Conquering the mental game of submissions, queries, and rejections

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You submit short stories and poetry to literary magazines. You submit queries to agents. Articles to publications. Manuscripts to publishing houses. Pitches to editors. And what happens? You get rejected time and time again.

For the faint-of-heart writer, this is enough to squash some dreams. To kill motivation, inspiration, and hope that you might be able to make it as a working or even hobbyist writer.

But here’s what I’ve got to say about it: it’s time to destigmatize rejection. To stop being scared of it. To stop letting it sting. To celebrate it. Every writer gets their work rejected…


The Short of It

What you need to know to get published and protect your rights

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When it comes to publishing individual short stories in literary markets (a process I’ve described here), you are not going to have a literary agent to help you with copyright, contracts, and terms. And hiring a lawyer to go over a two-page literary magazine contract where you are getting paid twenty bucks is not going to be worth the cost. In most cases you are going to be handling these negotiations on your own. Which means you need a basic understanding of copyright and the standard language in the short story publishing market.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and…


Four truths I learned about storytelling from fanfiction

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Like many Millennials, I have spent a good deal of my teenage and college years (and, okay, still up to today!) reading internet fanfiction and first cut my creative writing teeth with fanfiction. While fanfiction often gets a bad rap for being poorly written (some is, some’s brilliant), there are a lot of lessons a storyteller can learn from fanfiction, both from the areas it is strong and the areas it is weak. And here I am to tell what I’ve learned, from both the stories themselves and the social phenomena surrounding them.

Character is king

Screenwriter Matt Bird said in his book…


The Short of It

The overused and under supported plot twist that does your story no favors

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A good twist ending to a story — whether short, novel, film, or even a campfire tale — can land a powerful punch. But a bad twist, whether cliche or coming out of nowhere, can sour an otherwise promising story.

So what is the one twist ending you should avoid? “It was all just an X.” Where in this equation X can be a dream, a hallucination, a simulation, or anything else in this Venn diagram of ideas that boil down to ‘everything that just happened didn’t actually happen.’

Cliché

Look, this ending has been done. The twist has been twisted…


These are the “hidden menu items” of your local library

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Public libraries are amazing institutions. You can check out books, use computers, and just visit and hang out, all completely for free. But many book lovers out there are not using their local libraries to their full potential.

Sometimes because they just do not know these are options. Don’t assume the state of your library is as it was when you were a child or that it matches the hushing and card catalogue clichés of the past. Public libraries have indeed kept up with the times with online and digital options.

Writing from the perspective of a United States-based library…


The Short Of It

What you need to know to start writing and publishing short fiction

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So far in my series on short fiction, I’ve gone in-depth on flash fiction and microfiction, but have never defined the larger form they are umbrellaed beneath: short stories. What they are exactly, how to write them, and what to do with them once you have.

Length

Short stories, or short fiction, are exactly what they say in the name: short fictional stories. They range in length from microfiction (the length of a tweet) to flash fiction (500–1000 words) to just short of where it turns into a novella (roughly 20,000 words). …


And how to permit yourself to be creative, experimental, and imperfect

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So much of the creative writing process is a mental game. Even if you are connected to a writer’s group or community, the writing process itself is a very solitary act. Many of the years of learning how to write and working on writing projects are done without a lot of validation. So it no surprise that certain mindsets can be *less than helpful* to writers. The good news is, if you become aware of them, you can combat the ways they may be tripping you up.

Perfectionist mindset

We all know what perfectionism is. This need to have your creative writing…


The Short Of It

Sometimes your basic first and third POV just aren’t cutting it

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The majority of short fiction, as with commercial fiction, will be written in first and third person (particularly limited/close third). Those are both very solid options for conventional storytelling and both offer a range of creative decisions within their parameters. However, one of the benefits of short stories is that there are more opportunities to experiment. (Not to say the below techniques haven’t been used in novel-length stories and very successfully before.)

So, if you’re interested in spreading your writing wings outside of the conventional first and third box or want to try telling a story from a less conventional…


Craft is king, but it takes more to build a writing career

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I will always believe that the most important thing a writer needs to focus on is building and growing their writing skills: prose and storytelling, structure and clarity, and so forth. (Whatever applies to your specific brand of writing.) However, when it comes to building a career as a writer other knowledge bases will serve you well to study: to promote yourself, to protect yourself, and to navigate the publishing world at large.

SEO

Search engine optimization. This is all about making yourself and your stuff discoverable when someone searches for a related topic on Google (or another search engine, but…


Creative writing is supposed to be *creative*

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I’m going to suppose that pretty much all of us learned how to write first and foremost through our schooling as children and young adults. The thing about the writing we learn in schools (and I’m talking from a US schooling experience; maybe yours elsewhere is different), is that it is focused on “proper” writing. We learn about grammar. We learn to diagram sentences. (A skill that I have never used anywhere but middle school.) We learn to write topic sentences and thesis statements, format a citation, and write paragraphs according to a structure. …

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 margerybayne.com or @themargerybayne.

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