Bonus: Writing Contests as Prompts – a guest post from Elise Holland

Elise Holland HeadshotToday’s bonus prompt comes from Elise Holland, writer and editor of the 2Elizabeths online literary magazine

There are so many excellent contests available to short form writers.
Sometimes the clear-cut parameter of a deadline serves as inspiration, and
many contests are genre specific, creating a built-in, detailed prompt.

In order to provide a precise prompt, I suggest looking into submitting
your work to Nowhere Magazine’s Spring 2018 Travel
Writing Contest. Beneath the prompt, you will find my tips on how to find
writing contests, and how to use each set of submission guidelines as
future prompts.

The Prompt

Until May 31, 2018, literary travel magazine Nowhere is seeking
contest submissions from young, old, novice, and veteran writers.
Specifically, they are looking for stories with a strong sense of place.

Send your fiction, nonfiction, or essay, but be certain to specify which
genre your work falls into at the top of your manuscript. Submissions
should be kept between 800 – 5,000 words in length. The contest winner will receive $1,000 and publication in Nowhere. For further details and
to submit your work, visit the magazine’s website here.

Tips

  • You can access a free database of writing contests from Poets &
    Writer’s, here. For a minimal fee, you can access additional contest databases and information for writers through Writer’s Market or
    through Duotrope.
  •  When you write for a contest, be sure to carefully read each set of
    submission guidelines. Each publication will seek different stories based
    on criteria such as genre, word count, and deadline. Use these criteria
    dutifully to hone in on your story, and to ensure that your work is
    considered by contest judges.

    • Many contests will be genre-specific. For instance, the contest for Nowhere is seeking work revolving around travel. And later this
      year 2 Elizabeths, the magazine I edit, will host its second annual Love & Romance Writing Contest. (Grab a copy of our submission guidelines, here.)
    • Use these genre-specific contests to propel you into your work. You can
      either be hyper-focused and choose to enter work only into the genre you
      write, or you can choose to enter a variety of work into different
      genre-specific contests, expanding your repertoire.
    • I’m a firm believer that limitations breed creativity. And that’s exactly
      how I would encourage you to view word count restrictions pertaining to a writing contest. It can be a fun game, squeezing an entire tale into a
      limited number of words, and it’s a fantastic exercise in the economy of
      your words.
    • As you peruse any of the aforementioned databases, consider which
      contests you might like to enter. Use these contest deadlines to help you
      build your own editorial calendar.
  • Many writing contests require participants to pay a submission fee. This
    is generally intended to cover the prize which will be paid to the
    winner(s), as well as to keep the publication running.
  • When submitting your work there are a couple of key terms to be aware of:
    simultaneous submissions and multiple submissions.

    • The term simultaneous submission means that you will be
      sending the same piece to several literary magazines or journals at the
      same time. Most publications accept simultaneous submissions, but some do not. If a publication does not accept them, this will be stated in their guidelines.
    • Should your work be selected for publication by one magazine, it is
      important to notify other publications where you have submitted that piece.
      This courtesy will prevent complications, and will keep you in good graces with various editors, should you wish to submit to them again in the future.
    • The term multiple submission means that you are submitting multiple pieces to the same literary magazine or journal. This is generally accepted, but if it’s not, that will be specified in the submission guidelines.

About Elise Holland

Elise Holland is the editor of 2 Elizabeths, a literary magazine
focused on poetry and short fiction, with an emphasis on romance and
women’s fiction. Her work has been published inWriter’s Digest Magazine, The Writer’s Dig, and at DIY MFA. Find Holland online at 2Elizabeths.com.

May 01 – Seen from the Outside, Guest Prompt from Tadzio Koelb

Tadzio Koelb image
Photo: Mark X. Hopkins

Today’s guest post comes from Tadzio Koelb. I love this prompt, because it provides a great roadmap for a strong start to StoryADay May but you can also use it to craft a longer, more leisurely story any time you want.

Take it away, Tadzio!

 

For more advice for burgeoning short story writers, download
Signature’s Compact Guide to Writing Short Stories!

Signature Short Story Guide

This prompt, while a bit complicated, is useful because, by pushing you to see one person through the eyes of multiple other people, it makes you use methods of storytelling that many writers often overlook.

Write a story about someone who leaves the house for work, and on the way has some kind of accident. Continue reading “May 01 – Seen from the Outside, Guest Prompt from Tadzio Koelb”

Write A Short Story in Three Easy Steps – Windy Lynn Harris

Short stories are fun to write, fast to compose (well, faster than books), and they get published every single day.

Today my guest is Windy Lynn Harris, author of Writing & Selling Short Stories & Personal Essays: The Essential Guide To Getting Your Work Published (Writer’s Digest Books, 2017)

Writing a short story is a worthy mission. Short stories are fun to write, fast to compose (well, faster than books), and they get published every single day. Here’s a quick guide to help you craft short stories like a pro.

Before we get started, let’s put ourselves in short story mode. Your goal when writing a short story is to deliver a satisfying narrative in a very small package. Short stories aren’t tiny novels. They rarely have any subplots at all. Instead, the action revolves around one main conflict. The theme is revealed through a character and his or her obstacles. Tension keeps the reader invested in the stakes all the way through to the resonant ending.

That might sound like a lot to manage all at once, but if you break the artistic process down to three steps, you’ll find your way to a satisfying story without wandering off the map. Continue reading “Write A Short Story in Three Easy Steps – Windy Lynn Harris”

[Write On Wednesday] Making Good From Bad

First lines.

They can be the inspiration of something great. Or they can be the omen of bad things to come.

We all know that clichés are one of the things to avoid as a writer. Lines like “It was a dark and stormy night” sounds like a pretty good mood setter to a beginner writer…well, maybe not even to them.

But suppose you use a bad first line on purpose? Suppose the entire point is to take that bad first line and write a story around it that is…not as tacky? Or makes the reader forgive the first line or make it totally acceptable? Continue reading “[Write On Wednesday] Making Good From Bad”

Writer’s Clue – Writing Prompt from LJ Cohen

LJ Cohen brings us a fabulous writing prompt today, for Day 4 of the challenge.

This is an example of how you can put limits on your writing options, to increase your chances of getting your writing DONE on a day when it seems impossible.

I know, it sounds counterintuitive, right? Limits make things easier?

But it’s true (you can Google it. Lots of experts say too much choice is a bad thing!).

Play along with LJ today, as she encourages you to fill in the blanks, and then flesh out a story from your notes.

The Prompt

Let’s play Writer’s Clue! Stories are about a person in a place with a problem. We can use the basic structure (modified to inject conflict) from the game.
For this story, write about Mx [1. a non-gendered title, in case you’re wondering. Now I’m wondering how to pronounce it…].___________ in the _________ room with a __________.
You can choose ordinary places or objects, or magical ones, you can set your story in the past, present, or future. It doesn’t need to follow the plot structure of the game in that there’s a murder you are solving; this is just a way to give a story a kick start.
For example, from one of my stories: Ms. Ro Maldonado in the derelict ship’s bridge with a malfunctioning AI. Change any one of the choices, and you have a different story.

About LJ Cohen

LJ Cohen is a fan of the Red Sox, Doctor Who & local food. A physical therapist for over 25 years, she now uses her clinical skills to hurt characters. She describes herself as a relentless optimist, potter, poet, and science fiction and fantasy writer. You can find her novels in all the usual places. PARALLAX, book 4 of her science fiction series Halcyone Space will be available summer of 2017. http://www.ljcohen.net
Don’t forget to check out LJ’s books and to leave a comment or post in The Victory Dance Group to tell us how it’s going!

The Latchkey Kid – A Writing Prompt from Jerry B. Jenkins

You’re back! It’s Day 2 of StoryADay May 2017 and you’re still here. That’s pretty impressive (believe me, not everyone makes it!)

Today’s prompt is from uber-best-selling author Jerry B. Jenkins. Check out the links below for more (free!)  writing advice from Jerry.

The Prompt

A socially awkward girl in her early teens is a latchkey kid, alone at home after school as usual. Flipping through channels she lands on one she soon realizes only she can see—and it’s from the future.

About Jerry B Jenkins

Jerry B. Jenkins has written over 190 books with sales of more than 70 million copies. He’s had 21 New York Times bestsellers, including the Left Behind series. He now shares his writing knowledge with aspiring authors. To get free writing training from Jerry, click here: www.jerryjenkins.com/how-to-write-a-book
Leave a comment to let us know how you got on, or post in The Victory Dance Group.

The Real You – A Guest Writing Prompt from C. S. Plocher

Three unexpected people were in the headlines last year: Adele, Gwen Stefani, and Seinfeld. Each of them achieved phenomenal success in different ways and for different reasons. But as I followed their stories, I realized that they had a common denominator—one key ingredient to their success—and it’s something every writer needs.

Their Stories

1. Adele

In 2015, Adele finally released her album 25 after four long years—a hiatus no one, including Adele, had expected. The album came out at the end of the year, but it still easily swept away its competition, selling eight million copies in six weeks in the US alone. (To put that number in perspective, Taylor Swift released her album 1989 the previous year and it sold 3.66 million copies in eight weeks, less than half of Adele’s sales.)

2. Gwen Stefani

I doubt anyone expected Gwen Stefani to be on the Billboard charts in 2016—she hadn’t had a solo album or even a hit single in over a decade. True, in 2014 she was a coach on “The Voice,” but her appearance didn’t even ruffle the music industry.

Then in 2015, Gwen rocketed into the headlines, but not for the reason she would have liked. After thirteen years of marriage, she divorced Gavin Rossdale, the lead singer of Bush. Somehow, despite the tsunami of scrutiny and gossip, Gwen was on stage at the Grammys only seven months later, live-filming her new hit song “Make Me Love You” (in Rollerblades, no less).

3. Seinfeld

In 2015, Hulu paid more than $150 million for the rights to air “Seinfeld”—that’s over $80,000 per episode for a twenty-year-old TV show. Jerry Seinfeld called it a “mind-blowing moment.”

The Common Denominator

Seinfeld: “It Was Fun to Do”

When Jerry announced Hulu’s multi-million-dollar deal, he reminisced not on the show’s success, but on its initial failure. The first four years, he said, were dismal: “people were not catching on to it,” it was “barely scraping by,” and it had “very low ratings.” Jerry recalled saying to a friend, “I don’t get it. This show seems funny to me.”

Then “Seinfeld” got an unexpected boost when it was moved to Thursday nights, airing right after the popular “Cheers.” All of the sudden it took off. But Jerry’s point was that, for half of the show’s life, “it didn’t seem to be working,” yet he and the rest of the crew kept at it simply because “it was fun to do.” “We were really doing it for ourselves for a long, long time.”

Gwen Stefani: “The Most Non-commercial, Personal Record Ever”

After her divorce, Gwen was distraught, embarrassed, and “down all the way.” But she refused to let it define her. She told herself, “I have to turn this into something. I can’t go down like this.” Music was her answer. She walked into the studio and said, “I don’t care about the charts, the hits, the style of music, I just want to tell the truth.”

Gwen wrote and recorded song after song—she felt empowered and confident—but when she sent her record company a demo, she was told that her songs were “too personal, too artistic,” people wouldn’t relate to them. Gwen called it a “punch in the face.”

Still, she walked back into the studio the next day and said, “Let’s write the most non-commercial, personal record ever.” The result was “Used to Love You,” which became the first single off her first solo album in eleven years. She called the album This Is What the Truth Feels Like, and it debuted last month at number one on the Billboard albums chart.

Adele: “It’s the Real Part of Me”

The popularity of Adele is almost impossible to grasp. On the day of 25‘s release, it sold one thousand copies per minute in the US, and it became 2015’s best-selling album worldwide. But the story behind 25 is mostly one of failure and crises.

After the jaw-dropping success of her second album in 2011, Adele worried she could never top it. She even considered walking away from music: “There was quite a long period where I didn’t believe in myself when I was making [25]. I lost my confidence.”

For years Adele wandered in and out of the studio, frustrated and confused, until she realized that the songs she was writing were “great to the ear, but they didn’t move [her].” Finally, she started focusing on what was important to her: “25 is about getting to know who I’ve become without realising.” After the album’s release, Adele said, “I’ve made the realest record I can make. It’s the real part of me.”

Your Key to Success

“Seinfeld” was a failure for years. Gwen Stefani hadn’t had a hit in a decade. Adele didn’t think she could ever top her previous album. But they all found outward success by, ironically, turning inward. They ignored “commercial” and focused on personal. To them it wasn’t about, as Thornton Wilder said, impressing other people. It was about expressing themselves.

Prompt: Write the Real You

The scariest part about creating art (real art) is that it demands exposure. The human instinct is to protect—after all, that’s how we’ve survived for thousands of years. More often than not, we become afraid and drag down our real art until it’s only a pale, flabby imitation. But not today.

Today you write the story you’ve been too afraid to write—the story that is too personal, too boring, too weird, too serious, too comical, too embarrassing. You write the story that you think everyone will judge and no one will understand. You write the story that interests you, inspires you, fulfills you, and you write it with confidence.

CS Plocher pictureC. S. Plocher is a freelance editor with an award-winning blog. Her job is to help people chase their dreams, and she loves it.

Guest Writing Prompt from Stuart Horwitz

Today’s prompt comes from editor Stuart Horwitz, author of the Book Architecture method and all-round top chap. If you get a chance to hear him talk at a writers’ conference or meeting, run, don’t walk! He’ll help you look at story structure in a whole new (and, in my opinion, more accessible) way than you’ve come across before. And possibly blow your head wide open, all the better for stories to fall out of it!

The Prompt

Write A Story Set In A Time Period You Connect With

  • Find a time period in history that you connect with deeply. It could be the politics or the architecture or the cuisine or the religion that interests you.
  • Now imagine that you are living in that time.
  • What job do you do? How are you dressed? What kind of family relationships do you have? Is your life a happy or a sad one?
  • What are the three main events of your life?

About Stuart

Stuart Horwitz is the founder and principal of Book Architecture, a firm of independent editors based in Providence, RI. Book Architecture’s clients have reached the best-seller list in both fiction and non-fiction, and have appeared on Oprah!, The Today Show, The Tonight Show, and in the most prestigious journals in their respective fields. His first book Blueprint Your Bestseller (Penguin/Perigee), was named one of the best books about writing by The Writer magazine. His third book, Finish Your Book in Three Drafts, will be released June 6th of this year.

Sept. 30 – A Dozen Roses

The Prompt

Jeff  was walking to the parking garage after work when he comes upon a flower stand full of beautiful roses. Jeff decides to buy a dozen roses for his lover. 

Go!

Deanna Denny is retired after many years of working in Human Resources. She became interested in writing in 2014 and started her blog with opinion pieces but has since been exploring different forms of writing. She has taken Writing 101 through WordPress, and Gentle Introduction to Meter through Allpoetry.  Deanna will be joining the Story A Day challenge to adventure into short stories. You can follow Deanna’s journey into writing at deannadenny.com.

Be sure to leave a comment below.

 

Sept. 23 – The Attic

The Prompt

Before she knew it, she was just another set of eyes in a dusty attic, waiting for the stairs to creak.

Go!

Deanna Denny is retired after many years of working in Human Resources. She became interested in writing in 2014 and started her blog with opinion pieces but has since been exploring different forms of writing. She has taken Writing 101 through WordPress, and Gentle Introduction to Meter through Allpoetry.  Deanna will be joining the Story A Day challenge to adventure into short stories. You can follow Deanna’s journey into writing at deannadenny.com.

Be sure to leave a comment below.