How to Write Short Stories

51tt3quw5zlHow to Write Short Stories and Use Them to Further Your Writing Career (Kindle Edition) by James Scott Bell. Published by Compendium Press in 2016.

In high school and college I enjoyed reading short stories immensely. I still do. I like taking on projects that I can complete in a short time, and then move on to the next. Maybe that’s why I enjoy short stories and shorter books like YAs and MGs. I’ve always had difficulty getting through great literary works of 500, 600, 800 pages.

So, as a writer I’ve wanted to try writing short stories. One BIG problem, though. I’ve been unable to get a handle on what exactly IS a short story? What is its structure? Other than its length, why is it a short story?

So, I couldn’t resist buying and plunging into James Scott Bell’s short book How to Write Short Stories… Again, I read most of it—the first seven chapters—in one sitting. The last five chapters are famous and successful short stories. I enjoyed reading them. But they also helped cement for me Bell’s definition and explanation in the first seven chapters.

The goal of this book is to “give you a key that will make it easier for you” to successfully write short stories. Bell emphasizes that this will can accomplish two things: 1. Stretch your writing muscles and build endurance (like wind sprints) to improve everything you write. 2. Provide quick sources of small income and get you needed exposure for your longer works.

Bell reviews the history of the short story and discusses some of America’s most famous story-tellers in this genre. He also devotes two chapters to publishing for Kindle readers and maximizing your marketing efforts with short stories.

Bell succinctly gives the distinctives of successful short stories—what separates them from other literature. He discusses length and structure, and that little something that makes short stories pack a wallop. BINGO! That is what I wanted to know.

I highly recommend How to Write Short Stories and Use Them to Further Your Writing Career. I bought my Kindle copy at Amazon. It’s available at other online book providers, too.

Picture Books the Write Way

41mlw2twmol-_sx331_bo1204203200_ A Children’s Writer Insider Guide from Mentors For Rent – Lisa Bullard and Laura Purdie Salas.

Picture Books the Write Way by Lisa Bullard and Laura Purdie Salas is one of my newest books On My Kindle Shelf. It contains about 40 pages that answer 10 questions that will strengthen my (or your) picture book manuscript.

40 pages is just the right size for me to read, chew on, and apply to a manuscript in an evening.

I’ve been writing picture book manuscripts for several years and seeing steady improvement in my skills. This little volume (Picture Books the Write Way) helped me to shore up some areas where my current manuscript was weak. One of the 10 chapters gave me a key to fixing a major problem with the same manuscript.

Picture Books the Write Way enabled me to focus on some basic areas where I was getting a little sloppy. It helped me to remember the things I’ve been learning about writing picture books.

The 10 questions answered succinctly are:

  • “Is It a Short Story Insead?”
  • “Does It Lack a Fresh Take?”
  • “Is It Too Long?”
  • “Is It Unfocused?”
  • “Will Young Kids Fail to Relate?”
  • “Is It Too Nostalgic?”
  • “Is It Too Quiet?”
  • “Are There Illustration Issues?”
  • “Is Your Meter Imperfect?”

Picture Books the Write Way also contains a useful Revision Checklist.

I highly recommend this little volume and the Mentors For Rent website. It’s more than worth the really small price tag. Mentors For Rent have several little volumes available on Kindle.

I’m getting ready to read Rhyming Picture Books the Write Way. I’ll let you know what I think.

Thanks, Lisa and Laura!mfrheader_3tm

Called To Write-Part 2

Called To Write: Biblical Truths For Bloggers and Authors

By Rev. C.M. Logan and K.M. Logan

Has it been a while since you signed a writing contract?called-to-write-logan

You know, for that incredible novel on your hard drive? Or for your adorable picture book? Maybe a magazine article? Devotional?

Me, too.

It’s not difficult to become discouraged and feel you are just wasting your time. Or maybe thinking that you must have misunderstood God’s call to write. I mean, being called to write DOES mean being published, doesn’t it?

Ready to quit?

Then you need this little FREE Kindle book.  Called To Write: Biblical Truths For Bloggers and Authors is a concentrated dose of the reality of God’s call to write and the purpose for which He calls us. A quick read that was a welcomed reminder of what-in-the-world-am-I-doing thinking I can write! And did I tell you that it is FREE?

Don’t give up. Rush over to Amazon and get the Kindle book Called To Write: Biblical Truths For Bloggers and Authors. It will remind you, inspire you and get you out of the mulligrubs, and back into rhythm with God’s call for you as a writer.

 

Called to Write-Part 1

called-to-writeCalled to Write: 7 Principles to Become a Writer on Mission

By Edna Ellison and Linda Gilden, published in 2014

Called to Write: 7 Principles to Become a Writer on Mission identifies seven key competencies required to become a writer on mission for God. Each competency is explained in its own informational chapter. Then readers are challenged in a “how to implement” section for each skill.

I found this volume to be a quick read, but I’ve been practicing writing for publication for almost thirteen years now.

