Nancy's Books

Sunday, March 1, 2015


2015 is still young and this is THE YEAR to find a critique partner or group if you have not already.

Writers at all stages of their careers benefit from new eyes reading their words. Feedback provides valuable information, especially if the feedback is from writers who understand what to look for in a manuscript. A critique should focus on a piece in two ways: the overall story and specific parts, also known as the big picture and the small picture.

Overall story evaluation includes character assessment: Are the character believable? Does each character have unique traits, such as speaking differently. Feedback I once received from an editor stated that two of my characters were too much alike. As I reviewed the manuscript, I had to agree. Until she pointed out the flaw in my writing, I had not noticed it.

The specific parts critique is a line-by-line evaluation that focuses on word choice, transitions, action verbs, grammar, etc.

Critique groups are basically large online groups, forums, and small personal groups. The large online groups offer critiques from writes at different stages of their careers. Some writers love this type of feedback. Go online and type “children’s writers critique group” and you’ll find lots of information and a variety of groups. With critique forums, you post your story on a forum and receive feedback. Of course, you will be expected to provide critiques for other writers, also. My critique group began with four members a few years ago. We are now down to two, but we provide more detailed feedback and more often, if needed, than if we were members of a large group.

If you prefer face-to-face contact with a critique group, you can find members locally. Go to the local bookstore, library, or college and post signs requesting a sign-up of the group. You’ll probably find several people in your community that want to participate.

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Teen Lit. Our goal is to promote teen literacy locally and globally by building small libraries in schools and in a free medical clinic, and by sending newly-released teen literature worldwide to be reviewed by teens.
Submission guidelines at
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
BUZZY MAG is looking for original science fiction, fantasy and horror short stories up to 10,000 words. Thriller, suspense and paranormal tales that cross into traditional speculative fiction are welcome. Buzzy accepts submissions from both authors and literary agents. Make sure you short story is acceptable for a 15-year-old to read. We DO NOT ACCEPT pornography, child subject matter, racial propaganda or fan fiction. Payment is ten cents/word.
Submission guidelines at

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Likeable Characters

I’m continuing the blog on Likeable Characters.

Realistic, relatable characters make likeable characters. Characters don’t have to be good to be likeable, but they should have likeable traits. A demanding cat can display anything but good behavior but it should have some redeeming qualities.
The character needs a sharp intellect, keen wit, or some quality that will make him/her able to stand up to the challenge and triumph over the obstacles.
Would you enjoy spending time in the real world with your main character? If so, that’s one sign that the reader will enjoy spending time reading about him/her.
Give your character a ton of personality. Is s/he funny, sarcastic, sweet, brave, talkative, quiet, helpful? Is the character a rule follower or rule breaker? Either works as long as s/he stays consistent. Build a three-dimensional character that has feelings, show emotions, and experiences failure before finally succeeding.
Make your character memorable. Memorable characters need realistic problems to face, realistic decisions to make, and follow through with realistic solutions.
Check the character traits in your protagonist. Make “likable” one of the top.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Cyber Kids. We especially like stories, articles and poems that are funny.
Art and written submissions can be on any topic that is appropriate for our audience (ages 7 to 12). Stories which include an original illustration or photo are more likely to be published than stories without pictures. Originality is very important--make sure the work you submit is your own and not copied from someone else.
In addition to art and writing, we also like to publish games, puzzles, brain teasers, jokes, and multimedia creations by kids.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
FIRESIDE publishes original, previously unpublished flash fiction of up to 1,000 words and short stories of 1,500 to 4,000 words. (Firm limit.) We pay 12.5 cents per word, with payment on completion of edits. We buy first world publication rights and six-month exclusivity, as well as the right to reprint the story once, non-exclusively, in a Fireside anthology.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Likeable Characters

So you want to write a marketable manuscript in 2015? Begin with a likeable character, one that readers will want to triumph against unfavorable odds.

