The real #harshwritingadvice

Photo by Viktor Talashuk on Unsplash

Jumping onto the Twitter moment that happened earlier in 2021 in which someone told writers that the #harshwritingadvice was that other writers — even your friends — were your competition. Then all of writing Twitter exploded and overwhelmingly eviscerated, criticized, and memed the idea. But it got me thinking.

Who or what is a writer’s competition? Is it the audience of readers we are hoping to attract? The agents and publishers that hold our potential future careers in their hands? The reviewers, whether on Kirkus or Goodreads?

No, nothing like that at all. We writers are each our very own…

The Short Of It

Three strategies to liven up you short story concept and get you past writer’s block

Photo by Denny Müller on Unsplash

Sometimes when you are writing a short story you just get stuck. Sometimes this is partway through the first draft. Sometimes this is trying to get a second draft up to par. It’s not writer’s block per se, but it is something in the writing that just doesn’t feel right. Like pulling teeth. Or trudging through a swamp. Or just running face-first into a brick wall.

Have you ever had this happen to you?

If you have, I promise not all is lost for your story. Here are some hacks to consider to get your story unstuck.

Switch point of view

This hack comes…

Making characters “go out of character” while still being “in character”

Photo by Nicolas Thomas on Unsplash

In 2018, I was sitting in the audience of a literary panel for “Writing Characters with Agency” at Balticon, a science fiction and fantasy convention in Baltimore. During the panel, one of the audience members asked for writing advice on how to keep characters internally consistent when making them do something essentially “out of character” using an example of a lawful good character doing a bad thing. While the panelist shared many a insight, this question got my brain turning and coming up with answers that were not brought up at the time.

So how you keep a character “in-character”…

The Short of It

How to use the most polarizing point of view in your fiction

Photo by Ben Robbins on Unsplash

Using second person point of view in fiction is unconventional, polarizing, and sometimes just the creative push you need. While there are some second-person novels out there, second person is often a better fit for short stories where readers are more likely to commit to going along with out-of-the-box storytelling techniques.

What it is

First person point of view: I said.

Third person point of view: she said.

Second person point of view: you said.

Second person is when the narrator/protagonist of the story is telling the story through “you” statements. …

How skipping the hard parts and the little details can keep you in your writing flow

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

“Skipping” is something I have naturally applied to my writing life: Skipping the harder parts in favor of the easier parts to write at any given moment and then cycling back to fill in the blanks. Whether fiction or nonfiction, it helps me write faster.

Looking back, I’ve always been a strategic skipper. On high school history tests, I would jump through and do the easy questions and the ones I was sure of first before cycling back through to hit the ones that would require more brainpower. It was a tactic that served me well once I got to…

The Short Of It

Practical tips for streamlining the submission process

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

Submitting short stories to literary magazines for publication consideration isn’t exactly a grueling process, but it isn’t fun. No great creative energies are going into it. It’s more like filling out paperwork than creative writing. And sometimes it can get pretty intimidating to offer up our little stories to the editors, hoping they like us.

In all that mess, what are some good strategies for cutting through the boring, cutting through the anxiety, and getting some results… Well, I’ve come up with a few helpful ones after submitting short stories for over a decade.

Aim for rejections

Several years ago, this piece about…

Book lovers, we’ve got to shelf the snobbery

Photo by Vladimir Mokry on Unsplash

Every book lover, book nerd, bookworm, or whatever term you use to brand yourself and your obsession with the written words and the codex has some strong opinions on books. Which books are good, how they should be treated, how they should be arranged on shelves and many, many more. And it’s okay to have your preferences. It’s okay to have your opinions. But some opinions have gotten so loud on the shared space we call the internet that they have become pretentious and give cause for others to give the book lover community a hard side-eye.

So while I’m…

The Short Of It

Save yourself the tuition and read this article instead

Photo by Leon Wu on Unsplash

How does the joke go? Who’s got two thumbs and an undergraduate degree in creative writing? This gal!

So you do not have to spend [amount redacted]and four years of your life doing the same, here are the biggest lessons I learned about writing effective short stories from my time sweating bullets in workshop classes (that harrowing thing where everyone critiques your story to shreds as you sit there and just take it) and listening to too many guys play The Wall on acoustic guitar (a college freshman rite of passage for many, I’m sure)…

You’re starting your story too soon

One common occurrence in my…

So I have a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing…

Photo by MD Duran on Unsplash

Guess who’s the poster child for a millennial who got a “useless” humanities degree and then graduated into an economic depression only to be underemployed for the next several years that followed?

Did you guess me? Because the answer is me.

Here I am saying it against all the naysayers and Facebook memes and the talking heads on cable news and all those complaining that I’m ruined because of all the participation trophies that I supposedly got (that I never actually got)… I took on student debt to get an undergraduate degree in creative writing and I don’t regret it.

Back it up…

The Short of It

The words you need to know and what they mean for beginners

Photo by Edurne Chopeitia on Unsplash

Ever scratch your head while reading submission guidelines? Admittingly, many literary magazines/markets do take time to clarify what they mean and what they expect from submissions even when dropping commonly used terminology. But sometimes they don’t. And sometimes even as you start to get them, they get mixed up in your head.

So I present for you here a primer covering some of the common jargon of the short story (and other creative writings) submission world.

Simultaneous submission versus multiple submission

On the surface, these terms seem like they could be alike in meaning. Simultaneous and multiple are hardly synonyms, but they are similar enough…

Margery Bayne

Margery is a librarian by day and a writer by night; a published short story author and an aspiring novelist. Find more at or @themargerybayne.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store