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Archive for January, 2011

GUEST BLOG: Gargi Mehra on Short fiction Markets

January 31, 2011 1 comment

Where do I put my shorts?

If you’re anything like me, the first time you finished up a piece of short fiction, you asked yourself, ‘Where can I send this stuff?’

The answer to that question is: plenty of places. The internet will throw up a slew of markets where you can submit your fiction, but how do you dig up the places best suited to your story? Here are a few of the resources you should use to locate the best home for your piece:

Duotrope.com: This is the one-stop shop for all things fiction. It serves as the ultimate resource for writers who want to search a market for their fiction. You can specify the genre, sub-genre, literary style, word count, and even whether you are looking for high-paying or low-paying markets.

One of the highlights of Duotrope is that response times are detailed out for each magazine, as also their acceptance and rejection rates. Duotrope has risen to such high levels of popularity as a referral source that most magazines encourage their contributors to refer their response times to Duotrope.

Ralan.com: Targeted specifically towards humorous and speculative fiction, Ralan.com has proved an invaluable resource over the years. This site too lists response times for each magazine.

NewPages.com: In addition to market listings it also provides reviews of literary magazines.

When you finally do zero in on a list of markets that suit your work, do take a moment to read the current and past issues which are almost always available online. Reading a few pieces might give you an idea of where best your work will fit.

Gargi Mehra is a software engineer by profession, but a writer at heart. Despite the best efforts of her family and friends, she writes humor pieces in a determined effort to unite the two sides of the brain in cerebral harmony. Her fiction has appeared in Everyday Fiction  and Six Sentences. She blogs at http://gargimehra.wordpress.com/

Read Vikram Chandra’s interview

January 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Click here to read a terrific interview with Vikram Chandra, author of Sacred Games.

Categories: Uncategorized

AuthorStand Announces 1st Annual Novel Contest

January 27, 2011 Leave a comment

The contest is open to works of fiction over 50,000 words in length, from any genre. Unlike the majority of writing contests, all AuthorStand contests are free to enter and judged, in part, by real people, giving new authors a chance for free exposure and public feedback.

Click here for more information.

Categories: Contests

2011 Short-Story Contest – The Writer Magazine

January 26, 2011 Leave a comment
Categories: Contests

Prize for Unpublished Novel

January 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Each year Black Lawrence Press will award The Big Moose Prize for an unpublished novel. The prize is open to new, emerging, and established writers. The winner of this contest will receive book publication, and a $1,000 cash award. The deadline for this prize is January 31. That’s less than two weeks away!

For more information about The Big Moose Prize and submissions instructions, follow this link: http://www.blacklawrencepress.com/

Courtesy: CRWROPPS-B

Categories: Contests

GUEST BLOG: Terry Hayman

January 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Guest blog: Terry Hayman

Avoid or fix the most common e-book formatting problems

If you’re just getting into the e-book game, there’s a good chance you’ve encountered some problems with getting your work to appear the way you want it to in e-book form. And while there are a bunch of “How to” guides out there that go into great detail, unless you’re doing something really tricky like forcing a particular font, or inserting columns, pictures, etc. into your text, getting a cleanly-formatted e-book is easier than you think.

Biggest rule is keep it simple. Use Microsoft Word as your creation/preparation tool. If you’re a Microsoft hater (I personally prefer WordPerfect to Word), use it anyway. The e-publishing tools of Smashwords, Amazon, and Pubit! (Barnes & Noble) are all designed to work with Word documents. Yes, they’ll take other stuff too, but unless you’re a tech-head who’s into HTML and such, stick with Word.

Now, take that manuscript that has been created or ported into Word and strip out anything but the basic text done in Times New Roman 12-point. (You could instead choose another standard font like Arial. Doesn’t matter. When you put it through the Amazon or other uploaders, they’ll switch it to their own preferred font.) You can include italics, forced page breaks, and paragraph first line indenting and 1.5 line spacing selected via the Paragraph’s Indents and Spacing setup.

Take out all tabs, headers or footers, page numbers, underlines, section breaks. Oh, and don’t use more than four paragraph returns at one time because it can end up giving you an entire blank screen on an e-reader.

All these rules and a few less common ones (like how to insert pictures, chapter points, hyperlinks, etc.) can be found in the free Smashwords style guide if you want to pick your way through the process point by point, but if you’ve done the basics listed above, when you upload your book the formatting should be fine 90% of the time.

But wait! You’re not done yet. You need to check your work.

With Smashwords and Pubit!, you can download an epub file into your e-reader or a program on your computer which can read epub and check for errors. For Amazon, before you go to the second screen on Amazon’s publish site, click on Preview Your Work. Go through at least five or six pages and you’ll catch the most common errors that show up, namely weird symbols for smartquotes and weird indents when you have multiple short paragraphs for things like dialogue.

