The 2015 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, now in its 34th year, is hot off the presses, and today I’m sharing ten pieces of advice from the contributors to this year’s edition. NSSWM features articles on fiction craft, getting published, and marketing and promotion, as well as more than 400 pages of listings for novel and short story writers, including literary agents, book publishers, magazines, and contests that are interested in your work. This year’s edition also features access to an exclusive webinar from best-selling author Cheryl St.John, on exploring emotional high points in fiction.
To celebrate the release of the 2015 NSSWM, I’m giving away two copies to two lucky winners who comment in the post below! I’ll announce the winners on October 22.
10 FICTION-WRITING TIPS FROM NSSWM
1. On writing an exceptional short story:
“Outline, even if it’s the most rudimentary way. It leads to inspired deviations. … [Don’t] think too hard about ticking off [your] boxes in advance. A good story—long or short—will provide them by virtue of its being good.” —Andrew Pyper, in Jennifer D. Foster’s article “Anatomy of a Successful Short Story”
2. On writing dialogue within a scene:
“Rich dialogue can animate and drive a scene. But good dialogue doesn’t act in isolation. The point of view of the stakeholders in the matter at hand must be provocative or interesting in some way. There must be conflict—conflict important enough to make the reader care. And then, driven by this conflict, the characters must come alive, revealing their needs, desires, flaws—their basic humanity. The dialogue itself must be distinctive and original. When it’s not working, it tends to sound clunky and artificial.” —Jack Smith, “Writing Strong Scenes”
3. On finding ideas for magic realism:
“Ever since I began writing, I’ve been a collector. Not of things—shells, stamps, figurines, stuffed monkeys, autographs, etc.—but of possibilities. Odd happenings and images from around the world and in my dreams that could—and often do—make their way into my writing. While many might be considered mundane observances, paired with the right character in the right situation, I know they’ll make terrifically fantastic occurrences. —Kristin Bair O’Keeffe, “Making Magic”
4. On getting through the mid-draft slump:
“A mid-draft slump is a symptom, which calls for a diagnosis before you can effectively treat it. Believing you can write your way out of this mess, that you can rescue the middle with a strong closing act, is a seductive trap, because your reader may never make it that far. When that reader is an agent or an editor, this assumption becomes a fatal one.” —Larry Brooks, “Stuck in the Middle”
5. On developing a distinct point of view and voice:
“Practice makes perfect, and the best way to practice is by writing short stories. Flash fiction (telling a full story in 1,000 words or less) is a great training tool.” —J.T. Ellison, in Janice Gable Bashman’s interview “Capturing Readers’ Interest”
6. On Twitter “pitch parties”:
“As informal as social media can be, Brenda Drake emphasizes that writers need to treat pitch parties as professionally as any other submission. ‘Your manuscript should be completely polished. It has to have been through your beta readers and critique partners, and you should have revised it a few times,’ she says.” —Diane Shipley, “It Started With a Hashtag”
7. On what impresses literary journal editors:
“I’m impressed by a writer who takes our theme, shakes it around, and throws it back at us in a way we were not expecting. Catching us off guard with good writing is rewarding. We all know what we want, but when we come across something we didn’t expect, something that cuts in a new and exciting way, that is a great way to attract attention.” —Todd Simmons, in James Duncan’s roundtable “What Literary Journals Really Look For”
8. On how to choose a small press to submit to:
“Evaluate the content. If a small press is consistently putting out quality writing, chances are it has a solid editorial team. The amount of time it’s been in existence and its general reputation are helpful indicators, too.” —Robert Lee Brewer, “Sizing Up Small Presses”
9. On hybrid publishing:
“Diversity means survival. That’s true in agriculture. It’s true in our stock portfolios. It’s true on our dinner plates. And it’s true in publishing. Survival as a writer means embracing diversity from the beginning. And that means thinking of yourself as a “hybrid” author. … The hybrid author takes a varied approach, utilizing the traditional system of publishing and acting as an author-publisher (a term I prefer to self-publisher because it signals the dual nature of the role you now inhabit).” —Chuck Wendig, “Best of Both Worlds”
10. On organizing a virtual book tour:
“You may find it helpful to assemble an ‘online media kit,’ a section of your website where you can provide photos and other relevant information, such as a video trailer and press release, in one location. This way, you can give your hosts a single link instead of inundating them with attachments … .” —Erika Dreifus, “10 Tips for Your Virtual Book Tour”
You can find the articles these tips came from, as well as hundreds of listings for book publishers, literary agents, magazines, contests, and writing conferences, inside the 2015 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market.
Edited to add: joep613 and stateofga, you’ve each won a copy of the 2015 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market! Congrats!