projects, but keep writing. Just don’t think about that draft. Weeks later, open it up and start editing your work. Heavy work lies ahead of you, my friend, but guess what: you at least have a complete manuscript!

Actual Typing

Of course, if we are talking about how to produce a manuscript fast, we must not forget the actual act of typing. Some people type faster and some people type slower. If you think your typing abilities are a hurdle, you should definitely seek out a crash course into fast typing. There are many out there, some of them inexpensive. There are also a lot of online resources that could help you. One of them is TypingWeb, but there are others. Use them, especially if they’re free.

I hope this little article will help someone out there write their first draft fast! Please share your opinions in the comments section about the ways you handle your first drafts.

Good Luck

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Creating a Fantasy World – Language(Part 2)

Part 2 of the series Create a Fantasy World

Communication

The language is an important part of world-building. The inhabitants of your world use language to communicate, exchange thoughts and ideas, archive and pass information from one another.

You must think about language in the beginning of your world-building, because the decisions you make about it, will influence a lot of your future work. Of course, this post is not a tutorial on how to create a language itself, given that the subject is extremely wide, but more as to guide you through the various options you have as you are creating your world.

Language

The very first decision to make when thinking about language is this: will you create a separate language for your world or not?

I know its tempting to say ‘Yes, I want a new language,’ but once you read forward and understand the challenges it presents, you might re-consider. If you are creating your world for a book, how important is the fact that the characters speak a new language, and even more importantly, how necessary is that you actually create that new language?

To understand why the answer is not easy, think about a book we all (should) know: Alice in Wonderland. Let me ask you this: what is the spoken language in Wonderland? You’ll probably say: English, but is it? Would the story be different if it wasn’t English? What if it was Wonderlaneze? The book would still be written in English, so the fact that there is a different language spoken would, in fact, be transparent.

Here’s another example: how many languages are spoken in the Lord of the Rings universe, by J.R.R. Tolkien? The answer is: about twenty. And Tolkien, a linguist himself, not only created all those languages, he developed them. He created phonology, grammar, vocabulary, common rules, scripts, derivations and exceptions and so on. Now, unless you are a LOTR fanatic, and you are just a person who read the books and/or saw the movie: did you know that? Probably not. All you need to know is that there are some languages, but other than that you don’t care, because that would distract from the story.

These are all things that come to mind when you think about introducing foreign, made-up languages in your worlds. Here are the four basic scenarios I can envision:

  • No mention of anything about language whatsoever
  • Mention the existence of a different language, but provide no details
  • Mention the different language, provide several words/phrases as needed
  • Create a full language, use it as needed

There are pros and cons to each of these, so let’s look at them in detail.

No New Language

This is obviously the most convenient choice because you do not need to tie yourself with the additional burden of creating a new language. You will simply write the book in your language and let the characters speak in your language (or whatever language your book was translated into), and nobody has to worry about anything.

Most books fall into this first category, by and large. As a reader, you kind of know there must be a different language in the story, especially if the story takes place in a made-up world. Even if your story is a futuristic sci/fi tale, based on our real Universe, the chance that an exact replica of a human language might show up somewhere else in the galaxy is close to zero. Just look at our own world: countries just miles away speak completely different languages.

So, as a reader, you know that must be the case, but you are not told about it and you probably don’t care.

New Language, Little Details

Probably fewer books fall into the second category. Here the author makes it a point to specify that there is a different language, but that language is not developed nor explained. It might be used as a means for plot, as in XYZ speaks one language and therefore ABC, the eavesdropper, doesn’t understand it. It’s a useful tool, if used correctly.

This one works well when you are dealing with different races in a world and you want to associate a language to each race. What works really well here is this hack: create also an universal language to go around the communications barriers. In a fantasy world, maybe this language is the “old language” or the “language of the Gods.” In a sci/fi world, maybe there is a device that is able to translate between languages on the spot.

In this way, you create the complexity of a realistic world by mentioning the languages, but you also offer a solution as to how people go around communicating.

It gets even simpler if your plot takes place in a small geographic space, where you are limited to one language.

So, in this category, you are not only letting the reader assume there are multiple languages, you spell it out, but that’s about it.

New Language, Some Usage

In the third category you have those authors that enjoy (and have the time) to dig deeper into language creation. This category is quite close to the previous one, but in here, you might actually have some characters say something in their language, or perhaps present something written, like a lost scroll or some carvings in a cave.

You can use this to your advantage as well, by waving it into the plot. Maybe there is a race whose language is unknown to your POV character. Instead of saying:

He stared at them, unable to understand what they were saying.

You can say:

“Hubba-bubba lumpa-drumpa,” the stranger said and Jin stared at him with wide eyes.

