Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Insider Writing Tips for the IWSG 2020 Anthology Contest ~ Part 1

How about some insider writing tips for the Insecure Writer's Support Group's
2020 Anthology Contest?  Over the next two weeks the 2019 winners featured
in this year's anthology Voyagers:  The Third Ghost will share their best writing
tips learned from their experiences as contestants last year.

And how about some insider writing tips from our inspiring leader,
IWSG founder Alex J. Cavanaugh, someone who has read the entries for
all our published anthologies?

These writing tips will help you put an extra shine on your entry
and may help you avoid mistakes like the ones this writer made.


Insider Writing Tips ...

Yvonne Ventresca
"The Third Ghost"

I’ve learned over time that to write better short stories, I needed to read more of them. I’m used to novel-length fiction, and short stories offer a different satisfaction to the reader. Author Lorrie Moore said, “A short story is a love affair, a novel is a marriage.” My tip for contestants would be to immerse yourself in previous anthologies and other published short stories. Study the ones that resonate with you, then have a short story love affair of your own.

Yvonne Ventresca is the award-winning author of Black Flowers, White Lies (IPPY Gold Medal for National YA fiction) and Pandemic (SCBWI’s Crystal Kite Award).  In addition to her novels, Yvonne’s other work includes two nonfiction books and several short stories selected for anthologies, including the previous IWSG anthology, Hero Lost: Mysteries of Death and Life.  She is currently pursuing an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. You can learn more at, where she features resources for writers.

Beth Anderson Schuck
"The Orchard"

Having multiple editors examine your work was a true bonus of the anthology process. The editors found different issues to address in my work and their suggestions were clear and easy to fix. Changing tense is one of my most common errors. Using the same adverbs and adjectives in the story is another mistake that the editors identified. A method to avoid these errors, is to read your work aloud. Often hearing the language allows you to catch areas to rework. It was just a joy to work with the fellow authors and editors, that I highly recommend being part of an anthology.

Beth Anderson Schuck is a retired librarian who believes reading can take you anywhere.  She writes historical fiction featuring willful female characters. Being in nature whether hiking, birdwatching or gardening makes her whole.

Bish Denham
"The Blind Ship"

My tip for an anthology participant is simple. Be open to the editing process. Eyes, other than your own, are able to see things you can't. If you disagree with what the editor is suggesting, don't be afraid to question. More often than not you'll go along with what the editor suggests, but sometimes the editor will agree with you.

Bish Denham is from the U.S. Virgin Islands, where her family has lived for over a hundred years. The author of two middle grade novels and a collection of retold Jamaican Anansi stories, she says, “Growing up in the islands was like living inside a history book.”

BlogFacebook| Goodreads| Twitter| Amazon

Rebecca M. Douglass
"A World of Trouble"

The first thing I learned (though it’s something my novels’ proofreader has been pointing out for some time so I did kind of know it) is that I am an abuser of the common comma. On that point, I yield to the editorial authority. But I also learned to weigh all feedback dispassionately, and decide for myself if it is right or not. But I found that if the feedback was “wrong” it usually was because I’d not written what I thought I had, and the editor was trying to make sense of it. I learned to look long and hard at why she thought I had made an error, then fix the real problem, not necessarily the superficial problem called out. 

Rebecca is the author of the delightful Ninja Librarian books, as well as a picture book for outdoor families, a mystery series for the parents, and her middle-grade fantasy, Halitor the Hero.  After more than seventeen years working at the library, she has retired still without learning all the secrets of the Ninja Librarian.

Sherry Ellis
"The Ghosts of Pompeii"

My number one tip for entering an anthology contest is to follow the directions! There are specifications regarding genre and word count. If you don't follow the directions, you will be disqualified. My second tip is to have an editor or beta reader look at your work before you submit it. Another set of eyes can help catch plot discrepancies and grammar errors. My third tip, which is really more of a comment, is that you shouldn't get upset if you don't win. There are many wonderful writers out there, and I'm sure it's a difficult job to pick winners. Pat yourself on the back for submitting something. That in itself is an accomplishment!

Ellis' books include Don't Feed the Elephant; Ten Zany Birds; That Mama is a Grouch; That Baby Woke Me Up, AGAIN; Bubba and Squirt's Big Dig to China; and Bubba and Squirt's Mayan Adventure. 

She lives in Atlanta, Georgia. For more information about her work, she invites you to visit her websites at and

Website|BlogFacebook| Goodreads| Twitter| Amazon

Alex J. Cavanaugh
a.k.a. the Ninja Captain

First, know that every reader and every writer sees things differently. That really becomes obvious to me when the admins vote and at first those votes seem to be all over the place. Tastes differ and no one writer will please everyone. So don’t try.

