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.

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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!

 

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.

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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!

I shelved a piece of my heart

I recently had to make a tough decision in my writing journey.

After spending four years writing and revising a manuscript, entering almost every writing contest with it (and not getting in), two solid rounds of cold querying, and 55+ form rejections later…I finally shelved a piece of my heart.

This was not easy.

I repeat.

This was not easy.

If you’ve been following me on Twitter for awhile, you probably have seen my pitches or even helped me critique this story along the way. My feedback was always a mixed bag and at some point, I knew where this might be headed.

But. Persistence.

My story, A FEATHER’S FORCE, is a YA portal fantasy about a girl who finds out she’s from another realm and only raised human to stay safe from a grandfather, who wants to steal her powers. Here’s a pitch from the past:

Ember can’t deal with her new siphoning ability let alone glowing tattoos crawling up her arms. But when her other superhuman friend is kidnapped for the king’s next experiment, she must embrace her true self or her friend dies. DARKEST MINDS set in sword & sorcery

I believed in this story so bad and for so long. In the last few years, I also wrote several other YA and MG stories, some of which are only outlines and unfinished.

However, knowing when to shelve a finished manuscript after years of writing, revising, and querying is one of the hardest decisions in a writer’s journey. This manuscript has been through so much and I tried so hard to keep it going. I finally made one final push in querying it December 2017 through February 2018. What did I do during the waiting period? I became a CP for a new friend, offered a book giveaway for new releases, tried to blog more, and wrote a brand new story – one that’s been in my heart and mind for years. And it’s TOTALLY different. It’s an adult mystery and I adore it!

That day I finally decided to shelve my YA portal fantasy was a day I received my 57th form rejection. I wallowed. I drank some wine. I binged television. I read a couple books.

Then I picked myself back up because PERSISTENCE! I also fell madly in love with my brand new story. So, here’s to the next leg of my writing journey and I can’t wait to see what’s around the bend!

Every leg of your journey will teach you things. Here’s some of what I’ve learned so far:

  • Timing is everything in publishing
  • Be patient. Seriously!
  • How to be a good Critique Partner for other writers
  • Wrap your arms around your close writing friends
  • The value of CPs and beta readers in your writing journey
  • NEVER GIVE UP! (but it’s okay to take a break)
  • Giving back to the writing community is important – whether you’re giving away books, critiques, or anything that’s encouraging and helping other writers succeed
  • How to craft a Twitter pitch and prepare a submission package
  • Celebrate the small stuff – whether it’s positive feedback or achieving your word count or even a shiny new story idea
  • How to pitch to agents and editors face-to-face, get excellent feedback, and requests for pages
  • How to revise – especially in removing filter words and passive voice
  • How to OUTLINE
  • How to accept rejections and learn from them

 

Story Structure: Utilizing the Hero’s Journey

A little over year ago I queried my second manuscript for the first time. After receiving rejection after rejection after rejection, I decided to reevaluate my submission package and my story itself. It got to a point where I questioned my writing, especially wondering if it was time to shelve this manuscript.

I realized I needed to go deeper in my feedback and the desire for answers drove me to hire a freelance editor for the first time. The editor did a phenomenal critique of my submission package and a full read of my manuscript. I received encouraging yet constructive notes. She pointed out that my major problem was the flow of the story. All the pieces were there, but in the wrong order! 

I spent the next ten months gutting and overhauling my manuscript. Out of her recommendation, I utilized the Hero’s Journey format. Not only did it greatly improve my story, but it boosted my characters’ motives, tension, and goals.

THE HERO’S JOURNEY is a pattern of narrative identified by the American scholar Joseph Campbell. The 12 stages are listed below and you can find details for each on the website here.

  1. The Ordinary World
  2. The Call to Adventure
  3. The Refusal of the Call
  4. Meeting with the Mentor
  5. Crossing the Threshold
  6. Tests, Allies, and Enemies
  7. Approach
  8. The Ordeal
  9. The Reward
  10. The Road Back
  11. The Resurrection
  12. Return with the Elixir

Through this process, I also learned that I wrote my story as a pantser, which means I didn’t plan anything. However, during this process, I developed a simple spreadsheet to help me track my Hero’s Journey. I have it available for your download and use here:

Chapter Plot Outline – Hero’s Journey

After having overhauled this manuscript in 2017, I pitched live for the first time that fall, sent in several requested pages, and participated in Twitter pitches. I still believe in this story and hope one day the stars will align for my publishing journey.

Also, quick shout out and thank you to Lyla Lawless and her incredible editing!