Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Story fifty-two

I finished writing my 52nd short story of the year earlier this evening and it's already been mailed to an editor. It's a 3,400-word confession that features a bet and a kiss at midnight New Year's Eve.

I wrote the first 500 or so words on July 24, 2007, and wrote the rest of it this week.

Monday, September 28, 2009


My story "Under Watchful Eyes" is the lead story in the November True Confessions.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Story fifty-one

I finished writing my 51st short story of the year yesterday evening and this afternoon I proofread it one last time. I'm printing it now and it'll go into the mail tomorrow.

This time it's a 4,300-word confession that starts a few minutes before midnight on New Year's Eve. I began writing this story on July 22, 2006, but had only completed the opening few hundred words because all I had was the opening scene. I wrote most of the rest of the story this week.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Organizing for anthology success

I track a few dozen print and electronic newsletters, periodicals, and web sites, constantly scouting for new markets. I regularly find guidelines for anthologies with open submissions policies--guidelines that may only appear one time in one newsletter, or may only be posted for a few days on a single web site. At first, I printed every guideline and I soon found my desk littered with paper. When rooting through the mess, I would often rediscover anthology guidelines months after the submission deadlines had passed. I tried bookmarking every site containing anthology guidelines, but soon found my browser yards deep in bookmarked sites and again missed important deadlines.

A binder, a highlighter, and a three-hole punch finally rescued me from disorganized data overload. Each time I discover guidelines for an anthology to which I think I would like to submit, I print the guidelines and immediately highlight the submission deadline. Then I three-hole punch the guidelines and place them in my binder. Guidelines are organized chronologically by submission deadline so that each time I open the binder, the first thing I see is the anthology with the nearest deadline.

When I’m between assignments, I open the binder to see which anthologies have deadlines forthcoming, then attempt to revise work-in-progress or create new work which meets the anthologies’ requirements. While I haven’t managed to write something for every anthology that appeals to me, my success rate has improved significantly. Since adopting this method of tracking anthology guidelines and deadlines, I’ve placed stories in three anthologies, have been rejected by two anthologies, and have stories awaiting a decision at two others. I also completed two additional stories too late for their intended anthologies and am floating them around to other markets.

Had I not adopted this method, there are at least nine stories I probably would not have written and three acceptances I definitely would not have received.

And my desk is much, much neater.

"Organizing for Anthology Success" was originally published in Gila Queen's Guide to Markets, May, 2007. I still have the binder open on the desk beside me and I've placed many more stories in anthologies because of it.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Story fifty

I finished writing my 50th short story of the year a few minutes ago. The final draft is printing as I type.

This is a 2,000-word vampire story, written in response to an anthology's open call that I saw mid-summer. I began work on the story on July 22 and have been niggling at it ever since. I worry that the story is too short, based on the parameters in the call for submissions, but I can't see any way to lengthen the story without resorting to fluff-and-fill. So, out it goes. Fingers crossed. Hope for the best.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Guest blogging

I'm the guest blogger tomorrow at Sleuths' Ink. I'll be providing tips on becoming a short story writer and maintaining a long-term career as a short story writer. Then I'll be popping in throughout the day to respond to follow-up questions.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Story forty-nine

I just finished and submitted by 49th short story of the year. This one is a 3,200-word bit of crime fiction featuring a soft-hearted debt collector for a bookie/loan shark.

After seeing an anthology's call for submissions, I knew my protagonist, and back on August 10 I made a few notes about him. I didn't have a plot until earlier this week when it came to me in a rush. Most of the time working on the story since then has been spent getting all the pieces to fit together just right.

Friday, September 18, 2009

On site it must be right

On the WWWriters Yahoo Group, a short story writer asked if she should list her sales to confession magazines on her yet-to-be-created Web site. Another writer--a romance novelist--responded that she has a Web site for readers to visit and wondered "how often will a reader of a confession story need to find out more about the author?"

My response:

A confession reader may not care about the authors of the stories they read, but a writers' Web site can do much more than connect with readers. It can, among other things, serve as a connection to editors and other potential clients.

I list my confessions on my Web site (with nearly 200 confessions to my name I've been dubbed the "King of Confessions"), and that information--in addition to the other information presented on my site--has helped me obtain speaking engagements and copywriting assignments, gigs that than earn me more income than I earn when a confession reader buys a magazine containing one of my stories.

When developing a Web site, first determine your intended audience. Then decide what your site should include to help you reach that audience.

22 and why I love Christmas

I received my 22nd acceptance of the year in today's mail, this time for a Christmas romance I submitted September 9. Unless I've miscounted, this is the fourth Christmas story I've sold this year and the fifth story scheduled for publication in December.

If it isn't obvious, I like Christmas. I write Christmas stories every year. Several Christmas stories. In several genres. And I sell them. (Well, most of them. There are three still floating around out there.)

Why is Christmas so good for my writing career? Because it comes around every year, because most magazines publish end-of-year Christmas or Holiday issues, and because every editor who publishes fiction keeps at least one eye open for a good Christmas or Holiday story.

