Don't Worry, Be Happy, AND WRITE!Written by Jeff Colburn
How long should my story be? Who should I send it to? What do I put in cover letter?I don't have any credits, what now? Do these questions go through your mind as you sit down to write a story? If so, then read on. As former Grand Poobah of Science Fiction Forum at Inkspot, I dealt with many new, and not so new, writers. The questions they asked have revealed a common thread among them, fear. If you're one of these writers, let me give you a word of advice. Relax!
First of all, don't concern yourself about submission guidelines, story length, chapter length, precise genre typing of your story and all other technical stuff. Especially if you haven't even started writing your story. Until your story is finished, these questions, and other related topics, are basically irrelevant. Just write your story. Stories take on a life of their own and create their own length and flow.
After writing, edit without mercy. Make each word count. Be sure your scenes and characters are clear, alive and interesting. Include at least one conflict, and have that conflict resolved by end of story.
When your story is done, that's when you research markets and follow their guidelines. Even guidelines have some flexibility. Word count can be a "little" above or below what they say. If your word count is well above what they state, query publication to see if they ever serialize stories. After your research is done, mail off your manuscript and forget about it. Focus on new story your working on. You're working on a new story aren't you?
If your story is rejected, just file rejection letter, or throw it away, and submit manuscript to next publication on your list. Don't take rejection personally, because it's not. There are more reasons for rejection than I can count. The publication is full, a story like yours was just published or will soon be published, for some personal reason publisher didn't like it, your name is similar to name of someone publisher doesn't like, he read a story like yours a year ago and didn't like it and so on. But don't let this discourage you. If your story is good, and you know it is, it will be published. Your job as a writer is not to sweat details, but to write and get published. Stay focused on story, and don't confuse writing with research you must do to be published.
So focus on joy of writing, do job of submitting and have fun.
Following are some common questions, and their answers.
Q: What font should I use? A: Use Times New Roman set at 12 point.
Q: How long should a manuscript be? A: This varies according to each publisher, but here is a pretty accurate guideline. Short story - up to 7,000 words Novelette or Novella - 7,000 to 15,000 words Novel - over 15,000 words Graphic novel - 40 or more pages Book outline - 5 to 15 double spaced pages
Ah, Come On Baby, Stop Teasing, Show Me, Show Me, Show Me (Show, Don't Tell)Written by Jeff Colburn
It's been a hard day. You settle into your most comfortable chair with book you just bought. All you want to do is get lost in a good story for awhile. You open book and begin to read. Which of following would let you know that you're really holding a book that you can get lost in?
"Jack was nervous as he entered boardroom."
"Jack entered boardroom. He felt knot in his stomach tighten as thirty five sets of eyes stared at him. A downpour of sweat soaked his armpits, and shirt. Trickles of sweat even rolled down his back. He was glad to have on his heavy dark jacket. The chairman cleared his throat disapprovingly. Jack's mouth went so dry it felt like he hadn't swallowed in years. When he glanced at chairman, his stomach rumbled. Jack prayed he wouldn't need to make a mad dash to bathroom.
In first example, author expects reader to do all work, while in second, he has done his job as a writer. He has described scene with enough detail so that reader can feel man's discomfort, in all of its nasty aspects.
Telling a scene in a story instead of showing is one of most common mistakes that new, and not so new, writers make.
There are two techniques I use to insure that I show and don't tell. First, I imagine that I am explaining something to someone from Mars, who has not experienced anything on Earth. The next thing I do is ask myself what senses are involved. If reader were in scene, what would he or she see, hear, smell, taste and feel?