So, now you are introducing some unique words to your world and you let the reader experience first-hand not being able to understand them.

But be careful: fiction is about plot and about characters. It’s not about your ability to make up words. You can go around with a few things like the one above, but use them sparingly. Otherwise you will wind up with a book that is hard to read and an annoyed reader. As much as you want, no reader will learn your new language right away, no matter how cool it is. So, use it for effect, don’t let it take over. Once your book becomes a best sellers there will be some people who might develop the complete language for you, for free, for fun…

Complete New Language

Lastly, you have the master language creators. They spend the time to create a complete new language for their world. But, to no one’s surprise, the books in the last category feel a lot like the books in the third category, and by now it’s pretty clear why.

Tolkien worked on his languages for 63 years. He created about 20 different languages. That is a life-time commitment. I don’t say you shouldn’t do it, but be prepared for a very daunting task.

The decision you make about the languages in your fantasy world is going to influence the difficulty of writing, but, more importantly, the difficulty of reading. For beginning writers, I suggest choosing category 1 or 2. Once you get better at creating worlds, you should move to category 3. I would never recommend anyone to spend the time to create a full language, unless this really becomes your hobby.

Since this article is not designed to teach you how to create a new language, but rather to help you decide on your approach to using a new language in your fiction, I will provide you with some resources you can check, should you decide you want a new language:

Writing Systems

People are visual. We understand differences when we see things that look different. From this perspective, using a different writing system to signify a different language is a good way to make a fast and deep impact. Of course, we are talking about the visual representation of the alphabet. The way it usually works is a language has a certain phonology (the way it sounds) and then it has a certain visual representation (alphabet) and a set of rules that explain how to read the alphabet so that it sounds like the language. Unless you have a frame of reference, it is usually hard to understand how to read an alphabet. For example, for some this: /ˈθɜroʊ, ˈθʌroʊ/ makes no sense. It is in fact the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) representation of the word ‘thorough.’ So, the IPA standard is the frame of reference. If you learn that and apply it to any language you can figure out how to “say” the sounds in that language.

Defining new alphabets is not easy, but I have to admit, it is fun as hell. To exemplify, here are just a few alphabets from various constructed languages that you may have heard of:

Script images and text copyright by http://www.omniglot.com/.

orange-arrowCirth“Cirth [ˈkirθ] was invented by J.R.R. Tolkien for use in his novels. It is modelled on the Anglo-Saxon Runic alphabet, and is used to write the language of the Dwarves (Khuzdul) in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in inscriptions in wood and stone. It is also used as a alternative alphabet for English.

cirth

orange-arrowDothraki – “The Dothraki alphabet was invented by Carlos and Patrícia Carrion as a way to write the Dothraki language, a constructed language created by David J. Peterson for the television series, Game of Thrones, and based on the invented words and phrases used in George R. R. Martin’s series of books entitled A Song of Ice and Fire.

dothraki

orange-arrowKlingon – “Klingon is the language spoken by Klingons, alien characters in the Star Trek films and TV series. In the 1984 film, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, the director, Leonard Nimoy, and the writer-producer, Harve Bennett, wanted the Klingons to speak a real-sounding language rather than gibberish, so they commissioned the linguist Marc Okrand to create Klingon.

klingon

orange-arrowSarati – “Tolkien also created a number of different alphabets to write his languages – the Sarati alphabet only appears in a small number of inscriptions in the tales of Middle-earth.

sarati

Browse for more fictional alphabets at Omniglot.

Final Words About Language

I think the critical thing you should take from this article is this: don’t make an effort in creating a language just for the sake of having one, but if you do, make sure it is unique, interesting and doesn’t take the focus away from your story and from your characters. As I mentioned above, everyone expects your fantasy world to have a different language, just like they expect magic, and strange creatures, and things that are physically impossible in our world. But most of all, the readers expect a good story and amazing characters. Language, just like setting, will add to the general look-and-feel of the story, but it should never be the focus. That of course, unless your story is specifically about language. If your story is the story of an alien Jean François Champollion, uncovering the secrets of a future world’s language in hopes of saving the planet, then by all means, go crazy!

If you want to study more about fictional languages, Wikipedia has a pretty vast list of constructed languages, with background and description.

This concludes the second chapter of this series. Hopefully once you are finished with your work you will be in the same spot where I am with my world. To see what I’ve done, click on the link below:

Creating a Fantasy World Demo – Part 2

Creating a Fantasy World Demo – Part 1

Last, but not least, please comment below and share your ideas on language in fiction.