Character is important. The main characters really have to shine and appeal to people. They don’t have to be great – they might even be a bit deplorable! But there has to be something redeemable about them, something we can connect to.

And the same with the story. We have to connect. We need to feel a sense of urgency and like it’s a real story unfolding. It comes down to – do I buy it? Does it feel real? And doesn’t matter the setting – fantasy, science fiction, real life, whatever. It still needs to feel real.

When reading the submissions, there are so many good ones. A lot! But only the great ones are sent to the judges. So writers need to send something great.

All of us in the Insecure Writer's Support Group know and appreciate its founder Alex J. Cavanaugh, a.k.a. the Ninja Captain.  He is a fan of all things science fiction, and his interests range from books and movies to music and games.  Alex has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design, graphics, and technical editing.  Alex is the author of Amazon bestsellers CassaStar, CassaFire, CassaStorm, and Dragon of the Stars. 

Take a Chance!  Submit an Entry!  
Here are the details for the 2020 IWSG Anthology Contest:
Guidelines and rules: 

Word count: 4500-6000

Genre: Science Fiction

Theme: Dark Matter

Submissions accepted: May 6 - September 2, 2020

How to enter:
Send your polished, formatted (double-spaced, no footers or headers), previously unpublished story to admin @ before the deadline passes. Please include your full contact details, your social links, and if you are part of the Blogging, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter IWSG group.

The IWSG admins will create a shortlist of the best stories. The shortlist will then be sent to our official judges:  Dan Koboldt, Lynda R. Young, Colleen Oefelein, Damien Larkin, Ion Newcombe, Julie Gwinn, and David Powers King.

The winning stories will be edited and published by Dancing Lemur Press
imprint Freedom Fox Press next year in the IWSG anthology. Authors will
receive royalties on books sold, both print and eBook. The top story will
have the honor of giving the anthology its title. Please see their website for
general guidelines on the types of stories they publish.

Coming on Wednesday, June 3, 2020 . . .
Next week more of the authors in Voyagers and Dancing Lemur Press publisher Diane L. Wolfe  will share writing tips for this year's contestants.

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Reviews of Voyagers: The Third Ghost:

1. Check out a review by author Beverly Stowe McClure at Goodreads. Beverly has just
published her latest teen novel Gabe's Guardian Angel.

2. Here's another by a teen named Julia who reviews YA books, middle grade, and adult books
at her blog Pages for Thoughts.

3. Roland Clarke's Bookshelf Review at his website Writing Wings features Voyagers:  
The Third Ghost.

Interviews with Authors:

1. Yvonne Ventresca with Stacy Horan at The Bookshop at the End of the Internet

2.  Sherry Ellis with June McCrary Jacobs at Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic 

3. Roland Clarke with Laura Wolfe at The Sustainable Writer

Blog Features:

1. Voyager Authors with Mason Canyon at Thoughts in Progress (Part 1)

2. Voyager Authors with Mason Canyon at Thoughts in Progress (Part 2)


1. May and June - Stormdance Publications

2. At various times - IWSG Instagram

3. Wednesday, June 9 and 11, 2020 . . . A great opportunity to learn about promoting your book! Diane, the publisher of our IWSG anthologies, will be hosting two webinars: June 9th: How to Promote Your Book Now Part 1 Cost: $10.00 US dollars June 11th: How to Promote Your Book Now Part 2 Cost: $10.00 US dollarsEllis
Register at:   &

* * * * * * * * * *

You can order a copy of
VOYAGERS: The Third Ghost 
at the links below.

Print 9781939844729 $13.95
EBook 9781939844736 $4.99

Juvenile Fiction - Historical / Action & Adventure /
Fantasy & Magic


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Follow the directions! Sherry, wise words. Like that others talked about the editing and reading short stories.

Fundy Blue said...

Thanks for your input today, Alex! Great tips!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

That's so nice to hear that everyone was happy with how the edits were handled.

Fundy Blue said...

I'm glad that you had positive feedback, Diane! That always feels good.

Roland Clarke said...

Great tips everyone. Alex's views and tip from his 'god-like' position, make particular sense - and I suspect Diane has a similar perspective, having read and edited pages of stories. Thanks everyone.

Sherry Ellis said...

Good tips! And Alex's comment about everything feeling real is so important. Are the emotions and reactions what can be expected in a real-life situation?

Fundy Blue said...

Well said, Roland!

Fundy Blue said...

I agree, Sherry! Everything has to ring true.