Nancy's Books

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Writing a Middle Grade Novel/Call for Submissions

Today, I’m continuing the series, Writing a Middle Grade Novel.
We want our readers to be “there.” To feel the excitement, the wind, the joy, the fear, and more in the journey of the character.  Descriptive passages create an illusion. The illusion of reality pulls the reader into the middle of the action and holds the reader there through the last page. Description is the image-making power of the story. It engages the reader by making the characters and action seem real.

The setting may seem unimportant compared to character, plot, and voice, but descriptive setting enhance the realism. In mysteries, frightful settings play a critical role if sights, sounds, smells, taste, and touch are conveyed through sensory details. Touch can send goosebumps down a reader’s spine if the character is in a scary setting and something bumps him. Fog or smoke can blur the character’s vision and make the setting creepier or seem more dangerous. Portraying a specific locale with sensory descriptors allows the writer to make a setting appear so real the reader can almost step into the pages of the book.

In Amazing Grace, I wrote:

Riding shotgun suited me fine. I loved to perch in the front seat by the driver. Besides, I was on the lookout for something. As we rounded a curve on Route 23 past Louisa, a row of Burma Shave signs popped into view. I read the signs to Johnny:

Don’t stick

Your elbow

Out so far

It might go home

In another car.

In writing this scene, my goal was to transport the reader back in time to some of America’s first roadside billboards, the Burma Shave signs. 

Next week, I’ll give more tips on writing descriptive passages. 

[I will resume Call for Submissions for Young Writers in September.] 

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
The Wolfe Pack's Black Orchid Novella Award. Recommended free contest gives $1,000 and publication in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine for the best traditional mystery novella. Contest sponsor The Wolfe Pack is the official fan club for Nero Wolfe, a legendary fictional sleuth created by Rex Stout in a series of mystery novels published from 1934 to 1975. Entries should be 15,000-20,000 words. See website for thematic and stylistic restrictions. Essentially, they are looking for an old-fashioned story of deduction, with a witty style and an engaging relationship between the characters, and no explicit sex or violence.
Deadline May 31

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Writing a Middle Grade Novel, part 12/Calls for Submissions

Middle grade fiction needs a character arc. The character arc is the growth of the character from the beginning to the middle to the end of the story. Begin with a likable character. Place that character in a situation that is so challenging it seems s/he may forever be doomed. Allow the character to try and fail different attempts to alleviate the situation. By the end of the story, the character achieves the worthwhile goal and through the journey is changed. The change in the character throughout the story is the arc.

One character arc is called the Hero’s Journey. In this type, the character is someone who seems unlikely to ever achieve his/her goal. By the end of the story the character undergoes a radical transformation to become a hero.
Another type is the Growth Arc in which the character finds inner strength to overcome some fear, to challenge someone or face head-on a situation that s/he would never have done at the beginning of the story. The change is less dramatic than the Hero’s Journey.
A character arc that is seldom seen in middle grade novels is the Tragedy Arc. The character dies or declines (emotionally, physically). Most of the stories in children’s literature have a happy ending with the main character resolving a conflict or ends with the reader having hope that the situation will improve.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Young Voices of America Contest. Students in Grades K-12 are invited to participate. Remember this is a short story contest. We are looking fiction. Make the story come to life on the page.  It can be Mystery, Sci/Fi, Comedy, Romance, Young Adult, etc. write it in any genre' you choose as long as you comply with the rules.

Deadline: midnight, June 30, 2014

Submission guidelines at
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Pockets Fiction Contest. Stories 750-1000 words. No set theme. Prize: $500 and publication. Postal submissions.

Deadline August 15


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Writing a Middle Grade Novel, part 11/Calls for Submissions

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

AMAZING GRACE, my first middle grade novel, was just released. This book’s road to publication is somewhat unusual in a couple of ways.
First, the story began as a picture book but the subject matter was too advanced for that age group. I rewrote it as a chapter book. Again, the subject matter worked better for an older reader. What can writers learn from this? Know your audience. When writing, imagine a particular age, or even a particular child. As you write, continually ask yourself, does this (dialog, character action, word choice, plot) work for my audience.
The second unusual aspect of the book is the length of time—15 years—the story percolated in my mind. I began the book 15 years ago. That’s right, fifteen loooooong years ago. I never gave up on the story but it took me years to learn how to write it. What can writers learn from this? Perseverance is the key to a successful career in writing. Don’t give up. I’ve seen so many writers work hard and through the process begin to excel, only to become so frustrated with rejection, then quit writing.
For years, I’ve written picture books and now have 30+ published. I love writing for that age group, but it’s also fun and an exciting learning experience to move away from my comfort zone and write for an entirely different audience. If we try writing in a genre new to us or for a difference audience, we’ll grow as writers.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Storybird. 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:

Clarkesworld Magazine is a Hugo Award-winning science fiction and fantasy magazine that publishes short stories, interviews, articles and audio fiction. We are currently open for art, non-fiction and short story submissions.
Submission guidelines at

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Publishing Trends/Calls for Submissions

What are editors and agents looking for in 2014? Let’s look at “what’s hot” and “what’s not” in the literary world of children’s publishing.

What’s HOT:
Mysteries. They have been for years and continue the trend.
Kid moves from comfortable surroundings to that of a distant relative
Picture books that extol the power of the imagination
Character-driven middle grade fiction
Funny, quirky characters
Nonfiction for Pre-K and Teen
Young Adult contemporary fiction
What’s NOT:
Sword-and-sorcery fantasy
Rhyming picture books
The market is saturated with books focusing on these “What’s NOT” topics. That doesn’t mean that your story will be rejected. If your manuscript is different enough, it will stand out. The recommended story for you to write is the story you want to write. Study the market, especially in the genre of your story so you can add your own unique twist to the tale.
Call for submissions for young writers:

One Story started with the idea of celebrating the short story form by showcasing just one short story per issue. That was twelve years ago, and the journey has been tremendous. So a year ago, the idea was hatched to start a second magazine--one geared solely to young adult fiction. That became One Teen Story

What’s particularly exciting about One Teen Story is that it’s the only regular venue out there for young adult short stories. That’s a tremendous thing. There are plenty of talented writers--both established and emerging--who are writing YA fiction in the short form, and they had no regular place to submit their work until OTS opened its doors. Now we’re seeing a lot of fantastic submissions and publishing wonderful short stories that have teen protagonists.  

Call for submissions for adult writers:
East of the Web is a slick site dedicated to new, previously unpublished fiction, as well as to classic short stories. East of the Web is keen to provide exposure for writers by offering them a place where their work will be seen and read in a high quality, respected setting. The site receives about half a million unique visitors per month, so successful submissions are likely to be viewed by more readers than in almost any other short story publication. In addition, the site receives attention from agents, the press, film makers, schools, universities and other publishers.

Note that our editorial standards are high and we do not publish all the submissions we receive. If necessary, editors work with authors of successful submissions prior to placing the story on the site.
Next week, I’ll resume my “Writing a Middle Grade Novel” series.