When I get weird symbols, I usually fix them in Word itself by copying and pasting the offending quotation mark or whatever into the “find” of Find and Replace, where it will show its true form. Then I put the proper symbol into “replace” and do the switches. (But be careful about doing an indiscriminate “replace all” if the symbol is something common like a capital A!)

For weird indents I’ve found I have to, from Amazon’s “preview” screen, download the HTML.  Take note of what the to-be-downloaded file is called so you can find it later. It downloads as a zip file, though it may not be identified as such. You need to unzip it, then put it into an HTML editor that lets you see the actual HTML (there are some free ones available online, but I use Microsoft’s ExpressionWeb), find the offending code that shows up just before the bad indents, and do a search and replace, changing that bad indent code to one of the good indents code strings you’ll find before a properly indented paragraph. Then save your corrected file, re-zip it, and re-upload it to Amazon. Again check the preview and everything should be fine.

(Note: Some friends of mine have recommended instead that you convert the file to .mobi format via a plugin Amazon offers for InDesign if you happen to have that program. Others say run your work through Smashwords, which tends to fix some of the problems and then download the .mobi version of your work and upload it to Amazon. The latter technique, Smashwords notes on its site, may bring about bad karma since you’re essentially using their formatting work to upload to a competing distributor.)

If all the HTML and .mobi stuff sounds too difficult to deal with, remember that the formatting problems should only happen on a few of your e-books and, as long as you tell a great story, most e-readers will forgive a few formatting errors.

Don’t let fear of formatting stop you from getting into this game.

You can learn as you go. You can go back and fix errors if you discover them later. Remember that, unlike traditional print publishing, this is a long-term play you’re making. Your books will not go out onto shelves for only one month to a year and sink or swim. You have decades for your book to find its audience.  Decades for it to earn its keep and communicate your great story to the world.

So do the best you can. Get help if you need it. Keep learning and growing. But get your stuff up there!

About the Author

Terry Hayman is a former lawyer, actor, and professional speaker who now writes full time in North Vancouver, BC. He’s actively working with Fiero Publishing to make his novel Chasing the Minotaur, his backlist of published stories, and some exciting new fiction available as e-books. You can visit his blog for some regular story ideas as well as other thoughts on the writing life.

HYPERLINKS (in case you need to add them in manually)

Terry Hayman http://www.terryhayman.com

Fiero Publishing http://www.fieropublishing.com

Chasing the Minotaur http://www.amazon.com/Chasing-the-Minotaur-ebook/dp/B004D4ZPL8/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&m=AZC9TZ4UC9CFC&s=digital-text&qid=1295400988&sr=8-3

stories http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=terry+hayman&x=0&y=0

blog http://www.terryhayman.com/blog

The 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest

January 23, 2011 Leave a comment

No agents, no fees. You can’t beat this. Check out the details below:

Amazon.com, along with Penguin Group (USA) and CreateSpace, is pleased to announce the fourth annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest, the international competition seeking the next popular novel. The competition will once again award two grand prizes: one for General Fiction and one for Young Adult Fiction. Each winner will receive a publishing contract with Penguin, which includes a $15,000 advance.

The Breakthrough Novel Award Contest brings together talented writers, reviewers, and publishing experts to find and develop new voices in fiction. If you’re an author with an unpublished or previously self-published novel waiting to be discovered, visit CreateSpace to sign up for regular contest updates. Open submissions for manuscripts will begin on January 24, 2011 and run through February 6, 2011.

Categories: Contests

Book Covers

January 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Like it or not, books do get judged by their covers. I Always Judge a Book by Its Cover is a fun site that rates various covers. If you have any input at all into what the cover of your book will look like, this site is worth a look.

Categories: Getting Published

When Your Synopsis Has Multiple Characters

January 20, 2011 Leave a comment

How to Write a Synopsis When You Have Lots of Characters in Your Story Posted by Chuck on his blog: Guide to Literary Agents

I just taught a webinar on synopsis writing and one good question I got from an attendee was, “How do I write a synopsis if I have a lot of characters?” Obviously this is not easy. I mean, how do you write a summary for a story like Love Actually? That would take six pages, right? Not if you do it right. What makes this more difficult is I have always been a proponent of having no more than 5 character names listed in a synopsis6 at the most. By that, I mean the proper namesthe ones you capitalize and focus on.

So after the synopsis webinar, I decided to try my hand at such a synopsis. I decided on TRAFFIC, which is a film I love that has multiple storylines and tons of characters. I got the synopsis down to about 540 words, which I thought was a success. Below read the synopsis and see my analysis in italics as you read.

TRAFFIC involves three story lines featuring characters involved in the War
on Drugs. The story lines sometimes interconnect.

A synopsis can or cannot use an opening establishing paragraph. I rarely write one, but did here to explain that this is a complicated story that jumps between storylines, but everything focuses on one central theme: The War on Drugs.

In Mexico: Police officer JAVIER RODRIGUEZ stops a drug transport and
arrests the couriers. The arrest is interrupted by a high-ranking Mexican
GENERAL, who decides to hire the resourceful Javier in a quest to wipe out
the deadly Tijuana Drug Cartel.