Give the character a straightforward name that is easy to pronounce and makes a good impression. Sure, unique names will works but simple names will too. The name should fit the era of the story. When I was writing AMAZING GRACE, a WWII story, I decided to name a character in honor of my critique partner who helped me so much with the manuscript. When I wrote Sandi, my critique came to my rescue and suggested I use Sandra instead, because it was more common in that period of history.
The character should make a good first impression with the reader. The good impression can be based on the character’s flaws. Figure out your character’s weakness and proceed with an incredible problem that preys on that weakness. The main character should shoulder the main load. The problems should not be so overwhelming, the character cannot triumph; instead use the story to play out the character’s struggle and ultimate victory.  Let the other characters in the story underestimate the protagonist. This will give him/her a chance to grow and prove them wrong by the end of the story. The protagonist should never realize that s/he will succeed until the very end.
Readers root for characters that grow and change. A flawed character reflects real life. No one is perfect, right? Flawed characters are easier to like than those that are perfect or think they are.
Next week, I’ll discuss more ways to write a likeable character.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
TEEN GIRLS THAT WRITE. This blog is for teen girls.  It gives teens information about scholarships, fellowships along with writing tips. It’s for teens who want to write books, screenplays or just about anything. Teens have the power to do anything and this blog is to help them get to where they want to go.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
C The Binnacle Twelfth Annual Ultra-Short Competition. "The Binnacle will sponsor its Twelfth International Ultra-Short Competition in the 2014-2015 academic year. We are looking for prose works of 150 words or fewer and poetry of sixteen lines or fewer and fewer than 150 words.  All works should have a narrative element to them.....A minimum of $300 in cash prizes will be awarded, with a minimum prize of $50. At least one of the prizes will go to a [University of Maine-Machias] student. Please submit no more than two works total, prose and/or poetry."
Submissions deadline: March 15, 2015

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Is My Manuscript Ready to Submit?

I’m continuing with the series, Is My Manuscript Ready to Submit?
Check for active verbs. Is, are, was, were and such don’t create an image in the mind’s eye. However, scat, scram, climb, swing, jump, and skip paint pictures with words. The more vivid the pictures we create with our manuscripts, the more the reader “sees” and understands the action-packed world we present.
Does the character display emotional depth? Characters should not be totally good or bad; instead, they should reflect real people who have flaws.
How believable is the dialog? Dialog should help develop the character, move the plot forward, or provide information. It’s important that dialog sound real but should not contain large chunks of information. Offer information in small bits and pieces. Dialog should flow and be believable. He said/she said work best for dialog tags.
Do the characters sound alike? Each character should have a unique voice.
Is the pacing too slow? Move the story forward at a pace that will keep the reader engaged.
Does the ending have a surprise or twist that is unexpected?
Check the spelling, grammar, point of view, and formatting.
After a series of revisions and when my manuscript meets all these points, I select 3-5 publishers and ship it out.
Call for submissions for Young Writers:
Canvas. We are seeking writers ages 13-18 to submit:
 Fiction – Please limit submissions to 5,000 words.
Novel Excerpts - Novel and memoir excerpts are acceptable if self-contained (work as a complete narrative).
Poetry – You may submit more than one poem, but please do not exceed 5 pages worth of poetry.
Plays - Please follow standard play format. Limit to 10 pages.
Nonfiction – Essays, memoir, creative nonfiction. Please limit submissions to 5,000 words.  

New Media – Video, images, etc fine for website. But must be accompanied by written version to be considered for print and eBook.

Cross-genre - Experimental work (prose poems, art and writing, fiction and nonfiction hybrids) are highly encouraged, but please keep to the word limit for fiction.
Submission guidelines at 

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
APPLESEEDS explores a single topic with insightful articles, cool photographs, and a unique you-are-there perspective on culture, history, inventions, the lives of children around the world, and much more. A perfect gift for any young reader ages 7 to 10 looking for an adventure magazine that explores all the great things about our world!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Is My Manuscript Ready to Submit?

Yesterday, I had a writer ask me how I could tell if my manuscript was ready for submission. Excellent question.

I always want to present my best work to editors and to help do so, I follow a checklist. Here are the basic checkpoints I use before I ship a manuscript to potential publishers, although there may be some points you want to consider for certain genres, such as mysteries, that are not covered here.
Does the manuscript begin with a great hook? A hook is a literary technique that is used at the beginning of a story to “hook” the reader’s attention so s/he will keep reading.
Does the story have an arc? Is there a beginning/middle/ending?
Does the character show growth? Occasionally, fictional picture books (I WANT MY HAT BACK) are published with no character growth, but most have characters that learn a lesson or show some type of growth by the ending. I would urge new writers to aim toward the type of story that develops character growth because editors are more likely to offer contracts for those.
Did you introduce a problem for the character and allow the character to solve the problem? The character with the problem should solve it.
Are sensory descriptors used? Writers tend to focus on the visual, but don’t neglect touch, taste, smell and hearing. Using these descriptions allows the reader to feel as if they are taking a journey with the characters.
Next week, I’ll continue with more checkpoints.
Call for submissions for Young Writers:
The Writer’s Slate publishes poetry and prose from students enrolled in kindergarten through twelfth grade, as well as creative writing by teachers. Publishes three times per year, with one issue completely dedicated toward publishing writing contest winners. Send work to: Shelly McNerney, 7619 Hemlock Street, Overland Park, KS, 66024. Teacher’s name must be included with all submissions.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Highlights High Five. For ages 2 to 6, created by the publishers ofHighlights for Children to help encourage the development of young children and have fun at the same time. Fiction should have an engaging plot, strong characterization, and lively language. Stories that teach by positive example, rather than preach, are preferred. Suggestions of crime and violence are taboo. 500 words or less. Rhyming stories are seldom purchased. Pays $150+ on acceptance. Editor, Christine French Clark; Senior Editor, Marileta Robinson. To: Highlights High Five, Editorial Department, 807 Church Street, Honesdale, PA 18431.

Submission guidelines at

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Ways to Improve Writing

Today, I’m continuing the series “Ways to Improve Writing” and focusing on character emotions.
Consider writing an embarrassing situation for your character. Everyone experiences moments of humiliation. Embarrassment humanizes characters and help readers identify with them.  
Place your character in a bad situation and make it worse…and worse. Don’t go easy on the main character. Tension keeps the story interesting and the reader reading. If embarrassment doesn’t work for you, try painful or stressful or all three.

Allow the character to express anger through dialog, body language, and thoughts. As in real life, the character will react to difficult situations. The character responses should be consistent with his/her personality. Susie might throw a remote control while Ben would be more likely to land a punch. One character may be slow to anger and another is easily provoked.

Make the character suffer. Of course, by the end of the story, you can let your softer side prevail and create a world that works for the long-suffering character.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Crashtest is an biannual online magazine founded and run by the creative writing students at the Fine Arts Center, a public arts high school in Greenville, South Carolina, so that students in high schools all over the country will have a place to publish work that tests limits, asks questions, rejects the easy answers, risks obliteration, believes in failure, is suspicious of scripted success.
Submission guidelines at Kids Magazine. We are looking for the very best material by students (ages 8–16). Material may include cartoons, songs, stories between 500 and 1200 words, puzzles, photographs, artwork, games, editorials, poetry, and plays, as well as any other creative work that can fit in the pages of the magazine. As long as it's creative, we're interested!
All materials must be mailed to:
Submissions Editor
Creative Kids
P.O. Box 8813
Waco, Texas 76714-8813
Submission guidelines at
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Unagented authors will be able to send their manuscripts direct to the imprint for two weeks in March, with the event being held to celebrate two years of Tinder Press. The open submissions period will take place from March 2nd to 15th, with authors asked to submit 50 pages, an outline and an author biography. Only previously unpublished writers of fiction can take part, and short stories as well as novels will be considered. All submitted books must be complete, and written in English.

Submission guidelines at

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Ways to Improve Writing

Today, I’m continuing the series “Ways to Improve Writing” and focusing on character emotions.
Think of your characters as real people, and like people, some display emotions more easily than others and in different ways. One character may be more verbal and another more physical (hits the wall with a fist.)
The next time you get angry or frustrated or extremely worried, try writing your feelings. Use your anger or anxiousness in a scene to show the character’s emotional “truth.”
Rather than telling how the character felt (Jill was angry) or writing a weak adverb in a dialog tag such as “she shouted angrily,” use strong verbs to convey emotions.
“Shut up. Just shut up,” she said as she stomped out and slammed the door behind her.” This works better because the reader is involved in the action as it is happening and through the use of a strong verb, slammed. The physical cues clue the reader in on what the character’s anger looks like.
When we are extremely upset, our body and hand movements can be jerky and more expressive. Consider using facial expressions to show emotions. A narrowing of the eyes, puffed cheeks, face in a wad, and with kids—sticking out a tongue.
Anger is an interesting emotion. It’s a part of every human so don’t be afraid to let anger energize your character.
Call for submissions for Young Writers:
7th Annual Junior Authors Short Story Writing Contest
Ages 9 to 21 | All Countries | Free to Enter
Entries accepted in June only (June 1 – 30)
Submission guidelines at

Call for submissions for Adult Writers:


Three prizes of $1,000 or tuition for any Highlights Foundation Founders Workshop. (For a complete list of workshops, visit
*Entrants must be at least 16 years old at the time of submission.
We welcome work from both published and unpublished authors. All submissions must be previously unpublished and not found online.
Stories may be any length up to 750 words. Indicate the word count in the upper right-hand corner of the first page of your manuscript.
No crime, violence, or derogatory humor.
Entries not accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope will not be returned.
Manuscripts or envelopes should be clearly marked FICTION CONTEST. Those not marked in this way will be considered as regular submissions to Highlights.
Highlights for Children
803 Church Street
Honesdale, PA 18431
Deadline:  January 31, 2015.