Nancy's Books

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Likeable Characters

I’m continuing the blog on Likeable Characters.

Realistic, relatable characters make likeable characters. Characters don’t have to be good to be likeable, but they should have likeable traits. A demanding cat can display anything but good behavior but it should have some redeeming qualities.
The character needs a sharp intellect, keen wit, or some quality that will make him/her able to stand up to the challenge and triumph over the obstacles.
Would you enjoy spending time in the real world with your main character? If so, that’s one sign that the reader will enjoy spending time reading about him/her.
Give your character a ton of personality. Is s/he funny, sarcastic, sweet, brave, talkative, quiet, helpful? Is the character a rule follower or rule breaker? Either works as long as s/he stays consistent. Build a three-dimensional character that has feelings, show emotions, and experiences failure before finally succeeding.
Make your character memorable. Memorable characters need realistic problems to face, realistic decisions to make, and follow through with realistic solutions.
Check the character traits in your protagonist. Make “likable” one of the top.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Cyber Kids. We especially like stories, articles and poems that are funny.
Art and written submissions can be on any topic that is appropriate for our audience (ages 7 to 12). Stories which include an original illustration or photo are more likely to be published than stories without pictures. Originality is very important--make sure the work you submit is your own and not copied from someone else.
In addition to art and writing, we also like to publish games, puzzles, brain teasers, jokes, and multimedia creations by kids.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
FIRESIDE publishes original, previously unpublished flash fiction of up to 1,000 words and short stories of 1,500 to 4,000 words. (Firm limit.) We pay 12.5 cents per word, with payment on completion of edits. We buy first world publication rights and six-month exclusivity, as well as the right to reprint the story once, non-exclusively, in a Fireside anthology.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Likeable Characters

So you want to write a marketable manuscript in 2015? Begin with a likeable character, one that readers will want to triumph against unfavorable odds.

Give the character a straightforward name that is easy to pronounce and makes a good impression. Sure, unique names will works but simple names will too. The name should fit the era of the story. When I was writing AMAZING GRACE, a WWII story, I decided to name a character in honor of my critique partner who helped me so much with the manuscript. When I wrote Sandi, my critique came to my rescue and suggested I use Sandra instead, because it was more common in that period of history.
The character should make a good first impression with the reader. The good impression can be based on the character’s flaws. Figure out your character’s weakness and proceed with an incredible problem that preys on that weakness. The main character should shoulder the main load. The problems should not be so overwhelming, the character cannot triumph; instead use the story to play out the character’s struggle and ultimate victory.  Let the other characters in the story underestimate the protagonist. This will give him/her a chance to grow and prove them wrong by the end of the story. The protagonist should never realize that s/he will succeed until the very end.
Readers root for characters that grow and change. A flawed character reflects real life. No one is perfect, right? Flawed characters are easier to like than those that are perfect or think they are.
Next week, I’ll discuss more ways to write a likeable character.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
TEEN GIRLS THAT WRITE. This blog is for teen girls.  It gives teens information about scholarships, fellowships along with writing tips. It’s for teens who want to write books, screenplays or just about anything. Teens have the power to do anything and this blog is to help them get to where they want to go.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
C The Binnacle Twelfth Annual Ultra-Short Competition. "The Binnacle will sponsor its Twelfth International Ultra-Short Competition in the 2014-2015 academic year. We are looking for prose works of 150 words or fewer and poetry of sixteen lines or fewer and fewer than 150 words.  All works should have a narrative element to them.....A minimum of $300 in cash prizes will be awarded, with a minimum prize of $50. At least one of the prizes will go to a [University of Maine-Machias] student. Please submit no more than two works total, prose and/or poetry."
Submissions deadline: March 15, 2015

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Is My Manuscript Ready to Submit?

