Nancy's Books

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Compelling Characters

If you are a writer, you want to create a protagonist that is empathetic. Is this a character you would spend a lot of time with? If not, the reader probably won’t either and will stop reading the story long before reaching the end. Does the character defend those who are vulnerable, stand up to a bully or commit to other acts that showcase empathy?

Pile on the problems but give the character enough backbone to confront the obstacles. We are striving to develop compelling characters, not perfect ones, so allow them to have a few frailties and faults, something to hinder the ability to succeed. As the story progresses with the character facing even greater obstacles, s/he grows, adapts, changes and becomes strong enough, clever enough to keep trying. Conflict is a must. If there is no conflict there is no story because conflict leads to growth.

 Make characters relatable, reflecting real life so they seem real. Have them take action and not be passive. Action drives the story and ups the tension. Compelling characters are the basic element to any story. The reader is cheering them on to reach their goal. After all, we write for the reader.

Call for submissions for Young Writers

CALLING for Submissions from Middle Grade and Young Adult writers! The Crawl Space Journal, a small place for big imaginations, is looking for great writing, especially short forms: poems, prose, and flash fiction, within the realms of magical realism, fabulism, and fantasy, for our Spring Issue. We do accept novel excerpts (up to1,500 words) if they stand alone. Our readers are mainly between the ages of 11 and 14.
Call for submissions for Adult Writers

Lilybell welcomes writer submissions. Lilybell has a very specific voice. We recommend reading several issues before submitting work.

Submissions should be sent to Please include your work in the body of the email. No attachments accepted.

Submission guidelines at

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Build Reader Interest by Upping the Tension

Readers love to see a character overcome hardships that result in a happy ending. So what are some ways to accomplish that as a writer?

Allow the characters to make poor decisions and suffer the consequences of their actions. After all, the goal is to have the character grow and learn from the mistakes.

Give the characters phobias or habits that can become handicaps in their quest to solve the problem.

Give the characters difficult choices to make. The choices force the character to face transformation and change. Make the stakes high but the consequences even higher so the character is compelled to move forward and transform.

Following high-tension scenes, allow some calm to float such as the character eating a meal or playing with a dog or child.

Use foreshadowing to hint of a potential problem ahead.

Develop a compelling protagonist so the reader will have empathy as s/he mires through the dire straits you have established. The character should not be perfect, rather should reflect humanity, exposing his/her flaws.

Each of these devices should be developed so they seem natural to the character. Throughout, reveal the character’s emotions. The more s/he feels hurt, angry, disappointed, the more the reader is attuned to the problems.

Call for Submissions for Young and Adult Writers:

Skipping Stones: An international publication for readers 8-16 that celebrates ecological and cultural diversity and facilitates a meaningful exchange of ideas and experiences by publishing essays, stories, letters to the editor, riddles and proverbs, etc.

Submission guidelines at

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Writing to Snag a Contract

What do editors mean when they say they don’t know what kind of manuscript they want until they see it? I was asked this question earlier this week. I’m no editor but here is what I THINK they mean in regard to middle grade fiction:

Build tension throughout the story. A compelling story must have conflict, but how is that accomplished?

Broadside the character with a problem early in the story, in the first few pages. Treat your character badly. Just say NO to whatever the character wants and needs.

After you treat your character badly, treat him/her worse. Don’t lighten up. Add more problems, both external and internal. New twists, surprises, and problems make life and decision making more difficult for the character.

End the chapters with suspense or some surprising element, a cliffhanger.

Divulge more to the reader than the character. The reader may know that the character shouldn’t open the door, but the character should not. If the reader knows, that just adds to the suspense and tension. Also, allow the character to have a few secrets that s/he reveals throughout the unfolding of the story.

Next week, I’ll discuss more ways to add tension to the story.

Call for submissions for Young Writers

Blue Marble Review is published four times a year and accepts submissions of poetry, fiction, non-fiction and art on a rolling basis. We are looking for new work that hasn’t been published anywhere else either online or in print. We want to be a journal appropriate for younger middle school readers and writers as well as high school students so please keep that in mind when submitting your writing.

Submission guidelines at

Call for submissions for Adult Writers

THE NOTEBOOK  is published biannually by the Grassroots Women Project. We seek work by female or male writers, photographers & digital visual artists with rural or small town roots. We are interested in progressive thinking—past, present or visionary—that explores a spectrum of authentic experiences for women and girls in rural areas and small towns in any of the world’s cultures. Issues of THE NOTEBOOK comprise regular columns and other single-issue features, plus themed sections. We are a peer-review journal; acceptances are selective. We encourage international submissions written in English. We are a print publication.

ThemeFor the  Summer 2016 issue, the theme is Make, Break, Repair, Replace.  All genres of writing or digital imagery will be considered as long as some aspect of the theme is related to the experience of rural or small town women or girls, either directly or indirectly. You may define, interpret or conceptualize any or all parts of the theme  in any way you see fit.

How to submit your work: Submit by email only to
Submission guidelines at

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Writing by Hand

As I mentioned in the last post, the vast majority of my writing is done on a keyboard, not handwritten, but many writers prefer to write the entire manuscript and revisions by hand. They have some compelling reasons to do so. 

The process of writing by hand helps the brain to filter information and stimulates a greater focus. (My brain needs this.) 

The act of writing and shaping works is a workout that activates the part of the brain that involves thought, language, and memory. Our brains are more likely to remember the shapes of symbols, music notes, and foreign language characters if they are drawn rather than pressing a key on a computer. (A good cognitive exercise for this baby boomer.) 

The slowness of writing by hand encourages more in-depth thought into what is written so more ideas are generated. (Food to stimulate my intellect. That's a plus.) 

Computers have endless amounts of information so they can be a distraction. Check the email, tap into a social media site, play a game, check the email… (I don’t need these distractions.) 

Writing drafts by longhand, hummmmmm. Something to think about. 

Call for submissions for Young Writers

Stone Soup is a magazine of writing and art by kids ages 13 and younger. We publish stories, poems, book reviews, and illustrations, all by young writers and artists. Stone Soup welcomes submissions from young people up to and including age 13.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Boys’ Quest. Has themes. A magazine created for boys from 6 to 13, with children 8, 9, and 10 the specific target age. Looking 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 10-year-old boy. Looking for lively writing, most of it from a 10-year-old boy’s point of view, with the boy or boys directly involved in an activity that is both wholesome and unusual. Up to 500 words, simultaneous submissions okay as long as is noted on the manuscript.

Submission guidelines at