Nancy's Books

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Writing a Middle Grade Novel/Calls for Submissions

Today, I’m continuing the series, Writing a Middle Grade Novel.
Plot is all about problems encountered by the protagonist, the main character. The inciting incident is the first sign of trouble. It’s the event that sets the plot into motion. In my book, Amazing Grace, the inciting incident is the letter that Dad received. The letter was his call to join the Army during WWII, and his daughter knew her world had dramatically changed. 

This event is the moment the character’s world changes from the normal routine to something that disrupts his/her life. When the event occurs, the character needs to react. Bring emotions into play. The event should be important enough to make him/her show both strength and weakness. It’s the reactions and actions that allow the character to grow by the end of the story. 

Inciting incidents should arise in the first one-third of the story, sometime they are in the first paragraph or first chapter, sometimes they are in chapter two or three. As you read books by various authors, notice where the inciting incidents occur and how they are written. Those mentor texts can help in writing your own novel.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Skipping Stones. Writings (essays, stories, letters to the editor, riddles and proverbs, etc.) should be typed or neatly handwritten and limited to 750 words and poems to 30 lines. We encourage writings in all languages with an English translation, if possible. And, we love illustrations! Please send originals of your drawings, paintings, or photos. Include your name, age, and address along with your submission.
Tell us about yourself in a cover letter. What is your cultural background? What languages do you speak or write? What is important to you? What are your dreams and visions for the future? What inspired you to write or create your submission? We might even print your letter!
If you would like a reply from us or your work returned, include a self-addressed envelope with postage stamps. Submissions that do not include SASE's will be recycled if we do not publish them. Allow three months for our reply. When your work is published in Skipping Stones, you will receive a contributor's copy of that issue.
Ideas for Submissions
Share your culture by explaining why a belief or tradition is important to you. Describe your city/village/home. Write and/or illustrate an article on an upcoming theme. Write about a community project you organized, or your experiences in a culture or country. What are your favorite ethnic foods? (Send us the recipe.)

Submission guidelines:

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Skipping Stones. Our readers, ages 7 to 17, hail from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. We want to make their reading of Skipping Stones an active experience, relevant to issues confronting them locally and globally. Writing and artwork by adults should challenge readers to think, learn, cooperate and create.
We encourage adults to submit creative informational stories rather than pure fiction. We prefer submissions focusing on your own culture or experiences. No adult poetry, please.
Submission guidelines:

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Writing a Middle Grade Novel, Calls for Submissions

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

Another way to keep the pace of the story moving along is look at the scene as if you’re a photographer. Think visually. What is happening close-up? Take the reader on the journey so s/he can feel, see, hear, taste, and touch the scene. Is there a tear in the dress, is the whimpering that of a dog or a child, or is the burr sticky? Let the readers discover these things as if they were there. 

Pacing differs with the scene. Long sentences tend to slow the pace and short sentences speed the action. If there is a fight scene, short sentences, even one-word can be powerful. Pow! Onomatopoeia (crash, bang, boom) add zip to the story. Sentences can be shortened by eliminating prepositional phrases to move the action along at a faster clip. Instead of writing “the rooms in the cave” state "the cave’s rooms.” 

Action verbs and strong nouns work better because they are specific. Avoid the overuse of adverbs and adjectives. He ran quickly doesn’t work as well as He sprinted.

Cliffhangers are great devices to speed up the action. When a chapter ends with lots of suspense, the reader quickly turns the page to find out what happens next. 

Short chapters and scenes are effective ways to speed up the story. 

Slow scenes and fast-paced scenes both work well. The key is to use the best speed and rhythm for each scene in your manuscript. 

With this blog I’m resuming Call for Submissions for Young Writers. I’ll continue posting these through May, 2015.  

