Nancy's Books

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Writing a Middle Grade Novel/Calls for Submissions

Today, I’m continuing the series Writing a Middle Grade Novel and focusing on more tips for those of us who suffer from stick-itis on occasion. Being stuck in a manuscript and not knowing where or how to take the character onward presents a special kind of frustration. 

Here are more tips to unstick our writing muscles from writers who have faced this with their works: 

Jot down ideas. List possible conflicts or character choices. Test these ideas in the manuscripts. Most may not work but some might.  

Bracket what doesn’t work and move ahead with the story. Revision can focus first on the parts with brackets. 

Pick an idea and write. Make the idea something you enjoy writing and make it fun. Kick the momentum in gear with an image, a scene, a memory, whatever works for you. 

Send the manuscript to a writing partner for quality feedback. A fresh perspective can place a workable new spin that you had not considered for the story. 

Winston Churchill was asked to speak to a group of students who attended the same school he had attended as a boy. His words: "Never give up. Never give up. Never, never, never give up.”
As these words apply to life, they also apply to writers.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Amazing Kids! Send your name, age, and state/country when you send us your work. Please keep in mind we only accept kid-friendly, age-appropriate original creative works done by kids and teens. (The work must be appropriate for kids ages 12 and younger) and can be any of the following:
  • Fiction Stories – (up to 2,000 words)
  • Non-Fiction articles – You may also include pictures or art with your article for our various non-fiction columns
  • LOL (Laugh Out Loud) – Send jokes, riddles, funny short stories or funny facts!
  • Poems
  • Art/Photography
  • Reviews – Including books, movies, music, or kids’ products such as fun tech gear for kids and families. Photos of the book cover, movie, album or product are welcome.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Harness Anthologies 2015. Empty Nests: Parents, Old and New. Springtime is the time of year when birds start building nests and laying their eggs. It's a time of rebirth, now that winter is over. The snow has melted and flowers are sprouting. Life is anew. Empty Nests is an anthology for parents and about parents. Whether you are building your nest for your newborn baby, or you are finding yourself in an empty nest now that your teens have gone off to college or moved out.   

Stories can be fiction or nonfiction, but should focus on adults either preparing to be parents or finding their own children turning into adults and moving out. What makes your nest, now full or empty, a home? Inspire the parents around you.
Stories should be 750 to 2500 words.

Open to Submissions: January 2015
Submission guidelines at    

Publication Date: July 2015

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Writing a Middle Grade Novel/Calls for Submissions

Today, I’m continuing the series, Writing a Middle Grade Novel.
Help! I’m suffering from stuck-itis on chapter 8. I’m staring at my plot outline and it just doesn’t seem to work. We’ve all been there, the place in out manuscript in which we wonder where to take out character next. The ideas in the outline no longer seem viable. We also read those books with a sagging middle, the excitement of the beginning just wanes and the story dulls rather than delights. What is a writer to do?
I asked some writer friends for advice.
Write. Just write. Ideas will begin to mesh and some will sparkle and work.
Don’t stress over the quality of your writing. All first drafts are bad. In fact, they stink. That’s what revision is for, to turn bad writing into good. At this point my manuscript is the literary equivalent of the aroma of limburger cheese. (Caution: No deep breaths, please.) Be content with the fact that you’re doing something right, you’re writing.
Put the story aside for a period of time. Give your ideas time to percolate and steep. Ideas need time to form. Later, you'll go back to the story with a fresh perspective.
In the meantime, begin working on a new writing project. When you return to the original story, you may be happy to discover that stuck-itis has changed to idea-itis.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
The Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose are awarded annually to two students of secondary or undergraduate status whose written work "inspires the masses to believe beyond feeling the work." In other words, we strive to receive the absolute best work from emerging young writers in high school and college, and the best of the best will receive these two lovely awards.We accept submissions for these prizes in the regular submissions pools throughout the entire year. For more information regarding submission at this time, please see our submission page.
The 2015 Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose will open for submissions on December 1, 2014, and will close on March 13, 2015.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Hopscotch is a magazine created for girls from 6 to 13 years, with girls 8, 9, and 10 the specific target age.
HOPSCOTCH looks for articles, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that deal with timeless topics, such as pets, nature, hobbies, science, games, sports, careers, simple cooking, and anything else likely to interest a young girl. We leave dating, romance, human sexuality, cosmetics, fashion, and the like to other publications. Each issue revolves around a theme.
Submission guidelines at

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Writing a Middle Grade Novel/Call for Submissions

This week, I’m continuing my focus on scenes. 

What was the last book you read that you couldn’t put down? You felt an urge so compelling to stop working, pick up the book, and discover what was happening to the character that your mind wandered back to the story time and again. Yeah, that’s the kind of story writers want to write.  

Those stories have more than interesting characters and compelling plots. They have an emotional intensity that draws the reader into the action. Emotion intense scenes are those that have high stakes for the character, critical events that are life changing. Keep the audience in mind. If the reader identifies with the problem, empathizes with the character, or envisions himself/herself in a similar situation, an emotional investment is made. 

In children’s novels, the characters’ situations should reflect what is appropriate for each age group. The plot focuses on external events with less focus on thoughts and feelings of the main character. Young adult novels focus more on internal conflict and less on events happening around them. Of course, there are many exceptions to this and in varying degrees.

Each scene needs a beginning, middle and ending. As one scene ends, transition into the beginning of the next scene. Longer scenes are needed for major events and shorter scenes for less significant actions. Scene by scene, build your story and make it sparkle. 