 

(My goodness! Has it been THAT long?)

I think Called to Write is a great book for Christians who are fairly new to writing for publication.  Both Linda and Edna are experienced authors and writing coaches. Their advice is solid.

On My Kindle Shelf

I have more than one book shelf, you know. One is tangible—I love its ready accessibility and it’s physical beauty.

But the other—my Kindle Shelf—is so mobile and convenient that I love it, too.

Several of the books on my Kindle are for writers. I’ll chat about three of them which are by the same Christian author, Ed Cyzewski.

All three are quick reads that lead to some serious thinking.

faith-bloggerChronologically the first book is Become a Better Faith Blogger. The title pretty much sums up the purpose of this little book. Cyzewski share ten tips about becoming a better blogger while living out your faith. He offers inspiration, practical ideas and advice borrowing from ten notable people of faith who have successful blogs.

The biggest drawback of this little book is that it was copyrighted in 2012, and blogging has come a changed enormously since 2012.

 

 

The second volume is Pray, Write, Grow published in 2015. This book “offers life-giving practices that will help you grow in both prayer and writing and shows you how the two can work together…” Cyzewski’s premise is:

“If you want to improve your prayer life, try writing.pray-write-grow

If you want to improve your writing life, try praying.

The two require many of the same practices, disciplines, and virtues.”

That sounds simple. But Cyzewski’s words were provocative to me. I highlighted numerous passages that spoke to me regarding both my prayer practices (especially the practice of being silent before the LORD) and my writing practices.

 

 

contemplativeIn The Contemplative Writer Cyzewski weaves the practices of prayer, meditation and writing together. He emphasizes the calling of writing and the persistent, regular practice of writing as communication with one’s self and with God. He offers a “life preserver of sorts to writers of faith who perhaps feel like they are drowning. He defines contemplative prayer as resting in God and offers suggestions for making that happen.

This perspective was thought provoking for me. It made me mindful of using writing as a way to focus on my spiritual condition, improve my spiritual relationship to God, and use my writing as a gift of gratitude back to God.

Each book is a quick read—60 to 90 minutes—but offer plenty of things to think about for a long time.

On My Shelf Again

img_20170205_114710445_hdrThe books that belong On My Shelf have been packed in boxes and out of sight and reach for more than a month. And my “shelf” didn’t even exist. For this writer that’s kind of like trying to type or word process my words with both hands tied behind my back.

True, I can find almost any tidbit of information I want on the Internet. But, I miss my books!

I miss touching them, flipping through the pages, “accidentally” finding nuggets of gold as I scan the pages. I miss scanning their titles as they stand at attention (or, sometimes, at ease or even sound asleep!) On My Shelf. 

However, I am making progress.

Two weeks ago my NEW shelves arrived! I admired their brown cardboard containers as they acclimated to the environment of my office.

img_20170211_141226159_hdrA few days ago my son and grandson came to set those shelves free. Halelujah! Of course, the job was not without complications. What should have taken an hour to accomplish ate up three, almost four hours of their time.

But now My Shelf stands dutifully waiting to be filled.

Over the past few evenings I’ve been ripping into boxes and liberating my books. Just a few more boxes to go.

I’m an organizer. It’s in my DNA. It was joyous and satisfying last night to not only unpack my books, but to put them in the best possible order On My Shelf.

  • My Bibles (more than a few)
  • My Bible reference books and study guides
  • My books for personal and spiritual growth
  • My books about writing
  • A very short stack of anthologies that contain stories I have written (Yay!)
  • Picture books
  • Other children’s books and YAs (I love to encourage other writers by purchasing their books.)
  • A menagerie of reference books ( I know—use the Internet.)
  • Books on leadership
  • Classic fiction books and poetry
  • Notebooks from writer’s conferences and workshops I’ve attended
  • Books and notebooks for courses I have taught at church

See what I mean? I’m enamored with pages dotted with ink.

img_20170214_210822468As I read the titles it was so much like seeing old friends that I haven’t talked to in a while. Reading each title brought back some of the great things I’ve learned from those books. I remembered how those authors inspired, and continue to inspire, me. Some of these books dramatically changed my life.

Those thoughts led me to thank God for those people I’ve never met face-to-face. But I’ve met them on the pages of their books. I’ve seen inside their souls and minds. I’ve felt our kinship, or, our incompatibility sometimes.

Someday I pray that someone will step back from his or her Shelf and see my name on a few book spines. Someday I pray that someone will have similar thoughts of me and the impact my words have had on their lives.

Impact.

Encouragement.

Influence.

In a positive and godly direction.

Writer’s Market Guides

Writer’s market guides abound! They are very useful when researching periodical and book markets for your manuscripts. Their formats vary, but they all include valuable information–much more than just a list of publishers.

All include helpful indices, information about agents, articles about writing, submitting, publishing, marketing, and more. They include bios and interviews of popular authors and agents, and tips for finding the best markets for your work.

