Nancy's Books

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Writing a Middle Grade Novel/Call for Submissions/Call for Submissions

Today, I’m continuing the series, Writing a Middle Grade Novel.

Let’s focus on pacing. Like movies, some books are loaded with action-packed thrills; others reveal bit-by-bit action in slow motion. The flow of the plot is called pacing. One key to good writing is to determine the pace of your story. Too much narrative may slows the story down to a stall. Too much dialog my move it along at too snappy a pace. Both are needed. Dialog helps to develop the character and promote the plot. Narrative shows action and setting details. Finding a balance for your novel is vital to great storytelling. Here are some elements to consider: 

Open the story with action or an interesting event that will hook the reader. The first line should instantly intrigue, or amuse, or create thought.  

Backstory, such as a character remembering something that has already happened, will not engage the reader as much as the reader seeing the action as it takes place. One rule that many writers use is to start on the minute the character’s life is different. That means to start in the middle of the action, at a place that is a big moment in the character’s life. The snazzy word for this is medias res, translated to “in the middle of the action.” Use narrative and dialog to provide past details as they are needed by sprinkling them throughout the text.

Avoid the informational dump. This often happens at the beginning of a story where an author introduces a character’s background. If you’ve ever been told that you story actually begins on the second or third page, because that’s where the action is, you probably have added too much background information in the opening.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Highlights Current Needs:
Authors may send their work directly to the editors whose current needs are listed below. Manuscripts should be sent to (Editor's Name), Highlights, 803 Church Street, Honesdale, PA 18431.
Fiction for Beginning Readers (Ages 6 to 8), up to 500 words, Joëlle Dujardin, Senior Editor
Fiction for Independent Readers (Ages 8 to 12), up to 800 words, Joëlle Dujardin, Senior Editor
Crafts, up to 150 words, Annie Beer, Editorial Assistant
One-Page Activities, up to 275 words, Linda Rose, Associate Editor
Puzzles, Games, Recipes, and Activities, Linda Rose, Associate Editor
Nonfiction for Beginning Readers (Ages 4 to 8), up to 500 words, Debra Hess, Senior Editor
Gallant Kids, up to 400 words, Debra Hess, Senior Editor
Science, 800 words (two-page features), 400 words (one-page features), 50 words (activities), Andy Boyles, Science Editor
History and World Cultures, up to 800 words, Carolyn Yoder, Senior Editor
Submission guidelines and article details at

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Writing a Middle Grade Novel/Call for Submissions

Today, I’m continuing the series, Writing a Middle Grade Novel. 

Read books, lots of books. Find a book you love in the genre you’re writing. The first time you read, read for enjoyment; then reread to analyze why you enjoyed the book. Make notes. You may read parts of the book several times. 

How does the plot unfold? Does the author glide the protagonist into the storm or throw the character into the squall? How does the character react? Plotting the novel can help a writer roadmap the chain of events to the end. This outlining doesn’t have to be elaborate. Just number the chapters and write a sentence or two of the main action per chapter. This will aid in keeping the tension high. You may prefer to write more detailed plot outlines. Do whatever works for you. 

How does the author keep the tension high? Pay close attention to this aspect since tension is the key to holding a reader’s interest. Keep the protagonist in trouble. The adage, Treat the character badly; then treat him worse, adds tension to the plot and interest to the story. Notice how the author drives the plot by introducing more problems for the main character. How does the character react to each of the problems? The character needs to learn from mistakes and grow by the end of the story. 

How does the ending tie up the loose ends? Does the ending make sense? The reader invested a lot of time to reach the conclusion. Does the story have a satisfying ending? Is it a quick ending? Is there a twist, a surprise ending? Did the author choose a type of ending that suits the events that preceded it? 

Most of all, did you continue to think about the story after you finished the book? 

Great books resonate with readers long after they stop reading. 