I’m continuing with the series, Is My Manuscript Ready to Submit?
Check for active verbs. Is, are, was, were and such don’t create an image in the mind’s eye. However, scat, scram, climb, swing, jump, and skip paint pictures with words. The more vivid the pictures we create with our manuscripts, the more the reader “sees” and understands the action-packed world we present.
Does the character display emotional depth? Characters should not be totally good or bad; instead, they should reflect real people who have flaws.
How believable is the dialog? Dialog should help develop the character, move the plot forward, or provide information. It’s important that dialog sound real but should not contain large chunks of information. Offer information in small bits and pieces. Dialog should flow and be believable. He said/she said work best for dialog tags.
Do the characters sound alike? Each character should have a unique voice.
Is the pacing too slow? Move the story forward at a pace that will keep the reader engaged.
Does the ending have a surprise or twist that is unexpected?
Check the spelling, grammar, point of view, and formatting.
After a series of revisions and when my manuscript meets all these points, I select 3-5 publishers and ship it out.
Call for submissions for Young Writers:
Canvas. We are seeking writers ages 13-18 to submit:
 Fiction – Please limit submissions to 5,000 words.
Novel Excerpts - Novel and memoir excerpts are acceptable if self-contained (work as a complete narrative).
Poetry – You may submit more than one poem, but please do not exceed 5 pages worth of poetry.
Plays - Please follow standard play format. Limit to 10 pages.
Nonfiction – Essays, memoir, creative nonfiction. Please limit submissions to 5,000 words.  

New Media – Video, images, etc fine for website. But must be accompanied by written version to be considered for print and eBook.

Cross-genre - Experimental work (prose poems, art and writing, fiction and nonfiction hybrids) are highly encouraged, but please keep to the word limit for fiction.
Submission guidelines at 

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
APPLESEEDS explores a single topic with insightful articles, cool photographs, and a unique you-are-there perspective on culture, history, inventions, the lives of children around the world, and much more. A perfect gift for any young reader ages 7 to 10 looking for an adventure magazine that explores all the great things about our world!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Is My Manuscript Ready to Submit?

Yesterday, I had a writer ask me how I could tell if my manuscript was ready for submission. Excellent question.

I always want to present my best work to editors and to help do so, I follow a checklist. Here are the basic checkpoints I use before I ship a manuscript to potential publishers, although there may be some points you want to consider for certain genres, such as mysteries, that are not covered here.
Does the manuscript begin with a great hook? A hook is a literary technique that is used at the beginning of a story to “hook” the reader’s attention so s/he will keep reading.
Does the story have an arc? Is there a beginning/middle/ending?
Does the character show growth? Occasionally, fictional picture books (I WANT MY HAT BACK) are published with no character growth, but most have characters that learn a lesson or show some type of growth by the ending. I would urge new writers to aim toward the type of story that develops character growth because editors are more likely to offer contracts for those.
Did you introduce a problem for the character and allow the character to solve the problem? The character with the problem should solve it.
Are sensory descriptors used? Writers tend to focus on the visual, but don’t neglect touch, taste, smell and hearing. Using these descriptions allows the reader to feel as if they are taking a journey with the characters.
Next week, I’ll continue with more checkpoints.
Call for submissions for Young Writers:
The Writer’s Slate publishes poetry and prose from students enrolled in kindergarten through twelfth grade, as well as creative writing by teachers. Publishes three times per year, with one issue completely dedicated toward publishing writing contest winners. Send work to: Shelly McNerney, 7619 Hemlock Street, Overland Park, KS, 66024. Teacher’s name must be included with all submissions.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Highlights High Five. For ages 2 to 6, created by the publishers ofHighlights for Children to help encourage the development of young children and have fun at the same time. Fiction should have an engaging plot, strong characterization, and lively language. Stories that teach by positive example, rather than preach, are preferred. Suggestions of crime and violence are taboo. 500 words or less. Rhyming stories are seldom purchased. Pays $150+ on acceptance. Editor, Christine French Clark; Senior Editor, Marileta Robinson. To: Highlights High Five, Editorial Department, 807 Church Street, Honesdale, PA 18431.

Submission guidelines at