Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Insider Writing Tips for the IWSG 2020 Anthology Contest ~ Part 2

This week we're sharing more insider writing tips for short story writers entering the 2020 Insecure Writer's Support Group Anthology Contest.  Our tipsters are winning authors featured in the 2020 IWSG Anthology Voyagers: The Third Ghost.  And as a special guest sharing her  expert insights, we have the publisher of all five IWSG anthologies, Diane L. Wolfe!  May these tips inspire you to submit an entry, one polished with a winner's luster.


Insider Writing Tips ...

Louise MacBeath Barbour
"Dare Double Dare"

My first tip is don't do what I did:  postpone writing your story to the last minute, write it in Pages, and submit it a few hours before the contest deadline without another person reading it.  I did everything wrong, and I'm thankful that the judges saw enough promise in my story to select it.  I am also grateful for Diane L. Wolfe's expertise as she guided me through the editing process to prepare my story for publication.

Here is a word all writers should know, a word I learned to my chagrin from my editor:  Head-hopping.  When a writer abruptly changes the point of view from one character to another, it can confuse, disorient, and annoy a reader.  If a writer does this several times in a scene, it can give a reader whiplash.  There are times when changes in point of view are appropriate, but not in a short story.  There is a lot of information on-line about head-hopping.  Here is one source I found very informative:  The Editor's Blog

Born in Nova Scotia and raised throughout eastern Canada, Louise is a writer and blogger who now lives in Colorado.  She writes fiction and nonfiction with the encouragement of her supportive husband.  "Dare Double Dare" is her first middle grade story.

L.T. Ward
"Return to Cahokia"

Once you're done writing that story that's been stuck in your brain, swirling around and preventing you from getting solid sleep, let it sit. You'll need that pause to allow your mind to see the story as others will. Even then, you'll likely overlook some casual mistake because your mind will correct your written words to the vision you've had. After that second look, send it to beta and sensitivity readers. A theater doesn't put on a show without a dress rehearsal and writers shouldn't consider their work done until they've allowed their stories to be read by an audience. 

LT writes mostly speculative fiction shorts and novels while spending her days raising her children and satisfying her never-ending thirst for knowledge through reading, meeting people, and first-hand life experiences. She has publications with Dancing Lemur Press and Me First Magazine while querying her first novel and writing another. She currently volunteers as a social media coordinator and content provider for WriteHive, an online writers’ conference.

Roland Clarke
"Feathered Fire"

I mentioned not hesitating about writing a few weeks ago. Now, it’s the turn of my draft demon. So, having ensured I’m following the submission guidelines, I sketch an outline then a first draft. I advise to hone the story like a sculptor with a marble polisher – every rough error by error. Just don’t remove chunks without saving them somewhere – I keep a discard file for gems to reintroduce later. And I value my beta reader/editors

And I have to repeat what Ray Bradbury said, “If you write a hundred short stories and they're all bad, that doesn't mean you've failed. You fail only if you stop writing.”

After diverse careers, Roland Clarke was an equestrian journalist and green activist when chronic illness hastened retirement.  But he hasn't stopped exploring rabbit holes and writing - mainly mysteries and alternative history.

Katharina Gerlach
"Winter Days"

Writing short stories requires a different mind-set than writing a novel due to the limited room. It's best to concentrate on one specific event in a character's life, one moment that changed this character's life. Since you'll need to make the character and it's time/place as real and 3 dimensional as you can, you'll have to limit the plot. A good way to learn how to limit oneself is to write Flash Fiction (stories below 1000 words). If you can do that, it feels liberating to have "sooo much room" when you start writing short stories. Holly Lisle offers a great course (free of charge) for learning how to tell FF stories, and the principles are applicable from FF over short story to novel.

Although Katharina Gerlach was born in the late sixties, she’s still a child at heart. She inherited her love of fairy tales and words from her mother, an ex-secretary and avid reader, and her love of all things nature and science from her father, an ex-forester. Memories of her rather interesting life in Germany flow back at the smallest trigger, even though she tends to merge her three brothers into one when she tells stories about their childhood adventures. And more often than not, she recalls events truthfully.