I called the general “General” because I did want readers to get confused later between the names Javier and Salazar. This simplifies things. Also, you can see here that I immediately decided to cut out mentions of Javier’s partner as well as the hitman Francisco Flores. When dealing with stuff like this, just ask yourself: “Does it really matter?” For example: The General hires Javier to take down the Tijuana cartel. That’s what matters the most. The fact that Javier’s first duty is tracking down a hitman, so the hitman can give up information, and he only does this through torture, and the torture upsets Javierthat stuff does not matter. Stick to big picture happenings.

In Ohio: ROBERT WAKEFIELD, a conservative state judge, is appointed to head the President’s Office of National Drug Control, taking the title of Drug Czar. In DC, Robert is warned by his predecessor that the War on Drugs is unwinnable. Unbeknownst to Robert, his teenage daughter, CAROLINE, an honors student, has been using cocaine and develops a drug addiction.

You see that I am telling the story prefaced by the location: “In Ohio.” This will cut down confusion. I took out the character of Seth (Topher Grace), because, like Javier’s partner, you can explain the main plot without them.

In San Diego: An undercover DEA investigation led by MONTEL GORDON leads to the arrest of a powerful drug lord. The drug lord’s wife, HELENA, only now learns of her husband’s true occupation. Her days go from fundraisers and fine wine to talking to her husband through phones at prison.

There were actually two cops part of the DEA investigation, but since they’re a team, just mentioning one (Montel) is as good as both. Also, to avoid another proper name to simplify things, I call Carlos Ayala simply the “drug lord.” Helena’s story, which has an arc, is much more important to focus on than his. Also, you see Dennis Quaid’s character is removed. If you think about it, Quaid’s character could have been removed from the entire film and little would have changed.

In Mexico: With Javier’s help, numerous members of the Tijuana Drug Cartel are arrested, and the cocaine outfit is quickly crippled. But Javier soon discovers the entire anti-drug campaign is a fraud, as the General is wiping out one cartel because he has aligned with another for profit. This deeply disturbs Javier, who, as a rare honest cop in Mexico, has virtually no one to trust.

In Ohio: Robert realizes his daughter is a drug addict and is caught between his demanding new position and difficult family life. He tries to have Caroline rehabilitated, but his attempts fail and she runs away. In the city, Caroline steals for money and prostitutes herself to procure drugs.

A lot gets left on the cutting room floor in a synopsis. In this section of the film, Robert heads to Mexico and meets with General Salazar. It’s one of the cool points where the storylines cross and Robert’s job gets fleshed out, but there’s just not enough time to talk about it here. The objective of a synopsis is not to show the cool writing or nifty story ideas; it’s simply to lay out your structure.

In San Diego: Helena quickly comes to the grips with her new situation and what it demands. She hires a hitman to kill the key witness against her husband, but the attempt fails, and Montel’s partner is killed instead.

In Mexico: Javier, who can no longer stomach working for the corrupt General, makes a deal with the American DEA. Javier’s information leads to the General’s arrest. Javier enjoys a kids baseball game in a park at night. The electricity necessary to run the field lights was his desired payment for his testimony, as an way to keep kids out of trouble with gangs.

Javier and the baseball game is actually the final event of the film where the credits roll, but to stick to the flow I’ve set up, I have to put it here. Ultimately, where an agent reads a novel, they will not be upset or anything if a few events are out of order in the synopsis.

In Ohio: Robert’s search for his missing daughter takes him to the ghetto, and he is nearly killed by a drug dealer. His resolve strengthens, and he finds his semi-conscious daughter in a seedy hotel downtown. Robert returns to D.C. to give his prepared speech on a “10-Point Plan” to combat the War on Drugs. During the speech, he falters, then tells the press that the War on Drugs implies a war on our own family members, which he cannot endorse. Robert quits his position. He and his wife go to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting with their daughter to support her and others.

In San Diego: Thanks to Helena, a second attempt to kill the key witness succeeds, and the charges against her husband are dropped. Montel visits Helena’s home and starts a fight with people as a ruse to plant a surveillance bug in her house. Montel is now optimistic about a future to put the drug lord behind bars.

Notice how there were nine paragraphsthree for each storyline, representing the three acts of each story. Each final paragraph shows the climax and the resolution. You’ll see that when you cut the number of main characters down to six, telling a complicated synopsis becomes a lot easier.


If you’re confused as to what a synopsis
should look like, seek out the formatting
guidebook Formatting & Submitting
Your Manuscript, 3rd Ed.

Categories: On Writing

Book Turned Film

January 18, 2011 Leave a comment

My friend, author Harimohan Paruvu, is celebrating. The film “Golconda High School” based on his book, “The Men Within” was released on Jan 15, 2011 in theatres around the world. The reviews are very good. Congratulations, Harimohan! BTW, though the movie was shot in Telugu, the book itself is in English.

Categories: Book Promotion