I had sold a few Christmas stories throughout the first few dozen years of my writing career, but I didn't intentionally start writing Christmas stories until I saw something SF writer James Van Pelt posted in a discussion group several years ago. He mentioned--and I'm relying on memory here, so don't take this as a literal recreation of what he said--that he was writing a Christmas story every year and that he'd been having good luck selling them.

Just one? Do you know how many magazines there are?

I stuck a note in my mental writer's calendar (that's the one that tells you it's Christmas in July and Independence Day in December) and started writing Christmas stories during the blistering days of summer. Every summer.

And started selling them.

Then I realized Christmas isn't the only holiday we celebrate every year, so I started writing and selling Valentine's Day stories and, though not with the regularity and consistency of Christmas stories, New Year's Eve, Easter, April Fool's Day, Halloween, and Thanksgiving stories. I've even written a few Mother's Day, Father's Day, and National Diabetes Month stories.

There's a holiday damn near every month. Sometimes two, or three, or a dozen.

So I write stories tied to holidays and significant annual events.

And sell them.

If you're a writer, go forth and do likewise.

But stay away from Christmas.

That's MY holiday.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Where to submit?

A member of the Short Mystery Fiction Society recently asked the group how experienced writers decide where to submit their stories. I suggested the following:

You can approach this in one of two ways:

1) Write the story and then try to find a market.
2) Study a market and then try to write a story for it.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach. If you write the story first, you may write a great story but find that it does not fit any publication's current needs. If you study a publication first, you may write a story so specific to that publication's requirements that it has little hope of selling anywhere else.

If you've read any of the mysteries in Woman's World, you'll know what I mean. WW has unique story needs. The likelihood of sitting down and writing a story for Woman's World without ever studying the magazine is highly unlikely. On the other hand, any story you write to WW's requirements is highly unlikely to sell anywhere else (at least, not without significant revision).

I take a combined approach. I study markets so that I have markets in mind while I write. While the basic story might not change, details within the story might be different depending on the market(s) I think I want to submit to. Do I put the violence on-stage or off-stage? Is there a sexual element and is it hinted at or blatant? Do I use obscenities or do I clean up the language? Do I stretch out scenes to add to the word count or do I tighten them to cut the word count?

Does this approach work? I’ve sold more than 800 short stories, and I’ve had one or more short stories published every month for the past 74 consecutive months. So, yeah, it works pretty good.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Flash fiction

Yesterday Carol Kilgore discussed repetitious sentence construction in her blog post "Wake Up Your Writing" at Earlier today I replied with an example and then realized I'd unintentionally written a bit of flash fiction.

Here it is:

She went to the store. She bought eggs. She bought rat poison. She went home. She prepared her husband's breakfast.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Guest Blogger

Last month I was invited to be a guest blogger at the group blog of a writers' group in Missouri. I just finished and submitted a 700-word post and am waiting to hear if it's what they wanted. If not, I'll post it here and write something else for them.

19, 20, 21

Some days are better than others--much, much better. Today I received my 19th, 20th, and 21st acceptances of the year.

True Love accepted two stories--a light-hearted Christmas romance I submitted on September 4 and a romance about a single mother who thinks she's fallen for a man already involved with someone else that I submitted on August 13--and True Experience accepted a Christmas confession--no romance involved--that I submitted on July 19.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bonus year

Three days ago I celebrated my 52nd birthday.

Today I celebrate the end of my first bonus year.

One year ago today I had a quadruple bypass. Since then my life has changed in significant ways, and yet it hasn't changed at all. I'm the same person, doing the same things, in--mostly--the same ways. But I do everything now with a sense of my own mortality that I didn't have before.

No great epiphanies here, just the observations of a guy who spends too much time sitting on his ass writing and not enough time exercising.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Story forty-eight

I just submitted my 48th short story of the year. This one's a 2,900-word romance/confession that takes place on New Year's Eve and the following two days.

I don't know when I started writing this story because my records are incomplete, but I had the first three pages already written and waiting for me when I picked it up again on September 6.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Story forty-seven

I just packaged my 47th short story of the year and will mail it the next time I leave the house. It's a 5,000-word Christmas romance. I started writing the story on July 19, 2007, and had about half of it completed before I picked it up again yesterday.

I seem to be on a roll with Christmas stories, but the window of opportunity for submitting them this year is rapidly closing. I have about a week remaining for manuscripts that have to be mailed and about two weeks remaining for manuscripts that can be e-mailed.

Saturday, September 05, 2009


If one of your characters falls, where does he fall? If outside, he should fall to the ground. If inside, he should fall to the floor.

It irritates the bejesus out of me when an author and/or the author's copyeditor uses or allows the use of "ground" as a synonym for "floor." I've checked my dictionaries and my thesaurus: They aren't synonyms.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Story forty-six

I just submitted my 46th short story of the year. It's a light-hearted Christmas romance/confession that clocks in at 3,900 words. I wrote the first few hundred words of the opening scene on December 26 of last year and wrote the rest of the story this week.