Charles Kowalski
"Simon Grey and the Yamamba"

The key to writing an engaging short story is the same as the key to writing an engaging novel: grab your readers' interest in the beginning, and hold it until the end. The journey is shorter, but the fuel that propels the vehicle is the same: suspense. When crafting any narrative, be it a short story or a full-length novel, I try to keep up the suspense by remembering the formula P + Q + R = S:

Progressively escalating conflict +
Questions unanswered +
Relatable protagonist =

In other words: Make readers CARE about your protagonist, make them WONDER what's going to happen next, and make them WAIT for the answer. As surely as one letter of the alphabet follows another, this will create the tension that keeps readers flipping pages, whether there are five of them or five hundred.

I offer more details about my formula for suspense, and the story of Simon Grey, in this episode of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers podcast: rmfworg.libsyn

Charles Kowalski has published the full story of Simon, Oyuki and their adventures through haunted Japan in Simon Grey and the March of a Hundred Ghosts.  In addition to to middle-grade fantasy, Charles' thrillers for adults, Mind Virus and The Devil’s Sonhave won prizes and nominations including the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' Colorado Gold Award, the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award, and the Adventure Writers Grandmaster Award.

L. Diane Wolfe
Publisher, Editor, Speaker, and Author

Tips as an editor:
Voice is so important. I know that word stresses out some writers, but it is the hook that will catch the reader’s attention. Voice is about style and personality shining through the words. It’s also about the main character’s voice coming through. Can the reader picture that person without any description just based on the character’s speech and actions? (For fantastic examples of great voice, check out Corners by Corrina Austin or Bloodwalker by L.X. Cain, both DLP books.)

Story is of course important – the obvious flow, hitting all the right notes, a satisfying ending, no continuity issues, etc. But does the story have something unique to offer? What is the writer’s twist on the basic story? What makes it stand out from the standard formula?

And as an editor, I have to add that a polished and properly edited story is vital. I’m not just talking a couple typos. Those don’t bother me. But a constant use of passive voice, telling rather than showing, head-hopping, info dumps, etc. – those are jarring and bring the reader to a stop. Those are issues that should be caught long before the piece is submitted. Which means critique partners and/or an editor are SO important. If a writer can’t even let even one other person go over his/her work, then that writer should never submit it. Have some respect for those editors and agents reviewing the work and always present the very best manuscript possible.

Diane is the owner and senior editor of Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C. and its imprint Freedom Fox Press.  Known as “Spunk On A Stick,” Diane  conducts seminars on book publishing, promoting, leadership, and goal-setting, and she offers book formatting and author consultation.  Diane is the author of numerous fiction and nonfiction books, including The Circle of Friends series, How to Publish and Promote Your Book Now! and Overcoming Obstacles with Spunk! 

So give your story a winner's luster and submit it
to the 2020 IWSG Anthology Contest!
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 10, 2020 . . .
Next week we will share great strategies for promoting your book. 

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Reviews of Voyagers: The Third Ghost:

1. Check out lots of reviews and ratings at Goodreads.

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

3. Erin Kahn at The Wood Between the Worlds

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. Coming on Wednesday, May 19 and 21, 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 dollars

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


L. Diane Wolfe said...

I really like Katharina's tip. That makes so much sense.

Louise, I'm pleased you learned so much in the process of editing.

LOL - and hopefully my advice doesn't sound too harsh!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Good point about a dress rehearsal. I'd never send work out without several others reading it first.

Fundy Blue said...

LOL, Diane! I said "ouch" when I read it. But I appreciate straight up advice! The main reason I wanted to do these two posts was to give advice to this year's contestants so they wouldn't repeat my bonehead mistakes.

Fundy Blue said...

Oops! I've learned my lesson, Alex! I liked the dress rehearsal analogy as well.

Rebecca M. Douglass said...

Some good advice here! And I'll back Diane's advice. I used to make exactly that error--sent stuff to agents without ever having shared it with anyone else. Granted, that was back in the pre-internet day when it was harder to find critique partners!

Fundy Blue said...

Hi, Rebecca! There is lots of good advice here. All the best to you!

Sherry Ellis said...

That's all good advice! I like Charles' formula for suspense. Good to remember.

Roland Clarke said...

Such good advice - the dress rehearsal analogy is so right. And I'll have to take some of that advise yesterday.

Fundy Blue said...

Hi, Sherry! Yes, I thought that Charles had a great formula for suspense. There is lots of good information in these two tips posts.

Fundy Blue said...

Me, too ~ LOL. I really liked your tip about saving what you remove somewhere else, Roland. It can save you a lot of grief!