Nancy's Books

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Creating Character Motivation, Contest, Call for Submissions

Fictional characters must be motivated to make a change. The motivation determines how the characters respond to the world around them. Interesting characters take action that creates change.

The character should desire something. Maybe it’s winning a blue ribbon or the heart of the girl of his dreams or finding something s/he lost. The possibilities go on and on. The quest to fulfill that desire is the story.

The path the character takes in fulfilling the desire is based on the background you develop: personality traits, view of the world, setting, etc. Is the character strong and powerful, weak but determined, easy going or defensive? Figuring out the background of the character before beginning the story helps the writer make plausible choices that fit the character. The reader will understand why the characters made those choices.

Reveal the motivation slowly through action and dialog rather than in large chunks, called backstory. If the character has a purpose for his/her behavior, the reader is more interested in following along.

Have you ever seen a friend act in a way that was unusual for that person? You might thing s/he was acting out of character. Of if the friend does something that was full anticipated, you might say, that’s Karen being Karen. Apply the same viewpoint to fictional characters. Is the behavior consistent with the character? If the character isn’t behaving typically, readers have to know why. Make the motivation clear and readers will connect.

Contest for Adult Writers:
Categories fiction, nonfiction (creative or essay). $300, $150 and $50 prize monies in each category. Limit 5,000 words. Previously published works are accepted so long as can legally obtain free, one time, one site, permanent web publication rights. The contest may be extended at discretion until a minimum of 500 entries have been submitted.
Deadline December 7, 2011.
Details at

Call for Submissions for Student Writers:
Seventeen Fiction Contest
Open to female writers, ages 13-21, in the US and Canada. Word Count: 500 words. No entry fee.
Grand prize: $5000 and publication in Seventeen.
Deadline December 31
Details at

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Writer Motivation, Part II, Calls for Submissions

This week, I have more tips on ways to stay motivated when receiving rejection after rejection from publishers.

1. Protect your writing time. If possible, set aside time each day or week to devote to your writing project. Some people have as little as twenty minutes; others longer.
2. Everyone has moments when motivation is fleeting. Don’t allow those moments to hinder your goals. Try writing just one sentence. Often that sentence will lead to another; then another.
3. Writing is a job. It’s exciting, fun, and worthy, just like other jobs, but remember that it is a job so there will be moments when the words don’t come easily and the excitement will dwindle along with the fun. Be realistic in viewing writing as a job.
4. Some writers, including me, like to change genres to keep the writing exciting and different. If you’ve only tried novels, give chapter books or picture books a try. Or if you’re writing historical pieces, try something else. You might find the new venture stimulating.
5. Write works that interest you. If you don’t love it, others probably won’t either. If you love your characters, you’ll want to spend more time in their world.

These are some of the ways I stay motivated to write. What motivates you?

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers
Ninth Letter is accepting submissions of fiction, poetry, essays, and interviews from September 1 to April 30 (postmark dates). Ninth Letter is a published semi-annually at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. We are interested in prose and poetry that experiment with form, narrative, and nontraditional subject matter, as well as more traditional literary work.” Pays: $25/printed page, on publication.
Details at

Call for Submissions for Student Writers

Ages 13 and under: games, reviews and contests.

Ages 13-18: poems, fiction and non-fiction
Details at

To see more contests, check out my blog at

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Writer Motivation/Calls for Submissions

Last Saturday, I spent the day at the Kentucky Book Fair meeting and talking with authors and readers extraordinaire. The experience was fun, exciting, informational, and motivating. Many of the people I talked with were interested in writing children’s books. Some had experienced rejection numerous times by publishers. The recurring question was How do I stay motivated to write when I cannot get published?

I understand that question completely since contracts don’t come easily for most writers, including me. Here are a few tactics, some psychological, I use.

1. Avoid negative thoughts. I’ll never get a contract or My writing is as good as another author’s work to bring us down emotionally and do nothing to foster our careers as writers.

2. Read like a writer. If you read another book and like it, try to figure out the techniques used by the author to draw you into the book. If you don’t like a book, try to determine what doesn’t work with the writing style.

3. Write a logline, a one-sentence description, of your story. This is your road map to keep you focused so you won’t veer off track.

4. When you get to a place in the story and don’t know what to do with a character, don’t freeze. Think logically about what the character would do or add another problem for the character to overcome and set the character free to choose different courses of action.

5. Get the story written. Don't over analyze, revise, or judge the manuscript until it is written. Then you'll have time to make it shine.

Next week, I’ll include more tips to keep writers excited about their work.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
The Iowa Review receives unsolicited submissions only September through November. The journal “publishes short stories, flash fiction, graphic novels, self-contained novel excerpts, and plays; poetry of all kinds, including verse plays and longer work; and all manner of creative nonfiction, including personal essays, lyric essays, memoirs, and literary journalism. We pay $1.50 per line for poetry ($40 minimum) and $0.08 per word for prose ($100 minimum).” Also pays for interviews (query first). NB: “We have begun publishing reviews of book-length fiction (novels, short story collections, plays, and graphic novels), literary nonfiction, and poetry on our website, with the goal of helping new and emerging writers develop an audience.” For reviews, payment is $50, and reviews are accepted year-round. “TIR often receives complimentary review copies. If you’re having trouble coming up with a title, we’d be happy to suggest
Details at

Call for Submissions for Student Writers:
Highlights for Children

Ages 2-12: short stories, art, poems, jokes and riddles
803 Church Street
Honesdale, PA 18431
Details at

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Conveying Emotions/Calls for Submissions

One of the best ways to bring a character to life is to show how the character feels. Telling readers that a character is angry doesn’t provide enough details to be believable. However, showing emotions through action, feelings, and dialog creates a life-like character.

Writing Norman was angry adds little to enhance character development. Instead, place the reader inside the character's mind and emotions to see and feel the turmoil Norman is experiencing. Norman slammed the door and kicked the chair out of his way. He felt his arm muscles flinch as he tightened his fists and his face flush red as he stared at Homer. In a voice as threatening as a raging fire, he said, “Who wrote this ?”

Norman's actions allow readers to “see” his behavior. The feelings allow the reader to “feel” the body language as the character becomes angry, and the dialog reaffirms the built-up tension.

The goal in writing fiction is to place the reader INSIDE the story. If the characters, setting, and plot are realistic, the reader enters the make-believe world in the first few words. Keep readers engaged by using the senses to transport them inside the character’s thoughts and feelings.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
“The theme of the next issue of Vestal Review is a twist on classic fairy tales. Please submit a flash fiction story (500 words or less) about the yet unheard adventures of Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, Snow White or any other well-known fairy tale character. Interpret the theme broadly and imaginatively, but incline toward a literary story. Please state the source tale’s name before the title. No more than two submissions per author, as usual. Submit between August 1 and November 30, 2011.” Pays (rates vary depending on story length; “stories of great merit receive up to $25 flat fee; 3 cents a word is a minimum pay in any case.” See for details (via Pam Casto’s Flash Fiction Flash newsletter,

Call for Submissions for Student Writers:
Who: If you are currently a student in grades nine through twelve, Crashtest wants to hear from you.
What: Crashtest publishes poetry, stories and creative non-fiction in the form of personal essays, imaginative investigation, experimental interviews, or
whatever else you would like to call it. We’re looking for writing that has both a
perspective and a personality. We’re looking for authors who have something
to say. Our only request is that you don’t send us work which you found boring or tedious to write. No enforced school assignments, please!
When: Crashtest accepts submissions all year long