Nancy's Books

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dialog Tips, Part II/Contest/Call for Submissions

Dialog is one of the most difficult aspects of writing to do well. Here are more tips on writing interesting dialog.

Listen to how people talk. Some people phrase words in more interesting ways than others. If you hear a different turn of phrase, write it down so you won’t forget it. You just might develop a character who could utter those exact words.

Alfred Hitchcock said that a good story was "life, with the dull parts taken out." Dialog is the same. In real life we stammer and repeat during conversations. Dialog should represent how we talk but get to the nitty-gritty with an economy of words.

Break up dialog with action.

“Are you staying the night?” Jody asked and he pulled out a chair.
Anne pulled her coat around her and stepped toward the door. “Probably not,” she said.

This type of narrative with dialog is useful in long passages and it makes the character appear real.

Sometime dialog tags are not needed if the characters can be identified by their words.

“You never listen,” Brad said.

Joan stared straight ahead. “I always listen.”



When in doubt, consider the two purposes dialog serves: promote the plot and develop the characters.

Contest for Adult Writers:

Zocalo Public Square Poetry Prize is awarded annually to the U.S. poet whose poem best evokes a connection to place. ‘Place’ may be interpreted by the poet as a place of historical, cultural, political or personal importance; it may be a literal, imaginary or metaphorical landscape. We are looking for one poem that offers our readers a fresh, original and meaningful take on the topic. Like everything else we feature, we will most be on the lookout for that rare combination of brilliance and clarity, excellence and accessibility. The winning poet, as judged by Zocalo Poetry Editor Stephanie Brown, will receive $1,000.” NB: “The winning poem becomes the property of Zocalo Public Square.”
Details at
Submissions: September 5-November 5, 2011

Call for Submissions for Student Writers:

FRODO'S NOTEBOOK actively seeks four types of submissions from teens.

1. Poetry. We prefer poems of under 36 lines. Address to poetry
editor Julia Shields and send in the body of an email to

2. Creative/Personal Essays. Creative nonfiction, narrative-
driving and reflective; not journalism or opinion. Address to
editor in chief Daniel Klotz and send as a .doc (Word), .rtf,
or .txt attachment to

3. Fiction. Almost exclusively short-short stories of under
1,200 words. We mostly want “literary” fiction, but send us
your fantasy or sci-fi if it’s really good and not fan fic.
Address to fiction editor Timothy Rezendes and send to

4. Articles. Reviews of current books, movies, and art, as
well as cultural critique, op-ed, and original journalistic
reportage, as long as it has a literary/artistic subject or
slant. Usually under 1,200 words. Send a writing sample or
two to editor at large Ben Carr at

Details at

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I often struggle with dialog and sometimes question if dialog is needed. Some picture books have no dialog at all, but as readers grow older, dialog is important to bring the character to life. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you write dialog in your stories.

“Said” is the preferred dialog tag. These tags are used after a character has spoken. Avoid other words such as declared, vowed, remarked, whispered, shouted, or bragged. Those words stand out and sometimes get in the way of the story. “Said” is used so much it has become invisible and the reader hardly notices it. Don’t be concerned that “said” is boring. Rev up the plot. That’s what grabs the reader’s interest.

Avoid using adverbs in dialog tags, such as she said excitedly. Show the excitement in the character’s action or words, rather than telling the reader.

The conversation should carry the story forward. If “Hello, how are you?” and “Fine, thank you,” doesn’t add to the plot or character development, leave it out. Cut the chit-chat.

When characters talk, make it meaningful. They should have a reason for talking rather than merely provide information to the reader. Straight question and answer sessions are usually dull and boring. In dialog, the characters should reveal themselves so the reader understands them better.

Next week, I’ll discuss more on dialog.

Contest for Adult Writers
Flash Fiction

For the Flash Fiction competition the top five entries will be selected by public vote, and the winning story chosen by the Judging Panel. To vote, individual must register on the Light Reading website. Each voter may vote for as many stories they wish, but can only cast one vote for each story. Any attempts by individual voters to vote multiple times for a single story, for example by registering with multiple email addresses may result in all their votes being disqualified. The use of robotic or automated devices for voting is strictly prohibited, and Diamond determines that this has been the case we reserve the right to disqualify both voter and contestant.
Details at

Contest for Young Writers
Jack And Jill
, P.O. Box 567, Indianapolis, IN 46206. Publishes stories, poems, riddles, and jokes written by students in grades 2-6.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Books for Boys/Calls for Submissions

Teacher, parents, librarians, and editors often say they want books that interest boys? Have you ever wondered about the differences in books that have boy appeal as opposed to those with girl appeal?

The differences go deep, all the way to plot and character. Boys like books that deal with action and adventure. Explosions reel them in. Fast cars, blood, and all things gross are sure winners. Boys like situations, fantasy, science fiction, heroic male characters, and all types of nonfiction [sports, humor, animals, biography, history, informational text, and hobbies]. They prefer shorter text and visuals accompanying text as in graphic novels.

What about girls? Some girls like those types of books, too. There’s no distinct dividing line. What appeals to one child may not to another, regardless of gender. However, girls like to read about other girls, relationships, feelings, interesting characters, and human-interest stories.

The gender lines can become even murkier. Both boys and girls enjoy humor and nonfiction.