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
The Louisville Review. The Children's Corner, work by students in K-12.
Fiction, Poetry, Creative Nonfiction, and Drama

Submissions of previously unpublished manuscripts are invited. Prose submissions should be double-spaced and page numbered. Poetry (up to 5 poems) need not be double-spaced. Drama should appear in standard format. Include name on every page. Reply time is 4-6 months. Our editorial staff reads year around. Submissions are recycled. Poetry and prose should be submitted in separate envelopes.
Submission guidelines at
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
ASK is a nonfiction magazine for children 7-10 years old who are curious about science and the world they live in. Each edition of ASK is built around a central theme on some question or concept in the natural, physical, or social sciences, technology, mathematics, history, or the arts. ASK introduces kids to the joys of thinking, writing, and observing scientifically, and presumes them to be active participants in the ongoing search for better knowledge about the world.
ASK articles should read as engaging nonfiction, not like school textbook or encyclopedia material. Intended to be accessible and appealing to newly independent readers (grades 2-5), the ideal ASK article should also be interesting to any general adult reader. ASK looks for articles that are concrete, specific, and relevant to this age group. They should tell a good story, with an emphasis on ideas rather than just facts.
Submission guidelines:

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Pacing, Dialog, and Narrative/Call for Submissions

Today, I’m continuing the series, Writing a Middle Grade Novel and focusing on pacing. 

Use scenes to heighten the tension. Treat your characters badly; then treat them worse. Just when the reader thinks things cannot get worse for the character, surprise the reader with more problems, bigger problems.


“Let’s go,” Annie said. 

“Where,” Lucy answered. 

“Anywhere to dodge the bullets,” Annie said. 

This dialog is rapid-fire, pardon the pun, with short phrases and no narrative, which works well in scenes that are fast. Trimming the sentence of all but essential words speeds the action.  

Other scenes benefit by incorporating narrative along with dialog.  

“Move over,” Annie said. A smile covered her face as she reached out and placed a gentle hand on Lucy’s shoulder.

“No,” Lucy answered as she jerked away. She crossed her arms over her chest, a sure sign that a stubborn spell gripped the six-year-old. 

The narrative illustrates the attitudes of each character by showing their actions and reactions as it slows the action. 

Move the story forward with dialog that introduces new information or reveals something new about the character. The marriage of narrative and dialog takes the plot forward as characters develop, little by little.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

 Spellbound is a fantasy magazine for children ages 8-12.

Published quarterly, each issue contains fantasy stories, poetry, art and more all centered around a featured creature.  Issues come in a DRM-free ePub format.  The e-zine can be read on Nooks, Kindles, iPads, Kobos and many other ereaders, as well as laptops, desktops, tablets and smartphones.
Spellbound is dedicated to putting together a publication that emphasizes diversity and inclusiveness.  We actively seek stories, poetry and artwork that reflect a wide range of cultures, and characters. We believe that stories are important and can change the world and we hope to have a positive impact on young readers.
Submission guidelines:

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Show vs. Tell/Call for Submissions

Today, I’m continuing the series, Writing a Middle Grade Novel and focusing on describing the action. 

In the early stages of our writing, we sometimes tell the action rather than show it.  

Tell: Lucy feared the dark night held something dangerous, something lethal. 

Show: A tingle crackled along Lucy’s spine, a tingle that grew into an all-out fear that sent a pounding throb deep inside her brain so she couldn’t think. Something was out there…in the dark…waiting…waiting for her.  

Showing allows the reader to feel that s/he is in the middle of the action along with the characters.  

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. In transitions, such as moving the character to a new location, tell works well. Example: Julie stomped out of the room and slammed the door shut behind her. 

When writing action scenes, take the reader along on the journey with the character by showing what is happening as it happens. The Russian writer, Anton Chekhov said it this way:  Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Ordinary Guru Project Contest. In the international bestseller, And Then I Met Margaret, real estate entrepreneur  and founder of Mind Adventure, Inc. Rob White recounts 21 stories of personal transformation brought about by his encounters with everyday, ordinary, unassuming gurus who crossed his path over seven decades of living. 
We’re looking for short stories, essays, memoirs, photo essays, graphic stories, cartoons, and poems about ordinary gurus. Ordinary gurus teach us what we  need to know in order to expand our view of ourselves and the world. These gurus aren’t just people— they can also be anything in nature that offers you an insight or life-lesson, perhaps a pet, a wild animal, or even a tree that helps you see yourself or life differently.

Whomever/whatever the ordinary guru, your story must embody a personal experience. Entries must be previously unpublished, no longer than 1,200 words, and can be as short as a few sentences. Your story must be an original creation.


§ First Prize: $5,000

§ Second Prize: $2,500

§ Third Prize: $1,500.

Deadline: August 31, 2014.

Submission details at

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