Wednesday, December 5, 2018

How to #Win a #ShortStory Contest!

How to Win a Spot in the IWSG Anthology Contest
by Gwen Gardner

I’m always impressed by the quality of writing in the Insecure Writers Support Group anthologies. To me, it’s a prestigious compilation of stories by respected members of this growing community of writers. When I won top spot in the third anthology, Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime, I was sure someone made a mistake. I mean, I write cozy mysteries. Cozies are gentle reads. They are clean, low key, and low action. Any violence happens off stage and sex is never mentioned.

So how did a cozy mystery story win the top spot in the anthology? First, I went back to the basics that every writer knows: hook, strong verbs and dialogue, quirky characters with flaws, a grounded setting, show rather than tell, and edit, edit, edit. We all know the drill.

I always knew the competition was tough. That much was apparent once I’d read all the stories in Tick Tock. But now that I’m a judge of the next IWSG anthology, it’s become even more apparent. The margin of excellence is so narrow between the remaining competitors that it’s nearly impossible to choose a favorite. As a judge, how do I pick my top three favorites when they all deserve to win? What is that extra something you can do that gives you the winning edge?

Go back to the guidelines:
  1. Keep your eye on the theme and genre. In Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime, the theme was time/clock and the genre mystery/crime/thriller. When I won, the title I submitted to the contest was, A Stitch in Crime. It’s a play on the old saying, “A Stitch in Time”. So you can see I used both the time theme (through a play on words) and the genre (crime) in the title.
  2. Continue the theme throughout your story. In my story, time was running short to reunite a little girl with the nun who raised her.
  3. Come full circle by tying the ending of the story to the beginning. In the beginning of my story, my main character was learning how to cross-stitch. Towards the end of the story, a cross-stitch panel ends up being the clue that solves the mystery.
I hope these tips help. For myself, I continue to study the writing craft, and I’m always reminding myself of the basics. Over on my Pinterest page, I have over 2000 pins separated into 37 different sections that are chock full of everything writing related, from inspirational quotes by famous authors to detailed how-tos on the craft. Check it out!

How do you stay up on the writing craft?
Any tips or tricks you use?


Gwen Gardner’s story, A Stitch in Crime, won the feature spot in the IWSG Anthology #3. She writes clean, cozy, lighthearted mysteries with a strong ghostly element. Since ghosts feature prominently in her books, she has a secret desire to meet one face to face – but will run screaming for the hills if she ever does.

She thinks there’s nothing better than a good mystery (being an excellent armchair detective herself), unless it’s throwing a ghost or two into the mix just to “liven” things up. Don’t worry, though. Ghosts may be difficult to keep in line, but they’re harmless—mostly. And it turns out they’re pretty good sleuths, too.

Gwen adores travel and experiencing the cultures and foods of different countries. She is always up for an adventure and anything involving chocolate – not necessarily in that order.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Wanted: More Heroes!

Heroes Wanted!
by Tyrean Martinson

I think anyone living in the world today would have a tough time missing the rise of superheroes, heroes, and anti-heroes in film, media, and fiction. Every story must have a protagonist, but lately, it seems as if every story must have a HERO.

Why do we love heroes so much?

Because we need them. According to an article by Psychology Today, heroes “improve our lives.” In fact, the article goes on to state that heroes help elevate us, heal us, nourish our relationships, show us how to transform our lives, and show us how to become heroes ourselves.

Whether we love everyday heroes (civil rights defenders, first responders, those who serve in the military, the kind of person who stops to help someone load their groceries into the car in the rain), or we love superheroes (Captain America, Thor, Wonder Woman), or we love anti-heroes (Captain Jack Sparrow, Hamlet, the Guardians of the Galaxy), they help us see moments of good in the world, they help us see that our troubles can be overcome, and they inspire us to become heroes in our own lives.

And, there are many types of heroes to choose from, going beyond Joseph Campbell’s archetype of the hero. I searched hero types online and found “6 Types of Heroes You Need in Your Story,” along with “Romantic Heroes,” and huge lists of hero types from various websites focused on comic book and fantasy fiction.

Just to name a handful here, there are: Every Man/Woman Heroes, Prodigy Heroes, Un-Heroes and Anti-Heroes (not the same), Misfit Heroes, Perfect Heroes, Best Friend Heroes, Charmer Heroes, Swashbuckler Heroes, Rebel/Bad Boy Heroes, Lost Soul Heroes, Warrior Heroes, Grizzled Old-Timer Heroes, Orphan Heroes, Wanderer Heroes, Jester/Fool Heroes, Tragic Heroes, Martyr Heroes, Sovereign Heroes, Caregiver Heroes, Explorer Heroes, Magician Heroes, and Creator Heroes.