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Starsongs Magazine. You are the future, and Starsongs wants to hear your voice. Our intention is to inspire and promote the creativity of youth. Starsongs is a general market magazine interested in work by writers, artists, and photographers ages 9-19. Please keep this age range in mind and focus your work to a PG rating level. We are open to fiction or non-fiction and “as told to” stories.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Youth Imagination is interested in creative fiction stories by teens as well as by adult authors. Make the stories awesome, inspiring and engaging. Our goal is to publish the best writing for and by teens. We particularly love stories exploring the issues, such as bullying, drugs, romance, school, parental issues, teacher issues, etc., as well as about the grit and character of teens and young adults.
We accept most genres of fiction, including modern, urban or classical fantasy, as well as sci-fi, slipstream, literary, action-adventure or suspense.
Submission guidelines at

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Writing a Middle Grade Novel/Calls for Submissions

This week, I’m continuing my focus on scenes. 

The character must continue to make decisions, to choose among several options. Reacting and failing allow the character to learn and to become proactive in solving his/her problems. Eventually the character will make some good decisions as s/he overcomes the odds and wins. The decision must be logical and stay true to the character, a decision the reader will respect. The risk can be great, and should be, to keep the reader’s interest high. Setbacks and failures create tension and suspense. 

Convey specific details of the surroundings to set the tone. If the scene needs to produce fear and it is at night, use night sounds and visuals, plus other senses to feed the fright factor. Do shadows creep under lighting? Did something snap? Does the character smell smoke? Could the building be burning?  

Use the setting to reflect the character’s feelings. If the character is sad, do the buildings look rundown and gloomy, does the moan of an animal sound the way the character feels?  

Every scene does not need monumental action and an extremely agitated state of mind for the character, but each scene should show the character and his/her emotional state. 

Linking strong scenes together makes a believable, dramatic story that keeps the audience turning the pages.  

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Storybird. Write. Your words. Our art. Amazing stories. Simple tools help you build books in minutes. Let the art inspire and surprise you as you write. Readers will encourage you along the way.
Submission guidelines at
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Harness Anthologies 2015

Publication Date: January 2015. Payment: Two Copies.
Solstice: A Winter Antholog. Winter vacation, snow cream, snow days from school, building snowmen, snowball fights, snow storms, the first time you or your child saw snow. Give us your best white memory! All things winter and snow related. Fiction or nonfiction accepted. Also accepting original winter poems and winter recipes.
Stories should be 750 to 2500 words.
Poems and recipes should be limited to one page.

Open to Submissions: September 2014
Please do not use headers or footers/page numbers in your ms. Please use TNR or similar basic font, size 12.

Submission guidelines: Send as a Word doc in an attachment to

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Writing a Middle Grade Novel/Calls for submissions

This week, I’m continuing my focus on scenes. 

How did the character react? The character should remain true to his/her identity. If outgoing, use that personality throughout the story. A shy character should not suddenly become the life of the party. 

What is the main character’s dilemma? An old adage of writing novels is treat the character badly; then treat him/her worse. Dilemma is a situation in which the character has no good options available so s/he has to choose the best of the poor choices. This throws the character out of his normal life and into a situation in which he is not ready to handle, so future mistakes will be inevitable. This is a set-up for upcoming scenes in which the character will work through different choices and fail even more. It also allows the character to learn and grow by the end of the tale. 

Reaction is the response to the dilemma. Express the character’s feelings along with the reactions. Show how the character is hurting. The more you create an emotional experience for the reader, the better your writing becomes. This can be shown through narrative, dialog, gestures, expressions, and how the character decides what to do next; then acts on the decision. Make your reader wonder if the character can ever get out of the situation. Make the reader worry. Make the reader want to find out how the story ends. 

Next week, I’ll continue to discuss scene development. 

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Magic Dragon. Work should be neatly printed or typed. If you type it, please double-space. Stories and essays can be up to three pages, poetry up to 30 lines. It is ok to send writing that you have also illustrated. You can write about anything that is important to you; it can be serious or funny, true or fiction.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL: THANKS TO MY MOM. We're looking for stories about moms of all ages, from young mothers to great-grandmothers, and everything in between. Please remember, we no longer publish "as told to" stories. Please write in the first person about you and your mom. Do not ghostwrite a story for someone else unless you list that person as the author. You will also receive a check for $200 and 10 free copies of your book, worth more than $100. You will retain the copyright for your story and you will retain the right to resell it. Deadline October 20, 2014.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Writing a Middle Grade Novel/Call for Submissions

Readers enjoy fiction because they are emotionally involved with the character and plot of the story. If the reader’s emotional experience is powerful, the writer has succeeded. If not, it’s time to relook the scenes. 

The fundamental unit of fiction is the scene. A novel is basically a series of scenes strung together like beads on a necklace. The scenes form a beginning, middle, and ending with the character trying to reach a goal. Each scene needs conflict and change. 

In writing each scene, keep the following in mind: 

Is this scene carrying the plot forward?   

Quickly get the character involved in the action. This is the stimulus, the something that happens to the character. The something should cause conflict. (No conflict, no story.) The conflict should result in some kind of problem or disaster when the character fails to meet the goal.  

Hook the reader with surprising action. A lost dog or an embarrassing experience or a big disappointment or worse trouble. If the reader can guess the character’s every action and reaction, the story will seem trite and dull. 

Next week, I’ll continue to discuss scene development. 

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
BOP readers, it's a dream come true! It's time for you to be a BOP reporter! Tell us your stories and one might be printed in a future issue! We can't wait to hear from you!
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Creative Nonfiction magazine is seeking new essays for an upcoming issue dedicated to WAITING. We want your well-crafted true stories of delays, postponements, and pauses that explore and examine our relationship with time. Whether you're waiting patiently or not, on tables or for Godot, however you approach the subject, we can't wait to read your work. 
Submissions must be 4,000 words or fewer. $1,000 for best essay; $500 for runner-up. 
Deadline: September 22.

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: