Archive for June, 2011

“What a lot we lost when we stopped writing letters. You can’t reread a phone call.”
 -Liz Carpenter


Writer’s Digest University has a critique service I just recently became aware of. Just to point out: This is not an editorial service. They state they will not edit your manuscript; they will only critique your manuscript. Each novel manuscript must be at least 50 pages and it is a cost of $3.00 per page (or $4.00 per page for the Premium Level). For a short story manuscript, the fee is $4.00 per page, between 5-30 pages. They also critique query letters and synopses.

Writer’s Digest University 2nd Draft is the link. There is also a “Sample Letter” to view how the professional critiquers do what they do.

Personally, I think the novel critiques can become rather pricy, considering they don’t even edit the manuscript for you by checking the grammar and whatnot, but I’m sure some would appreciate this! Receiving feedback on the overall plot, the arc of the story, characterization, and etc. is something a writer yearns for. On the other hand, this is through Writer’s Digest, and they have to make it worth it for the critiquers to do this. So I totally understand the price on that front.

One could argue and say that an author could benefit just as much (if not, more) by joining a critique group and getting input from their peers. The variety of voices and opinions in a critique group will help pinpoint just what needs revision, as opposed to one opinion from a paid professional.

Don’t get me wrong though. I’m not knocking professional critiques.  I’m linking to it after all. I think it is all a matter of preference and what the situation is. If one can’t find a critique group they like, or they have no writer friends to give adequate feedback, then this would be an alternative. But just because no one has published twenty books and has five short story collections and been writing for longer than you’ve been born doesn’t mean they don’t have valuable input.

Speaking of “non-professionals” (and here comes the plug, haha), I do provide critique services on my website. I’m doing this currently free of charge, as I’m not sure if I want to charge for it or not. I’m not hiding the fact I’m considering compensation, as I just want to be upfront about it.

On that note, if you go to my website and click on Critique Services, I even provide a link to the critique site that I use to get my work reviewed. If it works for me, maybe other people will like it as well. If not, they can try me. Or they can do both. Or use Writer’s Digest’s 2nd Draft. It’s all about providing options to writers and see which one works for each writer.

A business-minded person may question whether it’s wise to link to a critique site while I’m offering my own critique services. Especially if I eventually require a fee to critique, they would think it’s ridiculous to keep that link there. But I’m a writer-minded person. If I’m not looking out for my peers — my fellow writers — and offering as much insight as I have, I wouldn’t feel like I’m being fair.

If we’re not in this together, to truly help each other grow and succeed, I don’t see the point of it.


“In science there is a dictum: don’t add an experiment to an experiment. Don’t make things unnecessarily complicated. In writing fiction, the more fantastic the tale, the plainer the prose should be. Don’t ask your readers to admire your words when you want them to believe your story.”
-Ben Bova


Ken Scholes, one of the bloggers at Genreality, is currently in the middle of posting a series of blogs entitled So You Wanna Write Your First NovelPart 1 was posted on June 4 and it focused on the pre-draft of a novel. Part 2 was posted on June 11, and it spoke more on the actual drafting of the novel. The real work.

As I was reading the most recent part, there were several things that I thought he hit right on the head. It was like he knew what had transpired in my life as a writer! Haha, just goes to show that we writers aren’t alone in challenges we face.

I recommend you read it in its entirety, but here are a few points that I’ll share and expound upon:

  • “…knowing how you write novels is an important bit of self-awareness.”

As I said, we writers aren’t alone in the obstacles we may face. We are all about support and encouragement, but each of us can have our own ways of writing. Whether it be a short story, a novel, a poem, an essay, etc. There is no “one way” to get the first draft written. The ultimate goal is the same, but the avenues can vary.

Some writers construct elaborate outlines that detail what will happen in each chapter. Some writers sit down and start winging it, going wherever their characters take them. Other writers may combine both of these avenues to create an entirely different work ethic. And again, other writers may have something completely different!

While it is good to receive information from other writers who’ve written novels to see how they attacked that first draft, maybe what they used won’t work for you. Try it, but maybe a tweak here and there will be more sufficient for you, your personality, and schedule. But no matter how, the one constant factor to getting a first draft done is to write.

  • “I’m a big fan of daily production.  Or at least six days per week.  Once you get away from that habit, you lose the habit and you also risk losing the continuity and momentum of your story by becoming too distant from it.”

I know this all too well. It’s something I’m almost currently experiencing with the book I’m writing (which is technically a rewrite of sorts) but not quite. Yeah, figure that one out…

But in past years, I’ve done this a lot. There’d been times I’d skip a day because other menial priorities jumped higher on the list. Maybe I did a good job the day prior and thought it’d be okay. But that eventually turned into a lengthier time, and before I knew it, I wasn’t writing.

Dorothy C. Fontana has a quote that says, “You can’t say, I won’t write today because that excuse will extend into several days, then several months, then… you are not a writer anymore, just someone who dreams about being a writer.

  • “If you’re too sick to write, do something else writing related that isn’t impacted by the illness.”

Let’s face it — sickness can be a factor. Sitting in a chair and writing is quite often the last thing you’ll feel like doing if you’re really sick. But you’re a writer; there’s more to being a writer than writing. If your body is immobile and you still have your wits, try to define in words how it is you’re feeling. If you ever have a character in your situation, you’ll have some good diction to use. Or you can watch a good movie and look at the storytelling aspect of it with a fine tooth comb, and you can come away with golden nuggets for your work.

  • “You have to train to run a marathon and the writing life is definitely a marathon, not a sprint.”

This is good advice. Say you have one novel completed and sold. Good for you… Now, are you going to be a one-hit wonder or do you plan on making this a career? Writers don’t stop writing. They write one thing, then write something else, and write something else, and it continues. Even if you wrote a novel in a month, it takes more than that to make it — and your career — soar. Unless you want to release one novel and then fizzle away, you have to write.

  • “It doesn’t have to be good; it just has to be done.”

James Michener said, “I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.”

What I’ve learned over the years is that just getting the piece done can be quite beneficial. I once was in the habit of constantly revising as I wrote, to the point where I wasn’t writing anymore and I wasn’t pushing forward. What untrained me was taking part (and completing) my first NaNoWriMo. It was an excellent eye-opener about simply getting down that first draft, no matter how crappy the words were (fixing the flaws would come in the revision stages). I wrote either early in the morning or late at night. But my only goal was to reach my daily word count and, ultimately, the end of the novel.

Some writers can revise as they go and still push forward. But in my case, history has revealed, that is treading some dangerous waters. I know how I have to write.

But find what works for you, read the rest of the post, and go write your first draft!

A Few Writing Contests

“Books aren’t written — they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.”
-Michael Crichton


I thought I’d share a few writing contests that are currently accepting submissions. Some have entry fees, some don’t.


  • StoryQuarterly is holding their first annual contest for fiction up to 8,000 words. The grand prize is $1,000 and publication. First runner-up receives $300 with online publication; second runner-up receives $200 and online publication. There is an entry fee of $15, and the deadline is September 1. Learn more here.
  • Writer’s Digest has their 12th short, short story contest underway. There is a $20 entry fee, and the word limit cuts off at a brief 1,500 words. First place receives $3,000 and a trip to the Writer’s Digest Conference, second place receives $1,500, and third place receives $500. Then there are prizes from fourth thru tenth place ($100 each) and also eleventh thru twenty-fifth place ($50 Writer’s Digest Books gift certificate). Entry deadline is November 15th. Learn more here.
  • This is a kind of different contest, as it is run by a company that produces greeting cards, books, and gifts. It’s also a poetry contest. I came across it as I was searching for different writing jobs. They’re called SPS Studios/Blue Mountain Arts and they are a Colorado-based company. But the winner of the contest they are running wins $300, second place wins $150, and third place wins $50. All winning poems will be posted on their site. Deadline is at the end of the month though — June 30. No entry fee. Learn more here.
  • Writers of the Future is always accepting submissions for one of their quarters. But their third quarter ends at the end of June. They accept works up to 17,000 words in length from authors who haven’t professionally published a novel or short novel, more than one novelette, or more than three short stories (“Professional publication is deemed to be payment, and at least 5,000 copies, or 5,000 hits.”). First place receives $1,000, second place receives $750, and third place receives $500. No entry fee. Learn more here.
  • Narrative Magazine’s Spring 2011 Contest is open for fiction and non-fiction submissions! There is a $20 entry fee, but with that entry fee you receive three months of access to Narrative Backstage. The first place prize is $3,250, the second place is $1,500, the third place is $750, and ten finalists will receive $100. All entries will be considered for publication. The deadline is July 31. Learn more here.

“There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up a pen to write.”
-William Makepeace Thackeray


After long last, The Top Ten Stories for The Million Writers Award have been released! From these top ten, the public will vote for the winner (First Place: $600 + $100 ThinkGeek gift certificate / Second Place: $200 / Third Place: $100). Although my story, A Day Like No Other, didn’t make any of the cuts, I am still in full support of this award.

To shed some light in case you don’t know: The Million Writers Award is in its eighth year, and they take nominations from writers, readers, and editors with the only criteria being the story nominated must have been published online in the year prior and must be at least 1,000 words. After they read through all of the nominations, they construct a list of Notable Stories (this year had 158), then narrow it to ten stories, and then open voting to decide the winners of first, second, and third place.

Check it out!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some reading to do, followed by a very important vote. 🙂