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Fiction Writing Tips Blog Carnival Issue #8

Welcome to the Issue #8 of the Fiction Writing Tips Blog Carnival. For those of you not familiar with what a Blog Carnival is, here is a short description: a collection of links pointing to blog posts around a specific topic. As you may have guessed it, this blog carnival will be centered around the subject of fiction writing, with a special interest for fantasy and science fiction.

Previous issues: #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7

Enjoy!

Fantasy Fiction General Writing

fiction writing tipsJeanNicole Rivers presents Elements of a Character Study posted at JeanNicole Rivers, saying, “Character is all about fear, tragedy and outcome. We have all heard the quote, ‘It is not your beliefs that make you a good person, but your actions.’ and from thinking like this we derive that it is what you do, especially in times of adversity that forge ones character.”


fiction writing tipsChrys Fey presents How To Create Mystery posted at Write With Fey, saying, “Mystery is not just a genre but an emotion that can be used in any story. Here are TEN TIPS to help you create mystery in your story.”


fiction writing tipsMarjorie Reynolds presents Making Your Characters Extreme posted at Story Fix, saying, “If you want to write a novel that readers will remember decades or even centuries later, learn from the masters and populate it with one or more extreme characters. You’ll find they’ll not only linger in a reader’s mind, but they’ll give your story energy and heighten your own interest in writing it.”


fiction writing tipsVictoria Grefer presents 5 Ways to Share a Point of View That Contrasts With Your Protagonist’s posted at Crimson League, saying, “How important is it, when writing, to provide multiple points of view and multiple sides of the story? This is something all authors ask themselves, and it’s an important question without a clear cut answer.”


fiction writing tipsDebra Elramey presents What Do You Do When Your Muse Is On Vacation? posted at The Write Practice, saying, “I asked a friend yesterday if she mainly wrote out of inspiration, or if she’d mastered the discipline of sitzfleisch. She was quick to say, “I write when I’m inspired.””


Fantasy Fiction General Writing

fiction writing tipsA. Howitt presents How to Write Love Scenes posted at Mythic Scribes, saying, “As fantasy writers, we accept that certain elements are expected in our novels. For example, the fight scene. Whether it’s an epic battle or a street duel, there’s going to be a fight somewhere. But what about love?”


fiction writing tipsRobin Storey presents Writers’ research – the methods we use to get it right posted at Robin Storey, saying, “Author Robin Storey looks at the different methods of research used by writers to ensure the authenticity of their novels.”


fiction writing tipsAndre Cruz presents 5 Creative Writing Prompts to Break Your Writer’s Block posted at The Word, saying, “I have found that when I am experiencing writer’s block, the best method to break it is using creative writing prompts. For those of you that do not know, creative writing prompts can be a word or phrase that a writer puts down on paper to get them thinking about a story idea by simply trying to create a story from that word or phrase.”


fiction writing tipsRandy Ross presents Top Secret Work Habits of the Successful Novelist posted at The Loneliest Planet by Randy Ross, saying, “Recently, I’ve been working on my novel at the local library, where I don’t have Web access to distract me. Last week, a successful novelist* started coming in to work on what I’m assuming is his next book. So, I’ve had the good fortune to observe his routine, which I’d like to share.”


Fantasy Fiction General Writing

fiction writing tipsJo Linsdell presents Advice for Writers posted at Writers and Authors, saying, “When I immerse myself in my writing– attend a writing group, and practice with short works or exercises– an amazing thing happens. My writing gets better. How can I tell? I edit less, the tone stays consistent, and I can feel emotion in what I wrote. As with any activity, practice makes perfect.”


fiction writing tipsLovelyn Bettison presents Interview with author A.D. Koboah posted at Comments for H. Lovelyn Bettison, saying, “This is an interview with self-published author A.D. Koboah. In it she talks about the inspiration for her novel Peace and why she is attracted to writing about dark subject matter.”


fiction writing tipsKimberley Grabas presents 2 Must-Dos to Make Your Book Marketing Infinitely Easier posted at Your Writer Platform, saying, “Why is it that your book marketing is falling short? You’re trying to implement as many of the tricks and tips that the ‘experts’ recommend, but few of your marketing tactics are gaining traction. Sure, you haven’t tried EVERYTHING yet, but you’ve tried enough to move the needle at least a smidge, right? There’s no question that building a strong platform takes time, and gaining momentum–even with a sound marketing plan–requires the patience of a saint. But something just isn’t jiving.”


Fiction Writing Tips Blog CarnivalThis concludes this edition of the Fiction Writing Tips Blog Carnival. I want to thank all the contributors and invite them to submit more in the future.

If you enjoyed these articles, please leave some comments on the authors’ blogs and on this blog.

Submit your blog article to the next edition of Fiction Writing Tips Blog Carnival, to be published on December 31, 2013 using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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