5 Tips for Anthologies

Got word of a new anthology coming out in the Wolf Creek series – they’ve thrown open the submissions to anyone within the Western Fictioneers, so I’m going to see if I can get my foot in the door with a short story. I like the books, and it would be nice to create a character and do some collaborative writing with these folks.

Here are some tips for submitting a story for an anthology:

  • Do your homework – see what’s already on the market from that publisher, see what other stories have made their anthologies, see what sort of thing they’re looking for before you start your own story.
  • Know the world – if you’re submitting for a shared-world anthology, do your homework there as well, and find out about their world. Read some of the other stories set there and some of the books already published. Show them that you understand the world they’ve created.
  • Do your best – a short story is harder for some people than writing a novel, so be sure you craft your best. Have a tight, logical plot with believable, sympathetic characters. Keep the action moving and don’t skimp on the emotion. Make sure the story flows, and that the ending is satisfying.
  • Do your editing – fine-tune your story until it purrs, then edit one more time for spelling and grammar. If your work has easily-spotted errors, it’s going straight into the circular file.
  • Follow submission guidelines – this should go without saying, but so often new writers will submit something totally unacceptable, or something the editors or publishers are just not interested in. Read the guidelines and follow them to the letter.

Have you had stories published in anthologies? What tips would you add to the list?

10 Basics for Writing Success

I’ve been writing for nearly thirty years now, and I think that qualifies me to give out a little advice. Here are a few of the tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years:

  • Keep a notebook with you – you can only store about seven things in your short-term memory at any time, and that for only 20 or 30 seconds at a time. If you don’t write that idea down, there’s little chance you’ll remember it by the end of a busy day. I like those little pen-and-notebook combos you find in the bookstore.
  • Write every day – if you slack off, it’s harder to get back into the habit, plus, the more you exercise your craft, the easier it becomes. You don’t have to produce a prodigious amount, but you need to be working on something daily.
  • Read – study your favorite authors and see how they do it, analyze your favorite books, and just absorb the craft by reading for relaxation!
  • Practice – especially when you’re having trouble with a project, try working some exercises, rather like keeping fit even if you’re not training for an athletic event. I’ve got some good links on the Writer’s Tips page for you to try out.
  • Work at your most creative time – if you’re a morning person, try getting up an hour earlier and writing before you head off to your job; if you’re a night owl, try staying up a little later for the same reason. Do your most creative work at your most productive time, if that’s possible.
  • Keep track of your progress – check your daily and weekly page counts or word counts, make colorful charts and graphs, or just keep a running total so you can see how far you’ve come. Keeping track helps motivate you, and it also keeps you from that “this is going nowhere” thinking which strikes us all during a project.
  • Learn the language – if you need to, take a good basic English class, or invest in a copy of The Elements of Style and learn proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
  • Carve out a space – have a spot in your home that is just for your writing. Having an “office,” no matter how small, gears your mind up to work when you settle into that space.
  • Know when to let go – you should edit your work at least three times before submitting it to an editor or agent. If you’re self-publishing, you should hire a professional editor to fine-tune it after your third proof-read. Producing poor-quality work with lots of errors gives readers the impression that you’re a slip-shod writer who doesn’t care about quality, and they’re less likely to look for your name when they’re looking for a good read.
  • Remember, the first draft is supposed to be crap – don’t agonize over your writing. Just get it down, then you can go back to edit later. One of my writing teachers puts it another way: first, get the dirt out of the hole, then worry about shaping the well.

Start with this basic structure, and you can build a solid writing career.

What are your favorite basic tips and tricks?