On November 12th, we lost a great Creator Hero from real life: Stan Lee, the creator of Spider-Man, Black Panther, The Incredible Hulk, X-Men, and The Avengers. His life’s work and legacy has inspired artists, creators, and storytellers all over the globe, and entertained millions of people. He will be missed.
courtesy IMDB
As a kid, I needed to see how Bruce Banner struggled with his Incredible Hulk anger. As a teen, I needed to see how the X-men dealt with prejudice on a daily basis. And, as trope-filled and cheesy as it may sound to many today, I still need to hear, “With great power comes great responsibility,” from Uncle Ben and Spider-Man. It still rings true for me and I’m so thankful Stan Lee created these flawed heroes.

I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you’re able to entertain people, you’re doing a good thing.--Stan Lee, The Washington Post.

Each of us has unique strengths and abilities to share with the world. We each have heroic potential. A hero doesn’t have to work alone. A hero can collaborate with other heroes to create a better world, to show the way to a better future.

So, what kinds of heroes do you love to read about or see on film?
If you are a creator, what kinds of heroes do you like to write about?
What kind of hero are you?

tyrean_martinson
Daydreamer, writer, teacher, believer, Tyrean Martinson lives near the Puget Sound with her husband and daughters. With her B.A. in Ed. and English, she teaches writing classes to home-school teens and she writes speculative, contemporary, poetry, experimental hint fiction, and writing books.

Tyrean is currently writing about heroes who are both blessed and cursed with super-powers. She has written about fantasy heroes, sci-fi heroes, and real-life heroes. She strives to be a teacher-hero and a creator-hero in real life. Her short story, “Of Words and Swords” won a spot in the Hero Lost: Mysteries of Death and Life IWSG anthology.

To read the flash fiction story that started Tyrean’s journey into a super-powered world, check out “Seedling” for FREE on Smashwords, Nook, Apple, Google, Kobo, and Overdrive.

Connect with Tyrean here:
Blog | Twitter | Facebook

If you’re looking to read about a number of different heroes, check out the IWSG Fiction Anthologies.

Heroes Lost

Of Words and Swords by Tyrean Martinson

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

5 Reasons to Write Short Stories and Flash Fiction

5 Reasons This Novelist Writes Short Stories and Flash Fiction
by Rebecca Douglass
  1. If I can learn to say it, and say it well, in 1000 words (or 3000, or 5000), I will have learned something that will strengthen all my prose. A word limit forces a writer to think about each word, as well as how each sentence is put together, and whether each sentence contributes to the story. Even a 5000 word short, let alone a 500-word flash, has no room for meandering thought-processes, repetition, or dead-end plot threads. The form forces me to plot tightly and edit carefully, and we all need practice at that (and since the stories are short, I can get more practice!). Each length tests me in different ways, which is why I practice with everything from #Fi50 (50 word shorts) to 5000-word stories.
  2. Short fiction allows me to play with genre. I’m not interested in writing a horror novel, or a whole book of Weird West or slightly racy romance. But 1000 words? Sure, why not? And so I learn how to do a little different kind of writing, discover a new genre (seriously, following genre mash-up prompts has introduced me to a number of genres, or at least sub-genres, I never heard of), and improve my skills.
  3. Short fiction is easy to submit for publication. Lots of places publish short fiction, like our own IWSG Anthologies! Almost all of them take on-line submissions, and most give a quick response, which means I can submit the story elsewhere (or take a long hard look at why it’s getting rejected) without a long wait.
  4. Short stories help me out of slumps and back into my novel. When life is too busy or overwhelming, it’s hard to keep up work on a large, unwieldy piece of fiction. Sometimes my writing time gets fragmented and greatly reduced while I deal with other things. But I can draft a bit of flash fiction in an hour or two, and come back to edit it the next time I have an hour. Because finishing anything is a big boost, it helps to tackle some projects I know I can complete quickly, before the next eruption of chaos.
  5. Getting a short story published rocks! I was totally over the moon when my story was selected for Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime, the 2017 IWSG Anthology. That was a huge psychological boost. But it doesn’t end there, because having short stories out there makes me and my novels more “discoverable.” So maybe, just maybe, writing short fiction can help me sell novels.
About the Author 
After a lifetime of reading, and a decade or more of slinging books at the library and herding cats with the PTA, Rebecca began to turn her experiences into books of her own, publishing her first in 2012.  Despite the unlimited distractions provided by raising sons to the point of leaving home, she has managed to pen a total of 7.9 books (the 8th is due out soon).

For those who enjoy murder and mayhem with a sense of humor, Rebecca’s Pismawallops PTA mysteries. If you prefer tall tales and even less of a grip on reality, visit Skunk Corners in The Ninja Librarian and the sequels Return to Skunk Corners and The Problem of Peggy. For those who’ve always thought that fantasy was a bit too high-minded, a stumble through rescues and escapes with Halitor the Hero should set you straight.

Rebecca writes so many different kinds of books because she has a rich lifetime of experience that requires expression. She also has a short attention span—squirrel!

Connect with Rebecca here: