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The Wicked Writing Blog

Welcome to the home of writing award ideas and practical advice for story contest success. Fun and sheer tomfoolery are never far away. Feel free to add your comments. (To comment on a post, or see the comments there, simply click on its title.)

 

How To Get Your Story PUBLISHED - Advice From A Contest Pro

November 22, 2014

Ever tried to win a story contest or even get your stories published? Of course, you have. And you've cried, ‘My work is good!’ (It probably is.)
‘So why aren’t I published more often?’ Chris Fielden runs one of the world’s biggest story contest directories. In this guest post, he reveals precisely how to win a major competition or sell your stories. And the answer may be simpler than you think!

Notice my use of capital letters in the title? I used them for good reason.

Many writers spend hours writing and editing stories: masterpieces, infused with magical words and imagination. Then they let their mum read them and wonder why they’re not famous.

OK, I’m exaggerating to make a point. (And, honestly, I mean no offence to mums.) But, my point is?

To be successful, it’s no good writing for the closet. For yourself alone, your family or your friends. To see your words published, you need to spend as much time and effort marketing your stories as you do writing them.

Write with a market in mind and your success rate will soar.

How do I know? Because I’ve done it. And it works.

The first step is called market research. It sounds daunting but it’s fun. Simply visit a competition website and read any stories they’ve published that have previously won. Or buy back-issues of magazines or short story anthologies and read them.

Not only is it fun, you can also absorb a lot of writing ideas. Above all, you’ll see at once how to win a prize or get your story published.

Many magazines and competitions offer detailed submission guidelines. Read them. Learn from them. Then tailor your story submissions to their needs.

First, have fun…


Then ask yourself these questions:
  • Which stories do I like best? 
  • Why?
  • Is there a clever idea here that inspires me?
  • Can I use any of the writers’ story telling techniques to enhance my own work?
I’m not suggesting you plagiarize anyone else’s stories. I’m simply pointing out that other writers’ work can be an amazing source of inspiration. Their ideas can make your work more publishable.

… then learn

Remember, you’re also reading to learn about an editor’s or judge’s taste – to discover more about the market you intend to submit to, so you’ll stand a better chance of having a submission accepted and published. Again, analyse and ask questions:
  • What kinds of story do the editors or judges publish?
  • Is there a style they seem to prefer?
  • Do they favour a certain type of ending?
  • Do they favour a certain type of plot or dialogue style?
  • How many characters are in the stories they publish?
  • Do the published stories have interesting titles?
  • Is there a genre they seem to prefer? And can you write in that genre?
  • Does your writing style fit with the publication? If not, can you tweak it so it does?
If you research in this manner and then write a story with a specific contest or publication in mind, your story is more likely to succeed.

Here’s the proof…

Before I submitted my story, The Ninja Zombie Knitting Circle, to the Writers’ Village competition, I did my research. I read the previous winning stories. You can do this for free. They’re all published on this very website.

I discovered that John, the judge, a fine gent who runs this blog (you might be familiar with him…) likes humorous, quirky tales. Well, he likes many kinds of story but he’s not adverse to wit and whimsy.

That suited me as I often write stories in this style. The winning stories at Writers’ Village have strong, satisfying endings. In fact, they are strong throughout. All make good use of dialogue. All have engaging plots that keep a reader hooked.

With this in mind I wrote and submitted a story.

John rejected it.

Ah, this puts things into perspective, doesn’t it?

I didn’t
succeed on the first attempt.

But I d
idn’t give up. I took John’s constructive criticism on board and edited the story, changing the end substantially. I submitted the new version of the story to Writers’ Forum who published it. I then wrote another story for Writers’ Village.

This story was successful and John published it.

Boom.

I succeeded because I did some initial market research and wrote with a specific contest or publication in mind.

It works.

Try it.

If you don’t succeed first time, learn from the experience and try again.

Eventually, you will be published.
Hint: you can win a top prize of $1600 (£1000) in the current round of the Writers' Village contest. See its Home page here. Follow my advice and you might well win!
You can undertake market research after writing a story, as well

Inspiration doesn’t always obey the rules. Sometimes, it occurs so suddenly that you just have to write and forget about research and publishers and all the things I’ve mentioned.

It happens to me. If I’m inspired, I need to write. There and then. This means a story might be completed and I have no idea where to submit it.

In this situation, all you need do is undertake your market research in exactly the same way as before, but after the story is written. If you find a market that might work – you guessed it – you edit and tweak your story to give it the best chance of publication.

It’s all common sense, but sometimes one needs to be reminded of what is common and sensible.

As you become more experienced and have stories published, you’ll learn what different markets look for and will be able to write for them naturally. So from the moment when inspiration strikes, you’ll have a better chance of seeing your finished story in print.

It’s a cliché but… practice does make perfect.

Never give up

Do what it says on the tin: persist. Just because one competition judge or magazine editor rejects your work, does not mean another won’t love it and publish it.
  • Learn to deal with rejection.
  • Grow skin thicker than a rhino.
  • Listen to any feedback a competition judge or editor gives you.
  • Use constructive criticism to learn. Then edit and improve your stories.
  • Submit again.
Ad infinitum.

