Are you about to publish a collection of your short stories? I have done that once and am considering a second. Here are six suggestions based on hindsight:
Go for a ‘sense of book.’Group stories around one theme, one character, one setting. My first collection is varied: most of its stories were written, not with the idea of a book in mind, but for contests based on prompts. It was long after their completion that I chose a theme.
Give thought to the title.
Take time to examine your collection. Perhaps, as book title, you might choose the title of one story or the name of a place that is common to all stories. After I read through my stories, I realized there was indeed a thread: the choices we make and the paths we take. Thus the title: Passages.
Consider, as title/subtitle, “a collection of short fiction,” not “a collection of short stories.”
I used stories in the subtitle of Passages and wished I had used fiction, especially after I dropped a narrative poem into the mix. (Yes, I know: could have eliminated the poem. Sigh.)
Acknowledge previous publications.
List the stories that have been previously published, and include publisher, publication, and date of same. In Passages, in acknowledgements, I thanked creators, administrators, and judges of writing contests, and named a couple of specifics. There was no ill intent in my lack of a list of previous publications; I was simply unaware of the courtesy.
Share background of story.
Many of the short stories in Passages were written for contests. In retrospect, I could have enhanced the reader experience by writing a paragraph or two before each short, revealing the prompt or inspiration for the story.
Give thought to the placement of stories.
You might consider placing your best story first and your second-best last. I went a different route: I put an award-winning short story first because I wanted to draw attention to the fact that it had grown into an award-winning novel. As for the last story in Passages, it is a very short piece called Final Passage, a piece that is more than appropriate for its position in the book. The only thing I would have done differently with it is listed above: I would have revealed the inspiration for the piece.
Why do I love story contests? Click on image to link to “Why Enter Story Contests.”
Are these suggestions helpful to you? If you have already published a book of short fiction, what were the steps that worked best for you? What, if anything, would you do differently the next time?
Are you looking for ways to get your short stories and poems published?
I recently received an email from a writer who was seeking ways to do that. What follows is what I offered her, what I thought could be shared here as well.
I have used two avenues for publication of short stories: Story Contests and Literary Journals.
I use story contests to hone my craft; therefore, I’ve researched them and have entered many, including 24-hour story contests. This has resulted in having many stories published, both online and in journals in Canada and the United States.
The most comprehensive resource for contests in Canada is the Canadian Writers’ Contest Calendar. This calendar is published in the fall of each year, usually by November. All contests are listed by deadline. Everything you need to know—submission guidelines, eligibility, word count limits, etc. — are given for each contest and, yes, poetry contests are included.
The best site I’ve found for information on contests and journals in the U.S. is Poets & Writers, “the nation’s largest nonprofit organization serving creative writers.” On the right hand side of the landing page, under Tools for Writers, you will find an impressive list of databases for literary magazines, contests, agents, etc.
I know how much time and energy go into the pursuit of publication. I hope the above is helpful to you.
Do you have any suggestions to share? Please send them along.
Annie Daylon reading short story “Buryin’ Day” at launch of Freefall Literary Magazine (Vol XIX, Number 1) in Calgary. (First contest entry, second place!)
Good luck on your journey.
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At the Surrey International Writers’ Conference a while back, I introduced, and took notes on, a workshop facilitated by New York Times Best Selling Author and dynamic speaker, Robert Dugoni. The session, Creating Plots for Page Turners, was a combination of lecture and writing exercises designed to give participants a better understanding of classic story structure. Here are 10 tips:
A story is dialogue in action.
The purpose of a story is to entertain. The characters, not the authors, are the entertainers.
A story is a journey—beginning, middle, end—and is both physical and emotional.
The tone is set right away. What kind of story is it? (Make a promise.)
Interesting character should appear at the onset.
The beginning introduces the story problem. (Who, where, what does main character want, what stands in the way?)
The middle develops the problem through obstacles.
Stories should move! Excessive narrative—opinion, bio, flashbacks, info dumps, anything that can be presumed—should be cut.