One of the best ways to learn what boys like to read is to talk with boys. Find out what books they have recently read and what type of TV show they like to watch. What interest them? What make them laugh? The answers vary with different ages. If you’re interested in writing books for boys, read books that are popular books with boys and see how the subject matter was handled.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers
Working Mother Magazine Pay: Varies Freelance assignments fit the three primary sections of the magazine: You, Work and Family. Features are also assigned to fit our initiative packages (100 Best Companies, Best Companies for Multicultural Women, Best Green Companies, etc). Features are usually 1,000 to 2,000 words. Basically, we look for articles that help moms successfully navigate the task of juggling job, home and family. We like tightly focused pieces that celebrate working moms while sensibly solving or illuminating a problem unique to our readers and/or their children and family. We also want to share personal stories for and about working moms who have experienced career triumphs and/or life changes--all while raising kids and working a job. Topics of interest include: career-related (work/life) issues; diversity in the workplace; family relationships; time, home and money management; and parenting. Most of our columns--news, lifestyle, activities, recommendations, parenting, travel, food, beauty and fashion--are staff written. But we might assign out:
Learning Curve--500-word, age-by-age (0-2, 3-5, 6-10, 11+) child development column.
My Story--1,000 word personal story from a reader that illuminates a working mother issue or scenario and how she triumphed over, solved, or dealt with it. Humor is good here.
Details at

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

GIRLS' LIFE wants to publish you online! The Girls’ Life website,, accepts submissions of articles, poetry and short fiction from writers under the age of 18.
Details at

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Keep the Readers Interested/Calls for Submissions

This week I’m continuing to discuss ways to keep the readers interested in the story.

1. Add details. Think about the setting. If the area is mountainous, consider a waterfall. Let the reader feel the mist and hear the water drip, trickle, or pound against rock. Can you smell the aroma of the plants and flowers? Engage the reader with the use of senses for major scenes. Two or three senses place the reader in the midst of the setting and action. Show them the scene with words that paint pictures.

2. Ask questions. Throughout the narrative ask the question, “What if…” What if the character had to dive over the waterfall, what would happen? What if the character found a cave beneath the waterfall? What if the character was captured at the waterfall?

3. Decisions. Make the character face difficult decisions in which there is no easy way out and no easy answers. This increases the tension and the emotional drama making a more compelling story. Write the scenes so they lead the character in a logical sense to making the decision. The character should face tough choices and react to choices to reach the goal or overcome the problem.

4. Character struggles alone. The character experiencing the problem is the one who solves the problem. A knight in shining armor, Aunt Maebelle, or big brother should not be thrown into the mix to help out the character in trouble and save him/her in the end. Provide a goal for the character and lots of pitfalls. The trouble the character experiences is the story. The more trouble, the more interesting the story.

What keeps you interested in a story?

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers


A general interest magazine published by the Boy Scouts of America. Major articles run 500-1,500 words and pay $400 to $1,500. Covers sports, history, how-to and more. See the BSA's merit badges for ideas. Departments run up to 600 words and pay $100 to $400. Many topics. Must entertain boys ages 6-18. Write for a 12-year-old.
Details at

Call for Submissions for Student Writers


P.O. Box 3939, Eugene, OR 97403. International nonprofit quarterly children's magazine featuring writing and art by children ages 7-18. Writing may be submitted in any language and from any country. Awarded the 1995 Golden Shoestring Award by Educational Press Association of America. Publishes original artwork, photos, stories, pen pal letters, recipes, cultural celebrations, songs, games, book reviews; writings about your background, culture, religion, interests, and experiences, etc.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Keeping Reader Interest/Calls for Submissions

How do we keep readers interested in our stories? By leaving out the boring parts, of course. We can accomplish this task by incorporating the following:

1. Humor. Kids of all ages, from babies to seniors, react positively to humor. When done well, humor keeps the reader reading. Humor is used to soften life’s hardships and to ease the tension in a story in which the character is experiencing a difficult situation. All children identify with difficult situations, and humor is a stress reliever in life and in fiction.

2. Adventure. Kids like to explore the unknown. A journey into a castle dungeon, a trip through a graveyard on a dark, spooky night, flying to the moon, or simply staying up late on a weekend. The novelty of the situation provides interest and adds to plot development.

3. A strong, emotional connection to the character. The right story for the right person at the right time is like a warm cozy blanket on a cold winter’s night. Readers want the characters they like to succeed. They keep reading to find out if the character wins or reaches the goal. So take an interesting character and place the character in trouble. The worse the trouble, the better the story.

4. Throw more trouble at the character. If a character’s quest is too easy the payoff isn’t great enough. Treat your character badly, then treat him/her worse is a time-honored method of writing fiction. Naturally, the writer has to figure out a way to get the character out the mess by the end of the story.

Next week I’ll discuss more ways to keep the reader interested.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Ladybug. Magazine pays on publication. Seeks nonfiction, fiction, columns/departments, fillers, photos/artwork. Subjects: Young children's interest, science, how-things-work, poetry.
Details at

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
KIDS' WORLD -. Biannual magazine featuring writing and art from young people up to age 17. Publishes poems, short stories, and art. Considers jokes, puzzles, games, and other material. No horror accepted. Send manuscripts to 1300 Kicker Rd., Tuscaloosa, AL 35404