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Writing Contest: “All About Love”—Tell us your tale: a first crush, an old flame, a treasured friend or family member, a passion for a special place…

Starting June 1, 2014, email your story of 2,500 to 3,000 words. You’ll be entered for a chance to win $2,000 and possible publication in a future issue of Good Housekeeping or on Be sure to provide your full name, phone number, and mailing address both in the email and on the submission itself.
Entries must be received by midnight September 1, 2014. One entry per person allowed. Submitted material cannot be returned or acknowledged. Winner will be notified by March 1, 2015.

Contest is open to anyone age 21 or older who is a legal resident of the United States, the District of Columbia or Canada (excluding Quebec).

One winner will receive $2,000 and possible publication of the winning story in a future issue or on

Submission guidelines at

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Writing a Middle Grade Novel/Call for Submissions

Today, I’m continuing the series, Writing a Middle Grade Novel.

Learn from published authors. Find a book you love in the genre you’re writing. The first time you read the book, read for enjoyment, then reread to analyze why you enjoyed the book. Make notes. 

Did the first line of first paragraph have a hook that immediately drew you in? How did word choice at the beginning make you want to keep reading? 

Did you like the structure of the story? Was it told in a fast pace, slow and easy, or some of each? Was it told by one character or more? Were the chapters unusually short, especially long, or somewhere in-between? Did the sentences vary in length? 

How were character traits revealed? Did the author provide a detailed description of the character or just a trait or two and the reader has to imagine the rest?  

Is the dialog snappy? Humorous? Pay attention to the amount of dialog vs. narrative. Is the dialog interesting? Dialog serves two purposes: to carry the story forward and to develop the character. Did the dialog stay true to those purposes? 

How was the setting described? Did the setting play a role in the plot? 

Next week, I’ll continue with this series. 

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Another Realm, an ezine. The stories may be science fiction, fantasy or horror only. Our maximum word limit is 5,000 words. Submissions are accepted year round.
  Please send in an e-mail in "plain text" format.
  Do not center titles.
  We know when to set most text to italics. If you want italics for anything other than titles or thought, indicate start and stop places as follows: For italics, *****words you wish italicised***.

  Please include your name, both real and as you wish it published.

  Your address, both email and physical, so we know where to send the check and how to contact you.

  Please include a word count.
Submission Guidelines at

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Writing a Middle Grade Novel/Call for Submissions

Let’s take a look at the latest trends, according to some editors. I’m not advocating writing to trends, since by the time your story is ready to submit, the trend may have passed. However, trends can indicate types of manuscripts that editors are looking for.

Here’s a peek:
Picture books are on the rise. This category had been flat for several years.
Chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels and new adult novels are selling well and have editors requesting manuscripts.
Humorous stories in all categories are a plus, as are realistic, contemporary stories.
Series continue to be popular.
Paranormal and dystopian have saturated the market so they are in less demand.
Horror stories are seeing a growth pattern.
Strong male protagonists in Young Adult are seeing an upsurge.
Historical fiction is in an upward swing.
Nonfiction in all areas of children’s lit is growing, possibly due to the Common Core, a program used by schools in which nonfiction books are utilized.
Remember, quality fiction and nonfiction transcend all trends.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
The second annual short story contest from the Loudoun County [Virginia] Public Library is NOT limited to Loudoun County residents. No theme: Take part in our annual adult short story writing contest. For ages 19 & up. Stories can be inspired by real life, fantasies, mysteries, adventures, or even horror.” Cash prizes: $200/$100/$50 for the top three stories. Those winners and honorable mentions will receive a copy of the resulting book. No entry fee.
Deadline: August 11, 2014.
Submit your entry:
Submission Guidelines at

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Writing a Middle Grade Novel/Call for Submissions

Today, I’m continuing the series, Writing a Middle Grade Novel.
A story is told through the viewpoint of the narrator, either in first or third person. In first person, the story is told by one of the characters, as in “I said.” Third person narrative is told from the perspective of someone outside the story, as in “she said.”
First person is popular with this audience because it lets the reader know what is happening as it happens. The character’s thoughts and actions are relayed as they occur. The voice of the character can add humor, sarcasm, anger in a way that reflects the growth of the character.
Third person narrative is also popular. The advantage is that it offer more sophisticated language and observations.
The writer’s job is to get into character and express thoughts and feelings of the protagonist. Most middle grade stories are told from the perspective of a single character. This allows reader to identify with the character, understand why the character behaves the way s/he does, and to support his/her efforts. 
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
COUNTRY MAGAZINE. We pay $250 for story submissions that run a page or more. Contributors published in "Mailbox" or "Little Humor" receive a gift certificate for a one-year subscription, or subscription extension, to Country Extra. Most other contributors will receive an authentic hand-forged iron dinner triangle. In our "Just For Fun" section, photos garner a dinner triangle; jokes and short items earn payment of $25. Generally, a published one-page story runs 400-500 words in length. Country magazine celebrates the breathtaking beauty, engaging people, enduring values and spiritually rewarding lifestyle of the American
1 ripe avocado
2 ears of fresh sweet corn
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
Honey Lime Dressing
Juice of 1 lime
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp honey
Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
Dash of cayenne pepper
Submission guidelines at

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Writing a Middle Grade Novel/Call for Submissions

Today, I’m continuing the series, Writing a Middle Grade Novel.
Begin the story with action and conflict to grab and keep the readers’ interests. When the action slows and the protagonist seems to be getting the upper hand on the situation, throw his/her world into a tailspin. If the character does not have to struggle, if success comes too easily, the reader will not make an emotional investment in the character’s journey. To build interest, raise the stakes by adding more conflict. Example: He has 24 hours to accomplish a seemingly impossible task, and if he fails something even more drastic will happen.
Readers want a story that connects in some way to their own lives—the betrayal of a best friend or fear of completing some task. Present a character that is flawed but has other qualities—courage, compassion, etc.—that inspire the readers. The character should feel and think in ways that parallel the audience.
Give the character the opportunity to fail a few times. Through failure s/he learns how to cope and succeed. The ending doesn’t have to have a “happy ever after” scene but it should leave the reading feeling that there is hope.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Hogglepot accepts fantasy and science fiction of all sub-genres, including (but not limited to) alternate history, dystopian, fairy tale, historical, gothic, light fantasy, magical realism, paranormal, science fantasy, space opera, steampunk, superhero, supernatural, sword and sorcery, time travel, urban fantasy, and weird western.
Submission Guidelines at

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Writing a Middle Grade Novel/Call for Submissions

Today, I’m continuing the series, Writing a Middle Grade Novel.
Middle grade readers enjoy action-packed stories. This does not mean it has to have a chase scene or a fist fight, but it should include movement and the idea of something happening. Allow the reader to become involved in the action by showing the scene rather than telling it.
Start with action. Place the main character in the midst of a problem from the first paragraph. This is called a hook and it draws the reader’s interest from the beginning. The first paragraph is no place to tell the reader that the character lives in Omaha or by the sea unless the setting is critical to the action scene. Description and setting are both important and can be woven in later, after the action has sprung loose and captured the reader’s attention. To hang on to their attention, keep things moving.
Every scene is not, and should not be, high-paced. Quiet scenes allow the writer to express what the protagonist is thinking and what his/her plan might be. Let the reader know what’s going on in the protagonist’s head. What scheme is he up to? What is the danger? How could it backfire? This type of writing keeps the reader interested during the non-action scenes.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Brain, Child is an award-winning literary magazine for mothers. We publish 20-plus essays per month for our print, online and blog publications. Founded in 2000, our mission is to bring the voices of women of different backgrounds and circumstances together on the page, on our website, and on our blog.
We love to read submissions. We are excited by great writing. It makes our day when we hear from an established writer or publish an author for the first time. We believe our writers are the lifeblood of our publication and strive to publicize and promote our writers through our website, Facebook (60,000+ fans), and partnerships with, The Huffington Post, and others. We respond within eight to ten weeks. We offer competitive pay rates. We welcome follow up emails if by chance you do not hear from us.
For all submissions, please email the manuscript in the body of the email to with “Submission” and the department (i.e. “Fiction” “Essay” “Feature Pitch”) as the subject heading. Please don’t send your submission as an attachment.
Submission Guidelines at