Short story satisfaction

While querying my paranormal mystery manuscript, I found myself with time to over-analyze everything that could be wrong in my book. After I sent off my query letter and the requested pages, my brain battled between typos and pacing and character motivation. I wasn’t winning and end up dragging myself down into the pit of self-doubt in the worst way.

However, I wouldn’t allow myself to be alone, so I reached out to some writer friends, who’ve also been querying or on sub with their agents. They were dealing with similar emotions. We mulled together and vowed to keep writing. Unfortunately, I wasn’t ready to tackle another novel project. My brain wasn’t ready to wrap around a new investment until the other did or didn’t have any traction in the querying process. This was my mind playing tricks on me.

So, while some friends worked on a new manuscript, others took breaks, and another started to look up opportunities for short story submissions in anthologies and magazines. For these submissions, we found goals and prompts to write something fresh and different. I had no idea that’s exactly what I needed.

Yes, usually, you hear that you should be writing your next thing, but the mountain was too big for me in that moment. I needed hills to conquer.

will-swann-464805-unsplash
Photo by Will Swann on Unsplash

To me, a short story is a nice, satisfying challenge and the prompts available through submission opportunities serve me inspiration. As with any piece of writing, send it to a CP and beta readers for feedback before submission.

Yes, I agree you must keep writing, beta reading, and CPing to stay fresh and learn about the craft. There’s always room for improvement.

Keep on writing, my friends!

Difference between flash fiction and short stories?

A few options on where to submit short stories:

 

If you know of places to submit short stories and flash fiction, please comment below!

 

Don’t be a lonely writer

I spend hours writing, editing, plotting, and revising. This pattern repeats until I’m semi-satisfied to let someone read my story. A story that involves a piece of my heart.

My regular circle of friends and family don’t understand my life as a writer. They think it’s a hobby or a part-time job I don’t get paid for. They ask the gut-wrenching questions:

  • When is your book going to be published?
  • How’s the writing?
  • When can I read it?

I never have the right answer. It’s hard to explain the writing journey.

I feel alone.

nicolas-cool-113897-unsplash
Photo by Nicolas Cool on Unsplash

I write my story in a coffee shop surrounded by people. I write at home surrounded by family or pets or friends. I have Twitter and connect with other writers, some of whom I have never met in real life. I get attention and likes and comments.

All these things combined and I still feel alone in writing.

  • You’re querying, you feel rejected.
  • You’re editing, you feel confused.
  • You’re writing, you feel empty on words.

Writing is personal to me as it probably is to you. I write what’s on my heart and in my imagination. I write to tell a story that I hope to share with others one day.

I shouldn’t have to feel alone, and sometimes it’s worth the extra step to connect deeper with other writers. This past year, I felt less alone when I did the following:

  • met other writers in person in my local area for lunch or dinner or writing sessions
  • exchanged phone numbers with CPs for texting and calls
  • joined a chat group
  • read more books
  • listened to Podcasts about writing and books
  • exchanged DMs with other writers
  • offered to read other writers’ work to give feedback
  • celebrated the success of other writers

For me, it’s nice to feel less alone when you find others going through the same or similar journey as you. It’s nice to be connected and have conversations. The writing journey has highs and lows. More lows, than highs, in my opinion.

We need to commiserate together.

Don’t let yourself be alone.

 

My Layered Writing Technique

We all have our own version of writing and editing. I tend to write and edit in layers, simply termed the layering technique. My work schedule forces me to limit my writing and editing time to nights and weekends and/or holidays. I have to be intentional with my time. For this reason, I trained myself to write in layers and lists.

I write a skeleton draft, layer up, then make lists of what else I need to do, change, and edit. In many ways, I will pants my skeleton and plot my flesh. Basically, I know WHAT I want to write and the premise of the story, but in order to build it up with depth and twists and details, I will need to better organize the structure.

christa-dodoo-485704-unsplash
Photo by Christa Dodoo on Unsplash

Here’s my step-by-step method:

Step 1: When I draft, I write a skeleton draft, just to get the entire story out of my head. Sometimes I know the beginning and the end, but not the middle. And at all times, I’m drafting with chunky holes. I try not to linger around these holes for too long because it will bog me down in my drafting. Instead, my drafts will have bolded reminders such as:

  • DIALOGUE – CHARACTERS TALK ABOUT SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT
  • SETTING – DESCRIBE WHATS AROUND
  • ACTION – SOMEONE DIES HERE
  • FAILURE – CHARACTER DOES SOMETHING TO MESS UP
  • HOOK – FIGURE OUT A BETTER CHAPTER HOOK
  • GROWTH – CHARACTER CHANGES SOMEHOW
  • SENSES – DESCRIBE ONE OR MORE OF 5 SENSES
  • MORE – NEED MORE HERE DUNNO WHAT

I try to be nice, but sometimes I scold myself in my own edits and comments. It’s okay, I usually forgive myself later when I get the writing the way I want it.

Step 2: I create a spreadsheet outline per chapter and organize major scenes on notecards. This is my version of plotting. I have combined the story structure with the character growth arc along with the chapter by chapter plot points. I am a big picture sort of person and need to see everything in one place. You can download a template of my spreadsheet and maybe you will find it helpful in your writing process. Manuscript Chapter Outline Template.