Once you’ve had a story published, keep promoting it

Once your story is published, it doesn’t end there. You need to share the fact that it’s been published. You need to market it. How do you do this?
  • On your blog / website
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Google Plus
  • Every other form of social media
  • Email marketing (You do have your own email list, don’t you? If not, start one at once. AWeber or MailChimp will show you how.)
  • Through friends and family
  • Through any industry contacts you might have
  • Your local press (online and offline). They might be interested in running a feature.
Why should you do all this marketing?

It benefits both you and the publication that has used your story. They’re likely to notice any promotion you’ve undertaken, especially if you tell them about it. They’ll appreciate it – it widens their audience and gains exposure for their brand. It does the same for you as a writer. When they see that you’re proactive they are more likely to consider publishing your work in the future.

Everyone wins.

Let’s use local press as an example. They want news. If you’ve done something newsworthy, like having been published through a major international competition like Writers’ Village, and won a prize, they’ll welcome hearing about it.

This very blog post is an example. I approached John and asked if he’d be interested in me doing a post for him. He said yes. Now Writers’ Village readers will know about me. And my readers will know about Writers’ Village. They might read that story I linked to further up the post. (You did see it, didn’t you?) They might also click on the link below to my website. They might read a story or two there as well…

And everyone wins…

So what’s the moral of my post? Split your time equally between writing and marketing (research and promotion) and you’re much more likely to see your stories published.

If you found this post interesting, there is a lot more tested advice on how to succeed with your stories at my website, christopherfielden.com. It’s free and it works!

Do you find it a challenge getting your stories published? Maybe there's a problem with your plot. Post a short (50 words max.) synopsis of your plot here, as a comment, and Chris or I will give you some feedback on it. All comments get a fast, helpful response.


Chris Fielden
lives in Bristol, UK with his cat and Harley Davidson FLSTFi Fatboy motorcycle. His short stories have been published through a variety of competitions and magazines including InkTears, Scribble, Word Hut, Writers’ Forum and Writers’ Village.

He is addicted to writing stories, riding motorcycles and playing drums in rock bands. You can read some of Chris’s published stories on his website, where he uses them as case studies to help other writers achieve publication.
 

A Clever New Way To Bring Your Characters Alive

November 7, 2014

Here’s a powerful - and clever - way to bring your characters alive, as flesh and blood creatures. It's 'new' in the sense that few authors seem to have heard of it. Sure, we can characterize our people as unique by the different ways they think and speak. Every author does that. But is there a better approach? One that gives our characters a wondrous depth?

Yes! says author Josh Bertetta. It’s called ‘narrative voice’. And here’s how you can use it.


As writers we want to tell ...

Continue reading...
 

How To Make Great Money In Freelance Writing - 3 Surefire Ways

October 31, 2014

Do you love the idea of making a cool 4- or 5-figure income from home? But you hate the fact that it all seems so hard. What's the secret? Pooja Lohana is a successful freelancer and now she teaches other writers, step by step, how to make a major income - doing what they love and do best. Writing! In this guest post, she shows us three proven ways to take the first step towards our dream.

Admit it.

The thought of becoming a freelance writer has crossed your mind many times.
In fact, you...

Continue reading...
 

Ten Ways To Find A Great Writing Community On The Web

October 24, 2014

You’re a solo writer and it’s a lonely life, isn’t it? Can social networks help? Could online groups and communities help you share ideas and sell your books? How do today's writers, especially those newly published or pursuing publication, benefit from building communities of virtual friends? Author Sally Ember, Ed.D, is an avid user of social media and gives us ten proven tips for getting the best out of online groups.

There are now thousands of online communities a writer can j...

Continue reading...
 

Six Fast Ways To Sharpen Your Stories

October 17, 2014

Have you ever been reading a novel when suddenly the author drops in a slab of background or technical information? And it knocks you right out of the story? Or maybe he/she tries to sneak in some info via dialogue, only it's really a monologue in disguise and… a character lectures us for half a page?

How can you fix that? Ace copy editor Jodie Renner reveals six fast ways we can sharpen our stories - while still dropping in all the information that the reader really needs.


Modern ficti...

Continue reading...
 

Writers' Block? How To Turn It Into Story Gold!

October 10, 2014

Remember writer’s block? It afflicts every story writer sooner or later. Or does it? Not if we learn this simple way to bypass it entirely - using a faculty we all have but rarely use. Memory expert Anthony Metivier shows us how to make that wretched ‘blank page’ syndrome a thing of the past - and craft stories that almost write themselves.

What? You still believe in Writer's Block?

Well, okay …

It's understandable. Anything spelled with capital letters must be true. Except ...

When it...

Continue reading...
 

How To Power Your Life And Achieve Your Goals - By Writing Stories

October 3, 2014

When we write a story or novel, we're writing about ourselves. Aren't we? However well we disguise our fiction. But how can we use that fact to change our lives, and for the better? In this provocative guest post, novelist and writing coach Cathy Yardley suggests that our story is the journey of our own life. And as we travel through our fiction, we can enhance our life as well.


The heart of every character-driven novel is its protagonist - that one person who drives the story. As writer...

Continue reading...
 
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John Yeoman

Dr John Yeoman, MA Oxon, MPhil, PhD Creative Writing, FSRS*  is a UK university tutor in the short story. He has 42 years experience as a successful commercial writer, newspaper editor and one-time chairman of a major PR consultancy.

He has published innumerable works of humour, some intended to be humorous.

* Founder, the Society for the Rehabilitation of the Semi-colon