The end must be satisfying (Keep the promise you made at the beginning.)
The 1st sentence in every chapter should hook the reader.
Many thanks to Robert for an excellent workshop. To learn more about Robert and his writing visit: www.Robertdugoni.com.
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To quote Jim Kukral, founder of the Author Marketing Institute and creator of this marketing summit, it is a “learning and networking event for new and experienced authors who want learn the best strategic ways to sell more books through innovate and proven book marketing.”
What was included in this event? Here is a sampling of the workshops:
Building Amazing Author Websites: the Absolute Necessities by Deborah Carney
Hit the Bestseller Lists with E-Book Pre-orders by Mark Coker
Path to a Best-Selling Book Launch: Multiple Books and Multiple Promotions by Joel Comm
Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans by Peter Shankman
How to Quickly Write, Publish and Profit from a Book That Will Grow Your Business by Adam Witty
Thirteen Reasons Are Not As Successful an Author As You Should Be by Jim F. Kukral
Was this conference of value? Yes. Here are the advantages:
ONE- STOP SHOPPING. In the past, I acquired marketing information sporadically, from tweets and blogs and webinars and books. To me, a veteran of garage sales, this event was like discovering a street on which fifteen houses were holding sales simultaneously. (Love those spring and summer Saturday mornings when I can just park and shop.)
CONTENT. Not all of the information in all fifteen workshops applied directly to me. However, there was a smorgasbord here; in an era that demands more from authors in terms of marketing, virtual summits such as this can benefit all authors–indie, traditional, and hybrid.
CONVENIENCE. I have attended many brick and mortar conferences, all of which require physical presence at events in real time. The Author Marketing Summit allowed me the option of attending in real time or watching at my own convenience; in fact, these workshops will be available to me for a period of one year.
COST. I discovered a link to this Author Marketing Summit on Twitter (Thank you, Joanna Penn, @thecreativepenn) When I followed the link, the price had been reduced from $399 to $149. I typed in the discount coupon code given by Joanna and the cost plummeted to $99 U.S. That was it, the total cost. I acquired tons of information without incurring a mountain of expense (e.g. travel, meals, and accommodation costs.)
My 2015 calendar from the Federation of British Columbia Writers arrived the other day and, from all of Ben Nuttall-Smith’s stunning illustrations, one jumped at me– Pianist. It triggered memories of my beginnings at a keyboard: the Leila-Fletcher-on-staff-Middle-C-approach to the piano, taught by Sister Mary John Hughes and her trusty pointer. Ouch!
Over the years, I worked my way from Fletcher’s C-D-E to Debussy’s Reverie. I never mastered the art of sight-reading (the ability to pick up a piece and play it as you would pick up a book and read it.) Once, when I was a student of music at Mount Allison University, a friend suggested we partner up and plunge into the world of sight-reading, an attempt to conquer the beast. I started, half-heartedly, and fell away from it: for me there was a gaping hole where passion, drive, and above all, confidence should be. My friend persevered and became a long-time professional musician. (Thank you, T: I never did excel in sight-reading but I did learn from watching you gain mastery.) My piano, except for the annual Christmas carol, is now a silent shadow in the hallway of my home.
However, another keyboard has replaced it.
My passion is writing. I dipped my toe in the water seven years ago and I stayed. In that time, I have written three novels, each better than its predecessor, and I have a fourth awaiting editing. I have also penned forty+ short stories, sixty-five blog posts, and a few articles. Apparently, what I could not apply to music–commitment and perseverance– I can apply to writing. Doubt may knock once in a while but I don’t let it in. I just show up and write, daily. My routine: coffee, crossword, computer. Three hour minimum.
In the coming year, whatever your passion, just have at it. If writing is your passion, park yourself at that keyboard and plunk away. One letter, one word, one sentence, one paragraph, one page… eventually becomes one book.
Just show up and you will create a wonderfully accomplished, well-written new year. One key at a time.
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