Here are some helpful resources for the character’s journey and the plot structure:

Hero’s Journey

Writers Helping Writers Printable Writing Tools

Step 3: Next, I will do another drafting pass to fill in the holes and expand the setting, the atmosphere, the characters, etc. My goal is to get rid of those bolded holes I listed in Step 1.

Step 4: Send to a Critique Partner and take a break. I spend this time away from the story. Maybe I jot down notes here and there, but mostly, I want another set of eyes in the early stages to help me with the direction of my story.

Step 5: Once I hear back from my CP, there’s more revisions, structuring, and eliminating crutch/filter words. Here’s a list of typical Crutch Words.

Step 6: I send out my story to a first round of beta readers and repeat Step 5, then repeat Step 6, before moving on to the querying stage.

Honestly, I never feel like my manuscript is done and I can always improve my story, edit more, and change things. You have to be open to change.

Good luck with your writing and editing endeavors!

Quick note: I write in Google Docs and have not tried Scrivener.

My #PitchWars #BoostMyBio 2018

Is it #PitchWars time again?

I’m Jacy and this may be the third time I’m entering Pitch Wars. If I do, it will be with a brand new manuscript. In 2015 and in 2016, I submitted my YA portal fantasy and didn’t get in either year. It was a bummer and I wallowed. But honestly, that manuscript was the best learning experience I’ll never regret. If you want to read about why I shelved that story, check out my post about it here.

During the time I queried that story in 2017 and early 2018, I wrote something totally different.

 

An adult Southern gothic mystery with paranormal elements.

Here are the story highlights:

  • A haunted plantation home.
  • An amateur sleuth.
  • Spooky gardens.
  • Ghostly nightmares.
  • All taking place in a small town in coastal South Carolina.

 

WHY AM I SUBMITTING?: If I submit, I’m hoping to find a mentor or mentors who can help take my mystery story to the next level with whatever it needs. I’ve been through multiple drafts with my CP and several beta readers.

MY WRITING/EDITING STYLE: I used to be a pantser (I still have tendencies), but discovered that when writing a mystery with subplots, clues, and red herrings, you really need to outline. After that, the story flowed out of me. A trusted CP is a necessary part of my process and now I’ve found that beta readers are super valuable. I write a semi-edited draft (I can’t help but edit along the way) and then add more layers and remove the filters. I’m open to new ideas and feedback to strengthen a story without losing its overall soul.

ABOUT ME: I love thrift stores, coffee shops, amusement parks, spooky places, audiobooks, podcasts, and cheese. I also have a love for snarky humor.

I love Deadpool and anything Ryan Reynolds.

I have a full time job as a sustainability program manager. I’m married with two kids and an overly social cat.

Actual footage of me writing.

You can find snapshots of my life on Instagram. Feel free to connect with me on Twitter too and interact, so I follow back! Good luck to all and I look forward to meeting new writer friends!

Podcasts on Writing, Publishing, & More

There are so many excellent podcasts about writing and publishing out there, I wanted to post a list. Podcasts are another way to learn, to connect, to get inspired.  If you know of one, let me know and I can add it to my list here! (The descriptions are straight from iTunes.)

88 Cups of Tea – We release weekly interviews with awesome storytellers ranging from novelists to screenwriters to TV producers. Topics cover how-to’s, writing advice, craft tips for writers, career nuggets, and the highs and lows of being a storyteller. We are a safe space for listeners to absorb information and learn in a way that’ll shake up their creative routine. Our community welcomes each storyteller and writer and aims to make them feel less alone. 88 Cups of Tea on iTunes.

Hey YA – From great new books to favorite classic reads, from news to the latest in on-screen adaptations, Hey YA is here to elevate the exciting world of young adult lit. Hey YA on iTunes.

Literaticast – A literary agent and her friends dish about writing and publishing books for children and young adults. Literaticast on iTunes.

The Manuscript Academy – The Manuscript Academy brings you conversations with agents, editors, and writers who can help you on your publishing journey. The Manuscript Academy on iTunes.

Print Run Podcast – Print Run is a podcast created and hosted by Laura Zats and Erik Hane. Its aim is simple: to have the conversations surrounding the book and writing industries that too often are glossed over by conventional wisdom, institutional optimism, and false seriousness. We’re book people, and we want to examine the questions that lie at the heart of that life: why do books, specifically, matter? In a digital world, what cultural ground does book publishing still occupy? Print Run Podcast on iTunes.

PubCrawl – Authors & publishing pros blogging about all things reading, writing, books, and booze. Reading You Under The Table Since 2012. PubCrawl on iTunes.

Shipping & Handling – Join Bridget Smith of Dunham Literary Inc. and Jennifer Udden of Barry Goldblatt Literary LLC as we discuss books, publishing, writing, fandom, and more! Shipping & Handling on iTunes.

Write or Die – Often times in publishing we only hear about the quick sales and overnight successes – but for most of us, publishing is hard AF! So I’m sharing those stories – the real, gritty, pull your hair out because it’s been years – stories of writers who didn’t give up despite it all, and are now living out their dream. The perfect podcast for writers and creatives in need of inspiration, laughs and camaraderie! Hosted by author Claribel Ortega. Write or Die on iTunes.

Writing Excuses – Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, and Daniel Wells discuss writing techniques in a fast-paced, 15-minute format. Writing Excuses on iTunes.