Here are a few Guides on the horizon:

 

At a cost of about $30 per book I can’t possibly afford to buy each of these books each year. And, I don’t need to. I’ve zoned in on a couple that best represent the markets I target.

I find that I can use each Guide for a couple of years because I ALWAYS make a phone call to a publisher to verify that they are still in business, that they are still accepting submissions and that the listed submissions editor is still around before I submit to them.

So, I rotate the Guides and purchase only one each year.

Peruse the collection and select one or two. Please let us know IN THE COMMENTS which Guides you plan to use. Most can be pre-ordered yearly.

Called to Write

Called to Write: Seven Principles to Become a Writer on Mission

By Edna Ellison & Linda Gilden                    Published by New Hope Publishers in 2014

Available in print and digital formats.

called-to-writeCalled to Write is written for Christians who God has called to write for Him. The text walks us through seven stages of writing in answer to God’s call.

The “Preface” gives us the heartbeat of this volume:

God loves for writers to surrender their careers to Him and let Him direct. Relinquishing control is not always an easy thing to do. We struggle with that just like every other Christian writer.

This book is not about the struggle of being a Christian writer. It is more about the blessing of following God’s call to be a writer on His team.

Though Called to Write touches on some basics of the craft of writing its emphasis is the spiritual preparation of the writer, not the manuscript.

Ellison and Gilden dig into many types of writing and projects that fit under the umbrella of writing for God. They focus on the spiritual preparation and growth of the writer, however. They state:

We write to bring honor to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That doesn’t mean that every word, article, or book we write must be a sermon. That doesn’t mean that everything we write must be evangelistic. However, it does mean that everything we write, no matter what the subject, should be written with excellence and in a way that honors our Lord.

Each chapter ends with three sections designed to help us examine ourselves.

THE MISSIONARY IN YOU asks questions about our mission and purpose as Christians.

THE WRITER IN YOU asks questions about our motives and emotions related to our writing.

A WRITER’S PRAYER invites us to pray in specific ways for God’s direction in our writing and publication, and other areas of ministry.

If God has given you a message and a call to proclaim it in writing, this book will give you both direction and encouragement in following God’s call.

Cheryl B.Klein

Last week I shared Cheryl Klein’s book Second Sight with you. Lots of meat in that one.

This past weekend I attended the SCBWI-Carolinas Conference in Charlotte, NC. I picked up Klein’s new book The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults.

I can hardly wait to dig into it. So, in a month or so I’ll be sharing details about this new book with you.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your highlighters!

 

Second Sight

Second Sight: An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revision & Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults

By Cheryl B. Klein                  Published by Asterick Books in 2011

 

second-sightI enjoy reading and studying about writing and publishing through the lens of an editor. I like getting inside their brain and understanding what they want in books, what they think is publishable and what they look for in great writing.

Second Sight: An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revision & Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults is that kind of book. I’ll describe it using Klein’s own words in her “An Explanation of This Book.”

I am a narrative nerd. I love reading stories, taking them apart and seeing how they work, then putting them back together with each iece polished and gleaming…

This book, Second Sight, is a collection of much of my thinking on these narrative and writing topics between 2003 and 2010, as expressed in talks delivered at writers’ conferences and posts on my blog and website…

The talks themselves are arranged in the order I wrote and delivered them, culminating in four interconnected lectures on point, character, plot, and voice, and the practical “Twenty-Five Revision Techniques,” which draws from all the preceding material.

The twenty sections of Second Sight cover Klein’s detailed perspective on the following:

What Makes a Good Book?

Defining Good Writing

Finding a Publisher and Falling in Love

The Annotated Query Letter from Hell

An Annotated Query Letter That Does It Right

The Rules of Engagement

Morals, Muddles, and Making It Through; or, Plots and Popularity

Manifest: A Character Chart

Theory: A Definition of Young Adult Literature

The Art of Detection

Manifest: The Plot Checklist

Four Techniques to Get at the Emotional Heart of Your Story

Words, Wisdom, Art, and Heart: Making a Picture-Book Cookie

A Few Things Writers Can Learn from Harry Potter

Quartet:        Point

Character

Manifest: A Character Creation Worksheet

Plot

Manifests: The Character-Based View of Plot, and Plot Types vs. Events

Voice

Revision Techniques

On the Author-Editor Relationship

Recommended Reading: Craft and Publishing

Index by Subject

Acknowledgements and Thanks

About the Author

In reading Klein’s  book I’m learning a great deal and reinforcing many things I’ve learned elsewhere. I’m afraid I had to buy a new yellow highlighter for this one!

You’ll be seeing quotes from Second Sight in my posts to FaceBook, Twitter and LinkedIn in the next few weeks. I hope they will be as helpful to you as they’ve been to me.

Please feel free to share this post AND my posts to FaceBook, Twitter and LinkedIn with any and all writerly types you know. THANKS!